Carnivals truly are special occasions for any city; the city lights up, people rejoice, and the environment is full of life and positive energy not just during the event, but long after it ends too. One of such events is the West Country Carnival Circuits in the South West of England, popularly known as the English West Country. The celebration happens each year and gathers many people from all over England as well as from foreign countries. It is known for the famous parade of interestingly illuminated carts. It’s not just one parade though! Numerous parades happening at the same time in different towns all add up to a major regional event.
The festival takes place very close to November 5, the celebration of Bonfire night, and that is not random because the two are closely related. They date back as far as 1605, to commemorate the assassination attempt known as Gunpowder Plot which happened that year and which serves as the roots for the original festival of Bridgewater. While the Bonfire night is held to celebrate that King James I had survived the attempt of assassination in general, the West Country Carnival is believed to be held so close to it not because the king survived, but because the men who wished to assassinate him – Robert Parsons and Guy Fawkes – failed. Such keen disapproval of their actions has religious origins; while Parsons and Fawkes were devoted Catholics seeking to end the Protestant rule, the South West were predominantly Protestant, so the failure to assassinate the king and restore the Catholic power for them was an occasion worth celebrating. Nowadays, however, fewer and fewer people recall the religious roots of the festival and simply enjoy the views, great company and relaxing time.
Floats and Carts
The cart parade is certainly the highlight of the West Country Carnival. Carts, or floats, are custom made, detailed and highly decorated trailers that participate in the parade. The aim of the carnival nowadays is to gather money for charitable causes; some invest as much as tens of thousands of pounds into their parade floats, others invest an incredible amount of time into the preparation. Some of the most popular themes that the cart owners decide to follow include:
- Popular children’s books and character, such as Alice in Wonderland or Disney Characters;
- Scenes and themes from various historic periods and geographical locations, such as the Victorian Era or Rio de Janeiro;
- Travel and transport;
- Popular contemporary themes – musicians, dances, films;
- The future, most notably – space.
The carts aren’t only decorated in colorful lights. They play music, have people in costumes performing on them or simply cheering up the crowd. In between the floats, the spectators of the parade will see bands, troupes, and most importantly, charity collectors who encourage the crowd to donate. It is important to note that most carts belong to local clubs and that the carts are built using solely the funds that were donated by people for this specific purpose.
So, in general, the West Country Carnival is great fun with a great cause, and certainly is a must-see.