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Maurice Houston named Whitstable Carnival's first king in 121 years as organisers announce scaled-back plans

A town's first-ever carnival king has taken his throne - as organisers reveal plans for this year’s event have changed.

For the last 121 years, Whitstable Carnival has had an all-female court, comprising a carnival queen and her princesses.

Last year, the carnival made national headlines when organisers opened the contest to boys for the first time, after no girls entered. But eventually, another all-female court was found.

Maurice Houston, dressed as 'The King of Rock and Gull'. Picture: Chris Stone
Maurice Houston, dressed as 'The King of Rock and Gull'. Picture: Chris Stone

When the carnival's committee simultaneously stepped down, however, new organisers announced plans to open the positions to residents of any age and gender.

On Saturday, Maurice Houston, five, became the town’s first-ever carnival king - when he won over the judges after dressing up as “the king of rock and gull”.

Maurice said: “I’m really happy, and I can’t wait for carnival day”.

Writer Chris Stone - known by his pen name C. J. Stone - is treasurer of the committee which hopes to revive the carnival.

Former carnival organisers Carol Simmons and Carol Sims, with new treasurer Chris Stone, chair Belinda Murray and secretary Jane Bowell. Picture: Chris Stone
Former carnival organisers Carol Simmons and Carol Sims, with new treasurer Chris Stone, chair Belinda Murray and secretary Jane Bowell. Picture: Chris Stone

Last month, Mr Stone announced plans to transport the event back to its 19th century roots, with horse-drawn carriages and period costume, culminating in a celebration on Westmeads Recreation Ground.

But now Mr Stone says they have had to scale back plans due to limited time and resources, although people are still being encouraged to wear Victorian-themed attire.

He said: “We are very late in getting all this organised. There is so much to do, but we would still encourage people attending the carnival to dress up.”

He said hopes of ending the parade with an outdoor party are also likely to be shelved this year.

The Kent School of Performing Arts float at the Whitstable Carnival last year
The Kent School of Performing Arts float at the Whitstable Carnival last year

“But if anyone is keen to organise this we would be very happy to liaise with them. And if not, we will still end with some kind of party - maybe an indoor one in a church hall,” said Mr Stone.

“Next year, when we will have a little more time, we will definitely be able to organise a more coherent spectacle.

"King Maurice doesn’t even have a float yet and we don’t want to make him walk. If anyone can help, please let us know" - Chris Stone

“We are all very enthusiastic about the idea of bringing the carnival up to date and making it vibrant, lively and relevant to the town again. We want all the artists and musicians in the town to get involved, as well as businesses and crafts people.

“We hope young people will want to get involved. We’ve already teamed up with The Far Academy - a brilliant local young people’s charity, who will be skateboarding on the day.

“Let’s celebrate our achievements and what a wonderful community we have.”

Organisers Chris Stone, Jane Bowell and Belinda Murray Picture: Chris Stone
Organisers Chris Stone, Jane Bowell and Belinda Murray Picture: Chris Stone

The carnival parade begins in Tankerton on August 3 at 5pm, after Harbour Day ends at 4pm.

The committee is raising funds through a series of quiz nights, raffles and benefit concerts. A gig will be held at Whitstable Labour Club at 8pm on April 27.

Mr Stone added: “The old committee were obliged by their constitution to sell off their assets, so we have nothing. We are in dire need of flat back trucks and four-by-fours with trailers to make floats from.

“King Maurice doesn’t even have a float yet and we don’t want to make him walk. If anyone can help, please let us know.”

Carnival association membership is open to all CT5 residents for a minimum donation of £1. The carnival’s new website is available at www.whitstablecarnival.org. It is also on Twitter and Facebook.

Read more: All the latest news from Whitstable


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