Looking ahead to the biggest illuminated event of the year – Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival
If you’ve never seen Bridgwater Guy Fawkes carnival then it is certainly a site to behold. Huge illuminated floats (or carts as we call them) line the streets in a parade that takes over two and half hours to pass any one point. There are also dance troupes, bands and costumed walking entries that join in along the way. And the best part? It’s completely free.
You don’t have to pay a penny to watch, although donations to local charities are encouraged by collectors walking the route. Bridgwater Carnival is always the first and biggest carnival of the Somerset Guy Fawkes carnival circuit. Further Carnivals take place at other locations in the county throughout the month of November. These include Burnham-on-sea, North Petherton, Weston Super-mare, Shepton Mallet and Glastonbury.
A proud tradition
Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival is usually held on the first Saturday in November. It is a celebration that dates back to the gun powder plot of 1605. Originally the celebrations consisted of the burning of an old wooden ship and barrels of tar in the centre of the town. This had to be stopped due over-enthusiastic revelers burning boats that were still perfectly usable. It eventually evolved into a parade of carts and as time has gone on these have become more and more elaborate. Today’s floats are illuminated by thousands of light-bulbs and have many moving parts, as well as the traditional music and dance you would expect from a carnival.
The procession takes place at night and the beginning of the Carnival parade is usually marked by a float depicting scenes from the gun powder plot. This is followed by marching bands, dance troupes and other walking performers. These are eventually followed the by main floats.
Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival provides a year round sense of community spirit in the town. The floats are built entirely by volunteers and each carnival ‘club’ must raise all of it’s own funds. Most clubs hold fundraising events in the town throughout the year. They also provide services such as face painting and mobile bars to raise additional cash. The carts take a whole year to be built and are often still being worked on right up until the last minute.
The main carnival is preceded by two weeks of Concerts in which each carnival club performs a short piece of music and dance which ties in with the theme of that years float. The concerts are very popular within the town and often sell out weeks in advance.
After the main carnival parade spectators gather in the town center to witness a tradition known as ‘squibbing’. A squib is a firework (which is held up in the air by a person known as a ‘Squibber’) on the end of a long wooden pole called a “cosh”. One hundred of these are lit and held up simultaneously creating an amazing spectacle. It does seem quite dangerous but health and safety regulations are in place and no one has ever been seriously hurt while participating.
This year the Carnival will be live streamed for the first time from the Bridgwater Carnival Website . It is free to watch, however contributions to the charity are encouraged. So, if you would like to watch and can donate please do! I promise it’s more entertaining than the X Factor!