Floats, fun and fancy dress: Do you remember Stevenage Carnival?

Stevenage Carnival in 1974

Stevenage Carnival in 1974 - Credit: Stevenage Museum

Stevenage Carnival was held in the town for more than 40 years - with families enjoying floats, live music, rides and more. 

The original incarnation of the carnival predated the founding of the new town, with processions of children in fancy dress being driven in horse-drawn floats as far back as 1900.

According to Hertfordshire Community Archives, fancy dress parades were held in the 1930s to raise money for Hitchin's North Herts and South Beds Hospital. 

Stevenage Carnival passing through the High Street. Picture by C.A. Hawkins via www.ourstevenage.org

Stevenage Carnival passing through the High Street. Picture by C.A. Hawkins via www.ourstevenage.org.uk - Credit: Archant

The carnival was temporarily halted in 1939, due to the outbreak of the Second World War. However even when the war ended the carnival was not reinstated until 1963.

Stevenage Carnival in 1973

Stevenage Carnival in 1973 - Credit: Stevenage Museum

Hitchin Local Yokels Association had been formed to revive the Hitchin Hospital Carnival - and with Stevenage Rotary Club on board the carnival was able to return to the town. After the successful relaunch, the carnival was held in the following years in aid of deserving local charities. 


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In the 1960s the carnival upgraded from horse-drawn floats to traction engines, with Stevenage Pipe Band taking part in the procession. 

Members of Stevenage Judo Club on a float for a town carnival in 1975.

Members of Stevenage Judo Club on a float for a town carnival in 1975. - Credit: Archant

By the 1970s the event had got even bigger, with extravagant floats showcasing the town's many companies. Beauty queen Marilyn Ward, who was on tour with the Miss UK pageant, also made an appearance at the parade in 1971. 

Stevenage Carnival in the 1970s

Stevenage Carnival in the 1970s - Credit: Archant

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The Comet ran a double page spread on the 1971 carnival showing people enjoying the festivities. The coverage was also accompanied by a report headlined 'Drama as big day starts', detailing how a 13-year-old boy had fallen from one of the floats and broken his ankle.

Annual festivities continued until 2003, when the carnival was sadly axed due to increasing costs and health and safety concerns.

The procession at Stevenage Carnival in 1970

The procession at Stevenage Carnival in 1970 - Credit: Stevenage Museum

While the carnival made a comeback in 2011, it was met with mixed reactions from residents. Hundreds of people turned out to watch the event, with one resident stating: "What a shambles! It was more like a small traffic jam."

Despite issues getting enough vehicles for the floats, and some confusion over the parade arrival times, the event, which included stalls and bands in Fairlands Valley, was deemed a success by the organisers.

The procession at Stevenage Carnival in 1970

The procession at Stevenage Carnival in 1970 - Credit: Stevenage Museum

Stevenage Carnival in 1976

Stevenage Carnival in 1976 - Credit: Stevenage Museum

A float at Stevenage Carnival in 1977

A float at Stevenage Carnival in 1977 - Credit: Stevenage Museum

The Stevenage Carnival procession in 1971

The Stevenage Carnival procession in 1971 - Credit: Stevenage Museum


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