’Your Bermondsey..My Bermondsey..
FROM THEN TILL NOW
(A very brief history)
The roots of The Bermondsey Carnival can be traced back over a century and of the many thousands who regularly come down to Southwark Park each year for a great day filled with fun and entertainment, few would probably know the reason why Bermondsey Carnival came to be.
In the early stages of what was to become known as the ‘Boer War’ the British Army incurred heavy losses. Wives had lost husbands and children their fathers and without a steady income a family could soon find themselves out on the streets and into the local workhouse. To help these families affected by the war, The Daily Telegraph launched a ‘Widows and Orphans’ fund which by July 1900 had raised £183,700. In Bermondsey plans were made for a “Grand Patriotic Carnival” which would tour the locality on the evenings of July 18th and 19th, with the sole aim of raising money for this fund. A committee was established, at its head was Samuel Bourne Bevington, local mill owner and the first Mayor of Bermondsey. Programmes were sold and collections made, prizes were awarded to those who collected the most. According to local press reports of the time “Everyone was taking part and help has come from the highest to the humblest in our ranks” Homes, shops and businesses were festooned in bunting, thousands of people lined the streets cheering the two hundred floats taking part in the parade. From this humble and benevolent beginning the Bermondsey Carnival evolved into an annual event establishing itself as a local treasure the people of Bermondsey were fiercely proud of.
The Carnival carried on and surpassed the biblical three score and ten years, the two world wars, umpteen changes of national and local government, recession, depression, and a multitude of other cultural changes and most of what the 20th century could throw at us in the way of change. Then the unthinkable happened, the ‘Carnival’, like the parrot in the famous Monty Python sketch, “had ceased to be” It is hard to determine the exact date the Carnival disappeared into the mists of time, but sometime in the early 1980's what had become a week-long celebration of community life was watered down into a smaller event and gradually faded away. Southwark Park was silenced
THE CARNIVAL WAS GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Deep rooted memories of the Carnival had left an indelible imprint in the hearts and minds of local people and those memories began to stir. In 1996 two local blokes, Mick Wilmer and Mac Clague were reminiscing about the old Carnival over a couple of beers in the Ancient Foresters pub in the Blue. After a couple more beers the pair came up with the notion of a resurrecting the Carnival and to further the notion enlisted the help of The Friends of Southwark Park (FOSP) and like the original pioneers of the Grand Patriotic Carnival, a committee was formed and a plan put together and put to Southwark Council who to their credit agreed to fund the initiative and with selfless time and devotion the committee went about the task of resurrecting the Carnival.
In 1997 after much ‘ado’ thanks to their efforts, the Carnival was back .
The will, determination and hard work of those small band of passionate volunteers had paid off.