2018 was a rollercoaster year for the Carnival Committee. We had a fantastic Carnival and our second Bake Off attracted more and better entries, but we have faced some challenges and we will continue to do so. But to overcome these we have a fantastic committee and many invaluable volunteers. Let’s talk about our events first.
Our first event in 2018 was the second Great Knockholt Bake Off. Having survived its transition to Channel 4 … sorry, wrong Bake Off! We were able to improve our event in 2018 by learning from our first experience the year before, and we shifted times to better suit people, improved the instructions to judges, and introduced a new ‘free from’ category. It went very well indeed – but we are improving it again this year, moving it to a Sunday to allow bakers a weekend day of preparation.
Our second event was Carnival. Let’s put that on hold for a bit …
Our third event was the beer festival. It was a busy event, with 500 pints of beer sold and everyone who attended had a great time. However, we had a few problems. First, the planned food vendor pulled out a week before the event, which meant we had to quickly find another vendor and charge them a significantly reduced rate. Second, we had a number of companies who were initially interested in sponsorship, but in the end they didn’t take up the offer. Third, after a number of years, Chris Cheeseman was forced to change the business model he offered to the Committee – for a number of years he had been generously taking all risk on himself but was unable to continue with that. These all meant that there was significantly lower profit from the day that we would have hoped for – but it did still make a profit.
Our fourth event was the firework display. We were lucky with the weather – again! – and advance ticket sales were up on previous years. Overall the event went very well, although there was some mixed feedback on the quality of the display – we had a couple of people who said they thought it felt shorter than in previous years. We are going to act on that and have specified minimum lengths for this year’s display.
So going back to Carnival – what a fantastic day that was! The sun shone on a packed parade route, and the quality of the floats was top notch. We had more floats in 2018 than in 2016 or 2014 (I can’t find records for 2012!), and there was such a variety. Marshalling the floats at the start was challenging – next year we will have to send the instructions on where to form up in a bigger font! – but the parade got underway on time, and moved through the village assisted by a huge team of volunteer marshals. Then we arrived at the Carnival Field, and spent a great afternoon visiting stalls, playing games, and watching displays.
Carnival was a huge success, and that comes down to people volunteering their time. There are three groups of people that we should thank specifically.
Firstly, our volunteers. On such a day it is very generous to give up time to sit on a ticket desk, stand in a car park, or marshal crowds. Spare a thought for road marshals who can hear the parade but not see it! We try to make sure that we have enough volunteers that we can share the work out and so nobody needs to give up too much time, but this is one of the challenges we referred to at the start – we always need more. We are so grateful to all those who helped at all our events.
Secondly, our committee. We have cake sometimes, and the ice cream van at carnival sometimes gives us a free slushie, but there is a huge amount of work that goes into organising these events. We meet once a month, and are already talking about this year’s fireworks display and next year’s carnival. We would love to have some new people join us – again, the more there are, the less work for each of us! – especially because in the last year we have had a couple of people leaving us, including Doreen who has been of the committee for more years than it would be polite to say! Doreen has been instrumental at drumming up volunteers, selling tickets, and liaising with people around the village, and we all owe her a debt of gratitude.
And that brings us onto the third group of people. Carole and John Moody. Carole has been the chair of the Carnival Committee since the start of 2014, taking over from Gill. She has been a great organiser, and since she started we have settled on a more defined schedule of events. Behind the scenes she gathered all the paperwork and templates in one place. She did a huge amount of the operational work as well, ranging from collecting stall holder details for carnival, through talking to Sevenoaks council, to picking up bits of paper in a muddy fireworks field the day after. Carole saw us through two carnivals, but with the arrival of grandchildren she decided she wanted to spend less time looking at forms. We didn’t just lose Carole, but also John, who didn’t sit on the committee but did so much of the administration that he should have done! Together they have been instrumental at keeping the Carnival going. We say thank you … and if ever you’re feeling bored, you know where we are!
Replacing Carole has been a challenge. No committee members have felt able to step into the chair’s shoes, and we have been working on a collaborative basis since. We wold love for someone to step into the role, recognising that the chair shouldn’t be expected to do all the work! We really need people to help on the committee as well. Please do talk to anyone you think might be interested, and we will promise a very warm welcome.
This appeal relates to volunteers as well. Please talk to your friends, family and colleagues, and see if you can help us to find new marshals, ticket sellers, and car park attendants. As part of our events planning we must always make sure we have enough people to help and we don’t want to have to cancel events due to a lack of volunteers.
Another challenge has been funds. We have had successful events this year, but the amount of money raised is lower. This is due to a number of things – increasing cost is a key issue that we have to keep a close eye on; and also we need to make sure that attendance keeps up. We have two objectives with our events – raising money and contributing to the community – and we have to be careful to balance these against each other. We have kept our fireworks prices constant for a number of years now, and there has been a single beer festival price rise over the last five years. So while we are making sure our events are open to as many people as possible, we need to think about new ways of raising funds. To do this we are pushing for sponsorship of events. If you have any thoughts on this please do not hesitate to talk to us.
We are facing challenges, but we shouldn’t be too pessimistic! We continue to run some great events that bring the community together, and we have a great time doing it. Our volunteers are amazing, and we continue to raise sizeable sums for local charities. With additional help we want to do more of these things!