Floating on a new wave of carnival fun

I MUST admit to a smile creasing my face when I heard the good news that the Stevenage Carnival is likely to reappear in the social calendar of the town. There are many personal memories of the event, both as a spectator in my teens and later as a reporte

I MUST admit to a smile creasing my face when I heard the good news that the Stevenage Carnival is likely to reappear in the social calendar of the town.

There are many personal memories of the event, both as a spectator in my teens and later as a reporter who often covered it.

Half the town used to come out to watch the colourful procession as it meandered through the streets.

Coins - thousands and thousands of them - rained through the air as people showed their appreciation of the effort which had gone into creating the floats. I never had the impression that many people dressed as grass-skirted South Sea Island dancers, dangerous-looking pirates and all manner of other characters manning the floats were hit by this torrent of hard cash but I think there must have been complaints as organisers began to encourage those donating to put the offerings in buckets and outstretched, upside down umbrellas rather than toss them wildly into the air.


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For local newspapers, the annual event started in the spring with a press conference in the Old Town offices of accountant Ralph Wagstaff when there would be a grand unveiling of the major attractions in the procession.

Then there was the hotly-contested carnival queen and princesses contest. On the big day, reporters and photographers would follow the floats and then gather at the college site to hear the announcement of the winners in several classes including best float and best pedestrian.

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And then there was a two-day wait for another press conference when it was revealed how much money had been made for charity that year.

But there were costs involved in putting the whole thing on and these rose so alarmingly that the two Rotary clubs which organised it finally had to announce in 2003 that it would no longer be held after 41 years.

It was a sad day, especially as it was not too long before that a similar fate had befallen the Letchworth and Hitchin Carnival which had an even longer history and, if memory serves correct, used to be held a week or two before the Stevenage one.

I really thought that that was it for the Stevenage Carnival, once it was gone it would never return.

But never say never. If former carnival committee member Ian Begg has his way, it will rise from the ashes like a phoenix. He has the backing of the borough council and now needs the town to get behind him to make it a reality. I would urge the good people of Stevenage to do just that.

And if it can be done there, why not also in North Herts? There must be some old Local Yokels - originators of the carnival in the district - or their Round Table successors who would want to see the procession going through again. All they might have to do is persuade the district council to back it financially. Best of luck to them with that.

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