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The Long Eaton Hospital Carnival 1931-1939
Although there are references to a Long Eaton carnival before 1931, this article refers to those that took place in the town in the 1930s. The idea for a carnival was conceived by Frank Carter, who as well as being the chief officer at the fire station was also a key member of the Trinity Methodist church. As there was no National Health Service in those days, the town paid out large sums of money to both the Nottingham and Derby hospitals. The Long Eaton Hospital Carnival was started with the prime objective of raising money to support the hospitals.

The 1931 event was organised at rather short notice but proved to be very successful. 16 year old Katie King who was also a member of the Trinity Church, had already been the May Queen that year and she was invited by Frank Carter to be the Carnival Queen. The dress was the same as that used for the May Queen, the head dress was made from covered card and only the cape was added for the carnival regalia.

The major industries in Long Eaton at the turn of the century was the railway and the lace mills but following the first world war, the town showed a growth in many new industries such as pencil making, electric cable, piano movements Etc. The biggest employer in the area at that time was the Long Eaton Co-operative Society and the success of the carnival owed much to the support given by the Co-op and the Town Hall. However, it was the people of the town that took the new carnival to their hearts and they made a major contribution to its success.

The size and number of committees supporting the event was considerable by today’s standards and the strength of this support can be seen in the names and position of those forming the executive committee. We can read the composition of the committees in the pages of the ‘RAM’*, the carnival magazine. In 1931 the committees were listed as:-

President and Chairman: Mr J.W. Martin. J.P. and Chairman of the LEUDC,
Vice Chairman & Treasurer: Mr W.D.Horsfall.
Executive Officials: General Secretary: Mr F.Carter, Assistant Secretary: Mr E.W.Banks.

In addition there were twelve working committees and well over a hundred people making up the working parties. Such large numbers were necessary in the 1930’s as the carnival had a full seven day programme with several events taking place each day.

* The RAM survived the war and was still produced in the 1970s. The author is aware of only two full sets of the RAM, one set in the Long Eaton Library and the other held by the Long Eaton Heritage Society.

The opening event of the carnival week was the Children’s Parade and the crowning of the Carnival Queen which, in 1931 was performed by Mrs J.W.Martin in the grounds of the hall. This was followed by a children’s concert with singing and dancing. On Sunday a church parade was supported by almost every organisation in the town often led by the Silver Prize band, the Mount Tabor band or the Salvation Army band. Many of the carnival marching bands took part though they were dressed in their civilian clothes.

Encouraged by the success of the 1931 carnival the organisers immediately started planning for the following year and the event continued every year until it was interrupted by the 1939- 45 war. The Council and the Long Eaton Co-operative Society continued to support the carnival, with many of the executive positions filled by either local Councillors or Co-op Managers. Many well known Long Eaton personalities were involved over the years including Dr John Muir, Nelson Sutton, Mr G Anstee Perks, John Poyser, Jack Frayne, Mme Rose Bates and many more.

It was a great honour to be selected as Carnival Queen and the list of names is as follows:-

Katie King - (1931)
Phyllis Wallis - (1932)
Iris Watts - (1933)
Mavis Button - (1934)
Dorothy Foster - (1935)
Marjorie Birley - (1936)
Freda Hallam - (1937)
Joan Smith - (1938)
Mary Barker - (1939)

Sadly, Katie King (later Mrs Jackson) the first Carnival Queen died in 2007 aged 92, she was the last surviving member of these early Carnival Queens.

The crowning of the Queen was always an important event and the honour of performing this ceremony over the years was given to Mrs Jack Martin, wife of the Carnival Chairman, Miss Molley Lamont, a British Film Starlet, Councillor Hooley, Lord Mayor of Nottingham and the Lady Mayoress (Miss Hooley).Lady Ball of Nottingham and on two occasions by the retiring Carnival Queens, Iris Watts and Mavis Button.

A feature of the 1930s parades were the carnival bands. In those days, every factory had its own band and names like the Ump Taggers, (so called after the practice of coupling up the trucks in the railway shunting yard at Toton). Other bands that are remembered today were the ‘YoYo’s’ of Toton, ‘Everest’ from Elson & Robins, Wades ‘Commanders’, the ‘Classics’ from Clutsom & Kemp, the ‘Romany Rovers’ and many more. One band that took part in every carnival in the 30s and is still going today is the Breaston Highlanders though originally they were known as the Breaston Carnival Band.

The children’s bands were introduced in 1933 and were given their own tournament in 34. A very popular band at that time was the ‘Backbone of England’, and later the ‘Blue Lagoons’. There were other less formal bands such the Bennett Street Jazz Band, (often referred to as the Bucket Bangers), Mickleover Candidates and the Mayfield Grove Hedge Cutters. This last band was formed as a protest to the council over the savage hedge cutting in Mayfield Grove. They even had a ‘sample’ of the hedge at the head of their band.

In 1933, Clarence Travers, the Highlanders Drum Major was unfortunate to have a collision with a car on Canal Street on the first Saturday of the Carnival when riding his motor bike on Canal Street. As a result he suffered a broken leg but still took part in the carnival parade, being wheeled around in an invalid carriage. (At that time the band was still appearing as the Breaston Carnival Band.)

Another regular feature of the 30s carnival week was the Olde World Market. This was always a well attended event and following an opening ceremony where numerous speeches were given by the dignitaries, the market stalls were attended by many of the town’s organisations. Stalls were provided by the Life Boat Ladies, the Unionist Ladies, Long Eaton Townswomen’s Guild, Rotary Ladies, Fire Brigade Ladies, Garden Holders Association, New Sawley Ladies and many more. Produce offered ranged from Dairy Produce, Cakes and Sweets, Fancy Work etc. ‘Carmencita’ was there to tell fortunes while the Cadets of Temperance, dressed as Gypsy Girls, sold lavender and poppies. Many ingenious ways were used to raise money for the Hospitals. Various competitions were organised such as bread baking, cake baking, needlework and even sock darning. One enterprising young lady, Rose Hicton appeared dressed in gown with a hundred pockets the contents of which could be purchased at 2d a time. In 1938 the name of the market was changed to the ‘Gypsy Market’ and continued to be a major attraction during the carnival week.

Although Long Eaton had been established with the major industries of the railways and the lace mills, by the 1930s many other industries were moving into the town and it was important for the town’s development, to support and advertise these new businesses. A Trade exhibition was organised and took place each year from Monday to Saturday. In the early years this took place in the old Ice Stadium on Broad Street. The list of exhibitors read like a ‘who’s who’ of the town and names such as Everest Upholstery, Wade Spring Upholstery, Ideal Furnishing, Henry Burton, Wittering & Son, Belton & Read, Gilberts, Wallis & Son, Supertone and many more exhibited at the event.. At this time Long Eaton had its own electricity company, situated on Milner Road and there was also the Long Eaton Gas Company, both of these companies took part in the Trade Exhibition.

The L.M.S supported the carnival and in 1932 showed number 6100 The Royal Scot locomotive just prior to its tour of the USA. At this time it was the most powerful engine in their stock. The following year they showed the coach used by Queen Victoria in her travels around the UK. It is interesting to note that the Queen would not permit either gas or electric lighting in the coaches and only oil lamps were used. Not all the exhibitors were from the larger companies and Miss Bryon had a stand showing her rabbits and gave demonstrations of spinning the angora wool. In 1935 the location on Broad Street was declared to be unsafe and the event was moved to a marquee behind the Town Hall. This seems to have been a very unpopular move and in 1936 the number of exhibitors was well down and the event was discontinued in 1937.

Over the years many celebrities gave their support to the carnival. As well as Molley Lamont, other film stars who attended were Gwenith Lloyd, Dennis Calthrop, Glennis Lorrimer, Stainless Stephen and Philip Ridgway who was a leading broadcaster and singer of the day. Teddy Brown the well known xylophonist was rewarded for his support by being placed in the stocks and had to pay a ransom of £5 to get his release.

It has already been said that the event in the 1930s spread over a full seven days with several events taking place each day. The full list of these events is perhaps too numerous to mention here but among them were Boxing, Greyhound Racing, Dog Shows, Horse Gymkhana, Gymnastics, Soccer tournament, Caged Bird show as well as Fire Fighting competitions and an Ambulance competition. Dancing was a very well supported activity during Carnival Week and in 1934 for example those seeking to trip the light fantastic could, on the Tuesday attend the Children’s and Adult Carnival Dance at the Rialto, 6pm to 1am Admission 1/6. Wednesday at the Rialto was once again the venue for a Carnival Ball, 8pm to 1am. Admission 2/- (Fancy Dress Optional).

On Friday the dancers could choose between a Ball at the Rialto, music by the Rialto players Admission 2/6 or the Long Eaton Tennis Club’s Fancy Dress Carnival Dance at the ‘Palais De Danse’ in Nottingham, Admission also 2/6. (Fancy Dress Optional.) Finally, on the Saturday, a Carnival Dance took place in the Tamworth Road Council School to the music of the Blue Circle Dance Band. On the second Saturday the ‘Monster Carnival Parade’ took place and in 1934 for example it was reported in the Long Eaton Advertiser that there were 2000 people in the fancy dress while the whole event was watched by a crowd of some 50,000 people.

Once the parade had reached the Carnival Field they were entertained with a Carnival Band contest, a Brass Band contest, Athletics and Cycling, and a full programme of professional entertainers. Acrobats, Jugglers and similar acts may be commonplace today but remember in the 30s there was no television and for many of these people it was a rare opportunity to see this type of entertainment.

For reasons which the author has yet to ascertain, the carnival in 1939 was moved forward to July. Whether this was due to the inclement weather experienced in 1938 or whether the organisers had a premonition of the events that were to take place later that year is not known, but 1939 was the last of the week long Hospital Carnival.

Information kindly written and supplied by Arthur Howkins.

The RAM Carnival Magazine
In his article about the history of the Long Eaton Carnival, Mr Howkins mentioned "The Ram", official magazine of the Long Eaton Carnival which was published from 1932 until at least 1985. The Long Eaton library has all the issues from 1932-39 and three issues from 1985, which can be read in the reference library section (unfortunately these are not for loan). A brief study of these magazines revealed a wealth of information. A local character during the 1930's, known as 'Jingling John', wrote poems and sang songs. Each year he would write a new carnival song to be sung to the tune of a popular song of the day. The song for 1932 was called 'Thumbs Up' and went to the tune of 'Marching Through Georgia'. It had a chorus and four verses, the first of which went:

"Sing a song of carnival sing it loud and long,
Try to raise the market roof and then we can't be wrong,
Buy a badge and wear it as we mingle with the throng
Helping the carnival to victory.

Thumbs up! Thumbs up! Long Eaton's on the spree.
Thumbs up! Thumbs up! Thumbs up for you and me.
Singing, giving, paying, all as happy as can be,
Helping the carnival to victory."

As the carnival in the 1930's lasted a full week, much entertainment of various types was arranged by the Carnival Committee. In 1932, the general secretary F.L. Carter, rode through the town on the back of a donkey. Stocks were placed in The Market Place and many 'arrests' were made during the day, the 'villain' being released from the stocks upon payment of a penalty. For those who objected to being placed in the stocks, a pillory was provided.

Athletic and cycling events took place on West Park, and one year there was even a Wild West Show provided by "Wight" Rodeo Riders, also on West Park. In 1932, the Scala Theatre advertised 'Two solid hours of mirth' with The Roosters, who performed there for three nights. For the 1933 carnival, Philip Ridgeway, a popular radio entertainer of the time also appeared at the Scala in his 'Ridgeway Parade'. The Scala also hosted Teddy Brown and his xylophone.

The ever popular Long Eaton Silver Prize Band were a prominent feature most years, not just as a marching band. They also took part in the many concerts that were held during the carnival week. A 'Grand Massed Band Concert' took place in 1935, which was the Jubilee year of King George V. The Long Eaton Silver Prize headed this concert supported by the Mount Tabor Band and the Sawley Excelsior Band. That same year also saw the 'Massed Carnival Bands Jubilee Tattoo' with performances from the Breaston Highlanders, Ump Taggers, Romany Roamers and the Yo Yos.

The People's Hall also played its part by hosting several dances each year. In 1936 for example, the week's program showed there was the Queen's Ball, the Tennis Club Dance and the Children's Dance. On the final day of each carnival, the committee arranged a Lantern Parade, which began at 9:45pm on King Street. The lanterns were then carried down Derby Road, through the Market Place, along the High Street and Main Street to Oakley's Road, down Queen Street, along Tamworth Road then back through the Market Place and up Derby Road to King Street, finishing at West Park.

A glimpse at the 1985 issue of The Ram reveals much about the problems behind the scenes for the committee organisers. It's a popular misconception that the marching bands perform free of charge. In 1985, each band was hired at an average cost of £90. The use of West Park cost £43 per day. Attendants for changing rooms and toilets also had to be paid, as did insurance to cover all risks including loan and hire of equipment. Any damage to the carnival ground had to be made good, the cost of which came from carnival funds. Any rubbish left by the crowds attending the carnival had to be cleared. This was done by the committee members themselves to save money. Other costs incurred were stationery, postage, phone calls, transport and printing costs etc.

Expenditure often exceeded proceeds. The 1983 carnival gate receipts over the two day event was £2,162.57 whereas the cost of fencing, toilets, marquees and all entertainment was £2,928.55 with other expenses totalling £422.45. Carnival Queen's and Princess' gowns and dances plus baby shows, came to £200, a deficit of £1,388.43. All expenses would be paid by voluntary contributions, fees from organisation entering a float in the competition, and very often from committee members own pockets.

Below is a list of proceeds for the 1931-38 Long Eaton Carnivals.

1931 - £2,000
1932 - £1,168.3s 9d
1933 - £2,187.6s 9d
1934 - £2,046.11s 8d
1935 - £1,651.18s
1936 - £1,411.18s 10d
1937 - £1,425.16s 8d
1938 - £1,185.3s 4d

Click here to go to The Long Eaton Carnival And Other Local Festivals (Part 2)
Click here to go to The Long Eaton Carnival And Other Local Festivals (Part 3)
Click here to go to The Long Eaton Carnival And Other Local Festivals (Part 4)

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