Whitstable Carnival 2019: a personal view

I would like to personally thank everyone who played a part in making the 122nd Whitstable Carnival one of the best ever. To be clear, while I was definitely the front man for the whole exercise, putting my face about and writing endless columns for the Whitstable Gazette – even getting on the telly at one point – really there was a whole team working with me to get this thing off the ground.

I don’t think anyone on the committee will disagree with me when I say that the most important person in our organisation is Andy Latham. Without Andy half of the things in our carnival wouldn’t have got done.

It was Andy who collected the Invicta model from the museum, placed it on a trailer, took it to its storage location and then built a shed there to protect it.

It was Andy who made the wonderful sedan chair which carried our Carnival Queen, Mila.

It was Andy who built the carriage from which which our Indignitaries, Julie Wassmer and Jane Bowell, resplendent in their carnival robes, saluted the crowds.

I’m telling you this because, while Andy is probably the most important person in our team, he was also one of the least visible, being consigned to driving the vehicle pulling the Invicta model most of the afternoon.

If I was the face of the carnival, Andy was the engine, and he did it all with such unfailing politeness and good humour, despite the stress.

Another invisible person was Rick West who drove the vehicle that followed the carnival, picking up the barriers that we’d used to close the roads. Rick also organised all our benefits.

Then there’s the other members of the committee: Belinda Murray, Jane Bowell and Tara Ballard.

Without Tara the Children’s Activity Trail wouldn’t have happened. Without Jane the complexities of the council forms would not have been navigated. Without Belinda probably half the town wouldn’t have got involved.

The list goes on. There’s Justin and Emily of Total Pap who provided us with a splendid array of fishy creatures and giant heads to bamboozle and amaze. There’s the Lindley Players, the Horsebridge and the Umbrella Centre, three great community organisations.

There’s the Sea Cadets, who are always at the head of the carnival, and always will be we hope. I had a panic about them as I couldn’t find a record of the conversation we’d had of them agreeing to take part. It wasn’t until the actual day that I knew for certain they were coming.

There’s Julie Wassmer who helped organise the auction and raffle which raised over £2,000 and which brought our finances over the line.

There’s Sadie Hennessy who organised the carnival auditions and who put in such a wonderfully quirky float.

There’s Christine who made the mayoral chains that Julie and I wore. I was the Mock Mayor, in case you didn’t work that one out.

There’s Tamsin and Alex who drove the vehicle that pulled the carriage, that overheated and only just made it to the end.

There’s Gerry and Andrew who took the photos and Lois who made the film. There’s the volunteers and the marshals, who took care of the practical side of things, and without whom none of this would have been possible.

I could probably fill ten blogs with the names of everyone who took part, so I hope you’ll excuse me if your name isn’t mentioned

There were times in the process where I really questioned why I was doing it. At one point I was up at four in the morning after a night without sleep to deliver leaflets. I bumped into my brother-in-law on his way to work. It was like I was possessed by the Carnival, like I was being driven by some alien creature who had hold of my soul. I kept asking myself “what’s it all for?” But turning the corner of Pier Avenue onto Tankerton Road on that day, seeing the crowds there to greet us and cheer us on our way, gave me my answer.

We brought a smile to the whole town. We brought the carnival back to life. We brought the heart back into the community.

Long live Whitstable. We love you.

All photographs courtesy of Gerry Atkinson: https://www.gerryatkinson.com/

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