We are rapidly approaching Carnival season, when shops, pubs and even lampposts dress up for the occasion, bunting lines the streets, and then there are the parades and processions. But spare a thought for the huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that everything runs smoothly, not only on the day, but during the weeks before and afterwards.
The Annual Whaley Bridge Rose Queen Festival is in its 35th year, but there is evidence that similar events took place over 100 years ago.
The planning for the Whaley Bridge event starts in December when the design of the floats and the flowers is completed. This is hugely important, as the floats will also be used at many other carnivals, such as Buxton, Bamford, Hazel Grove, Chapel-en-le-Frith and New Mills.
In January, work commences on the programme. This involves commissioning articles for the interior pages, as well as the key task of contacting local traders to place advertisements. The programme has to be at the printers by the end of March, so that it can be proof read, printed and distributed in plenty of time for the big event in June. Programmes are given to local youth groups, such as after school clubs, guides, brownies and junior sports clubs, and all proceeds from the sale of these programmes are retained by the groups themselves.
The focal part of the Rose Queen festival is the Royalty, and the committee are finding it increasingly difficult to get families to allow their children to participate, as it is a time consuming commitment, and there are so many other distractions that the children also want to take part in.
The run up to carnival day involves a logistical exercise that must be executed with military precision. The police, Derbyshire Council and St John’s Ambulance must all be engaged, letters need to be written to the Mayor and the Chair of the Council, and then there is the selection of judges. Some of these must be from outside Whaley Bridge, whilst others must be residents of the village. The Royalty travel from Buxworth to Whaley Bridge on the Judith Mary canal boat, so this has to be arranged too. Prizes are a big part of the event, and organisations such as The Caverns, Lyme Park and Heights Of Abraham need to be contacted to try to procure complimentary tickets.
With the cost of living inevitably rising, the committee have launched several initiatives that will be subsidised or even free in 2011. These include circus skills and face painting, as well as a stall to encourage the children to make bunting that will be recycled for use in future years.
The Rose Queen procession led to Whaley Bridge Bowling Club in 2010, a tradition that the committee are keen to continue. There is plenty of room for the marquee that is used for the Queen’s Arena, and alongside the marquee there is another large area that needs to be organised in terms of the stallholders and the fairground. All of the organisers and participants, as well as the spectators, will obviously be hungry and thirsty, so catering arrangements are high of the list of priorities. Finally, well deserved refreshments must be provided at the end of the day for the Whaley Bridge Royalty, local dignitaries, judges, and the Rose Queen Festival Committee.
A typical Rose Queen Festival Day starts at 7am for many members of the Committee, and runs right through to 9pm, including the onerous task of tidying up. Whilst all of this is going on there is also the planning of the Sunday Car Boot Sale, so the following day is usually an early start at the canal basin. Whaley Bridge Band perform in the marquee at the Bowling Club later on Sunday, and the following Wednesday it plays host to an assortment of cats, dogs, snails, ferrets, etc, in the annual Pet Show.
The committee have some long standing members, with three of them having served for over 30 years, but they are always looking for new blood. If you would like to get involved please contact Chairperson Ann Bell whose details can be found in the Rose Queen Festival programme.