Somerset Carnivals – Bridgwater and North Petherton

The famous Bridgwater Carnival, on the first Saturday in November, and the North Petherton Carnival, on the second Saturday in November, are always bright, bold and entertaining. As some of the biggest and best loved events in Somerset for many generations, carnival season is a must for anyone yet to attend. With a fascinating past and a lively present, these vibrant parades are not so much a passing celebration as a regional institution. Thousands of guests leave with great pictures and happy memories, while local charities receive vital cash and the whole town gets a lift.

Here are some eye-opening facts and great ways to get into the carnival spirit:

Grab a camera: The easiest way to get into carnival mode is simply as a spectator. It pays to be a little early and take a look at the parade route on the carnival web site, to get a great view in what is a brilliant event for any photographer! Capturing bright lights and moving objects at night is not the easiest task, but there are some stunning sights to capture should you be up for the challenge.

Take part in the parade: For true carnival kings and queens, there is only one true way to enjoy the carnival and that is to be a part of it. A huge number of participants are involved each year, from young to old revellers, with all kinds of groups, businesses and charities involved. Best look sharp and give it your best though, because every cart and outfit are subject to the scrutiny of the judges. A whole series of awards are hotly coveted, which perhaps explains why some acts put literally hundreds of hours work into their displays, competing fiercely to create some of the UK’s most stunning carnival carts and costumes.

Grab a grandstand seat, or make a song and dance: Lining the streets is one thing, but perhaps you’d like to treat yourself to an even better view? If so, there are grandstand tickets available, to give you the best seats in the house.

Take an explosive history lesson: An annual event since 1605, the Bridgwater Carnival is directly linked to Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot (part instigated by local Catholic priest and very naughty boy Robert Parsons). These days though, it is no longer about religion or Catholics vs Protestants, but celebrating the area and raising money for good causes.

Once upon a time, a huge bonfire kicked things off, until the town actually ran out of old boats to burn and some dodgy types got carried away and starting burning brand new vessels and whatever they could get hold of. We reckon it was probably quite hard to find a chair to sit on in the aftermath of a particularly raucous carnival!

The carnival procession itself began with local groups, referred to simply as carnival “gangs”, who would parade and display effigies of Guy Fawkes and Co. before they were burned. Through the ages, this led to larger numbers of participants who got quite competitive about it all, bringing costumes and larger effigies, until gradually the great procession we know today was established. Such is the local carnival fervour that other events have also joined the fray, such as our very own North Petherton Carnival.

Of course, there is also the matter of the Carnival Concert, also held each year.

Get into the spirit of Charity: Last year nearly £24,000 was raised for good causes in the main Carnival alone, with charities heavily involved in proceedings.

Enjoy a spot of Squibbing: One of the brightest parts of the Bridgwater Carnival spectacle is the act of “squibbing”. This unique Bridgwater term refers to a special firework display in which over a hundred designated locals light up Bridgwater High Street in a frenzy of dazzling light. Each “squibber” lets off a firework in each hand, that are fastened to wooden coshes for safety’s sake. It is an awesome spectacle and another amazing photo opportunity.

All the information you need, whether as an entrant or spectator, can be found at the official Bridgwater Carnival site.

Come and Stay at Carnival Time

Here at the Walnut Tree Hotel we have a wonderful location to enjoy the best of the Bridgwater Carnival and The North Petherton Carnival. For North Petherton, we are well placed to enjoy the parade itself, just outside the front door.

Take a look here at our North Petherton Carnival Package or our Bridgwater Carnival Package

Carnival pictures courtesy of Timeless Images, Bridgwater