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Somerset Carnivals

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Budapest, Hungary
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Somerset Carnivals

Many visitors to this area will be unfamiliar with the tradition of Somerset carnivals, which stretches back over 400 years.

Bath does not have a carnival, but the link below takes you to the BBC website which has details of where and when they are held locally.

If you are staying in Bath then the Wells carnival on the 10th or Glastonbury on the 11th are less than an hours drive away, but get there early !

bbc.co.uk/somerset/…index.shtml

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1. Re: Somerset Carnivals

What happens at these carnivals?

And is there reason to see more than 1?

Somerset UK
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2. Re: Somerset Carnivals

Jack

If you haven't seen any before the best is at Bridgwater and people come from as far away as Cornwall to see it.

It's a very colourful procession of floats with plenty of lights and music on them, bands, and carnival queens etc. It takes about an hour and a half to go past and you're better off taking the train to Bridgwater as both parking and getting away can be very time consuming.

The one at North Petherton is similar with slightly less floats.

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3. Re: Somerset Carnivals

Here's the details of the bridgwater carnival which takes place this year on Friday 3rd November.

I've never been but this year it falls on my little girl's birthday... so maybe...

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4. Re: Somerset Carnivals

Jack, they are a kind of Notting Hill carnival held in small Somerset towns, so all of the pleasure and none of the aggro.

The whole thing kicks off in Bridgwater on the 3rd: places like Bridgwater and North Petherton have carnival clubs who spend the whole year preparing in great secrecy. As an outsider I was recently shown one of this years floats, but they checked my mobile was off first to make sure I didn't take a picture ! it's taken that seriously by those taking part, but for those watching it is a huge amount of fun.

Somerset, England
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5. Re: Somerset Carnivals

Jack,

It isn't true that it all kicks off with Bridgwater. Taunton Carnival is on 21st October. Although maybe not quite in the same league, sizewise, as Bridgwater, at least you won't have the traffic and parking problems. Many people from the northern parts of this land (well further north than North Petherton) forget about Taunton, Wellington, Chard, Ilminster.....

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6. Re: Somerset Carnivals

I went to the Bridgewater one 5 or so years ago, good fun though I wouldnt reccommend going to any great lengths to go there, if you are in the area, well worth it, but dont do a day trip from London or anything like that!

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7. Re: Somerset Carnivals

Do they throw beads, or apples since it's somerset, to women that beckon them with...their charms?

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8. Re: Somerset Carnivals

No, its normally pretty cold (it is late evening, was v cold when I was there) so I dont think women would be that keen on exposing their ...charms...(ala New Orleans?), frostbite might ensue!

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9. Re: Somerset Carnivals

Jack, do go to one of the carnivals.... it's at night - it's winter, it can be cold, but the atmosphere is great.

The people who watch the carnival are 'Engllish' in attitude, they don't take much part physically, or singing, etc. they just 'watch'... but there is an atmosphere of fun, the children are enthralled (so are the adults for some of the floats) there's candyfloss and hotdogs and hamburgher stalls, balloons and rattles.... for those who like that.

But the main point of the carnival is the floats.... The floats are wonderfully lit (millions of coloured lightbulbs) and come complete with music - every float a different tune... some are comical, some are 'still' tableaux, no-one moves; some quite beautiful. Some are satyrical, some floats have moving parts... all are fantastic. They are wonderfully constructed, real 'stage' theatre and the people who build them do it in their spare time all year round - real artists. The people on the floats dance around full of energy - and are all amateurs - and those on the tableaux floats have to stand perfectly still for the whole duration. The costumes are beautiful, and all this is done for 'love' not money. It will take some two hours, sometimes three - for all the floats to pass you.

The money collected by the official collectors goes to local charities.

There is a competition in every town that holds the carnival and the carnival clubs try to get as many prizes as they can - judges are spread out around the route, so competitors and their floats have to look good all the way round. There are some 'walking' entries too. The various Lions' clubs, Rotary / Round table etc. all take part and collect money from the spectators who throw money at special 'floats' which have 'targets' for your money to go into; the money goes to local charities. You get a wonderful show for little money (people are always being exhorted to give more - some just give small coins - but it ought to be more for the value you get and the charities they support !) In effect it's a free two/three hour music, mime, picture and dance show.

In some places it's easier to see the floats than others... you need to find the right spot. Not too close to the end of the route, because the contestants are tired by then and the dancers might be flagging a bit.

We've watched it yearly at Wells, Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet, and a small village near Bridgwater (I've forgotten which - one year when a friend came to visit and that was the only day we could take them there). In some towns they have a Fun Fair at the same time. Some floats don't 'go' to all the carnivals - some only go to selected ones . There is a 'North Somerset series of Carnivals' in the towns around the Mendips, so presumably there's another 'series' in South Somerset.

Bridgwater has the ' squibbing' ceremony during carnival too - I've never been to see it there - I've seen photos and film, but they let off 'fizzing' fireworks as they walk through the street ... I don't think they have that bit anywhere else.

You can sometimes catch a bit of the carnival on TV local news when it's just been on. There must be a website for one or more of the carnival clubs/towns showing some of it.

I'll try to get more information. Don't miss it... you won't be sorry you made the effort to see it. Some of the winning floats go up to London to take part in the Lord Mayor's Show... so I don't believe you can say it's not worth coming to Somerset - but it can be crowded... so I can see why someone local might want to discourage visitors ! Our little towns are only little, the parking is difficult - so ..... if anyone does want to come, bear in mind that they close the local roads around the towns at about 6pm so you have to be there early. I have to get out early afternoon to go to teach my evening classes in another town, because the floats and majorettes etc. line up behind my house... in a side road (and down one of the main roads which is closed to traffic from the day before ! ) and I get back after 11pm because when the carnival finishes the floats have to go on to the next venue, so you meet them coming down the main roads at a slow pace and taking up the whole width of the road, so you have to stop to let them pass !

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10. Re: Somerset Carnivals

p.s. the women/girls on the floats DO expose their charms (modestly) - there could be mermaids, there are often milkmaids.... there's all sorts of ladies and gents, and monsters, and animals and ..... fairytale people, and astronauts, and .... historical characters.... dancers of all kinds, mock ups of Mississipi boats with singers and dancers.... nursery rhyme re-enactments.... there are tableaux of Egyptian wonders, and Chinese / Japanese gardens, there's any nationality tableaux - football, other sports... you think of it - it'll be there... often there's topical floats too - what's been in the news... etc.