A Letter from Nantwich

August 2004

Back to the Sixties 

Event calls it a day

Sabrina and David Hamilton

 

 

 

Sabrina and David Hamilton at the 1963 Nantwich Carnival - taken from a Standard 8mm

 cine film.  (A what . . . ?  A "home movies" precursor to a camcorder DV tape!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BACK in the 1960s, when I was a reporter on The Nantwich Chronicle (then a paid-for weekly newspaper), I was also a member of the organising committee of the Nantwich Carnival - an event which faded out in that decade.

   Attending the meetings throughout the year wasn't too bad - for one thing I was also there to report on the deliberations and preparations for the event and, as far as I recall, there was rarely a clash of events. If a meeting of another society, etc, had been planned for the same evening, the local chief reporter (the late Percy Walker) would have decided which one I would cover and which he would report on. 

   I think it was fairly inevitable that I would get the Carnival Committee meeting. In any case, the committee would have tried to pick an evening for their own meeting that wouldn't clash with other events so that members would not have been faced with a dilemma of which meeting to attend if something else was planned.

   And the Carnival Committee understood that I couldn't be too actively involved in the events of Carnival Day (usually the third Saturday in June - anything from the 15th to the 21st) as I had my reporting work to do. It was a different matter during the week when I could help at the various events and still turn in a report.

   As I said, this all faded out in the late 1960s and a new event - the Crewe Carnival - came on the scene every August. Now Nantwich Town Council wants to revive the Nantwich event. In the current issue of  "Talk of the Town," their quarterly newsletter, there is the headline: "How about reviving the carnival?" 

   The council is thinking of running a revived event in the summer of 2005 which "if successful, could become an annual event." Now they are seeking suggestions and ideas from local people "who would be interested in forming a carnival committee." A possible theme for 2005 is a Festival of Drama - which, on the face of it, will probably involve another of the local groups I am associated with, Nantwich Players.

   One or two people who know of my connection with the Carnival in the '60s have asked me if I will be getting involved with the new Carnival Committee, but I have told them that I won't be. It was fine in the old days, but I feel I have more than enough to do at the moment. I am sure that there are plenty of Nantwich residents who have an aptitude for organising such an event.

   There was a Nantwich Carnival in 2000 to mark Millennium Year. That was organised by the Nantwich Christian Council to mark the 2,000th

 

birthday of Jesus  Christ. Not unnaturally it included a service to round off a day full of events. Nantwich Town Band played music, and there was a vintage car parade. A local dog club laid on a demonstration of the skills of their clever pets, including leaps through blazing hoops. Scottish dancing was another of the events staged, and throughout the day children were able to enjoy "bungee jumping on the flat" - they ran along corridors created from inflated plastic walls, not unlike a bouncy castle, while tethered to one end with an elastic rope. They had to run and get as far as they could along the "corridor" and retrieve an object placed on the "wall".

  But one thing that was missing from the 2000 event that was a feature of the carnivals of the 1960s were dancing troupes. Girls from local clothing factories would enter this competition which involved some very colourful costumes and a kind of marching to music not unlike the American football cheerleaders, although more regimented. They were judged on their efforts. But as the competition grew over the years it tended to fill most of Carnival Day and so your ears were assailed by dance troupe music for hours on end. It was often a great relief to have to go to the Civic Hall to see that everything was going smoothly with preparations for the dance which rounded off Carnival week - a task which I was grateful to be asked to help to do!

   Let me stress that I have nothing against dancing troupes per se, it was just that the Nantwich Carnival seemed to become a venue that lots of troupes wished to visit and it took some time for them all to compete.

   There were, of course, other events taking place on the carnival field - Brookfield Park. Like many Nantwich sites, the park has changed somewhat over the years.    

   Of  course, apart from Sabrinathe entertainment we provided for the local people, there was the money we raised for local charities - the proceeds of the week of events. One of the ways of attracting the public was to arrange for a big name star to come and crown the Carnival Queen before signing autographs. The names of Ken Dodd, Sabrina (pictured) and David Hamilton spring to mind. Ken, the comedian, is still around and I am fairly sure David is, but I haven't heard of Sabrina for a while. 

    Of course, the real "star" of Carnival Week was

 

Mrs Vera Hobson, the Secretary, a formidable lady who was as nice as pie underneath but knew how to get the job done. It was a year-round task for the committee to organise the annual event and while we had a Chairman and all the other usual officers, the bulk of the task of organising things fell on Vera. I can't think of anyone in Nantwich at the moment who could take her place - although I am sure we will find someone to take on the role.

   I mentioned the Carnival Queen. In fact, there were two local beauties who were "Queens" for a year, making appearances at charity events in the succeeding 12 months. There was also a Clothing Queen with entrants, obviously, from the local clothing factories. The Carnival Queen as such wasn't elected just from Nantwich girls. Throughout the winters months we held dances at various villages in the Nantwich Rural area, and we picked one local girl from each. These went on to a final at which the Carnival Queen was chosen.

   I remember one year - the year that Yvonne Ormes won the Nantwich title at the start of her fame on the beauty trail - that I was sitting "backstage" at the Civic Hall talking to a representative of a national travel firm who were giving a prize of a trip to Germany for that year's winner. I was making small talk when I said to him "Yes, it's a great prize. I wouldn't mind going myself." And that's all it was, I promise you - conversation. Suddenly he was saying: "Well, why don't you? I can arrange it and you can do a report for your newspaper. It will be good publicity for us and a nice article for you." And so there I was, chaperoning Yvonne and her younger sister, Glenys.

   But no, I'm sorry, not even a repeat of that job will entice me back to being on the new Nantwich Carnival committee . . .

 

UPDATE (February 2013):  Nantwich Fun Day - the successor event to Nantwich Carnival - took place for the last time in 2011. This was the third year it had been held (the first was on July 9, 2005).The event had been organised by the specially-formed Nantwich Annual Family Fun Day Association. But "overburdening administrative duties" brought about its demise. Funds held in the Fun Day accounts were distributed to local community organisations after the event was closed with the last amount being  given to the British Red Cross to buy a defibrillator for use in the area in February 2013.

UPDATE (2014): The Crewe Carnival has also ceased to be held and Mrs Hobson has died. 

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