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Carnivals are part of Somerset life. For spectators the carnival season is short. But for those involved it lasts all year ! The best carnivals are in the autumn.

If you've never visited Bridgwater Carnival get booking and come early - this is the biggest Carnival in the UK.....bar none. For months an array of proud and competitive Carnival clubs will have been meeting, planning, building and perfecting their floats. They will also have been holding ambitious fund-raising events, not only to help pay for their Carnival efforts but also to contribute to the charitable causes that the annual Carnival supports. Local companies are happy to get involved too. Gerber Foods, for example, contribute generously to the Carnival experience.

Then, on the night, the procession....a non-stop cavalcade of lights, costumes, music, choreography, cunning mechanics and more. Simple low-loader lorries become oriental palaces. Old farm tractors pull castles complete with knights on horseback, and imprisoned maidens crying out from the castle walls. Hollywood couldn't better it. And the whole town stops to celebrate.

It culminates with squibbing - imagine a giant firework on a giant stick held aloft by ordinary blokes. It is a spectacular display of pyrotechnics, and a little bit scary if you're one of those gripping the squib poles!

Carnival always comes as near as possible to November 5th, which gives a clue about the origins of the event - gunpowder and plots against Parliament. 401 years ago Guy Fawkes plotted to destroy Parliament. We've been celebrating his failure ever since. This area has always had a rather rebellious reputation. Just up the road was the 15th century scene of the Monmouth rising. You couldn't call Bridgwater the most Royalist place in England!

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Many of the carnival clubs are online and easily accessible. Here are just a few, to give you a flavour:

Of course Bridgwater is not the only place in Somerset with a wonderful carnival - I also always try to get to North Petherton's splendid event, and the one in Watchet, not to mention Porlock......(this list could get very long!)

And ALL the Somerset carnivals are listed here:

Carnivals are fun. But the history was bloody:              


  ©2003,2004 Ian Liddell-Grainger. All rights reserved. www.somersetwest.org.uk