Fourteen Somerset carnival towns are joining forces this autumn to combat the rapid expansion of the large group of street traders who invade their streets during carnival parades. These pedlars seldom contribute anything towards the running costs of the festivities and carnival organisers have serious concerns that the public mistakenly assume that they are supporting carnival through their purchases from these traders.
“In recent years there has been an explosion in the numbers of pedlars descending on Somerset towns during the autumn carnival season,” explained a spokesperson for the carnival consortium. “Undoubtedly this is due, in no small part, to the tremendous success of our parades but, in previous years, these traders have brought very little benefit for organising committees or clubs who voluntarily put in hours of work to put the show on the road. We feel it is time to redress the situation to ensure that carnivals, and the charities they support, receive maximum return for our endeavours.”
“An antiquated and out-of-date Act of Parliament allows these pedlars to trade anywhere they like in the country and we are therefore powerless to remove them from the streets. So, it’s a case of if we can’t beat them we have to join them. By doing so our aim is to redistribute some of their massive profits to offset some of our ever increasing costs.”
The campaign by this consortium of Somerset carnivals will follow similar lines successfully adopted by the four towns which make up the South Somerset Federation of Carnivals – Wellington, Chard, Ilminster and Taunton. This group combined resources in 2016 to purchase merchandise similar in style to that offered previously by pedlars. These goods were then sold at each carnival by group members at a much lower price.
A publicity campaign before and during the festivities encouraged the public to buy goods only from these recognised and authorised sellers, with purchasers made well aware that all profits were to be ploughed back into carnival.
“This approach exceeded all their expectations which has encouraged other carnival towns in Somerset to approach the problem in a like manner,” added the consortium’s spokesperson.
Dressed in identical uniforms, the teams of traders working on behalf of the consortium will be easily identifiable at each carnival, and a publicity campaign in carnival programmes and through local schools will inform the public of the rationale behind purchasing merchandise from this source.
Products offered for sale by the Official Carnival Sellers will include flashing wands, batons and windmills, whistles, bunny ears and many other items which children love at carnivals. Prices will range from £2 to £4.
“We are delighted that this campaign has already received the support of local authorities and the police,” said the spokesperson. “This has encouraged us to pursue our ultimate ambition of removing from our streets, the plague of pedlars who eat into our resources, with little, if any, recompense for carnival organisations, carnival clubs and charities who are the ones who really put in all the work.”