Shaftesbury’s streets will be filled with sound and colour again this Saturday, as the two parades of the 141st Shaftesbury Carnival pass through town in the afternoon and evening.
The event is the culmination of many months of planning, building, decorating and fundraising, which has been overseen by a new, younger committee. Rich Mullins is one of the new faces around the committee table. Rich has been sharing chairman duties with Carnival stalwart Derek Beer.
Rich says the Carnival team is passionate about ensuring this Shaftesbury tradition continues. “It’s safeguarding the future of the Carnival for Shaftesbury. It’s a really nice community event and it is important that it survives another 80 or 100 years. It’s about keeping everybody together, the community spirit, and raising as much money as we can for the people of Shaftesbury and all the charities that benefit from it,” Rich says.
The event was an important part of Rich’s childhood and he wants today’s youngsters to enjoy it as he did. “I always used to come to Carnival as a kid. I have been in Shaftesbury 32 years now, so I remember it very well, growing up and seeing the carnival and the floats. It is really important for Shaftesbury to come out and support it, so in 30 years time, our kids can remember it as well.”
The new co-chairman is keen to build on the strong local support for Carnival, so we don’t face the problems experienced by nearby towns. “Unfortunately this year we lost Wincanton and Sturminster Newton carnivals. They couldn’t happen because they didn’t have a chairman,” said Rich. Shaftesbury’s Carnival team has offered to assist our neighbours. “We have said to these committees that they should come and see us, speak to us and we can offer support.”
Shaftesbury’s Carnival seems to be in excellent health in terms of volunteers after this year’s recruitment drive. Rich is pleased that so many volunteers have come forward and he’s impressed how the team has gelled. “The most enjoyable thing about carnival so far is seeing everybody pull together as a team. We had 23 members at our last committee meeting. It’s just amazing. The ideas are bouncing around the room. We have a really good logistics team. We have people who will just turn up and make a cup of tea for someone. It’s just great that we have got this going so well.”
Rich says that maintaining this level of support is vital. “I’ve even heard through the grapevine, that we have such a large committee, we are as strong as some of the big circuits like Bridgwater and Glastonbury. We are certainly leading the pack because of our committee and skills,” said Rich. “For whatever reason, we have a really, really good committee. I think it was introducing youngsters and bringing in younger people.”
The last year has been a learning curve for Rich. Before he joined the committee, he says that he had no idea that the event was so expensive to host. “The biggest eye-opener is the amount of money that it costs us to put the carnival on. It costs well over £4,000 to run the event. We have got insurances. We have the band. We pay their transport and travel. We also have first aid cover. We’ve had to pay for St John Ambulance to come along and we have to make sure that there are places for people to go to the toilet. We have to put out crash barriers.”
Rich is a member of The Muppets Carnival Club and he understands how the increasing financial burden on the clubs can impact on Shaftesbury Carnival. “Unfortunately, last year we saw a decrease in floats,” Rich said. “On average, it costs a carnival club around £4,000 to build a float. Then they have to insure it, and get members to build it. Unfortunately the big clubs have seen a real decline in skilled trades like carpenters and electricians.”
Rich has urged the community to support the carnival club fundraisers, when they can. “Please dig deep and put some money in the bucket and support the carnival club event,” Rich pleaded. “When they put things on in the town, come out and give them some money too. Without them we wouldn’t have a carnival.”
Rich is pleased that there will be a good turnout on Saturday. “We have at least six of those big clubs back this year. It’ll be a good year for them and Shaftesbury with some big carts,” he said. “We’ve got confirmed large entries from The Muppets, Kipling, Magnum, Just George’s, Storm and Highwayman Carnival Clubs. Hot Rock Carnival Club are out this year. They’ve had issues with people helping them and building the float. It’s a shame for them but they are putting on a walking entry, so we will see them.”
And there’s good news for spectators of the afternoon parade. “We have even got two larger carts in the afternoon this year,” said Rich. There’s an extra incentive for youngsters to take part in the afternoon event and for visiting clubs to enter the parade. “The children get a little bag of sweets and a certificate of entry. We’ve also upped the attendance money in the evening. We pay the clubs to attend. The larger clubs will get £150 each to come to our carnival. They can also win a trophy and a certificate.”
Increasing the payment was a big step for the Carnival organisers to take. “Okay, we took a gamble because we could have had hundreds of carts turn up, but we want lots of people to come out and see what is going on,” said Rich.
All residents can do their bit by buying a programme from the TIC, Box Of Allsorts or The John Peel Restaurant. The publication helps to fund the event and there’s an extra incentive to pick up one of the 1,000 guides printed. “One lucky programme has an emoji in it, on the Royal page. If anybody has that, they win a £10 Box Of Allsorts voucher. Last year it was a lucky number but we’ve brought it to the 21st-century,” said Rich.
Each year more people move into our town and Rich says newcomers shouldn’t miss Saturday’s events, which start early. “From 9am, the Town Hall is open and we are doing teas and coffees. There will be a raffle and tombola in there, too. The build up for the afternoon starts at around 2pm, when they will be lining up at the Football Club. The parade leaves from there at 3pm. It comes down through the town and back.”
Rich suggests that visitors and locals enter the odd-one-out competition in shop windows, and try to win £50 by listing deliberate mistakes, before the evening programme commences.
“Then from 6pm, we have the band parade outside the Town Hall. There are four bands competing for five different trophies. At 7.15pm it is the Grand Illuminated Procession, which will be signified by two fireworks going up in the air. So when you see the fireworks, you know it’s coming.”
The evening parade will be led by Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue. The floats leave Longmead Industrial Estate and head along Wincombe Lane to Christy’s Lane, before they proceed into town along Barton Hill and Bell Street. The procession will then head along the High Street for Salisbury Street. The programme contains a full map outlining afternoon and evening routes.
Other forthcoming Shaftesbury Carnival Events include bingo at the Shaston Club at 7.30pm on Tuesday 25th September and a ‘Money Mile’ – coins laid around the town on Thursday. After the event, on Sunday, a thanksgiving service will be held at St John’s Church in Enmore Green at 6pm.