Headland Carnival stalwart John steps down after four decades

Former Hartlepool Carnival organiser John Cambridge.
Former Hartlepool Carnival organiser John Cambridge.

FLICKING through the Mail, it was an appeal for volunteers that caught his eye.

1971 was the year. And John Cambridge, as passionate a Headlander as you are every likely to meet, lifted his eyes up from behind his night Mail.

John Cambridge with old Headland Carnival  programmes. Picture by FRANK REID

John Cambridge with old Headland Carnival programmes. Picture by FRANK REID

“They’re on the lookout for volunteers for the carnival,” he mentioned to wife Ada.

Little did he know at the time that the passing comment would be the start of a 42-year love affair with an extravaganza the Headland has never stopped caring for.

“Ada volunteered me after that, she has volunteered me for everything over the years,” laughed John, now 69.

Quite simply, the much-loved carnival which takes over the Headland for a fortnight every year wouldn’t be what it is today was it not for the tireless efforts of John Cambridge.

As the hard-working volunteers who make up today’s committee started the clear-up and the debrief after last year’s event, helped - of course - by John, they had no idea that the carnival stalwart knew in his heart of hearts that he had served his time and was about to call it a day.

“I was just finding it more and more frustrating because I just can’t do what I used to be able to do with me getting older,” explained John.

“I know by the time the carnival comes around it will be so tough not to be there, on the committee but I had to make the decision at some point.”

For as long as John can remember, the carnival has been a major part in his life.

“I’m extremely passionate about Hartlepool and the people here are extremely passionate about the carnival,” said John, a dad of Penny Lowther, Richard Cambridge and Lynne Hewitson, who were all children when he first got involved and a granddad-of-six.

“It’s the people’s carnival, not ours but I’m just happy to have been able to play a part and help make sure it goes ahead as the people want it to every year.”

Today’s carnival is astoundingly different to the annual extravaganza John first got involved with.

But despite, in John’s reckoning, the event being at its peak in the 1970s he is fiercely proud of how the event has maintained its identity and popularity at a time when fundraising gets ever-more difficult.

And believes the future of the carnival remains extremely bright.

“The carnival is in good hands,” he said, assertively.

“We’ve got a good committee.”

John has already told the committee he is more than happy to offer any help or advice come carnival time.

And despite taking a back seat, you can bet he will be there taking in every bit of the action in July and August.