Last queen for Devizes Carnival

This Is Wiltshire: This year’s carnival queen, Lesley-Ann Potter, with Rowde Primary School. But scenes like this are a thing of the past after a decision to abolish the royal court tradition This year’s carnival queen, Lesley-Ann Potter, with Rowde Primary School. But scenes like this are a thing of the past after a decision to abolish the royal court tradition

The position of Devizes Carnival Queen has become a thing of the past after the organising committee voted last week to end the 80-year tradition.

The organisers voted unanimously that the time had come for the long-established tradition of a pretty face fronting the annual carnival to come to an end.

This year’s carnival queen, Lesley-Ann Potter, was the only entrant in the competition and, although she carried out her duties with charm and integrity, it is clear that there is no longer the demand to have carnival royalty that there once was.

Dave Buxton, the carnival’s artistic director, said: “In recent years interest in carnival queens has dwindled, here and elsewhere, and the concept of carnival royalty has begun to look increasingly outdated.

“Although the carnival itself goes from strength to strength, fewer and fewer contestants have come forward each year to be carnival queen and the audience for the selection ceremony has disappeared altogether.

“In the last few years there has been virtually no contest for the position, with only one contestant turning up for the selection in each of the last two years.

“The carnival committee recognised that the tradition has been an extremely popular one in the past, with a fascinating history, but its day has passed and, with some sadness, all agreed that it was not appropriate to try to keep it going with the low level of interest that there now is for it.”

The first Devizes carnival queen was Phyllis Wordley, who was crowned in 1933 at a grand ceremony in the castle grounds and from that day competition to be carnival queen was extremely keen.

Selection events were held at the Corn Exchange or the Palace Cinema and the tradition remained very popular right up to the 1980s, with audiences of up to 1,000 people watching the judges make their choice.

The successful candidate became a local celebrity and was invited to award prizes at competitions and open fetes, fairs and new shops.

As well as a carnival queen, Devizes had a carnival queen attendant, carnival princess and attendant, Butterfly Princess and attendant, carnival prince and carnival mum.

The history of the carnival royalty is included in Mr Buxton’s new book, 100 Years of Devizes Carnival, on sale at Devizes Books and other venues in the town for £14.

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