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Carnival Legends are a Rather Bewildering Spectacle!

25962_10203170691692128_1607229811_nPhotographs belonging to Alan Garnett

A community carnival performance like no other is planned for Ryde on Thursday 26 August celebrating the history and heritage of IW carnival, as seen through the eyes of our children and young people.

The New Carnival Company (NCC) has been working hard throughout the pandemic to deliver its 2019-awarded National Lottery Heritage Fund project called ‘A Rather Bewildering Spectacle’.

The title is drawn from an IW County Press record of the first Island carnival, which took place in Ryde in 1887. It was in honour of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, and it paraded through the town with masquerade costumes, decorated carts, marching bands and much merriment.

Today of course, carnival is part of the Island’s rich cultural heritage, with at least 18 parades a year taking place across the Island prior to Covid. The NCC has partnered with Carisbrooke Castle Museum and oral history expert Lisa Kerley, to carry our interviews with community members who have been part of that rich and colourful story.

Representatives of Ryde, Sandown, Yarmouth, Ventnor, Shanklin, St Helens and Newport carnivals have so far taken part, as well as members of such legendary groups as Ventnor Comic Jazz band, The Wight Strollers, the Valvona family, the Newport Old Guard Scout Band, The Keystone Kops and The Ryde Buccaneers.

The collected stories have been the inspiration for the production of a new children’s musical pageant of the same name, which will be performed on Thursday afternoon at 2.30pm at Ryde Town Square (in front of the CO-OP).  The show will be preceded by a small parade along the High Street starting 2.15pm approximately.

The timing of the show commemorates what would normally be Ryde Main carnival, cancelled this year because of Covid.

About 40 children and young people will take part in the event, which is being presented by TEd (Theatre Educational) and Theatre Train, as part of a special carnival summer school delivered by the New Carnival Company (NCC). The summer school comprises part of the wider carnival memories project. Costume making and dance performance rehearsals have been taking place at Oakfield School led by NCC artists.

Katy Edmunds, Associate Producer for the New Carnival Company said

‘It has become vital to keep the carnival flame burning through two years of cancellations due to the Covid pandemic. The summer school and the production of the new community pageant is engaging our young people in the excitement and energy of carnival whilst at the same time learning about the history and traditions that have gone before. Expect to be charmed by mini-Buccaneers, Keystone Kops gone Krazy, King Kong and the Flintstones (representative of the Holiday Camps era) and much much more’.

Please come along and support A Rather Bewildering Spectacle: the show!

Thank You!

Note to Editors:

All the community oral history interviews have been professionally recorded and transcribed and will form part of an exhibition at Carisbrooke Castle in the autumn, along with collected photographs and carnival memorabilia. A new website is to be launched, called Island Carnival Memories, planned as a legacy of the project, for people to visit and delve into over the years to come.

Frankie Goldspink, Creative Director of the New Carnival Company adds ‘It’s not too late to get involved in Island Carnival Memories. The New Carnival Company is inviting anyone who has been part of the carnival scene over the years, as an organiser, a participant, or a visitor, to share their memories with us. Our Facebook page Island Carnival Memories is waiting for your story!’ 

featured image – Ryde Buccaneers, c:1963, courtesey Alan Garnet

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