Shake your pom poms if you’re missing carnivals too

PUBLISHED: 05:30 18 August 2020 | UPDATED: 08:38 18 August 2020

Donna-Louise Bishop is missing carnivals this year. Here she is (pictured right) circa 1992 at Sheringham carnival shaking homemade pom poms. Picture: BISHOP FAMILY

Donna-Louise Bishop is missing carnivals this year. Here she is (pictured right) circa 1992 at Sheringham carnival shaking homemade pom poms. Picture: BISHOP FAMILY


It is often said that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, which is true for me, and possibly many others, when I think about carnival time – especially the parades.

I still have memories of getting the fidgets and a cold bum by sitting on the pavement ledge waiting for the thing to start. My nan, the nominated adult to take my sister and I, would arrive hours earlier just to get a decent nearby parking space, as well a good spot on the side of the road. She would carry her fold out chair and a big bag full of snacks to keep us entertained until the big moment. So, armed with crisps, sweets, and bucket-fulls of excitement, we’d wait patiently for the parade to start.

Nan would be fearless in making sure our view wasn’t interrupted by the crowds pouring in and around us and wouldn’t even attempt to hide her squeals of delight when the music picked up from whatever field the floats would be parked up in. For us, we would always visit Holt, Sheringham, and Cromer carnival, as we only lived a stone’s throw away in Baconsthorpe. I’m sure that equates to around a million hours sat waiting but what followed next would be worth every second.

The music would start. Often a drum or bass from a sound system would be felt vibrating through my feet. Then we’d catch our first glimpse of the floats making their way slowly up the street. There would be colour, glitter, feathers, dancing, singing, and themes upon themes on each and every wonderful float. Big artic lorries would house mermaids and sea creatures, trailers would be filled with pantomime favourites, a nice car with members of the carnival’s royal family would drive elegantly by, and then the majorettes would follow. Side note, it was always a dream of mine to be one but it never quite happened. The closest I got was appearing in Sheringham Carnival circa 1992, with home-made poms poms on the back of my dad’s work trailer, advertising my parent’s window and building firm.

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Although nan’s snacks would all be gone by then, they would be replaced with flags and more sweets which were thrown out into the crowds. I remember smiling from ear to ear, infected with the buzz around us all, and covered head to toe in stickers... I didn’t appreciate it at the time but now, through my adult eyes, I really do marvel at the time and effort spent behind the scenes in order to make events like this happen.

At the end of last year, and despite the hugely successful revival of Dereham’s carnival following its 22-year gap, organisers confirmed it was all over. The event, which cost around £17,000 to put on, struggled to raise enough money to proceed or attract new volunteers and committee members. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Miss Rona then struck us and our events down like dominos.

Wells, Cromer, Beccles, Diss and Loddon are just some of the carnivals which have had to be cancelled this year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s completely understandable, but now it’s made realise more than ever what is truly behind these events – and that’s community.

Impressively, the team behind Sheringham’s carnival went virtual this year. The carnival committee drew up a timetable of events that could be done online or within family groups at home, and shared via the internet. While Cromer Carnival held its first ever virtual children’s week, where the hunt for a virtual royal family was on. I’m sure there are many other wonderful carnival-related events going on all over our wonderful county.

So, while we wave goodbye to the carnivals of 2020, I for one will be prepping myself to go in 2021 with the hope of keeping the tradition alive, the fun never-ending, and the appreciation of the heart which goes into a good, old-fashioned carnival day out.

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