MEET Garry Lowen, the driving force behind Southend Carnival who has plans to restore the event to its former glory.
Garry, who is Southend born and bred, is a co-owner of the Gleneagles Guest House in Clifftown Parade.
He has been involved with the carnival for the past decade, but this year has taken on organising the event and reigniting the town’s passion for the parade.
Starting in 1906 as part of an annual regatta, Southend’s carnival is one of the oldest in the country.
During the Seventies and Eighties crowds flocked to the town to see the spectacular parade of colourful floats created by local businesses and associations.
However, since the Nineties it has been in decline.
But with a new chairman and fresh ideas, organisers are hopeful it will be reborn as a must-see event.
The action starts on Thursday, August 7, with the Chalkwell Park Fair, with the celebrations culminating in the grand parade along the sea front on Saturday, August 16.
Garry, 56, said: “It is a massive project.
“In the Seventies and Eighties there was still a big procession through the town, but sadly in the Nineties it all dwindled away.
“We are revamping it and trying to give it a fresh look, but it costs about £9,500 just to put the procession on, so we have to rely on sponsors, whom we are very grateful to.
“It’s the largest community event in Southend. We want the entire town to come together – anyone can take part.
“Southend is a wonderfully multicultural place and I want to show that off. We’d encourage everyone to enter and show off their culture.”
The carnival used to start in Chalkwell and head east, but this year the procession will start at SouthchurchPark and proceed along the seafront to Chalkwell.
Garry said: “It gives more opportunity for it to pass through City Beach and for people on the seafront to watch.
“Plus, if we do it in the early evening then we help to keep people on the seafront in the evening.”
When it startedmore than a century ago, the carnival raised money for the town’s very first hospital, Victoria Cottage, in Warrior Square.
In 1930 the money raised paid for the general hospital and twenty years and it helped build a housing estate in Eastwood Road, Leigh, for the town’s elderly people.
In past years the carnival organisers kept all money collected by floats along the route and distributed it between their chosen charities.
This year floats will be able to keep their collections and donate them a charity of their choice.
Chalkwell Park Fair will run for ten days in August, raising money for the carnival, with three evenings of half price rides and a morning dedicated to people with special needs.
Garry said: “The view of the carnival has been that it is not as good as it used to be, but we are hoping this year will improve people’s opinions.”
Helping to put on the carnival is main sponsor SummerCare, an award-winning social care organisation based in the town.
Managing director, Dr Asif Raja, said: “I am Southend born and bred, I remember going down to the seafront and throwing my coins on the floats in the Seventies.
“It is a fantastic celebration of the community support in this town.
“The carnival has been left out to die a death.
“It is a responsibility for us to bring back a positive feeling.”
To enter the carnival, visit www.southendcarnival.org.uk