Is St Albans Carnival set to return?

THE possible return of the St Albans Carnival has received an enthusiastic response from district councillors.

The festival, hosted in the city on and off since 1939 and last held in 2005, has the potential to be a unique community-led event according to a cross-party group of St Albans district councillors.

At a recent overview and scrutiny committee meeting councillors said they would continue working with officers to explore the feasibility of organising and delivering a St Albans Carnival in June 2013.

The council is keen to encourage more events and activities in the city centre to attract more visitors and revitalise the high street.

A carnival working group said in a report that seed funding of up to �20,000 would be needed to reinstate the event, should it prove feasible. But the carnival itself would be developed, managed and promoted by a yet-to-be-established social enterprise organisation.

It would also have to fit in with other city activities, such as celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the drafting of the Magna Carta which are taking place in early August next year.

The report added that officers were working with partners to increase the level of cultural activity in inner-city streets and shopping areas, with the view that a return of the carnival would be a “key event in a year-long programme”.

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However organising the celebration required considerable investment in time and resources and “extensive” support from community and voluntary groups.

There was discussion about the timing of the carnival, to get maximum involvement from local schools. Until 2004, the carnival took place on the August Bank Holiday, with a procession starting from Bernards Heath, travelling down to Westminster Lodge via St Peter’s Street.

The event, entertainment and firework display were organised by the Round Table, but with fewer groups participating in later parades, the organisation withdrew as it no longer had the capacity to organise it. As a temporary measure the council ran the carnival in its final year.

Cllr Beric Read, portfolio holder for community engagement, said it was important to know why the carnival faltered. However there was agreement that the event had not failed, but had just “run out of steam”.

Cllr Frances Leonard said it would be preferable for the event to be community-led, because if it was headed by the council it would “lose its vitality”.

She added that such events had a lifespan and that examining why it was stopped would not be beneficial. An action plan was needed instead.

Cllr Maxine Crawley said it would be a shame if the momentum for organising its possible return was stopped, adding: “I don’t want to see this lost.”

Councillors agreed to discuss the project further with other organisations.