Mike Amos meets the man behind this weekend’s revival of Shildon Carnival

FOR medical reasons which need not now detain us, there wasn’t going to be a column this week. Then Paul Evans got in touch about matters close to – well, close to the bit of the anatomy which now diverts the docs. This very weekend, Paul’s resurrecting Shildon carnival.

So this is also the second successive column about Shildon, and no matter that the two are 40 miles apart.

Several decades ago almost every North-East community had its carnival, a happy kazoo’s who of juvenile jazz bands – themselves seemingly instructed never to smile – and sink-or-swim floats. Shildon’s annual extravaganza was organised by the local boy scouts and centred on a week-long scouts’ field fairground.

The shows, northern folk called them, and the shows went on and on.

“It was the second biggest annual event in this area after Durham Big Meeting,” says Paul, now 57. “I’d stand in awe watching all the Foden wagons arriving. It was Blackpool come to Shildon for a week. I can barely remember what I did yesterday, but I can remember all sorts about Shildon carnival. It was a magic time.”

The highlight was the Saturday parade, maybe a dozen or more twirling, skirling, all-that-jazz bands interleaving as many or more flat-bed floats. Thousands would line the streets as if the football team were bringing home the Amateur Cup (something, alas, they never quite managed.)

Nothing and no one, it should be noted, ever fell off the back of a lorry.

On parade back in the 60s I’d played everything from a mutinous matelot – riding along on the crest of a wave – to a right irreverent bishop, confirming all that was ever supposed. Paul only once floated round the town, circa 1973 when dressed as a Liquorice Allsort. “My mother told me off for looking miserable. I asked her how she’d feel, dressed as a Liquorice Allsort on the back of a wagon.”

Nor did he last long in the scouts. “I think it was three weeks. I couldn’t conform any longer than that.”

The floats are no longer buoyant, of course – “health and safety gone mad,” says Paul – but the gathering in Timothy Hackworth park this Saturday and Sunday will affirm that the old town is decidedly waving, not drowning.

“It’s a one-off, but it’s going to be the biggest ever,” says Paul. “Shildon will never have seen anything like this.”

THESE days he and his wife Lucy run Carnival Funfairs, responsible last Saturday for organising all the entertainment at Cummins centenary celebrations in Darlington. “It’s still taken us six months to do all the paperwork for this one,” says Paul.

They’d hoped this weekend again to use the former scouts field, found access impossible, turned to the park – forever the Rec – and found the town council greatly accommodating.

Attractions will include a celebration of a century (and more) of fairground rides, including a steam-driven 1888 golden galloping carousel, Victorian flying chairs, a helter-skelter, US racing cars, Digger Land, the ineluctable dodgems and (of course) Mr Murphy’s super-waltzer.

There’ll be formal auditions for Britain’s Got Talent – “they’re coming from all over, snake charmers to clog dancers” – vintage Eden buses of the sort once greatly familiar in those parts and famed for their chippy clippies – and, inevitably, there’ll be jazz bands.

The buses are owned by Graham Scarlett, who runs the born-again Eden Bus company. As previously we have reported, he also owns the priceless vehicle registration SH11DON.

One youthful band’s from Whitby, another from Middlesbrough. A third, a bit more senior but still with a spring in their step is the Spennymoor-based Blue Tigers, formed last year by former members of the Bluebirds and the Tigers, friendly local rivals in the 1970s.

“Most of them are getting on a bit, but they’re brilliant, never miss a beat,” says Paul, who also promises the North-East’s oldest Punch and Judy man – “the fastest balloon modeller I’ve ever seen. Like so many more, I have wonderful childhood memories of these carnivals. This one’s going to be the greatest ever.”

*The carnival will be held on Timothy Hackworth Park from 12 noon this Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.

THOSE medical matters mentioned earlier embraced eight hours in the coronary day ward at Darlington Memorial, much of the time spent waiting for something to happen.

It seemed profitable to spend a couple of hours drafting another chapter of the autobiography – this one, perhaps unsurprisingly, on pubs down the years. Much has changed for the worse, by far the greatest regret that so many now feel it necessary to assault with extraneous noise – music machine, juke box, wall-to-wall television and, most hideous of all, commercial radio and its endlessly asinine adverts.

At last it was time for the angiogram – and so much for alphabetical order. In the laboratory where otherwise painlessly they do these things, they played headache-inducing commercial radio. “It’s all we can get,” they protested at the protest.

At least it wasn’t Heart Radio, and for that we should probably be grateful.

This article was reproduced from and can be viewed at The Northern Echo