As the Seekers once sang, the carnival is over.

Well, it is for me, anyway – not forever, I hope, but at least for this year.

When I started work on the Times & Star 15 years ago, I was asked to attend Seaton carnival.

The then editor, Terry Kirton, asked me if I understood what a carnival was. I felt quite irritated. After all, English is my mother tongue and I could give you the dictionary definition of ‘carnival’ if pushed.

Turns out I didn’t know.

During my time here I have seen the death and resurrection of three carnivals – Cockermouth, Maryport and Flimby.

It seems when a carnival dies it just refuses to stay dead.

There are carnivals big and small all over the world but I don’t know of anywhere else in the world or even in the country where every little village holds its own event once a year.

I love the gorgeous, oh-so-cute “royal” floats but I especially love the way that many turn serious matters into fun as the Bogland Builders did, offering cut-price houses in Flimby’s flood zone, or Donald Trump’s appearance at Maryport this year.

It is a remarkable phenomenon.

I was talking to a woman from Seaton during the Maryport carnival last Saturday and mentioned that I had also seen her at Flimby.

For the cost of the float, she said, they were going around as many carnivals as possible!

We got talking and she told me that just getting a tow bar bought and fixed had cost £500.

The woman, very heavily pregnant, said she and her friends were already planning next year’s float and the baby would be included in some way.

She is not the only one thinking ahead. Another carnival official is expecting her first grandchild to be born before next year’s carnival season and she, too, is looking at a float built around a tiny baby.

There is no doubt that carnival brings a community together. That is obvious from the number of people who turn out to watch. In fact, in some of the smaller villages, the number watching is smaller just because such a large percentage of the village is taking part.

There is the Queen, Britannia, page boys, elaborate floats, decorated prams and bikes, school groups, families, neighbours – every combination and permutation imaginable.

Why do they do it?

I think I found the answer at Maryport last weekend.

Because the carnival had been cancelled for the last couple of years, I was asking members of the crowd what they thought of its revival.

The Neri family were typical. They immediately began reminiscing about carnivals gone by.

One sister had been a gypsy queen. Did they remember the time and effort to make the float?

“Remember Mr Poland’s Enterprise float? It was so high it took out the street lights.”


Two of the organisers of the Queen of the Solway dance festival, Sandra and Joan, don’t really say much. One year, though, we got talking about carnivals past. Their hilarious stories of mishaps both during float building and during parades, had me in stitches.

It is the same if you talk to local councillor Carni McCarron-Holmes, who served on the committee for years.

The carnival is all about making memories for the parents and families who bear the cost and spend the hours waist-deep in crepe paper and memories for the children who, when they become grandparents, will still be talking about that time when they were in their local carnival.

With the cost, the need for helpers and the time involved in preparation, carnivals may eventually die out. But until they do – long live the carnival.