A – Arts Council England (ACE)
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 has been a big sponsor for Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival in recent years. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, ACE had supported and awarded grants to Bridgwater Carnival for the past eight consecutive years.
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! After a two year break due to the Coronavirus pandemic, carnival carts will once again return to the streets of Bridgwater on Saturday 5 November 2022.
D – DVDs go Digital
Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival Committee has launched an online digital service where carnival lovers can rent, purchase and watch official Bridgwater Carnival processions from yesteryear. Using Vimeo, an online video streaming service, past carnival processions can be accessed and downloaded for a small charge to any viewing device that can access the internet (PC, mobile phone, iPad, TV, etc). Carnival processions from 1982 to 2020 are now available.
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 2019 winners were Gremlins CC with Curse of the Kraken.
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 5,200 followers and over 13,500 likes respectively.
J – Juvenile carnival clubs
Juvenile carnival clubs contain the carnivalites of the future, and Bridgwater’s only juvenile carnival club is Marina Sydenham JCC. In 2019, the popular club dominated the Somerset County Guy Fawkes Carnivals Association circuit by winning all seven county carnivals with their entry Sea Warriors.
K – King James I
The origins of our annual carnival in Bridgwater can be traced back to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators, failed in their attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. That story is well known to everyone, but what is not so widely acknowledged is that it was King James I and his parliament who decreed that the events of 5 November should be commemorated annually with the lighting of bonfires, a tradition which is celebrated across the nation to this very day.
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
Between 1982 and 2019, £835,396 has been collected at Bridgwater Carnival and shared between the official Bridgwater Carnival charity and its chosen charities.
N – November
Bridgwater Carnival takes place annually on the first Saturday in November. The 2022 procession will take place on Saturday 5 November at 6pm.
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 – People
It is estimated over 2,000 people, also known as carnivalites, are involved every year with the organisation and staging of Bridgwater Carnival, all who generously give their time freely.
Q – Queen
Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival has received a special invitation to take part in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant in London on 5 June 2022. Preparations are already underway to create a special entry for the Pageant’s Carnival parade, which marks the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen’s accession to the throne.
R – Route
The standard route the carnival procession follows is just over 1.7 miles long and it takes two hours to pass any one viewing point. For the town’s 2021’s grand walking parade, a slightly shorter route of 1.2 miles is being used.
S – Squibbing
Squibbing is something very unique to Bridgwater, and is by definition the simultaneous firing of lots of large fireworks (‘squibs’). The squibbing signifies the end of the year’s carnival celebrations, and involves squibbers lining the town’s High Street (in a line of two wide) and lighting their squibs at the same time. The effect is bright light being fired into the air along the road in one great long trail of fire.
The squib itself is a large firework, strapped to a cosh (a solid block of wood which is attached to a large pole). The Squibber holds the squib at arm’s length above their head with the firework facing toward the sky. The first recorded evidence of squibbing in Bridgwater was back in 1716. In modern times, the record for the amount of people simultaneously squibbing at Bridgwater Carnival was set in 2005 (the 400 th anniversary of The Gunpowder Plot) when 180 squibbers lined the High Street after the carnival procession had finished.
T – Tableaux
Entries where cast members stand or pose completely still, creating a picture which depicts their chosen theme.
U – Unveiling of Squibbers Way
Bridgwater’s newest link road was officially unveiled in December 2019 with a spectacular squibbing display. Representatives from Somerset County Council, main contractor Whitemountain, Bridgwater Carnival and other guests were in attendance as the public named ‘Squibbers Way’ was officially opened. A squibbing team led by Bridgwater carnivalites took to their positions on the new Crossways Bridge and lit up the sky with a sparkling 90 second firework display. The official Guy Fawkes cart then became the first vehicle to travel the length of the new road.
V – Virtual 2021 carnival – ‘through the decades’
Due to the Pandemic and the associated decision to cancel this year’s carnival procession, for the second successive year Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival will be streaming an online virtual carnival on what would have been carnival night. Taking place on Saturday 6 November at 7pm, the two hour online virtual carnival titled ‘Through the Decades’ will feature 100 entries from Bridgwater Carnival processions held over the past 40 years.
W – Website
Bridgwater Carnival’s official website (www.bridgwatercarnival.org.uk) is sponsored by Somerset Web Services and contains a wealth of information about the event. A new state of the art website is set to be launched later this year.
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 – Zoom
During the Coronavirus Pandemic and associated social distancing restrictions, many carnival clubs have embraced the use of Zoom and other video, voice and virtual conference facilities, to keep in contact with their members.