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The Evolution of Carnival

It is important to realise first of all how the bonfires and the use of effigies of Guy Fawkes, the Guys, contributed to the development of today’s carnival. In Bridgwater’s town centre, perhaps as a result of the high concentration of drinking houses, it became competitive.  Most of the local pubs had a ‘gang’ which would produce a Guy.  On the evening of November 5th, these would be brought out into the street and carried aloft to the applause of the spectators.  The one receiving the best response was adjudged by popular opinion to be the winner.  In time, the number of Guys increased and it became necessary to mount them on horse drawn carts and then began to appear in a variety of costumes.  These were clearly more popular with the public and in time the Guys disappeared to be replaced by wooden cut out models. The members of the gangs took to dressing themselves up in costumes and would masquerade around their entry adding colour, life and vitality.  The presence of these masqueraders was essential since they carried the paraffin or powder torches which were used to illuminate the mounted entries.

Text Copyright © 2008 Roger Evans

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