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Carnival A – Z

turning pages1A – Arts Council England
For the past eight consecutive years, Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival has been supported and awarded grants by Arts Council England – the Government funded body, who has the responsibility of distributing money from the Government and National Lottery to the development of arts in England.

B – Bridgwater: The home of carnival
Journalistic records show it can be traced back to 1847, making Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival the oldest event of its kind in the United Kingdom. It now has the reputation for being one of the largest illuminated processions in the world.

C – Carts
Carnival floats in Bridgwater were originally constructed on hay carts or log carts. The name of ‘cart’ has stuck!

D – Date
The date of this year’s carnival is Saturday 7 November, and the procession will start at the earlier time of 6pm.

E – Economy
The local economy benefits greatly from the activities of Bridgwater Carnival, and many local eateries, pubs and shops report record takings on the day the carnival comes to town.  Various research projects and studies have concluded that Bridgwater Carnival is worth an estimated £4 million annually to the local economy – £2 million during the weekend of the carnival and a further £2 million from carnival related activities throughout the year.

F – Features
The all singing, all dancing, all moving style of carnival entry.

G – Gangs and Features
Bridgwater Gangs and Features is an organisation for the town’s carnival clubs and is separate to Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival Committee. Full member clubs include: British Flag CC, Cavaliers CC, Centurion CC, Crusaders CC, Gremlins CC, Griffens CC, Lime Kiln CC, Marketeers CC, Ramblers CC, Renegades CC, Vagabonds CC, Wills CC and YMCA CC. Associate members are: Marina Sydenham Juvenile CC, Newmarket CC, Pentathlon CC, Toppers CC and Wilfs CC.

H – Hardy Spicer Championship
Annually presented to the local Bridgwater carnival club with the greatest number of points in the procession and carnival concert. It was first presented in 1952 as the Hardy Spicer Challenge Cup. The 2018 winners were Ramblers CC with Barnum’s Parade.

I – Information
Bridgwater Carnival’s continued popularity in recent times has been partly due to its strong social media presence and the role it plays in providing up to date information to its many supporters. Bridgwater Carnival’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts have over 5,100 followers and over 10,800 likes respectively.

J – Judging
The six judging categories for the carts taking part in Bridgwater Carnival are: 1) presentation and general effect, 2) stillness, routine or comedy content, 3) lighting, 4) costume and make up, 5) cart build up, 6) music appropriateness. There are 4 judging categories for the walking entries: 1) general effect and entertainment value, 2) costume and make up, 3) presentation and routine, 4) ingenuity.

K – Kilowatts
7,000 kilowatts of electricity powered the entries taking part in last year’s carnival procession.

L – Lights
In 1903 the first electric light bulb was used on an entry in the Bridgwater Carnival procession. Now the majority of the mounted entries have moved away from the traditional light bulbs and are using environmentally friendly LEDs (light emitting diode) to illuminate their spectacular entries.

M – Monies
Over the last 21 years, Bridgwater Carnival related activities have raised £527,127 for the official Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival charity and other local supported charities.

N – November
The origins of Bridgwater Carnival can be traced back to the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605 when Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators failed in their attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Maybe it was because Bridgwater was staunchly protestant in those days that the townsfolk celebrated with greater vigour than anywhere else, creating a tradition of widespread merrymaking on the annual anniversary of the fifth. Or maybe it was just an excuse to enjoy an evening of fun around the bonfire before the long, cold nights of winter really set in. Whatever the reason, those celebrations have now grown into the magnificent spectacle we know today. Bridgwater Carnival always takes place on the first Saturday in November.

O – Organisation
After years of informal annual celebrations, the Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival Committee was formed in 1881 containing just 15 people, and held the first ‘official’ carnival on Monday 7 November. Nowadays the committee boasts over 80 members.

P – President
This year carnival stalwart, Mike Crocker, has become Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival’s new president. Mike took over the presidential chains from Malcolm Cattle, at the committee’s annual general meeting (AGM), and becomes the 25th known president in the popular carnival’s long and esteemed history.

Q – Queen
The Queen and Prince Philip were presented with a 1986 carnival video by the then carnival president, Bill Holland, after the royal couple visited Bridgwater in 1987.

R – Route
The route the carnival procession takes is just over 1.7 miles long and it takes two hours to pass any one viewing point.

S – Squibs
Giant fireworks originally made in homes throughout the town but now produced to a secret formula by leading firework manufacturers, especially for Bridgwater Carnival. Because of their size, the squibs are tied to poles (coshes) and, once lit, are held above the squibbers head until the firework extinguishes. Nowadays a simultaneous squibbing display is held in the town’s High Street immediately after the parade when upwards of 170 squibs are ignited at the same time creating a marvellous, unique display. The first recorded evidence of squibbing in Bridgwater was back in 1716.

T – Tableaux
Entries where cast members stand or pose completely still, creating a picture which depicts their chosen theme.

U – Unveiling
2019 sees the 14th anniversary of the formal unveiling of the carnival squibber statue in the centre of Bridgwater. Watching over the High Street as people go about their daily lives, the statue has become synonymous with carnival lovers from all over the world.

V – Volunteers
All carnival committee and carnival club members are volunteers, and it is estimated over 2,000 people will be involved with the organisation and the entries for Bridgwater Carnival 2019.

W – Website
Bridgwater Carnival’s official website ( is sponsored by Somerset Web Services and contains a wealth of information about the event.

X – Xanadu
In 1976 Marketeers CC were one of the first carnival clubs from Somerset asked to take their entry Xanadu to represent Bridgwater Carnival at the following year’s Easter Parade in London’s Battersea Park.

Y – Yankee Doodle Dandee
Crown Inn CC’s 1948 entry Yankee Doodle Dandee was significant in the history of Bridgwater Carnival as it was the last competitive entry to use horses to pull a cart in the procession. The two shire horses used were covered almost entirely with flowers and were illuminated by electric lights.

Z – Zones
The procession route is split into 8 different zones for judging purposes and 82 judges are on duty on Bridgwater Carnival night having a big say on where the 37 cups on offer are awarded.

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