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Sheppey Summer Carnival in Sheerness to end

Sheppey's century-old summer carnival has been axed.

After 17 years the committee behind the Island's biggest parade has pulled the plug blaming apathy and increasing costs.

8th Sheppey Scouts took part in this year's Sheppey carnival in Sheerness. Picture: Chris Davey
8th Sheppey Scouts took part in this year's Sheppey carnival in Sheerness. Picture: Chris Davey

Chairman Bob McCall said: "After much deliberation it has been decided by a unanimous vote that the Sheppey Summer Carnival will cease to exist in its current form.

"This is because of a lack of community support, financial viability and the committee's other personal commitments."

His wife Joan, daughter Lauren and son Lee, who is an independent Swale borough councillor, are all committee members and made the decision at a meeting on Friday.

Bob said: "It is with great regret that the committee has made the decision to separate the carnival parade from the carnival court.

"This means the parade in Sheerness will cease to exist unless a new committee is formed to take over running of it."

Former Swale Mayor Cllr Anita Walker presents a cheque to Bob, Joan and Lauren McCall of the Sheppey Carnival Association. Picture: Chris Davey
Former Swale Mayor Cllr Anita Walker presents a cheque to Bob, Joan and Lauren McCall of the Sheppey Carnival Association. Picture: Chris Davey

But there is a time limit. Anyone interested must contact him before the end of the month when the committee's financial accounts have to be submitted.

Bob said: "To be eligible for consideration any committee must have at least four adults."

He added: "We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the businesses, groups and individuals who have supported us over the past 17 years and have helped keep this Island tradition alive."

He admitted: "Organising the parade is no longer worth the hassle. People complain that the carnival isn't what it used to be but only a few take the time and trouble to help.

"In previous years every street, pub, club and business entered a float. Now they are few and far between. Last year our collection on the day raised £380 but the day itself cost £1,500 to stage and a whole year to organise. It doesn't even cover its cost.

Rainham Majorettes were on top form at the Sheppey Summer Carnival, Sheerness
Rainham Majorettes were on top form at the Sheppey Summer Carnival, Sheerness

"There is insurance to pay, road closures to organise and risk assessments to write."

He even subsidised the event himself by collecting waste paper and cans.

But the family will continue to organise the Miss Sheppey competition.

Bob said: "We will continue to select seven girls each year to represent the Island in other carnivals."

The £380 will be given to charity or handed over to a new committee.

Eden School of Dance in the Sheppey Summer Carnival

The Sheppey carnival can be traced back to 1918.

There was a Festival for Women to mark the end of the First World War which was so successful that Islandersdecided to organise a carnival two weeks later.

The carnival has not been without controversy.

For years its highlight was the appearance of the Sheppey Zulus. Dockers dressed in grass skirts and blacked up to frighten youngsters and kidnap women for their cooking pot. But they had to disband after being attacked on social media for being racist.

This year's parade in August was led by the Old School Samba Bandand featured carnival queens from across Kent including Sittingbourne, Teynham, Faversham and Deal.

One of the Sheppey Zulus' last appearances in Sheerness in August 2015
One of the Sheppey Zulus' last appearances in Sheerness in August 2015

The day ended with a funfair and fireworks.

Carnival treasurer Joan McCall said at the time: “It was one of our best carnivals and certainly had lots of people lining the streets."

But she warned: "We desperately need businesses, holiday parks and youth and community groups to continue supporting us otherwise Sheppey will go the same way as Sandwich, Canterbury and Ashford and could lose its carnival within five years.”

If you'd like to try to take on the parade, call her husband Bob on 01795 667927.

For more Sheppey stories click here.


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