myisleofwight Guide to Island Carnivals

The Isle of Wight has more than 15 carnivals throughout the summer season and even a few in the winter too, including Newport Christmas carnival. In fact we have some of the oldest carnivals in the country. Ryde carnival began in 1888 after the success of a Jubilee pageant for Queen Victorian in 1887, and Ventnor and Sandown followed in 1889.

Nowadays when you visit us during the summer holidays there is likely to be at least one carnival procession on the Island during your stay and although many of the floats will follow the carnivals around the Island, each parade has its own unique flavour. Here's our pick of some carnivals not to be missed...

Sailing Around

Yarmouth Carnival runs from 5th – 12th August and includes all sorts of activities around the town during the week. Make sure you attend the Harbour Sports on Thursday 10th August - where there are a whole host of races you can enter. Taking place in Yarmouth Harbour all the events are on the water. The dirty shirt race sees competitors trying to navigate a short course using nothing but a shirt and the wind to power them. There are standard rowing races for different ages, paired oars, sculling - a dying tradition that sees less and less entrants every year, where a single oar is used off the back of the boat to scull you round the course. And everyone gets involved and wet for the last few races, especially the hand paddling race; as many as you can fit on your vessel all leaning over the side and using their hands to paddle round the markers - very competitive and great fun.

On the Beach

Shanklin Regatta has been running annually for 162 years and brings the whole town and its visitors together for a day jam packed with entertainment and excitement for everyone – this year on Thursday August 10th. The fun begins at 10am with a sand castle competition, beach sports and swimming events running throughout the day and at the pier apron you will find stalls and games. The Regatta Queen is crowned and festivities continue into the evening with a barbeque and live music from 7pm until a fantastic firework display lights up the sky above Shanklin. It really is quite a spectacle with the entire Esplanade and cliff path lined with spectators.

Quirky and Arty

Ventnor's main carnival procession is on August 9th, which also coincides with the start of Ventnor Fringe on the 8th. Ventnor carnival is always a bit different. For starters it contains the infamous Ventnor Comic Jazz Band, a mish mash of locals on instruments made from kitchen and other implements along with other international class musicians, including at least one famous one. Plus they're all dressed up in fancy dress – many with a 'days of the empire' army feel. Think Monty Python meets 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum'. After the procession around the town everyone repairs to the seafront (and the pubs) before the fireworks at around 9.30pm, which are pretty spectacular and the seafront and cliff top vantage points heave with people. Carnival week culminates with the illuminated procession on Saturday August 12th and Ventnor Fringe finishes on Sunday 13th.

Big and Bold

Ryde carnival is the biggest and most flamboyant of all the carnivals with loads of Notting Hill style costumes, mass bands and samba bands, along with the more traditional floats and walking entries. The Children's carnival is on August 30st, the main procession on Thursday 31st August and the illuminated parade is the very last of the season on 2nd September and an amazing spectacle. Carnival experts from London were drafted in to help with the Island's carnivals around the millennium and luckily they set up a permanent home in Ryde. The result is an amazing cavalcade of carnival artistry that has flourished not only in Ryde but bloomed all over the Island.

Alix Robinson

7 July 2017

By Alix Robinson in Articles