Over recent years Gloucester Carnival had become a shadow of its former self; a lorry or two, a few enthusiastic youth dance groups and an ever-growing rag-tag tail of god-botherers. No offence to those who did make the effort and take part, but last year it looked like it was time to put it out of its misery. What a difference a year makes – this year it stormed in with renewed vigour and enthusiasm and was a great event!
I clearly wasn’t the only one who was dismayed and embarrassed by the plight of Gloucester’s Carnival, but rather than let it die council members and volunteers came together to do something about it.
One major change was the route. Rather than starting at the park, it started at the bottom of Westgate Street and forged a direct path through Westgate and Eastgate Street before turning right into Wellington Street and on to finish in the park. I was somewhat concerned about this as my favourite bit is wandering around the park as they set up, trying to catch candid photos of the action, but you can’t argue with the aim of trying to get people to follow the parade into the park to enjoy the post-carnival festivities.
It was with some trepidation that I trudged to the bottom of Westgate Street with my camera, but I was amazed at what greeted me. Lining Lower Westgate Street were several large lorries with loads of people milling about. As I passed these and turned into the car park there were more lorries, as well as what seemed like hundreds more people excitedly rushing around.
The theme of the carnival was the Spirit of 2012, so there was a predominance of red, white and blue, as well as a good number of Olympics themed floats (did they get LOCOG permission for the use of those Olympic rings?). Most participants were children, with a good number of dance troops impressively showing off their stuff both in the car park and, with boundless energy, throughout the parade itself. At least one of the Olympics floats had children doing actual gymnastics as the lorry rolled through the normally pedestrianised streets. Another featured a ‘Q4S Security’ guard outside a hut bearing the sign ‘Vacancies – Apply Within’.
The Fever float took a different tack, celebrating the rainy weather in macs and umbrella hats – undeterred by the bright sunny day, they brought their own rain in the form of high-powered water pistols.
Not everyone was on message; as usual the god squad didn’t bother with a theme, except for one dressed as a pirate playing a guitar and towing a treasure chest behind him with a sign saying ‘Pirate Repents’. Not sure where that came from!
So all in all a great day and kudos to all involved. Here’s hoping it will go from strength to strength in the coming years. It would be nice to see some of the big stores getting involved like the old days of the Bon Marché and really making a spectacular event of it.