Friday, 4 October 2013

Why I Love Autumn

I've lost count of the number of blog posts I've seen saying how amazing Autumn is - the colours of the leaves, the snuggly jumpers, the hot chocolate, the bonfires, the cable knit tights, etc, etc. etc.
 
And yes, I do like all those things as well (especially the hot chocolate),
but the real reason I love Autumn is this...

Somerset Carnival season
 
 
And this...

Somerset Carnival season
 
 
 
And this...

Somerset Carnival season
 
 
That is...Carnival!

Somerset Carnival season
Source: all pictures are my own - either shot by me or my team of 3 merry photographers
(i.e. Andrew and my mum and dad)
 
 
South West England's annual illuminated Carnival season (down here it has a capital 'C') really is our best kept secret, which is suprising considering Bridgwater Carnival procession is reputed to be the largest illuminated Carnival in the world. There's thousands and thousands of people involved with it all across the South West and Bridgwater and Glastonbury Carnivals regularly attract around 150,000 spectators.
 
 
I'll try and do a quick summary...
 
Bridgwater Carnival has its roots back in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot (one of the men involved was from a nearby village) and the townsfolk celebrated his failure to blow up the Houses of Parliament every year with bonfires and entertainment. By 1881 this had turned into a formal procession through the town with people on the back of carts in silly costumes. Since then it's developed year on year with lots and lots of other towns in the South West holding their own processions from August to December.
 
There's over 100 Carnival clubs across the South West, with members of all ages plus lots of people who take part individually without being in a club. Each club chooses a different theme every year (keeping it a secret until the Autumn) and builds a Carnival float depicting that theme to enter whichever processions they like. Some clubs enter 20 or so parades, some only do a few. Each entry can be up to 100ft long, 16ft high and 11ft wide and can be as technical or arty as you like. There's no grants or funding, everything is built by the club members fundraising throughout the year - and with some entries costing in excess of £50,000 to build, that's a lot of fundraising!
 
Entries are judged (I've done my stint this year judging), there's plenty of trophies and prize money on offer and it's a great way of making friends with a fair amount of booze being drunk as well. 
 
And the reason everyone does it (as well as the buzz you get from performing to huge crowds), is all to raise money for charity. Collectors go round the crowd at each procession and people donate to whatever the chosen causes are that year.
 
Ahh, sorry, that wasn't a very quick summary!
(there is a lot more to it, but I don't want to bore you all senseless)
 
 
 
I went along to watch Carnivals (usually more than 10 a year) from 1987 to 2003 taking lots of photos.
In 1999 I decided to start my own photography website showcasing the entries from those Carnival processions and that's my other project - I still run, take, edit and organise the website now -
I joined a Carnival club in 2004 and that was actually how I met Andrew (there's been many a marriage made in Carnival land). I performed on the float each year as well as running my website, although nowadays I take a back seat to some of our younger members when it comes to performing.

Somerset Carnival season
That's me, on the top right-hand side, wearing a red dress... 
 
 
I absolutely love Carnival season (you can probably tell by how much I've rambled in this post) and I'd love more people to come and experience a November illuminated procession. There is nothing quite like it, until you've seen it, you can't imagine the heat of 40,000 light bulbs passing in front of you; the energy and enthusiasm of 30+ performers on a moving float or the sound of an amazing piece of music heard from over a mile away. On a Carnival night in Somerset, even the night sky is aglow with the reflection of hundreds of thousands of light bulbs!
 
There's lots of smaller (but still impressive) Carnivals from August to October, but the seven really big ones start on Saturday 2nd November at Bridgwater, move to Burnham on Sea, Weston Super Mare, North Petherton, Shepton Mallet, Wells and finish at Glastonbury on Saturday 16th November.
Visit Somerset Carnivals for a full list of dates and times.
 
 
Wrap up warm (the procession will take over 2 hours to pass), get there early (along with the other 150,000 people) and bring lots of change (it's all for charity don'tcha know!) 
 
See you there!
 
 

7 comments:

  1. OMG this looks amazing!!!! I can't believe I hail from the SW (Plymouth) and have never ever heard of this. I definitely need to go one year. Looks way better than any Carnival I've ever been too, including Venice!

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    1. Yay another fan! (i'm clearly on a secret mission to convert people to the wonders of Carnival) :-)
      It's amazing how many people outside of Somerset and the surrounding counties don't know about it - it certainly is a well kept secret! x

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  2. It looks really awesome! At first I was like 'What is this? Why is this in Autumn? What?' but your explanation made it al much more clear. And what a great addition that is raises money for charity!

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    1. It is awesome, I'm going to put some more pictures up in November :-)

      Having re-read my post though, I think I probably should have said at the beginning that it takes place in autumn! :-) x

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  3. I love your enthusiasm about Carnival! It's positively infectious, even if I am presently too sloth-like to drag myself off the sofa and go out at night to one. I'm living each Carnival vicariously through you :)

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    1. Aww thanks! (some people would call it sad though, I'm sure...)
      Lots more pictures and things to come over the next few weeks - you'll all be fed up of it by the end of November! :-) xx

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  4. Well now I'm very excited. T-minus an hour and a half and counting...

    (Although I did not realise I was in for 2 hours. Good god!)

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Thank you very much for all your lovely comments; I do have every intention of replying but sometimes life with a baby gets in the way...

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