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Whitstable Carnival future in doubt as entire committee to step down

By Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Whitstable’s 121-year-old carnival could be finished forever unless new organisers can be found.

For decades, a small group of volunteers has put time and effort into planning the annual event - which sees a parade of floats and pedestrians take to the town’s streets every August.

But now, the entire Whitstable Carnival committee has announced it is stepping down, which could spell the end for the historic event.

Committee members Carol Sims, Carol Simmons, Rob Stuart, Estelle Short and Glenys Rigden
Committee members Carol Sims, Carol Simmons, Rob Stuart, Estelle Short and Glenys Rigden

Chairman of 17 years Carol Sims, 77, said: “We will have our AGM in the middle of January which is when, if nobody comes forward, we will call it a day.

“If we do that our constitution says we have to sell our assets - the car, carnival float - and give the money to local charities.

“That would be the end of Whitstable Carnival, after 121 years, which we would be very sad about.”

The carnival caught the attention of the national media in April when, after no young girls signed up to become the 2018 carnival queen or princesses, the contest was opened to boys for the first time in its history.

Gallery1

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The carnival in the 1920s (4715695) The carnival court float in 1937 A photo of the carnival from before 1920, which is undated (4715812) The Kent School of Performing Arts float in the 2018 Whitstable Carnival in August Miss Whitstable Jade Rafferty and her court of Lucy White, Tilly Russell and Nikita Kemp at the head of the Whitstable Carnival in August

The decision proved contentious, with many praising it as being forward-thinking and inclusive, while others branded it “political correctness gone mad”.

The move also sparked a great deal of discussion about the carnival, with many saying the historic event needed rethinking and bringing up to date.

“Some people say it’s all outdated, but other people say it’s tradition,” said Mrs Sims, of Douglas Avenue.

“What we need is a bigger, younger group that’s willing to take it on long-term - not just for a year or two.”

She explained that, as the years have gone on, putting on the event has grown increasingly challenging.

“There was a time at carnival when we’d easily have 40 floats in,” she said. “This year was stressful.

“We start planning early in the year, and we have to raise a lot of money to pay for road closures and that sort of thing.

“If any group takes it on, they need to approach it in a very different way.

“It will be a huge wrench for me to step down. I started with carnival when my daughter was 10 - she was in the court as a princess and that’s how I got hooked. She’s now 41. I’ve been involved for 31 years.

“We had a great carnival this year, so we’ve gone out on a high.”

If you are interested in helping to take over Whitstable Carnival, contact Carol Simmons on snowwis99@yahoo.com.

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