Days Gone By - Floating along and enjoying all the fun of Suffolk’s carnivals

Flowerpot Men characters
Bill, Ben and Weed at Wickham Market Carnival in August 1992 Picture: ARC

Flowerpot Men characters Bill, Ben and Weed at Wickham Market Carnival in August 1992 Picture: ARCHANT

From fancy dress to fireworks, what are your carnival memories in Suffolk and north Essex?

One of the floats at Ipswich Carnival in August 1983 Picture: ARCHANT

One of the floats at Ipswich Carnival in August 1983 Picture: ARCHANT

Today we are taking a look back at some of these lighthearted annual festivals across the area from the 1970s through to the 1990s.

Ipswich Carnival "Oklahoma" float September 1973 Picture: ARCHANT

Ipswich Carnival "Oklahoma" float September 1973 Picture: ARCHANT

Sadly, many of these events are now just a memory, while others which are still going strong, like Aldeburgh and Felixstowe Carnivals, have had to be cancelled this year because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Clacton Carnival in August 1973 Picture: ARCHANT

Clacton Carnival in August 1973 Picture: ARCHANT

Over the decades, though, carnivals have provided endless fun and excitement for people of all ages, as well as raising large sums for good causes.

Young pirates enjoying themselves at Ipswich Carnival in August 1981. Picture: ARCHANT

Young pirates enjoying themselves at Ipswich Carnival in August 1981. Picture: ARCHANT

Colourful costumes are all part of the occasion, and our photo gallery shows participants dressing up as everything from pirates and circus performers to Bill and Ben, the flowerpot men.

Handford Hall Primary School staff dressed as characters from Narnia in preparation for Ipswich Carn

Handford Hall Primary School staff dressed as characters from Narnia in preparation for Ipswich Carnival, August 1995 Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archive


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Ipswich Carnival was a hugely popular annual fixture for many years, with hundreds of people turning out to watch the procession, cheering on the colourful floats and marching bands, before joining in the activities at Christchurch Park.

Were you on this float at Ipswich Carnival in August 1981? Picture: DAVID KINDRED

Were you on this float at Ipswich Carnival in August 1981? Picture: DAVID KINDRED - Credit: Archant

A different theme was set each year, with those taking part enjoying the task of thinking up unusual spins on the idea.

Mildenhall Carnival in July 1982 Picture: ARCHANT

Mildenhall Carnival in July 1982 Picture: ARCHANT

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The 1983 carnival took a floral theme, with many people dressing as flowers, while others decorated their floats in the style of a garden party.

All smiles for the camera at the Ipswich Carnival in August 1986
Picture: ARCHANT

All smiles for the camera at the Ipswich Carnival in August 1986 Picture: ARCHANT

And in 1995 the carnival gained a touch of magic, with staff and pupils from Handford Hall Primary School wearing some spectacular Narnia costumes, in tribute to the classic children’s books by CS Lewis.

Youngsters at Wickhambrook Carnival
in July 1982 Picture: ARCHANT

Youngsters at Wickhambrook Carnival in July 1982 Picture: ARCHANT

Local drama companies also took the opportunity to publicise their shows, with the cast of a production of classic musical Oklahoma taking part in full costume in 1973 (inset left).

Halesworth Carnival in
June 1974 Picture: ARCHANT

Halesworth Carnival in June 1974 Picture: ARCHANT

Many celebrities and local dignitaries have been special guests at carnivals in years gone by.

An Arabian float at the Ipswich Carnival in 1989 Picture: ARCHANT

An Arabian float at the Ipswich Carnival in 1989 Picture: ARCHANT

Wickham Market carnival hoped to woo a famous guest in 1990, and sent an invitation to then prime minister John Major. But his private secretary replied that he “expects to be out of the country that day and very much regrets that he cannot join you”.

East Bergholt Carnival in July 1978 Picture: ARCHANT

East Bergholt Carnival in July 1978 Picture: ARCHANT

Did you taking part in any of the carnivals featured here, and can you spot yourself or anyone you know in any of the photos? Email judy.rimmer@archant.co.uk

Ipswich Carnival in 1973 Picture: ARCHANT

Ipswich Carnival in 1973 Picture: ARCHANT

To order copies of photos, visit www.eadt.co.uk/myphotos24, or call Diane Townsend on 01603 772449.

One of the floats at Manningtree Carnival in April 1979 Picture: ARCHANT

One of the floats at Manningtree Carnival in April 1979 Picture: ARCHANT

Wickham Market Carnival in
August 1984 Picture: ARCHANT

Wickham Market Carnival in August 1984 Picture: ARCHANT

Harwich Guy Carnival in November 1975 Picture: ARCHANT

Harwich Guy Carnival in November 1975 Picture: ARCHANT

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