So, a couple of weeks ago I took the kids along to the town’s 70th birthday carnival. Sarah asked that I snapped a couple of pictures for her – as she stayed in with the youngest after having spent a couple of days away from the house, staying at her mum’s house on the two nights which had flanked her big day up in Birmingham.
Harlow, is a Mark One New Town, one of eight similar towns built in a ring around London, designed to take up the population boom following the end of World War II. What with when it was built it featured the first pedestrian precinct, and one of the first modern tower blocks. It’s also got a lot of parks, although some of those spaces are being filled in here and there with extra houses.
The plan for the day was as follows; The Carnival assembles at The Stow, a neighbourhood shopping center, before heading off down several of the main roads and then finally along towards the Town Park. Once there the parade would disband to the wind, with a few contributors and a lot of the audience being perfectly placed to head along to the Linkfest event which was taking place on the town’s bandstand.
Linkfest is an annual gig in the town park, however for this year a second one was arranged to coincide with the celebration of the town’s birthday.
With the carnival set to kick off at about midday we both arranged and succeeded at arriving at The Stow about forty minutes early. The place was buzzing, the Harlow Rock Band (previously something tied to our local venue The Square before it was unfairly shuttered and not replaced, however now hosted elsewhere) and a steel-drums band both taking turns in practicing ahead of the event.
We decided on a place to stand, a roadside verge which would give us a good view of the procession as it made its way. Looking back, we should really have waited further down the road to allow them to gain a bit more pace – as each stand, float and group maneuvered forward before making their way off, giving it a bit of a jagged start, although it was still really good fun.
One of the first things that A locked on to was two ladies on stilts dressed as butterflies, although the two of them were both really excited by the ‘steam machine’ from a local brewery which had been made out to look like an old coal-fueled train.
What was really great about the whole thing was the cheers going up from the audience, as well as the massive variety of people who had come out on the day, even though I’ve lived in the town for all of my life (bar a few months in Stortford) as well as worked in various shops around the town there were only a few dozen faces I recognised.
The biggest cheers from where I was standing seemed to be for the Rock School, although there was a lot of clapping when the emergency services and public transport services each rolled by; there was also a very loud cheer for the various cadet groups, who were all out dressed in gear.
After the majority of the procession had made their way past members of the public were invited to join in at the back – against my better judgement I was dragged out into the middle of the road by the kids, who were very keen to join in.
The town park is only a short walk from The Stow, and we made our way there after making a detour to meet an old friend of mine and his own little family. A quick nip into a shop nearby saved us from a sudden downpour of rain (it is the Great British Summertime after all) and we set off once it cleared.
Linkfest, with the added crowd from the carnival, was absolutely heaving. I’ve seen the place busy before -normally a crowd gathers there on fireworks night, which is a massive event for the town, although normally takes place in another park of the park- but this was absolutely incredible.
Shortly after arriving and setting up (as my friend Dan is vastly more prepared for everything than me) we bumped into a few other groups of people we knew, including a few members of my family, and one of A’s friends from school.
The bands were really good, and there was a very eclectic mix from Kingston Town to Thunderstruck; the kids had a lot of fun dancing around to the music, however a couple of hours later the skies turned to cloud again and we hid out under a gazebo before scattering during a brief respite
All in all it was a really great day out, and entirely free. I rarely go to these things as I’m terribly shy, but the kids had an amazing time and served as a brilliant reason for me to go (I’d have hidden inside if they’d not nagged about going after I’d put the idea out there). There’s talks of it becoming an annual thing, and I really hope it does become just that – events like that are really important in getting people to interact with other members of the community.
Anyway, until next time.
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