'Carnival Day' starts early: usually Wednesday. The first job of the day (after a hearty breakfast and cup of tea
obviously) is to start transporting 'stuff' to the field. Stuff initially consists of sideshows and poles. There is
also the question of a couple of caravans to act as a base for the week. The main reason for the base is obviously to
have somewhere to make cups of tea and drink them.
On the field itself, the first job is to mark out and then dig the pole holes. But first, what are the poles and what
are they used for?
- The poles are about forty 15ft wooden flag poles (actually they are at least 40 year old wooden scaffle poles)
- These are placed evenly (12ft) around two sides of the arena to mark out places for sideshows. Also used to hang
bunting and electric cables around them. The Chairman says it gives some height to the field.
The pole holes are actually drilled. The 'drill' consists of a huge drill bit (approx. 6" diameter) attached to
small motor with two men hanging on it trying to make an impression in the bone-dry ground. Occasionally, after much
effort, lots of sweat and gratuitous swearing they end up with a 3ft. deep hole.
Whilst the holes are being dug, the poles themselves have to be sorted. Unfortunately all the poles are of completely
different heights and thickness so firstly have to be sorted into order. They can then be located and moved into position
to ensure a lovely, ascetically pleasing display. Failing this, they're just put anywhere much to the distress of the
The poles can then be stood up and the holes filled in. However, the majority of the pole sticks out of the top of
the hole and they tend to wobble a bit. Hence, some effort and prodding is required to avoid this.
Drilling the pole holes is exhausting takes all day and it is not uncommon for it to drag over into Thursday. It is
quicker if previous holes can be found but is also directly related to the length of the lunch 'hour' taken by the drill
Once the poles are complete work can start on sorting the various stalls out. The committee run about fifteen of
there own stalls which all have to be assembled and fenced off. Some of these stalls are used at other events during the
year but for others it will be the first time they have been out since the last carnival. Therefore, a certain degree of
repairs and painting will be necessary to keep things sparkling, clean and serviceable.
Planning the location of the stalls can also take some time but only because it gives the Field Coordinator a good
excuse to sit in the corner drinking tea and looking busy. Tradition has it that the first stall to be assembled is
Monty's Mecca. This consists of a 10 ft square board made up of five sections held together and mounted 15 ft in the air
on a frame of metal scaffold poles. The construction of this is completely baffling to a newcomer but is actually quite
simple; providing you have had at least 20 years experience of building it.
This usually takes much of the morning leading us nicely to lunchtime. Lunch consists of either a trip to a pub or a
trip to KFC (preferred to McDonalds) but both have their inherent problems. A pub visit requires a two-hour discussion
to decide which one to go to. We then decide to do KFC instead which is great as we simply chuck in a few quid each to
buy a couple of three buckets. Unfortunately, it then takes another hour to decide who should go. One year we plan to
ring for pizza and have it delivered.
During the day, other items are also transported to the field including fencing, barbeques, tables, chairs, boilers,
gas cylinders, stakes, flags etc.
If all the required objectives are met and preparations have reached a sufficient stage, the team are allowed to spend
Thursday evening in the pub. So far we have always been successful in meeting these objectives. However, the thresholds
are constantly under review and have been known to alter from year to year.
Friday morning and the tents arrive. Twenty years ago, about six tents including a huge marquee would be scattered
around the field. This has now reduced to a disappointing but far cheaper, two.
For the team though the main order of the day is to erect the remaining stalls. Obviously repairs and painting are
still going on and it's only a question of time before someone picks up a freshly painted board. Veterans know to never
pick up anything near the 'painting area' until you have seen at least two people touch it first.
Erecting stalls has been written about before but probably requires a quick explanation. The process is very similar
to constructing an item of self-assembly furniture but without the instructions, all the bits or any logic. Unlike
Monty's Mecca, most of the stalls can be learnt in only ten years. The first trick is to work out which pieces of brightly
coloured wood make which stall. Once this has been mastered, you simply have to put it together. The skills mastered
for constructing one stall can then be taken to the next and completely ignored. Each uses its own ingenious method of
construction involving bolts, brackets, slots, stakes, string, nails (but only in an emergency) and anything else Tom and
Robert found lying around at the time.
With this degree of complexity, obviously the highly skilled, highly trained, experienced members carry out the actual
construction of the sideshows. The less experienced trainees are kept busy with jobs such as hammering in stacks,
constructing fences and tying on bits that drop off due to poor construction.
The only thing that can stop the workers (apart from the occasional tea break) is lunch. Once again this can be time
consuming due to the previously mentioned problems.
At some stage during the afternoon, the stage arrives. This is actually a 40ft trailer that is simply driven onto the
field. Those of us who remember building the stage in the past think this is wonderful but I digress and it's another
story for another time.
Friday night is time for the traditional Friday night barbeque. We have tried holding this on a different night but
it just isn't the same. The odd beer is also consumed and the team can relax knowing that the easy bit is over.
Only the day itself is left but more about that next year...