End of the road for Barnstaple carnival?

Charities to lose out on thousands of pounds as town’s carnival committee folds

BARNSTAPLE’S annual carnival procession has come to a halt in what would have been the event’s 80th year.

Plans to organise the annual charity parade, held in the town nearly every year since 1931, were scrapped at an emotionally-charged meeting at Barnstaple Guildhall.

There will be no carnival during Barnstaple Fair week for the first time since World War II prompting fears for small charities in the town that will now lose out on the thousands of pounds annually raised.

Last September’s traditional event was attended by an estimated 20,000 people but the carnival has been under threat for a number of years due to the mounting pressures, costs and responsibilities that have been thrust upon the ever-dwindling handful of volunteers.

Despite numerous campaigns to boost volunteers over the last five years, the committee has been unable recruit a single member and has taken the reluctant decision to fold.

At last Wednesday night’s meeting – attended by the seven committee members, carnival president, Mayor Ian Roome, and 15 members of the public – outgoing carnival chairman Arthur Windsor said the committee had “no choice” but to dissolve the Barnstaple Fair Carnival Association committee.

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“Basically it ends here,” he said. “With no new committee members to elect there is no carnival committee and as of this point, there will be no carnival in Barnstaple this year.

“I would like to thank all those people who have supported us through thick and thin and who never doubted our ability to put on a wonderful carnival for this proud and noble town of ours.”

Carnival stalwart George Lovering, who has been a member of the association since 1975, said it was with “great sadness” that he felt unable to continue to help run the event he “loved”.

“Tonight is a very sad occasion; we love the carnival so much and we love Barnstaple so much but we’ve got to the point where we feel we just can’t carry on any more,” said Mr Lovering, who tendered his resignation along with daughter Mel, who has served on the committee for 15 years.

“When I started on the committee we had around 22 members and today we’re down to only seven.

“There is so much to do throughout the year to organise the event it is just no longer possible to do it; from Thursday to Tuesday on Fair week we’re lucky if we even get 10 hours sleep.”

Daughter Mel said that starting in January, organisers had to ask the council and police for permission to hold a carnival and apply for insurance, street collection and Castle Green permits, as well as special events, road closure and lottery licences.

“Accounts need to be audited and sent to the Charity Commission; we have to pay the Performing Rights Society; CRB check volunteers; carry out risk assessments; speak to Leaderflush Shapland about using their site for the fireworks; and send out the entry forms,” said Miss Lovering.

“Before and after the event, we have to collect and put out 300 cones, 48 road closure signs and 400 barriers. That’s without all the other things we have to do such as erecting the gazebos, sorting out all the collecting tins and buckets and organising the floats.

“It’s five days’ of manual labour that should be done by around 30 people and it’s killing us.

“We are a voluntary committee and we don’t get paid to put on the event. We all have full-time jobs but there is so much manual labour and Government red tape that we can no longer commit the time to do it all.”

While the committee has folded, there is a small glimmer of hope for the carnival in the form of an estimated �9,000 that is still in the coffers.

The money is being safeguarded by three trustees who have already agreed to hand over �3,000 to any organisation with the same aims and objectives, that offers to take the carnival on.

And on Monday, former carnival committee chairman Jo Thompson contacted the Gazette to say that she had already spoken with several local organisations about the possibility of safeguarding the event.

“The hope is that individual organisations will take on responsibility for one element of the carnival and that we can re-form a new working committee,” said Mrs Thompson, who resigned from the committee five years ago.

“There seems to be an interest in taking up separate roles and the people I’ve been in contact with have agreed to go back to their organisation to discuss whether they can help.

“I would also love to hear from any other organisation or individuals who feel they can contribute so that we can put ideas together for a meeting in around four weeks’ time.

“Many people have grown up with Barnstaple carnival and I hope we can save it so that future generations of children and grandchildren can enjoy it.”

Anyone interested in getting involved can call Jo Thompson on 07732 652785. They can also contact the North Devon Gazette on (01271) 341629.

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