Bexhill Carnival History
Before World War 2 Bexhill Rotary Club organised the carnivals – the last was held in 1937. After the war in July 1950 the carnival was revived by Bexhill Round Table whose chairman, the late Peter Evenden, had been one of the founder members of the Service Club for Young Businessmen. Peter envisaged the carnival as being a way of fulfilling the club’s commitment to community service.
There were some highlight moments and events during the Round Tables stewardship of the carnival. 1952 saw a torchlight procession followed by community singing led by Arthur (Abide with Me) Caiger fame. During the 1953 Coronation Year, the carnival celebrations were extended to a week, culminating in a firework display. Before the torchlight procession. 1954 was notable for the first landing of a helicopter in Bexhill, bringing the town’s mayor to the Polegrove!
Arena events in 1955 included Derrico – Britain’s Wonder Boy Aerial Acrobat and the Cromwells, who rode motorcycles upside down 70 feet in the air! Who could forget Sabrina who arrived to grace the 1958 Carnival? In 1958, Bexhill Carnival was taking over Bexhill Round Table, so a group of individuals got together to form Bexhill Carnival Committee with secretary Dennis Houghton, who, with his wife Enid formed the backbone of the committee, and was instrumental in forming the Carnival Guild of Great Britain. Together with colleagues from carnival committees all over Southern England, Dennis and Enid were responsible for chaperoning countless young girls of the Carnival Court as they attended carnivals all over the South East.
A glance at the 1963 carnival programme reports The Royal Artillery Mounted Band in the arena; the Carnival Queen was Diane Shrubsole chosen by judges which included Bexhill legends Peggy Page and Richard Burnett, together with Humphrey Lyttleton.
Advertisers included Longley Bros. Elsworths, Tucknotts, Personal Service Travel, Orchards, the Criterion, Downlands Dairies, Beals, Meyrick and Davies, Rouse, the Playhouse, Belmont Dairy, Austins, Maidstone and District Motor Services which would be driving Tufty and his friend Pierre and encouraging youngsters to join the Tufty Club! Andrews were the people to bring their fair to Bexhill. The Carnival Queen and her court were chosen at the Carnival Ball held at the De La Warr Pavilion.
1966 introduced the first Fairy Princess competition which was won by Beryl Ann Hart. There was a committee of some 30 members with the mayor as president and a council representative always present at committee meetings.
A new attraction in 1970 was the Carnival Sea Angling competition for which the Carnival Challenge Shield was competed for. Six-a-side football was a feature then as now, and also an annual swimming gala.
By 1986, whilst the sea angling contest and the swimming gala faded away, a new equestrian gymkhana at Little Common Recreation Ground was introduced and an inter-Services darts match had become an established annual event.
By 1993, the Carnival Queen Selection Dance had been relocated from the De La Warr to the Leisure Centre. In 1994, the committee was advised that the procession could no longer follow its traditional route down London Road to the town, but instead must go up Holliers Hill, Chantry Lane, through the Old Town, down Sea Road and Buckhurst Road. This was not a popular change amongst the public, but just like the introduction of income tax, remains with us today!
In 1996, it looked as if Bexhill Carnival would fold, but a meeting between committee members Nim Whitmarsh, John Cox and Phil Bentley with Nick and Chris Shaw saved the day with the backing of Shaws Funfair.
In 1998, the evening boot fair in the Polegrove was established.
2002 introduced the first Party in the Park Friday evenings and the withdrawal of any council representation on the committee.
In 2012 the committee changed its focus to work with local businesses, who sponsor carnival week to enable all carnival week events free for the public to attend whilst raising monies for local charitable causes.