Yesterday I spent a very pleasant afternoon at Gloucester Carnival. Or, to be more precise, I spent a very pleasant afternoon in Gloucester Park prior to the carnival.
It was a lovely sunny afternoon and the park was thronged with people. A temporary stage was set up on the back of a lorry (rather than utilising the lovely new band-stand), the fairground plied its trade in the background and the carnival entrants busied themselves for the parade.
I much prefer to experience the carnival at the park as it prepares to set off. I remember as a child lining the streets near the cross waiting for what seemed like hours for the parade to arrive, but at the park you feel much more involved in the party atmosphere.
I spent the time wandering around taking photographs: there was a float full of enthusiastic young pirates, who at one stage were busied in repelling ghostly boarders from the Gloucester Ghost Walks crew; there was a lorry with members of gospel church belting out energetic, danceable songs and putting to shame the assortment of other god-botherers with their cum bay ya guitars and loud hailer bible readings; the Gloucester shopmobility crowd were there with their usual good turn out, all in fancy dress; there was a scout marching band and some older trad jazz musicians; and weaving between it all was a bloke riding a giant chicken.
I took a break to wander around the fairground – some of the rides were updated, but mostly it was all stuff that I recognised from my childhood such as the dodgems, the ghost train and the waltzers. There were the same stalls with games of skill and chance where you could win a prize worth slightly less than the cost of taking part by hooking a duck, throwing a hoop, shooting a target or throwing darts at playing cards. And there was the same selection of healthy, nutritious snacks in the form of hot dogs, candy floss and toffee apples. It all seemed slightly tatty by the light of day, but would no doubt cast the same magic spell once night has fallen.
At 3:30 the carnival set out from the park on its travels around the streets. This year, the actual parade was nearly cancelled, but finally went ahead after much protest – an episode which I captured, not without some controversy, in a previous blog. As you may discern from the above, I stand by my view that taking the parade through the streets is unnecessary and a more or less static event at the park is at least as good.
If anything, this view was strengthened yesterday. Clearly all of the moaning about the parade being cancelled and posturing about its importance to the city didn’t result in any more people actually taking part. Those people who lined the streets to see the carnival pass would have seen only three or four floats, which begs the question of whether it is worth the effort, cost and disruption of closing down the streets with all of the marshals and extra police required. If you think that the parade should continue, then start preparing your float now and help make it worth while!
This in no way takes away from the effort of those who did take part, who all did a fantastic job and I thank them all for their efforts. And the carnival was just the start of the two-week Summer in Gloucester event, which includes the Rhythm and Blues Festival starting on Saturday 24th. Pretty much everything is free, so cross your fingers for some good weather and go out and take part!