Gordon Stockman of Galhampton, near Castle Cary, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, for his work for over 40 years to promote and keep alive Somerset’s illuminated carnivals. Gordon is awarded an MBE “For services to West Country Illuminated Carnivals”.
Gordon said, “Never in my wildest dreams did I expect, or even think about, receiving such an award. It came as a great surprise and an honour; most of all, this award will help to highlight the importance of our traditional illuminated carnivals.”
Gordon has, for over thirty years, been active in developing and promoting West Country carnivals with wife Sue – resurrecting Castle Cary’s carnival in 1977, establishing a carnival circuit (the ‘Wessex Grand Prix’) among towns in Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire in 1986, and in 2009 establishing the Carnivals in Somerset Promotion Project (www.cispp.org.uk) which tours schools and public events to explain and promote the concept of carnival to young people.
Gordon and Sue were featured last year in the BBC2 series Britain’s Heritage Heroes, fronted by John Craven. Gordon was also a finalist for the 2012 Pride Of Somerset awards.
Castle Cary Carnivals
The first Cary carnival in recent years took place in 1977 and has grown each year. It is now the major event in the town’s calendar, attracting several thousand spectators to Castle Cary. Thanks to the continued growth and enthusiasm of competitors from the Wessex Grand Prix Circuit, the carnival (www.castlecary-carnival.org.uk) is now known affectionately as ‘Somerset’s family carnival’.
It costs in excess of £5000 to present Cary’s carnivals each year. They are produced entirely by volunteers of the Castle Cary & Ansford Carnival Committee and receive no public or charitable funding. Local carnival clubs include Cary Comedians (www.carycomedians.co.uk) and the Britannia Carnival Club (www.freewebs.com/britcc05).
The Wessex Grand Prix Carnival Circuit
This circuit of carnivals was first proposed by Keith Berry of Frome Carnival Association; together with Gordon Stockman, they established the Wessex Grand Prix in 1986. Members at that time were Frome, Shaftesbury, Mere, Castle Cary and Wincanton. Today, the Wessex Grand Prix is a thriving community of eight night-time parades – with its own Wessex Queen, regular meetings, social events, and a wide range of prizes and awards for entries ranging from large floats to individual walking masqueraders.
The Carnivals In Somerset Promotion Project
In 2009, Gordon and Sue Stockman established this voluntary group in response to concerns that the heritage of Somerset’s illuminated carnivals could be lost unless local people become aware and encouraged to take part in the tradition. CISPP (www.cispp.org.uk) aims to: promote carnival to the wider community; raise awareness of the historical importance of carnival; promote learning of how Somerset illuminated carnivals differ from other carnivals; promote learning of carnival arts, skills and heritage in local schools; promote cultural opportunities within the art form of carnival for older people. It takes a mobile multi-media unit around primary schools, with films and interactive activities; the ‘CISPP bus’ has also visited 16 carnivals, and events such as agricultural shows, outdoor events and heritage days.
CCACS General Secretary: Sue Stockman (01963 440472 / [email protected])
CCACS Press Officer: Paul Hansford (01963 359276 / [email protected])
CCACS Web site: www.castlecary-carnival.org.uk