Budleigh's love affair with carnivals

PUBLISHED: 11:54 03 June 2016 | UPDATED: 11:54 03 June 2016

exb budleigh carnival 9

exb budleigh carnival 9

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"We have lots of fun" - those are the words of Julie Meredith, of the Budleigh Carnival Club, now in its 12th year.

Budleigh Salterton has had an affinity with carnivals dating back to the Fifties.

Memories of processions on childhood holidays in Budleigh sparked a passion in Julie Meredith, which resulted in the creation of the town’s carnival club.

Julie, 68, of Granary Lane, used to come down to Budleigh Salterton on summer holidays as a child.

She recalls how the town used to have its own carnival.

“We used to come on holiday here and we had a flat in the town,” said Julie

“They had a lovely carnival and a ‘duck derby’ and it was super.

“They used to have long poles to collect money from the houses along the route.”

Julie has now lived in Budleigh for 40 years and has been part of carnivals in the town since the 1980s.

Memories of carnivals from her childhood prompted her to ignite her love affair with the great tradition.

“The Lions said they were going to revive the carnival, so I thought we would do something at the time,” she said.

“I was volunteering at the Samaritans at the time and I said I was going to do a float.

“I asked my friends to help me and we just had the jolliest of times.”

The theme for the first float they entered was the classic children’s character Noddy.

Since then, Julie has been a regular on the carnival circuit.

She said: “Since we started 32 years ago, I think we have missed just two carnival seasons.”

In 1990, the club marked the opening of the Channel Tunnel with a themed float.

The entry consisted of a tunnel, which had a piece cut out in the middle to show people crossing between the two countries.

In 2002, their float marked the Queen’s golden jubilee.

The Samaritans’ float continued to be a fixture in carnivals across East Devon until 2005 when the carnival club was formed.

Julie said: “We decided instead of just giving to one charity, we would raise funds for as many local charities as we can.”

The club’s first float, under the new guise, was called Celebration Time.

That year the club won prizes at Teignmouth, Broadclyst and South Brent, as well as finishing second in Sidmouth, Dawlish, Newton Poppleford and Ottery St Mary.

This was followed a year later by a successful defence of their Ottery crown, coupled with a first place at Topsham.

Budleigh Carnival Club has donated funds towards the community bus, Christmas lights in Budleigh, St Peter’s School, the RNLI, the British Heart Foundation, the Temple Methodist Church, the Little Otters Nursery, the now-closed Newton Poppleford Carnival, Devon Air Ambulance, Devon Freewheelers and the East Budleigh church bell.

Since it has changed its name, the club has raised more than £30,000 for charities in the area.

In 2014, the theme was ‘ootin, tootin and shootin’, which Julie said was probably her favourite over the years.

Last year saw the club win a huge number of awards for its ‘cops and robbers’ float.

It won the club the inaugural Rob Waller trophy – a prize donated by the club to honour the man who had been a spearhead for carnivals in the region.

“He used to run Exmouth Carnival and when he wasn’t doing that, he used to come over and help us with the lighting on our float,” Julie said about Rob.

“Rob was very proud of us and would have been so thrilled when we won the trophy.

“It would be nice to return and defend it.”

In recent years, the club has been honoured to be a part of the famous Bridgwater Carnival, which Julie said is the best in the South West.

The club is also part of the East Devon Carnival Circuit, which ties it to taking part in every carnival in the region.

Julie admitted that she missed carnivals which no longer exist, such Topsham and Newton Poppleford, and hopes Exmouth will continue for years to come.

She said: “Topsham used to be our first carnival every year – which was a really nice one to do.

“I hope there is a future for carnivals and I hope to live to see the carnival one day come back to Budleigh, but I think it is a huge job – we do discuss it.”

“If they can’t get a lot of help in Exmouth, we don’t stand a lot of chance here in Budleigh.”

Preparations are under way ahead of the club’s first carnival of the year in South Brent, later this month.

A beach-themed dance is being held on Saturday, July 23, at the Public Hall, Budleigh Salterton, to raise money for charities. A Beach Boys tribute act will be performing on the night. There will also be a disco and food. Tickets cost £20.

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