Nobody had reason to believe one of Europe’s largest illuminated carnivals would not take place in 2020.
After all, Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival is the UK’s oldest carnival with origins dating back to The Gunpowder Plot in 1605 and is the annual highlight in this large historic market town in Somerset. Since 1881 when the first official Bridgwater Carnival parade took place, there has only ever been two periods when the carnival was cancelled and they were understandably during World Wars One and Two, so why would it not happen in 2020.
No one could have foreseen the invisible threat of a completely different war which the country would bravely battle against, as the last entry passed the finishing line at the end of the 2019 Bridgwater Carnival procession. COVID-19 first invaded the UK in February. As the Coronavirus Pandemic started to gather momentum and lockdown measures were introduced, events all around the country began to be postponed and cancelled, including the annual Old Folks Show and carnival concerts in Bridgwater.
All of the carnivalites in Somerset collectively held their breath and silently hoped the war would be won soon. They wanted to get back to normality. They wanted to have their weekly face to face club meetings. They wanted to fundraise. They wanted to build their entries for the 2020 Bridgwater Carnival and the other Somerset County Guy Fawkes Carnivals. But above all of course they wanted everybody to be safe.
These were uncertain and unprecedented times and at the end of April the inevitable happened. Carnivalites unanimously agreed safety and public health had to be the number one priority, and the difficult but sensible decision was made to postpone the 2020 Bridgwater Carnival, along with all of the other Somerset County Guy Fawkes Carnivals.
Amid the worry, heartbreak and destruction the Coronavirus caused as it rocked the UK, one thing it has not broken or indeed penetrated is the ‘spirit of carnival’. Like the Second World War when a group of carnivalites led by ‘Nosey’ Lockyer kept the carnival alive in Bridgwater by walking the procession route on what would have the usual carnival night, carnivalites in Bridgwater have this year turned their attention to celebrating the 2020 Bridgwater Carnival in a symbolic, appropriate and different way.
The solution is a virtual one. A carnival procession which can be watched over the internet on YouTube by carnival lovers and supporters throughout the world. A carnival procession which will not involve mass people gatherings or breach Coronavirus regulations. A virtual carnival which will preserve the continuity of an event which makes Bridgwater and Somerset famous.
So in just under four weeks and on Saturday 7 November 2020 at 6pm – the exact date and time of when Bridgwater Carnival as we know it would have started – the ‘best of the best’ virtual carnival will take place. Instead of spectators watching from the streets, spectators will be able to watch it on screens from the comfort of their own homes and local pubs. This unique two hour virtual carnival will contain a collection of 88 clips showing the best ever entries ever to enter Bridgwater Carnival over the past 38 years chosen by carnivalites themselves, as well as footage of a previous squibbing display. Of course it won’t be the same as the real thing, 2020 has been anything but real. But what amazing memories we can reminisce on, what spectacular sights we will see, and what better way to remind us all of the talented people we have in Bridgwater and Somerset.
If you would like to watch the virtual carnival on the night, see details. If you can’t watch it on the night or enjoyed it so much you would like to view it again, sign onto Bridgwater Carnival’s official Vimeo Channel from Sunday 8 November where you can watch the film for a small charge. Also available will be a limited number of official DVDs of the virtual carnival which can be pre-ordered now for £10 (+ p&p) from our online shop. ‘Best of the best’ souvenir calendars for 2021 are also available to purchase for £5 (+ p&p) and again can be ordered in advance from the Bridgwater Carnival online shop.
Both the DVDs and the calendars can be purchased from local carnival club members and from the carnival centre, High Street, Bridgwater.; At the end of the virtual carnival broadcast on carnival night, viewers and members of the public will be able to choose and vote on their own favourite ever entry from the 88 featured in the virtual carnival. This can be done by downloading a special free app produced by SGS United Kingdom – Customs Services (Shepton Mallet) called ‘CarniApp’, which is readily available from the App Store or Google Play. The voting window will close on at 22.30 hrs on 30 November 2020.
In the meantime, we hope to see you back on the streets in person on Saturday 6 November for Bridgwater Carnival 2021. Hopefully the war against the Coronavirus will have been won by then, and we will once again be able to see the incredible talents of our wonderful carnivalites as they show and take their truly unique illuminated entries around the streets of Bridgwater and Somerset.
We can’t wait…