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24 September 2014

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BBC Points West Archive on Demand

You are in: Somerset > BBC Points West Archive on Demand > Bridgwater's bigger, brighter spectacle

Bridgwater Carnival squibbing

Squibbing - 1966 style

Bridgwater's bigger, brighter spectacle

At this time of year, it would be criminal to take a look through the Points West film archive without digging out some footage showing Bridgwater's famous carnival - particularly since it is one of the best illuminated processions in the UK!

Almost 150,000 people come from far and wide to see the parade through Bridgwater, the arrival of which heralds the start of the Somerset County Guy Fawkes circuit of carnivals.

The event, held on the nearest Friday to 5 November, sees a steady stream of carts, numbering 100 or more, following a two-and-half mile route through Bridgwater's streets.

You can read more about the present-day event and view photos by clicking on the links on the right.

Minstrels at Bridgwater Carnival in 1966

Minstrels at Bridgwater Carnival, 1966

Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival dates back to way before Points West came along - in fact, the first carts are said to have drifted their way through the town in 1881 and were decorated using oil lamps, electricity not arriving until 1913.

Today's carts are adorned with thousands of light bulbs, scantily clad dancers, people dressed up as characters from history or taking on more modern-day themes from TV and film.

Towards the end of an evening the carnival culminates with an impressive display of  fireworks known as "squibs".

The archive film we've chosen from the Points West vaults shows Bridgwater's Carnival in 1966 - when few will deny the spectacle probably even outshone England's World Cup victory over West Germany!

The film shows some colourful carts including a full-size Mississippi river boat, the Black and White Minstrel Show, a silent tableau showing the murder of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury Cathedral, a recreation of Stephenson's Rocket - the world's first steam locomotive, and an epic scene featuring Ulysses escaping from Polyphemus - all together it's like watching Stephen Spielberg on acid!

And maintaining the age-old tradition of squibbing, the archive footage ends with the fizzing and bangs of the grand finale.

Norman Beaton

Norman Beaton

Throughout the film, the actor Norman Beaton is seen walking with the floats, talking to Carnival-goers and generally joining in the fun.

Beaton was born in Guyana and, after a time as Liverpool Education Authority's first black teacher, went on into film, theatre and radio drama and is best known for his portrayal of Desmond Ambrose in the sitcom, Desmonds.

Do you remember seeing Norman Beaton amongst the crowds of the Bridgwater Carnival in 1966?

More films from BBC Points West

  • Use the links on the right to other local Where I Live sites to see more archive film from Points West.

last updated: 31/10/07

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chunky dunster
I have just spotted myself on the front of the float called Stevenson's Rocket - 1966 cheers Chunky Dunster

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