Whitstable Carnival, August (2022)

On Saturday, August 6th, it was Whitstable’s carnival, a fascinating expression of quirk and eccentricity, combining all the sea-centric elements you might expect from this long-standing tradition with more off-kilter entries.

This year, alongside the papier-mâché effigies and pirates, we were treated to an Elvis impersonator riding a mobility scooter upholstered with cuddly toys, some Oompa Loompas, a gaggle of flower-powered hippies, and a corgi-headed page-boy… The whole town came out to line the streets to wave the procession on in all its eclectic, ad-hoc glory and there was tangible sense of time travel, of witnessing something that has ‘always been’. That said, the carnival itself has been imperilled of late, seeing waning interest and investment in the event, but this year’s procession marked something of a renewal. I certainly enjoyed the strangeness and feral expressiveness, with nothing but admiration for those more performative souls who were out there making it happen for the rest of us.

I wanted to end by sharing this final image, which captures something of that sensation of time travel, for while this photograph was taken at last Saturday’s carnival, it could also have been taken a great many years earlier; the ghost of carnivals long-since passed is flickering here.

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