The 1970s Revival

There was a time when people eagerly looked forward to the once-popular annual Darlaston carnival. Many older Darlastonians will have fond memories of the event which sadly became confined to the history books. In the 1970s this all changed, at least for a decade, when the carnival briefly reappeared, and once again the streets thronged with spectators watching the colourfully and inventively decorated floats, the jazz bands, and people in fancy dress parading through the town.

It all started when Alderman Tom Croft was asked if he could bring back "a bit of life" to the town, and revive the dying interest in the area. As a result three committees were set up to plan a carnival, a fete, and entertainment for the day. It was also seen as a means of raising money for old-age pensioners, and the physically handicapped.

The 1972 programme.

The first carnival for many years took place on Saturday 15th July, 1972 when a series of events were held during the afternoon and evening in George Rose Park.

The carnival started from Richards Street at 1.45p.m. as a large number of pigeons were released. The parade proceeded from The Green to Midland Road, into Willenhall Street, Rough Hay Road, Blockall, Foster Street, Slater Street, and Bull Street, turning right into Walsall Road. From there the carnival proceeded into King Street, New Street, St. Lawrence Way, and Pinfold Street to Catherine's Cross, from where the procession turned left into Forge Road before entering George Rose Park via Herberts Park Road.

The parade included a large variety of floats provided by local businesses and organisations, jazz bands, many from far afield, bands from a number of organisations including St. John Ambulance, and people in fancy dress, some collecting for local charities.

Events in the park included a jazz band competition, a horse show and gymkhana, and a school sports competition between the following schools:

Dorothy Purcell School Pinfold Street J.M.I. School Old Church School
Bentley West Primary School
Rough Hay Primary School Bentley Road Primary School
King Charles Primary School

Part of the 1974 parade.

The events in the main arena were as follows:

3.30p.m. A judo demonstration by the Jukuren Judo Club featuring Frank Deeming, Junior Champion of Great Britain, and silver medalists, H. Gilbert, E. Harris, and R. Bishop.

4.00p.m.  A twin trapeze and swaypole presentation by Leone and Tarnia.

4.40p.m. A mass dancing display by Darlaston Comprehensive School.

5.30p.m. Victoria Street Girl's Pipe Band.

6.00p.m. Inter-schools sports finals.

7.00p.m. Tug-of war finals.

7.30p.m. Five-a-side finals.

8.00p.m. Leone and Tarnia giving another twin trapeze and swaypole presentation.

8.30p.m. Presentation of prizes.

8.45p.m. Dancing by the bandstand.

Another view from 1974.

Other attractions included a donkey derby, donkey cart racing, and Pat Collins' funfair.

The Modern Army were on hand with a firing range and a display of weapons, the Black Country Brass Band were playing in the bandstand, a disco was provided by Keith Kay and John Jinks, and the Darlaston Allotments and Gardens Association held a horticultural show, and a competition for the best flowers, fruit, and vegetables, in 20 different classes.

There was an inter-schools tennis tournament, an archery display, a tombola, a treasure hunt, displays by the Black Country Society, and the Royal Navy. A display of racing pigeons, a balloon race, and much much more.

The carnival queen was Miss Jennifer Brearley, and her attendants were Miss Christine Fox, and Miss Annis Lawton.

A member of one of the jazz bands from 1974.

The 1974 carnival queen and her attendants.

In 1975 the previous chairman, Alderman Tom Croft had to stand down because of ill health. His role was taken over by Dennis Millsum. His message in the1975 carnival programme reflects much of the bad feeling that was rife in many of the towns in the Black Country at the time.

Under the terms of the 1966 Local Government Reform Act, many of the towns, including Darlaston lost their status as a Urban Districts and came under the control of another Local Authority.

The postal areas were also rationalised so that Darlaston now became part of Wednesbury, at least as far as the postal address was concerned.

This is part of what Dennis Millsum had to say:

"Once again I restate our aims, but at times one despairs at trying to keep Darlaston on the map for besides being forgotten by big brother Walsall, Darlaston has now been removed from the postal address, it is now Wednesbury, West Midlands, except where there are two streets of the same name in each town, then you may state Darlaston, Wednesbury, West Midlands.

In spite of this we still think this is a great town with industry second to none and traders who give the public a fair deal and value for money."

Another part of the 1974 parade.

A highland band from 1974.

The 1975 carnival took place on Saturday 12th July. As in previous years the carnival parade followed the usual route through the town except that it entered George Rose Park through the front entrance in Wolverhampton Street.

The event was opened by the actor Colin Baker. The carnival queen was Linda Leyton. Her attendants were Sue Harrison and Elaine Padmore.

The events included a show jumping competition, a concert by the Codsall Show Band, All star wrestling featuring Jackie Mr. TV Pallo, a concert given by the Victoria Street Girl Pipers, and displays by some of the country's leading jazz bands.

Visitors were entertained by dance troupes and entertainers from all over the country, and the band of the 1st Battalion of the Mercian Volunteers, who also put on a tactics display.

Darlaston Allotments and Gardens Association held a horticultural show, the Wednesbury Avicultural Society held a grand exhibition of cage birds, and the Wolverhampton Model Aero Club put on a display of model aircraft.

As usual Pat Collins' fun fair was at hand, along with many sideshows.

The 1974 carnival king and queen.

Another of the bands from 1974.

The 1976 carnival took place on Saturday 10th July. The parade followed the usual route and a number of events were held in George Rose Park.

The star attraction was all-star wrestling featuring the Television Tag Team.
As usual there were many dance troupes and entertainers, an exhibition of caged birds by the Wednesbury Avicultural Society, a horticultural show by the Darlaston Allotments and Gardens Association, and some of the country's leading jazz bands.

The event was attended by Pat Collins' fun fair, and the Wolverhampton Model Aero Club put on a display of model aircraft.

The Darlaston and District Industrial Fire Brigades displayed their fire fighting vehicles and demonstrated the correct use of fire extinguishers.

Longford Troopers from Cannock.

A prize-winning band.

The Queen's Own Mercian Yeomanry displayed unarmed combat techniques, there were many sideshows, and prizes were awarded for the best jazz bands and dance troupes.

The 1976 carnival queen was Miss Joy Walters, and her attendants were Elaine Padmore and Jayne Cassidy.

In 1977 the carnival took place as usual on the second Saturday in July, and the parade followed the normal route.

Due to soaring costs the price of the programme increased to 30 pence and admission on the day increased to 45 pence for adults and 15 pence for children and old age pensioners.

The carnival queen was Miss Julie Porter, and her attendants were Miss Anne Day, and Miss Julie Lort. The attractions were much the same as in the previous year.

The carnival continued to be held for several years, and was opened on one occasion by the famous personality Jon Pertwee.

The event was well supported by local traders, businesses, manufacturers, the police, and the Parks and Cemeteries Department of the local council.

The 1977 programme.

More views from 1974
Spectators at Catherine's Cross await the carnival parade.
Spectators outside the Staffordshire Knot and Regal Motors.
The police control the traffic in readiness for the parade.
Some of the spectators at the bottom of Moxley Road and Dangerfield Lane.
One of the many bands that took part in the parade.
Another view of the same band.
One of the jazz bands.
The spectators eagerly await the start of the parade.
Another band.
A final view of one of the bands as it approaches Catherine's Cross.
A float with a Dutch theme.
Some of the many children who took part, clearly enjoying themselves.
A Cooper's Road Services float. The company and it's owners contributed greatly towards the event.
Views from 1975
The 1975 carnival queen Linda Leyton and her attendants; Sue Harrison and Elaine Padmore.
Darlaston Conservative Club's float.
Another view of Darlaston Conservative Club's float.
A final view of Darlaston Conservative Club's float.

A well decorated "rainbow" float.

One of the immaculately turned out bands.
Another view of the same band.
A novel way to advertise your business.
The float from Bentley West Primary School.
A close-up view of Bentley West Primary School's float.
A world champion band.
A local theatrical group on a Cooper's Road Services lorry.
Some energetic youngsters.
Darlaston Baptist Church float.
An inventively decorated float admired by Donald Duck.
Last but not least - Mickey Mouse.
If anyone has any photographs or memories of Darlaston carnivals and would like them added to this section, please send an email to Bev Parker

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