In 1923 and 1924, Blackpool outdid itself by hosting an annual Carnival; the greatest event of its kind, bigger and better than anything it had ever hosted before.

The King and Queen make a Grand Entrance

Blackpool Museum Carnival King and Queen 1923

Photograph of 1923 Carnival King (Doodles) and Queen (Fred Walmsley) © Blackpool Council

Blackpool has never shied away from an opportunity to have a party and have fun! It is especially evident in the fact that Blackpool held two carnivals, one from June 9th – 16th, 1923 and the other June 11th-24th, 1924. Never before had so many people travelled to Blackpool for processions, pageants, dog shows and motor races. Crowds gathered on the promenade and lined the streets, straining to get a glimpse of the Carnival King and Queen, the Grotesque Figureheads and Decorated Cars that processed past. The Carnival King and Queen were non other than Blackpool Tower’s circus clown Doodles and the Queen was Blackpool’s own actor and comedian Fred Walmsley. The aeroplane they flew in on immediately turned turtle after their Majesties’ arrival on the beach, but unperturbed, his Merry Majesty  and Consort continued their Royal duties and entertained the crowds.
The 1923 Carnival was Blackpool’s way of bringing back some of the progressive and pioneering events it had held before WWI. Prior to the outbreak of the War, Blackpool had begun to hold an annual light festival which is now known as The Illuminations. The light show was put on to encourage the successful Summer season to continue into the Autumn months, giving tourists a reason to come back or stay longer. When the First World War broke out Blackpool tried to continue with this festival but the lights were finally extinguished on 19th October due to their immense energy consumption.

A Bright Future

Photograph of 1923 Blackpool Carnival Procession © Blackpool Council

Photograph of 1923 Blackpool Carnival Procession © Blackpool Council

So in 1923 Blackpool began what it thought would be a new tradition, holding an annual Carnival in June. The 1923 Carnival was such a great success, held over 8 days it saw around two million visitors come specifically for the festivities. It was so successful that Blackpool quickly arranged for another even bigger and longer carnival to take place the following year. Unfortunately, the 1924 Carnival was set to be the last of its kind Blackpool held, as although the crowds were equally as immense as the previous years, drunkenness and violence were rife.

Blackpool arranged for the Illuminations display to be ready for the 1925 season. It was so exceptionally well received that the festival of light has been running annually ever since.

 

By Jill Carruthers, Exhibitions Coorindator, Blackpool Museum Project