Bakewell Carnival

24th Jun 2017 - 2nd Jul 2017

History

Bakewell Carnival and Well Dressing is now a regular fixture on the Derbyshire summer events calendar. 

As the Carnival has grown over the years there have been some changes and developments in the range of events included.

Since 1971 the procession has taken place on the first Saturday in July, with the well dressings and associated events taking place in the week running up to the climax of carnival week, the procession.

Well dressings became part of carnival week when they were revived in 1971.The two events were linked to maximise popularity and promotion. Well dressings in towns and villages throughout Derbyshire have been revived with great success over the last 40 years.

Local historian, Laurence Knighton, identifies three main periods of carnival activity in Bakewell. The first was before the First World War and between the Wars. The second was after World War 2 and the third period began in the 1970s, with Bill Kreuger's remarkable input as chairman of the Carnival Committee. Sadly Bill died in 2007, but the Carnival continues with the success he helped to build.

There is some documentary evidence that places the Carnival as starting in 1925, including an old photo in the Old House Museum's collection. A Carnival took place in September 1932, but by 1933 it was established in June.
Then the local press goes quiet, with no mention from 1937 until its revival in 1951. Looking at those dates, it would seem that Bakewell's mind was on other things during the war years.

In 1951 the Festival of Britain took place. The mood of the country changed, and Bakewell held a Carnival to celebrate. The programme design was based on the 1932 one, and it was organised by the Bakewell British Legion Carnival Society. At this stage it was just one day of events.

From 1951 until 1962 the Carnival took place in June. A pattern of events was established. A Car Show and comic cricket and football matches were introduced in 1952. In 1956 there was a week of events, and by 1959 and 1960 the funfair was part of the entertainment.

Dr. Trevor Brighton sums up the mood in his text for the Bakewell Town Guide, written in 2000.
'In July Bakewell lets its hair down: the fair comes to town. Bunting zig-zags the streets where wheelbarrow races amuse the crowds, as do raft races on the Wye. The highlight of all this merriment is the grand carnival.'

Events come and go with the fashions of the day. 
The funfair moved from the market place and car park to the Agricultural Business Centre when Bakewell was redeveloped at  the end of the nineties. 
The Road Race became the Bakewell Pudding Race in 1998, as Fell Races grew in popularity in the area. It attracts a big crowd and sponsorship from the Bakewell Pudding Parlour. 
Gymnastic demonstrations and greasy pole competitions, and over the river pillow fights have gone, but the Raft Race lives on. 
The Mystery Man became a Mystery Woman in 1956, and then disappeared from the programme. 
'Dooley' no longer leads the procession, but he does still appear on the cover of the  programmes. 
The fairy lights have gone from the island in the river, by Bakewell Bridge.
The Tug of War reappeared in the programme in 2012 after a long period of absence. 
There is no longer a Carnival dance in the Town Hall, but since 2004 Bakewell's Day of Dance has become part of the Carnival celebrations, taking  place on the Saturday a week before the Carnival procession, when the well dressings are revealed to the public.
The Welly and Wheelbarrow Race is still going strong, as are the local organisations and individuals who help steward and manage the Carnival events.
 Carnival Royalty has been crowned by people as diverse as Lord Hartington ( the present Duke of Devonshire), 'Les Battersby' from Coronation St and Polyanna Pickering, to name but a few.
The floats and walkers in the procession reflect events, fashions and celebrity culture - from Weapons of Mass Destruction, to The Greenhouse Effect on Wiksop Wood: the Pirates of the Caribbean to Harry Potter. There's been a Popemobile and  Del Boy's Reliant Robin van, Spice Grannies and Baywatch girls. Everyone has a favourite.
There's no longer a video camera set up in the window of Farmers electrical shop to record the procession, but its history is captured in the happy memories of the participants and spectators year after year.