Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival - Friday 7th November 2008

West India House
Setting off from Chesterfield in heavy rain to collect our colleagues from Eastwood, who were found testing the shower proofing of the new red jackets in the downpour pending the coach’s arrival at Plumtre Way.

After everyone had boarded the driver headed off for the M1 South for what was scheduled to be the last engagement of the season as the Musketeers participating in Europe’s largest illuminated carnival and one of the largest in the World at Bridgwater in Somerset.

With the driver able to make good progress, we arrived at Bridgwater in now dry sunny weather to meet with the organisers at midday as arranged and were then directed to out destination, West India House our accommodation for the nights stay at the conclusion of the evenings entertainment.

Shown to our facilities, the members soon turned the skittle alley into one big dormitory whilst the manager and coach driver accompanied the two organising committee members in a white van to be familiarised with the location of our afternoons entertainment area and the whereabouts of the town hall where a buffet meal had been prepared for our party prior to the 3:30 programme of music in the High Street, we then returned to West India House a pub about one mile away to make our last minute preparations and sample the liquid refreshment before our return to the town centre on the coach.

Leaving in good time the coach pulled up on the High Street opposite the town hall where we were soon sampling the buffet lunch and fruit drinks to give us some sustenance for the rest of the day. After a short while we had tried all the various sandwiches still leaving time to watch the other entertainment along the main shopping area and time for a little shopping before changing into uniform ready for our contribution to the programme. With two hours to the start already the surrounding streets were starting to fill ready for the lengthy evening parade of illuminated ‘Carts’.

As we were leading the parade, it wasn’t long before an official arrived to escort our coach down to the parade starting point before the streets were cordoned off and the vehicle returned to the finish point in readiness for the band to change before the main parade passed by.

As the starting time got closer it was noticeable how much the temperature was dropping which could be felt through the uniform tabards, although one consolation was the fact that all the band members had been issued with woollen gloves to keep their hands warm whilst playing.

With crowds swarming past, the band was led to the start awaiting the off, down the packed route ahead

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The first half of the route was so congested with the public attempting to find standing room that at times the band was physically engulfed, as they tried to perform their intricate movements and only visible because of the coloured lights displayed on the instruments and drums.
However as the band approached the Television and DVD recording area the congestion appeared to clear somewhat to allow the band to perform a routine for the waiting cameras and the speculative audience around the town centre.

Thankfully to the clear skies and absence of the rain it was estimated that around 150,000 people would line the streets for arguably the WORLDS largest illuminated parade.

With the adrenalin flowing throughout the members they continued to provide a perfect show along the way stopping only to play to an enthusiastic VIP stand area before reaching the cut off point were the band and visitors coaches were parked in the Morrison’s car park, allowing the members to change and return to watch the advancing 100 Carts and other illuminated entrants.

With the entire town now sealed off from traffic movement other than the parade entrants there was no rush for the members as everyone settled down to greet the amazing site for several hours before the parade ended and normality was resumed although this was not the end of the carnival only the parade. Following on after the final float had left was the ‘Squibbing’ (hand held fireworks) along the entire High Street another unmissable event.

So intense and powerfull are the squib's that is claimed it is visible from space.....Unlike Sara's Lights that cannot be seen from 1 metre away........

Being our first visit to this famous extravagance we were overcome with surprise at the sheer size, colour and brightness of the Carts as each one passed our vantage point, it was unbelievable the thought, time and effort that must have gone into the designing, building and adding of the thousands of light bulbs in the hope of becoming winners of this event. If any reader as never experienced this phenomenon before it is well worth a visit to witness for yourself, check this site for info. www.bridgwatercarnival.com.

Eventually around 11:15, the coach left the car park and headed for our accommodation where the members could indulge in either warm drinks or avail themselves of the local beers in front of a real log fire to help warm everyone through before taking to their bed for a well deserved nights sleep.

Around 8:00am Saturday morning the skittle hall became a bee hive of activity as the members were aroused and cleared the hall before indulging in the large fry-up breakfasts awaiting in the pub lounge before loading the coach and climbing aboard for the return journey home secure in the knowledge that a good impression had been left on the visitors to this historic event, and on arriving back home tired but happy, the fruits of our labours were evident when the manager checked his e-mails to find two other organisers from the vicinity had made contact regarding the bands performance and hoping to secure the bands services in 2009 at their events.

Lottory GrantChesterfield Borough Coat Of ArmsMusky