A Norwich rite of passage – be on a float

Lord Mayor's Celebration procession 2014.
Photo by Simon Finlay.
Lord Mayor's Celebration procession 2014. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Monday, July 7, 2014
9:16 AM

If our fine city had one of those lists ‘100 things to do in Norwich before you die’ – take part in the Lord Mayor’s procession would probably be at number 1.

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Lord Mayor's Celebration procession 2014.
Photo by Simon Finlay.Lord Mayor's Celebration procession 2014. Photo by Simon Finlay.

And this weekend a team from the Norwich Evening News and Eastern Daily Press were able to do just that – thanks to the return of four much-loved animal characters.

We teamed up with Norfolk charity Break to ‘break-out’ four GoGoGorillas – the colourful characters that proved such a hit on the city’s streets just 12 months ago.

The jungle theme was then made complete thanks to a forest of trees, provided by Norwich-based Inline Events, and a team of impish monkeys – children of the papers’ staff – to wave at the crowds as we went past.

Oh and of course the lorry itself, provided by Freightforce and their friendly, smiley driver.

The procession itself, the highlight of the Lord Mayor’s Celebration, goes by in a two-hour blur – but what a brilliant blur.

Everywhere you look is a sea of faces. Young, old, teenage and middle-aged. But all of them smiling, all of them having a wonderful time.

You feel like you want to stop and say hello to them all, thank them for coming and thank them for either donating money or taking one of your stickers or flags.

But there isn’t time. A Lord Mayor’s float waits for no man and time and time again I find myself in the way of the float behind, about to be maimed by a twirling baton thrown by a young majorette.

By the time the float heads into Tombland my jaw muscles start to ache from too much smiling – absolutely none of it forced.

Then we make the turn towards Norwich Cathedral and there’s another large crowd of people eager to please and eager to be pleased.

That’s the greatest thing about the procession – I’m not entirely sure who is entertaining whom. The parade keeps the crowds happy through colour, music and dance, but then the crowd does so much to keep the parade happy through cheerleading, encouragement and big, gaping smiles.

Once it’s all over a worn-out sense of fulfilment comes to the fore. You really would not believe how tiring it is keeping 25,000-plus happy.

But it means a lot to be able to say we’ve been part of such a fantastic tradition in our fantastic city. You really should give it a try.

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