Saturday, June 06, 2009

I am sure I must have mentioned this before, but, for my sins, I am the current Secretary of the village carnival where I live... I have held this post for about three years and I did a fourth year as a helper previously. Not a massive amount of years, but, I feel it is long enough to allow me to comment on the current problems of the public and its apathy, Bureaucracy and health and safety!

Note: These are my musings and are certainly not representative of my Carnival and its Committee members. (At least I don’t believe so!)

So you wanna have a carnival? Ok, here are the problems as I see it!

No one wants to help!

Only a matter of a handful of people ever want to do the job in hand and give their time freely to help and attend what amounts to no more than ten meetings in the year including the carnival day itself which is a long one. Bank on starting at 7.00 am on the Sunday morning and finishing for a quiet pint in the pub at about 6.00 pm on the evening, totally and thoroughly... knackered!

Everyone in the crowd, on the day, is a professional organiser!

I don’t think so! Generally the crowd that attends is fantastic. There are one or two area's where they can rub you up the wrong way but, "hey ho" that’s life. For example, they cannot think about safety, they will not follow instructions from stewards and many think they know better. A few are just down right rude and ignorant and one year I felt one should have been arrested!

We have all met "Billy know it all" and his mate "Sh*t fuh brains" at some time in our lives but go to a large carnival and they come out of the woodwork!
I overheard more than one person say..."Bloody’s the same as last year...nothing new!"

Well let’s analyse that statement...

Firstly, what would one expect to see/hear at a carnival if not a fun fair, local cake and flower arranging, carnival music, street artists, coconut shy's stalls with tombola’s and the local vicar perhaps judging the school floats and other assorted competitions? To paraphrase John Cleese in Faulty towers... "Herds of Wilder beast roaming the plains or the hanging gardens of Babylon?!!?"
Hmm... it's a Carnival...that's what goes on at carnivals, there is a clue in the name!!

Secondly, the last few years we have tried to introduce live music in the form of: local bands whether they be jazz, folk, Irish or whatever. New sideshows...difficult because most are seen somewhere else by many of the punters attending, like Go Karts, and this year, Rock climbing up a portable wall.

Thirdly, if these people are sick and tired of the same old thing...why don't they get off their "fat a*ses" and attend the meetings, throw in their "two pennorth" and make a difference? We would certainly welcome them with open arms! Cos they are idle, gobby, moaning bar stewards who are full of cr*p and not a hint of neighbourliness and good spirit in their bodies!

Health and Safety...

Firstly, from the off, we do need Health and safety (Hand S) but do we really need so much of it that it kills the Carnival idea?

Well, they say that what happens in America happens here about ten years later...and we all know how you can be sued for anything in the states and sadly the litigious situation over here in good old blighty is starting to cotton on to this!
If any one thing is blighting a Carnival more than anything, now a days, is the sad fact that H and S is stopping all the fun for the kids and their parents who give up there precious time to make the floats. Lorry drivers cannot drive the lorries now as the tachograph hours add up and stop them working next day.
Insurance is needed to cover all and sundry for public liability and carnival routes by there nature have to pass housing estates to make bucket collections on the day to raise the hard earned funds required to go to the local charities.
Ask yourself... How does a young kiddie walk a mile and a half collecting this money? How does a disabled kiddie traverse this mile and a half? How do the decorated floats and the procession, along with the marching bands, stilt walkers, clowns and jugglers announce that the carnival is on, if not, by traversing this long route blaring out carnival sounds, laughter and general mayhem?
Without the vehicles to transport everyone the procession could die attendance would fall as no one a mile away would know the carnival is on! Less money would be collected if the procession was shortened or died altogether.

Over the years, we have been asked by the appropriate authorities to:

* Have cars at the front and rear of the carnival with flashing indicators and signs announcing the procession.
* Line the procession route with signs. (Difficult as strictly speaking, we are not aloud to post signs!)
* Provide a history of the Carnival
* Provide a full risk assessment
* Provide evidence and documentation for public liability, driving licences, vehicle insurance, individual street entertainment licences, collection bucket licences
* Contact the police and inform them of proceedings
* Contact the local council and do the same for them
* Mark of clear safety zones
* Provide fencing to protect the public...(more like to give the public something to climb over as they can’t be bothered to follow instructions!)

The list could go on but I cant be bothered frankly, as, if you were going to do a carnival this year I suspect by now you have decided not to bother!

So...looking at the short list above what do we glean?
Well, individually, nothing on the list is, really its not....IF YOU HAVE THE MAN POWER!!

We have at most about fourteen committee members. Two are over seventy...three are approaching retirement, most are in there late forties or, early to mid fifties and a couple are under thirty-five!
We enlist friends, sons daughters, neighbours the local scouts /air cadets/ girl guides and anyone else we can bludgeon into submission on the day but, generally its about ten people who do all the work.
So...what work do they do?

* They keep records of meetings, invoices, payments and contact lists of anyone to do with the carnival.
* They contact local trades people and companies for donation or help
* produce posters
* organise all the fairs people, entertainers, local press/radio/TV
* Apply for permission for everything necessary on the day.
* apply for insurances
* write all the legal and moral letters to government agencies/officials/councillors etc
* come up with themes for the parade for each year
* circumvent previous / future problems
* Reply to any correspondence or requests of which they can be many and varied...indeed some, like the woman who wanted her money back for a stall she had rented because it leaked in the most torrential rain fall we had on record, are positively humorous!
* Lift every bodies spirits when it rains on the day (except the woman noted above I presume)
* organise the sick when its hot/cold/ just right/to tiring/natural illness
* provide safety services
* erect banners before to advertise the carnival
* take them down again at the end
* arrange performers and artistes
* provide the electrical services
* feed and water upwards of three thousand punters/helpers/hangers on!
* And last but not least...set up and then take down and store everything on the carnival day... want a Carnival or you think you could do better?

Join the queue of's a short one!!