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Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Locals and holidaymakers organise their summer diaries around Sheringham Carnival.
And generations of families share their stories of carnival capers – passing the baton to the youngsters to make their own memories.
But that legacy of living history –enjoyed by 30,000-plus people each year – is in danger of being broken.
For, unless a new team of volunteers steps up to help organise the week-long festival of fun, the carnival could end.
At 7pm today, at the Morley Club in the town, the committee is holding its “make or break” annual meeting.
Secretary and treasurer Paula Popham is standing down, and the committee needs people to volunteer as secretary, advertising manager, sponsorship manager and co-ordinator for the business directory.
The urgency of the rallying call has been brought about by a poor turnout at last week’s open meeting for volunteers – with a few people willing to do bucket collections but nobody stepping up to fill the key roles.
Carnival chairman Stuart McClean, whose role is up for re-election this year, said people were “very unresponsive”, and added: “I just hope and pray that more people come forward this week.”
Ironically, Mr McClean was part of the team that rode to the rescue in 2010, when the previous committee stepped down and left the carnival in doubt.
There have been signs in 2011 and 2012 of the carnival gathering pace, with 63 floats in the most recent parade and the return of the street races and raft race.
But Mr McClean said the workload was “unmanageable” without more help. He said: “The carnival is so important. It should bring together the townsfolk, the traders and the holidaymakers.
“The constitution of the carnival is to promote the town of Sheringham. The carnival does just that. It’s been proven by the tourist information centre that it brings up to 30,000 people into the town.”
He added: “It’s easy to stand on the periphery and think the carnival just happens. That’s what I used to do. But once you get involved you appreciate what everybody has put in.
“We need a core group of people who can organise the main planning and get the business directory sorted out. We’ve had people ring to say they’re coming to the AGM because they’ve experienced Sheringham Carnival and they don’t want their children to not experience it.”
He said without the volunteers, it could be the end of the carnival – or it could become a “condensed carnival” or one that was spread over a number of weekends.
But Mr McClean said: “That’s not really good enough, as people book their holidays for a week to coincide with carnival week.”
Town mayor Doug Smith added his staunch support.
He said: “It’s vital for our summer season. It lasts a whole week and many families organise their holiday to coincide with it. It sets the summer alight in Sheringham.
“Particularly in the last two years, the events have been amazingly well attended and extremely popular. It’s a wonderful showpiece for Sheringham in the summer.
“I would be distraught if it were to stop. It would be a very serious blow to the town and the town’s long-term economy. And for the image of the town.”
Carnival president and former chairman Tony Nelson, the town crier, said the impact of the carnival’s cancellation would be “enormous”.
He said: “In the end, people do tend to come forward, and I think that will happen again.
“The prospect of the carnival not happening is too devastating to think about.
“It is a huge community effort, and it also brings so many people into the town - people who spend money.”
Speaking after last week’s meeting, Mr McClean said: “It is just history repeating itself but it would be such a shame to let it all slip away.
“We always seem to get plenty of people to lend a hand at the events but it is the work in between, such as administration and sponsorship, where we struggle. We have got whole lists of jobs to fill, which are too much for just one or two people but a larger group could make light work of.
“Once you get going it can be fun but it is not fun if you are working at full tilt all the time.”
For more information about volunteering, contact Mrs Popham via the contacts page at www.sheringhamcarnival.com.
What do you think? Share your memories of Sheringham Carnival by emailing email@example.com. You can also tweet your comments and support on the social networking site Twitter, using the hashtag #savesheringhamcarnival.
To find out what happened at the meeting, see tomorrow’s paper and website