I think everyone has heard of the Notting Hill Carnival in London, but maybe fewer have heard of the Bridgwater Carnival. For those of you that don’t know, Bridgwater Carnival is a massive event involving thousands of people to put on the show. On the night, Bridgwater is more or less shut down and it feels like everyone that lives in Bridgwater is out on the street watching the carnival! It is an event that is talked about all throughout the year. Tens of thousands of people turn up every year, some travel from across the globe not just across the country.
The carnival floats are built throughout the year by dedicated club members. Ideas for new floats from each competing club are kept secret, that is until the carnival concerts which happen before the carnival itself and are the first taste of what is to come. The concerts are just one of a number of ways the clubs raise money to invest in their very elaborate carnival floats. The bigger carnival clubs spend thousands of pounds on materials that make up the floats, but all the clubs raise money from events throughout the year such as car boot sales, quizzes and local events. Each float is covered in lightbulbs and several now even have pneumatic moving platforms and many revolving sections to add effect. The amount of man hours that must go into the creation of each of the floats is something hard to quantify. Club members take up much of their own personal time and make the most of each individual person’s skills to make each cart as colourful and impressive as possible.
The origins of the Bridgwater Carnival derive from the gunpowder plot in 1605 where Guy Fawkes failed to destroy The Houses of Parliament. Following this; what first started as a colossal bonfire in the centre of Bridgwater where locals would put effigies of Guy Fawkes and the Pope atop the bonfire, it has now become a procession of the best costumes created for the night and of course now the floats that go with those costumes. The night culminates with a spectacular firework display which is simply called “Squibbing.” Dozens of fireworks are attached to long poles and those holding the poles line up along the street and light the “squibs” so that they fire up into the air. The road where this takes place is packed by an enthralled audience of locals and visitors to the carnival who are then showered in sparks. This is less dangerous than it sounds however. You can find a more detailed history of the Bridgwater Carnival here.