Meet Mr Carnival...

John Cambridge with old Headland Carnival  programmes. Picture by FRANK REID
John Cambridge with old Headland Carnival programmes. Picture by FRANK REID
0
Have your say

JOHN Cambridge was 28 when he offered his services as a volunteer for the first “people’s” Headland carnival in 1971.

This year marks his 40th anniversary of helping to organise the annual festivities. His passion is as strong as ever.

John Cambridge with his elder brother Allan as they take part in a Headland Carnival Parade. Picture by FRANK REID

John Cambridge with his elder brother Allan as they take part in a Headland Carnival Parade. Picture by FRANK REID

Reporter MARK PAYNE spoke to John about his years of tireless work and how the carnival has changed with the times.

JOHN Cambridge was 28 when he offered his services as a volunteer for the first “people’s” Headland carnival in 1971.

When old Hartlepool and West Hartlepool amalgamated in the late 1960s it spelled the end of the Corporation-run Hartlepool Carnival that raised money for Hartlepool Hospital. The carnival had been running since the 1920s

Pictured left, John Cambridge with his elder brother Allan in 1948 as they take part in a Headland Carnival Parade After its demise, a group of traders and residents banded together to form the Headland carnival that lives on today.

John, the current carnival committee chairman, was voted on to the organising committee in 1973.

He is still going strong.

John, 68, said: “I found myself voted on after I had a break for a few years in the 90s.

“People come to me and say ‘will you do this for me’ and I can’t say no.

“I’m the only original one left from the seventies.

“People look at me as though I’m daft.

“I thoroughly enjoy doing it. I’ve always enjoyed the carnival ever since I was a nipper.

“It’s the highlight of the year down here.”

In 1948, a five-year-old John took part in the parade with his big brother Allan when they dressed up as pirates.

Looking at some of his vast collection of carnival pictures, it is clear the event has changed a lot over the years.

The ladies’ ankle competition of the 1920s has gone, along with the “Zulus” from the 1970s – local men who covered themselves with boot polish and scared the children.

And although the prestigious role of Carnival Princess still exists, the King and Queen are no more.

John remembers: “The King and Queen used to come across on the lifeboat and the mayor used to meet them at the ferry steps and give them the key to the town for carnival week.”

Leafing through carnival programmes from years gone by, another obvious change is how it has grown in size.

This year’s carnival lasts for two weeks from Saturday, July 23 to August 6, with 20 events including family fun days, a baby contest, and talent night.

When John first started, there was just a carnival dance at the Borough Hall and the parade.

The parade, when thousands of people line the street to watch the colourful variety of floats and entertainers go by, remains the highlight of the carnival for John.

He said: “When you set the parade off, that gives you a thrill.

“Then when it’s finished, you think ‘job well done’, have a sigh of relief, then start again.

“We’ve got a strong committee and we work well together.”

The committee of nine volunteers meet and hold events throughout the year such as children’s Halloween and Christmas parties to raise money.

The number of activities for youngsters during this year’s carnival is testament to the committee’s drive to get them involved.

John, of Sea View Terrace, said: “It is their heritage and I would like to see it continue.”

This year’s parade will include a town 1940s youth re-enactment group who will entertain the crowds in their wartime get-up, while vintage cars and scooters will add a touch of glamour to proceedings.

John explained the committee is always willing to try new things to keep people coming back despite the pressure on funds.

He said: “We know it’s getting harder for people, the recession is hitting everybody, but it’s their day.

“The carnival is embedded into Old Hartlepool people.

“What people don’t realise is it is not our carnival, it is theirs and if they don’t want to engage, we are lost.

“We will try to fund as much as we can but if people don’t participate in fund-raising or enter floats, we are on a limb.”

John, a former joiner and who is married to Ada, is also a long-serving volunteer with the Boys’ Brigade.

He added: “I’ve always liked being involved in the community and this is my patch. I’m just passionate about the place. I want to see the place thrive. As long as I can manage I will do the best I can.”

Anyone wanting more details on this year’s carnival – and those who would like to become a volunteer – can contact John on (01429) 297462.