2023 could be the biggest carnival yet

ST Paul’s Carnival is back with a bang – and it’s likely to be the biggest ever.

More than 100,000 people are expected to throng the streets for the spectacular procession and day of non stop music on Saturday July 1.

It’s the first full carnival since the pandemic – though organisers are keen to stress that behind the scenes community outreach work has continued.  And they say the rise in their online presence during lockdown has actually helped promote the event to a wider audience.

Vice chair Carole Johnson joined the board in 2017, as then Mayor George Ferguson was helping co-ordinate a new management structure for the event’s 50th anniversary in 2018.  Before that the carnival had missed serval years because of organisational issues.

Carole told the Voice: “This year the full carnival is back on the streets with fringe events 

leading up to the big day, and a full procession.

“This will be the full-scale carnival that we know and love. It’s really exciting. We think there will be more people than ever because everyone has just been waiting for it to come back to the streets.”

The last Carnival in 2019 was attended by 100,000 people – and this year is expected to be far in excess of that.

Cariole said that during the pandemic the street carnival could not happen. Instead the organisers ran virtual experiences which they found connected with a wide audience across the globe.

“We also continued our community work that helps build stronger links within the community. That’s always been at the forefront of everyone’s minds and continues to be at the core of everything we try to do for the carnival. The carnival has to be community-based.”

She said the organisers worked closely with the police – and that several of the churches in St Paul’s will open their doors as a “refuge” from the lively carnival atmosphere, and act as first aid stations and hydration stations.

There will be a one main stage and several smaller stage venues – all timetabled with performers.

Carole said the old days of impromptu music speakers are gone, and any unauthorised sound systems would be removed by the police. 

“Ultimately that’s what people wanted – for us to ensure that it was well run, while always balanced with community links and an understanding the community that hosts this amazing event.”

A highlight of the carnival will be the procession, when hundreds of schoolchildren and adults will marsh through the streets of St Paul’s in costume.

It’s the culmination of months of work in homes and classrooms, as the project called Carnival 365 uses an education programme to spread the traditions of Carnival all year round.   It  includes classes in traditional costume making, Black History Month outreach, assemblies and steel pan drumming lessons.

“The procession will be fantastic this year with even more new people joining in. Last time Avon Fire and Rescue even took part, it was good to see communities from across Bristol connecting with each other in this way. 

“The school programme centres on St Paul’s first, but every year we extend it wider and wider across Bristol so the invitation to the carnival is Bristol wide and global too.”

Full details of event timetables and road closures will be available on the carnival website from mid June : https://www.stpaulscarnival.net/