Published: December 17, 2012
Row erupts over Burnham-On-Sea Carnival's move to Friday in 2013

Hundreds of people have joined an online group opposing plans to move next year's Burnham carnival to the night before Bridgwater for the first time ever.

As first reported here, the Highbridge and Burnham Carnival Committee has announced that the carnival will be held on Friday 1st November in 2013 - the night before Bridgwater's event - making it the first event on the carnival circuit.

However, the news has been greeted with dismay by carnival fans in Bridgwater and a group set-up on Facebook to oppose the Burnham move attracted 645 followers in the 24 hours since Saturday's annoucement was made.

John Holliday, who set up the group, explained to why there is so much concern. "Bridgwater is the original carnival - it all started there - and the town has the tradition of squibbing dating back hundreds of years. Bridgwater is therefore always the first carnival."

"There is a lot of shock in Bridgwater about Burnham's announcement. The Bridgwater Carnival committee tell me that no-one was aware of the decision and there seems to have been little or no consultation. I also hear rumours that not all members of the Burnham committee are happy with the move."

"I can see a boycott of the Burnham Carnival taking place by the Bridgwater clubs and possibly other clubs if this unpopular move goes forward."

John stressed that while he is a member of the British Flag Carnival Club, his views and the Facebook page 'No To Burnham Carnival Before Bridgwater' are his own personal standpoint rather than those of his club.

The decision to move Burnham's carnival from its usual Monday slot comes after concerns were raised by Burnham's carnival association regarding this year's big drop in donations, which reported here.

A survey of carnival clubs was conducted by the Burnham organisers and "strong support" was given to moving the town's event to Friday 1st November in 2013. The decision was confirmed at a meeting held last Friday.

Phil New, Burnham's Carnival Chairman, told the rationale for the change: "The reason we have to move is due to the lack of income at this year’s carnival. We have made no secret of the fact that we, as other carnival towns, have realised that a mid-week carnival is no longer really viable in the current climate."

"We did state this last year and were hoping to change the day then, along with Bridgwater and Weston, but Bridgwater picked the Saturday. Both Weston and Burnham went for the Friday after Bridgwater as that was the best obvious choice."

"This went to a vote at the county level and Weston were granted the Friday. But that decision left our carnival in a very awkward position, as we were struggling on our normal Monday as the third carnival. We knew that the same night as the fourth carnival would be even more difficult."

Phil added: "We came to the conclusion that out of the seven possible nights that were available, the only two nights that would save us would be the Friday before Bridgwater or the Sunday afterwards, but we did a lot of thinking about the last Sunday as well, which would follow Glastonbury."

"A Sunday carnival has never been tried and out of the two Sundays we felt that the first one after Bridgwater would be the most beneficial out of the two."

"I was well aware that this would be 'Black Sunday' and the Friday before Bridgwater may not have been a popular choice, so I suggested to our Committee last year that we send out a voting form to all the entries so that people and clubs that take part could vote for their preferences out of the two choices."

He added: "We felt it was the only decent thing to do and, in fact, we were the only town to consult the entries. We know that entries need towns to organise a carnival for them to display their entry but, equally, we also appreciate that towns need entries to make it a carnival! That is why we have done our best to keep the entries informed as to what we were doing."

"After receiving the forms back and meeting with clubs in Bridgwater, it was obvious that most people were happier for us to go on the Friday before Bridgwater rather than 'Black Sunday'. That is why we accepted this date and have opted for the Friday before Bridgwater. Friday 1st November 2013 is therefore our choice."

"We are hoping that locals from Burnham and Highbridge appreciate why we have done this and that they will still support us in the way that they have in the past."

Phil added: "This date will also give us the opportunity to get other charities and charitable causes, along with any other of our community's clubs or teams to get involved as this date should generate more cash and interest for their organisations."

"We will be looking for a lot more manpower to achieve this and make it an even better event and those who help us will be able to reap the rewards for their good causes."

"This could be anyone from Scouts to football teams and skittles and darts teams. We are hoping to help so many more community groups next year and I am hoping that in the new year to hold a meeting with organisers from these sort of groups to explain how they could and would undoubtedly benefit from getting involved."


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