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Fun in the sun

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.{h}

Every second year St Helena has its Carnival

Carnival was fantastic, the costumes and exuberance of it all was brilliant!{i}

What happens for Carnival

Governor Lisa Phillips joined the 2016 parade
Governor Lisa Phillips joined the 2016 parade{j}

Carnival is organised by and in support of the Cancer Support & Awareness charity, and normally takes place in the October of even-numbered years.

The events start with a parade down through the town, starting at the General Hospital (usually officially at 3pm, but in practice…) and proceeding down Market Street and Main Street to The Seaside. This is an immensely colourful affair with fabulous costumes and imaginatively decorated floats. Each group plays its own choice of music, leading to a merry cacophony of sound! Individuals take part too, not just groups. The walk from the General Hospital to The Seaside would normally take about fifteen minutes - on Carnival day it can take more than an hour!

Upon arrival at The Seaside there are numerous stalls set up where you can buy refreshments, souvenirs and other items. The bars and restaurants at The Seaside are open too and everyone mills around, mostly still in costume, enjoying the afternoon. Then as darkness falls the serious partying begins…and continues well into the night with much alcohol consumption!

Everyone joins in. The chap on the right in the photo above, playing the bongo drum, was at the time of the photograph a member of Legislative Council! All moneys collected go to the Cancer Support & Awareness charity.

Images of Carnival

Clearly the only way to experience Carnival is to take part. But until you come and visit here are some pictures…



In the 20th Century it became common to refer to any street parade as a ‘Carnival’. The first one of which we have data was held on Monday 23rd May 1983, to celebrate St Helena’s Day. You can hear an excerpt of the street sounds (right) and read about it (below). Thereafter ‘Carnival’s were held for annual events like St Helena’s Day as well as specific events like the Millennium and Quincentenary of St Helena celebrations.

In 2006 Malcom Bowers and others, working with the Cancer Support & Awareness charity, conceived a specific Carnival event, with a street parade through Jamestown followed by an evening party on The Wharf, with proceeds going to support the charity; the first modern-style Carnival. As reported in an island newspaper:

Malcolm Bowers was doing a radio show in the SaintFM studios. He was playing some Latin American music - samba, he thinks - when he suddenly thought, what a great idea it would be for a South American carnival to wend its way through the streets of Jamestown. That’s where it started, he said, so I suggested it to Emma-Jane and Angela, and they both felt it could work on St Helena. It was only later that I thought, ‘Why not raise some money as well?’ and then, having had cancer myself five years ago, a cancer-care fund seemed to be the obvious choice as beneficiary.

Carnival was repeated in 2007 but it soon became clear that an annual event was not sustainable, so after a break until 2010, Carnival then became a bi-annual event. The dates of Carnival events in its modern form have been:29th April 2006 ⋅ 27th October 2007 ⋅ 31st October 2010 ⋅ 27th October 2012 ⋅ 18th October 2014 ⋅ 15th October 2016 ⋅ 20th October 2018 ⋅ 31st October 2020 ⋅ 29th October 2022

Read More

Below: Article: Carnival, just like being in BrazilArticle: St Helena’s First Carnival - A Splash of Colourful Talent

Article: Carnival, just like being in Brazil

Published on the blog tpholvey.wordpress.com 25th October 2014{1}{2}

If there is one thing that St Helena does well (actually there are lots of things it does well, Nicknames, tuna, coffee and gossip spring to mind) then it is parades. There are lots of them too, I’ve already commented on a few in previous posts, I’ve been here for just over a year and there has been a parade for Christmas, one for Cancer Support, one for Saint Helena day, remembrance Sunday and I’m sure a few that I can’t even remember at the moment.

The latest one though was the biggest and best, it was Carnival. It’s only held every 2 years which makes it that bit more special and the colour, music and general vibrancy made it different to all the others. The parades generally include floats and well, I suppose a parade. They always start at the Hospital (very close to our house) and work their way down Market Street towards the wharf, it’s pretty much a 1.5 mile walk in a straight line. The carnival dispensed with those pesky floats though and much more simply and very effectively relied on 1,000 people (a quarter of the islands population) to simply dance down the street to a variety of tunes. There were plenty of carnival type costumes, some very random and quite inventive fancy dress (the pink nuns spring to mind) and to give it that unique Saint feel a lot of country and western outfits.

I myself was attempting to contribute to the day by providing some of the costumes for one of the primary schools. Well, bringing them with me from the UK following my recent trip home anyway (I wasn’t ever going to be sewing or anything like that). It was quite a simple task, order 13 bumble bee outfits for young girls from Amazon and pack them in my case to bring back to the island. I have to admit, when I was asked I never quite considered what a man on his own with a suitcase full of fancy dress outfits for young girls would look like to a customs officer. But (and in a way quite thankfully) they didn’t turn up before I’d left, so it was left to my mum to post them onwards. Unfortunately, as with many things in our postal system, they didn’t arrive, and still haven’t. We’re expecting them next March I think!

Anyway back to the Carnival itself. It was a really good day, Jamestown is such a vibrant place when it’s busy and that actually doesn’t happen that often. There were stalls and food, the bars were all open, there was dancing and competitions, all in all it was excellent. However, in a very bizarre way it reminded me of an event, happening at exactly the same time 5,000 miles away in rural Lincolnshire.

Meg Feast is a family tradition in the Holvey household. It’s the autumn feast day for Metheringham village, where my dad grew up and where we spent a lot of time as children. As a kid Meg Feast was magical, the nights were drawing in, it was getting cold and it marked the start of a period that is great fun for any child, Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas and my birthday (ok the last one does not apply to any child, just me). It was a day the whole family got together, we were at my Grandparents with a roaring fire, lots of food and all the extended family like dad’s cousins, aunties and uncles popping in. It always ended with a game of Newmarket (the best card game ever) a lot of teasing and some very funny arguments. For the first 30 years of my life I never missed a feast day. The day stems from the celebration of harvest and always occurs in mid autumn. It’s evolved now into a general day of fun and festivities (and a hell of a lot of drinking, usually of Batemans XB). The fare is there and stalls line the streets of the village, it’s visited by people from all over Lincolnshire but holds a very special place in the heart of anyone with a connection to the place. I still don’t like missing it.

But on this day, I was at Carnival instead, and despite how different it sounds the similarities are remarkable. The community feel, the makeshift stalls, the selling of random home made items like cakes and craft and the drinking, there’s always the drinking. The food is different but a big part of both days. In Meg it’s stuffed chine (a cheap cut of ham stuffed with parsley), hazlet and plum loaf. In Saint Helena it’s plo, curry and tuna. The real difference is the clothes, Lincolnshire in mid October does not lend itself to carnival outfits (in fact I’m not sure it ever does). Woolly jumpers, hats and gloves are the order of the day. Carnival is different, skimpy, glittery outfits and very strange fancy dress give it a different look, but the community feel and sense of fun make Carnival and Meg Feast two events, that whilst a whole world apart, share a very common theme.

Article: St Helena’s First Carnival - A Splash of Colourful Talent

By Edith Timm, published in the St Helena News Review 27th May 1983{1}

For some, the Carnival meant, just let’s wait and see what happens - but for others it meant imagination, creativeness, planning and weeks of exciting hard work.

Not many of us were up with the early worm on Monday the 23rd May to see some of the Organisers and chauffeurs stealthy meandering their artistic creations along the narrow winding roads, creeping into Jamestown before sunup! Perhaps you were among the later onlookers, amusingly observing the manoeuvres of the elegant RMS St Helena as she sailed with difficulty around the endless bends in Ladder Hill Road; together with Police patrol and a string of patient vehicles including ‘St Paul’s East Market’ in her wake. She would have been more at home coping with the high seas of the Bay of Biscay.

On the other side of the island the ‘twin’ of Longwood House was being hoist, with a proud Josephine and Napoleon looking their best, relaxing in comfort, and surrounded by their merry supporters, all crammed into the float and hanging on by footspace.

This was St Helena’s first Carnival. No fruit and Vegetable stalls; no animals; but in order to make the day a success, all who took part had to be prepared to give time, thought and enthusiasm.

Because of the preparations for the Carnival Procession, i.e. ‘dressing up’ and assembling the Floats outside of the hospital; the Opening Ceremony and Presentation of Prizes were not well attended. Nevertheless, the Police, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides were as colourful and smart as always for the Inspection and March Past. After which many of them tripped off to join their districts in the Carnival.

All eight districts who participated are to be congratulated for their enthusiasm, ingenuity and team spirit. Decorated flag poles, greenery around electricity poles, captions on walls, balloons and flags decorating the streets set the tone and created a joyous atmosphere, as the town suddenly became alive from noon onwards. People lined the streets, others hanging out of windows, all trying to get a good view of the Carnival as each district filed through the streets gaily singing their own songs which were well written; and dancing to their own music.

It was a spectacular view, well supported in numbers and each district could be identified by colour codes, which was effectively applied in many different ways to the Floats, carnival costume, historic and fairy tale characters, animals, insects and flowers. The Organisers of each district and of each section creatively improvised for the Floats and costumes with all possible local resources and just about any and every thing that came to hand; from feathers to cow-hide; from pigmeal bags to, it is believed, changing a reindeer into a horse! Ideas and interpretations of animals, insects, flowers and themes for Floats were varied and cleverly contrived that judging was difficult.

The Judges began their task of assessment at 2pm beginning at the Forester’s Hall; and after some 4 hours of sweating and deep concentration, observing closely the detail, originality, ingenuity and application of talent; they finally gave their assessments.

The day was long for all participants, and perhaps further thought might be given to ways of assessment - but one must say Thumbs Up! to the St Helena Day Committee, Organisers, Participants and to all who made the day a success. It was a good day and a delightful Carnival.

Next year is St Helena’s 150th Anniversary as a British Crown Colony. How can we make it a very special year?


{a} Copyright © South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (SAMS), used with permission.{b} The Independent{c} Government of St Helena{d} Cancer Support & Awareness{e} Governor Lisa Phillips{f} Creative Saint Helena{g} Tourist Information Office{h} Dr. Seuss (attribution disputed){i} Paul Tyson, 20th October 2016{1}{j} Governor Lisa Phillips{k} St Helena National Trust


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