IT'S THE WEEKEND: Meet the team behind the Pill Carnival

IT'S THE WEEKEND: Meet the team behind the Pill Carnival

THE TEAM: Members of the Pill Carnival Committee (from left) Sean Healey, Lisa Marshall, Rebecca Roberts with daughter Olivia, Anne Barton and Ali Boksh.

CARNIVAL QUEEN: Kirsty O'Brien will head the carnival procession this year.

IN HONOUR: The late Cllr Ron Jones

HANDING OVER: Last year's carnival queen Abbi Wysme and flower girl Mackenzie Lewis (948066)

COLOUR: At last year's event are (from left) Jessica Colwell, Lauren Bonsall, Gracie McNulty and Lauren Fitzgerald (948068)

HAVING FUN: The Maesglas Sports and Social Club Grease themed float at last year's event.

ON THE BEACH: The Royal Oak 'Blue Hawaii' float at last year's event.

First published in News by

It's a day of the year which brings the diverse communities of Newport together - SOPHIE BROWNSON finds out more about the team behind the annual Pill Carnival.

OVER the years, thousands have flocked to the city’s annual celebration of music and creativity known as the Pill Carnival.

Incorporating dozens of floats, acts and participants into the magnificent parade, the carnival on August 25 is widely recognised as bringing an explosion of colour and life into the heart of Newport’s Pill community.

But few know the faces behind what is considered as one of the biggest celebrations in the city.

These are the committed members of the community known as the Pill Carnival Committee who work hard every year to create a bank holiday festivity to remember for years to come.

The committee is made up of just seven members; Ann Barton; Sean Healey; Ali Boksh; Gina Pitcher; Lisa Marshall; Rebecca Roberts and Marce Ravenscroft; who spend a whole year, every year, planning the big day.

This year they hope to honour their former chairman and long-standing member, the late Ron Jones, by presenting a special award in his memory to someone this has made a difference in the community.

Councillor Jones died in the early hours of the morning after last year’s carnival.

Speaking about the significance of the carnival to the people of Pill, Ms Barton said: “I think it brings the community together.

“It is the one time of the year when all of the community comes together.

“This year we are celebrating 100 years of the Newport Docks and so for the first time we are having a nautical theme.

“This is the first time we are having a theme - usually people do whatever they want.

“Every year all of the floats and costumes are a secret as there is a £150 cash prize for the best float.”

Ms Barton, owner of A B Florist in Pill, is now the longest standing member of the Pill Carnival Committee, having been part of the committee for around 17 years.

She is in charge of organising the carnival queen float, processions and walking entries among other roles.

She said: “We will start planning next year’s carnival as soon as this year’s is over.

“So it takes us about a year in all and hundreds of hours of work in total.

“This year we started off with 23 floats but because of Nato we have lost quite a few floats so we have around 12.

“Normally our biggest worry is the rain but this year we have been worried about Nato. It has been a struggle from start to finish.

“But despite all the stress and strain, when you see the carnival make its way through the streets it is all worth it.

“All of the different nationalities are here – it is a very multi cultural place.”

Sean Healey is another member of the committee. He has been involved with the carnival for seven years after becoming a volunteer at the Pill Millennium Centre.

He said: "I am Pill born and bred. There has always been a carnival.

“I have seven kids and my daughter Channelle who is 23, was carnival queen one year and my two other daughters have been flower girls.

“It is one of the only things that brings everybody together.

“All of the different cultures and different backgrounds come together.

“Everyone participates and there is a nice community spirit.

“The carnival has something for everyone and everyone has a good time.”

The carnival committee has been brought together by the sheer passion of creating a special event in the city.

All seven members are from different backgrounds but recognise the significance of the carnival in defining earlier memories for those who were brought up in the area.

Mr Healey added: “Marce is a full time mum; Lisa is a Parcel Force manager; Rebecca works at the Royal Gwent Hospital, Ann runs A B florist; Gina works at Sinclair Volkswagen, and Ali is a youth worker.

Chairman Ali Boksh who works as a youth worker around Newport and at company Urban Circle, agreed with Mr Healey and said that everyone has their role to play.

He said: “I would say the carnival has been going since the 1970s and I have been part of the committee for the past 10 years.

“Gina Pitcher is our secretary and I am he chairman, but everyone does a lot of different things.

“Sean and Rebecca handle the stalls and traders; Marce runs the Pill Mill; Ann is head of the procession and Lisa handles the insurance documents and is a safety officer on the day.

“This year we expect to see over 2,000 people turn out. The carnival is a celebration of Pill and Newport as a whole.”

The Pill carnival queen is also a sought-after figure for the annual carnival with Ms Barton running a competition annually to find the queen.

This year’s queen is 16-year-old Kirsty O’Brien who was chosen as carnival queen at Pillgwenlly Millennium Centre on Sunday, June 29.

The carnival will also see five court leaders and five flower girls assist Ms O’Brien while Mataya Tunney was named as the attendant to the carnival queen.

As well as the floats and parade, this year’s carnival will feature fair rides, go-karts, bouncy castles, slides and a variety of food stalls and stage acts.

Float entrants are asked to be down on the dock for 11am on August 25 for judging at 11.30am.

The parade will kick off at 12pm from Alexandra Docks and will finish at the YMCA.

The day's entertainment will finish at 7pm.

Entrants into the carnival are in for the chance of winning a first prize of £150, second place prize of £100 and third place prize of £50.

There are also prizes for walking entrants in fancy dress including mobility scooter riders.

To enter, call 01633 259249.

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