Storm in a Teacup; Concerns Over DOCA’s Carnival Change….

Images by Gail Foster

 

It’s easy to make a storm in a teacup in this hurtling era of social media: put one slightly erroneous newspaper article into a mug, brew some pretty strong local feelings on the issue, add a poll to a Facebook group as required; best served boiling.

 
Face it, it’s a lot harder to motivate yourself into actually helping out.

 
It’s clear the Front page in this week’s Gazette and Herald has been wrongly perceived as scaremongering, and failed to focus on the relevant points. Perhaps a slow news-week, but the intention to highlight the Devizes Outside Celebratory Arts (DOCA) need for funding has exploded into a social media frenzy over its date change, and employment of its key manager, Loz Samuels.

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If you felt like the article “was more concerned with one job loss than possibly losing an historic carnival,” consider without someone in Loz’s position, there would be no carnival at all. Besides, Loz expressed she only breezed over the fact her contract runs out with reporter, Joanne Moore, it was not supposed to be the key angle of the piece.

 
When a newspaper decides to run an article, it’s their prerogative which images they place, not the subject’s. Loz was as much surprised to see her own face on the front page as you, and is keen to point out, while funding for carnival, and the plethora of other events DOCA arrange is getting harder each year, it’s much the same as any year.

 
Loz herself works tirelessly with a team of volunteers to provide us with these fantastic, and mostly free events in Devizes, for what my tuppence is worth, she needs to be saluted and thanked, rather than dismally criticised for changes the committee as a whole have decided upon, and in their expert judgement, for good reasons.

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I ask Loz if she feels some people simply don’t like change, being the poll revealed a huge majority feel the date for the carnival should remain the same, in September, as opposed to being shifted forward to July. “More sceptical than not liking I think, until they see it, they’re afraid of the change.” She points out that Weymouth carnival has had to be stopped, expressing her concerns about the number of volunteers, and fund-raising needing to raise over half the cost, after the Town Council’s contributions. The Arts Funding Council require twenty-percent of costs secured before paying out, and in struggling times, local businesses and organisations find it hard to sponsor as much.

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I ponder if popular opinion has not considered every tiny element which makes up DOCA events, every factor which needs to be taken into consideration. The Arts Funding doesn’t cover anything non-art, such as road closures and insurance, the availability and commitment volunteers are able to contribute thins, and yes, while Loz has concerns, and with less time now to arrange the carnival procession, she also confirmed she’s feeling far more optimistic than the newspaper article conveys. “In March,” she elucidates, “we should know.”

 

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Loz pointed towards the school’s eminent participation in the Christmas Lantern Parade and its workshops, to highlight the potential of the carnival’s date change. There is hope local schools will be able to organise themselves better, given the procession is within term-time, that the Confetti Battle and Colour Rush, the latter a vital fund-raising event, can be popularised shifted from midweek to a Saturday, but most of all, Loz stressed on the fatigue of the volunteers after a fortnight’s full schedule of activities, by the time the actual carnival arrives “they’re shattered!”

 

I find this very easy to believe, as a punter, I confess I overdo it at the Street Festival and by the following week, when carnival moves through town, I’m like “really? Can I be bothered?!” Given the choice I’d take the Street Festival over the carnival any day, but I think both are as vital as each other. A reply suggesting organising positions should be unpaid infuriated me, considering how much work is necessary to stage such events; could you do that as a hobby, my friend?

 

In fact, go against popular opinion as I may, I fully support the change of date, seeing it as a great decision which although must’ve been tricky to call, will benefit the town as a whole. Many a comment on this Facebook poll incensed me, truth be told; a stab at why DOCA paid for outside bands to play at the festival, when this year, as previous, I’ve felt the bookings have been justified and welcomed; didn’t see anyone complaining when we danced in the Market Place, a place usually reserved for wandering across from the shops to catch the bus.

 

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I did stress to Loz I’d like to see the wealth of local musical talent represented too, though she pointed out timeslots and the need for breaks in performances on the main stage, so that the circus side acts and street theatre could be heard. I offered the idea of a second stage for our local heroes, and Loz remarked it’d be another grand for a PA, and we’re back to stage one with the lack of funding.

 
Giving more clout to the need to support and attend the year’s fund-raising events, such as the impending Devizes Festival of Winter Ales at The Corn Exchange on the 15th and 16th of Feb. With a beer and cider selection curated by local Stealth Brew Co, it does indeed host local musical talent, such as George Wilding who will be playing this year, “and a cabaret too!” Loz enthusiastically added.

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We breezed over successful city carnivals, such as Bath, whose sponsorship from local business are obviously more plentiful, attraction much wider, and solely concentrate on carnival, unlike DOCA who take the Street Festival, Picnic in the Park, The Confetti Battle, Colour Rush, Christmas Lantern Parade, and Winter Ales Festival under their wings; forgive me if I’ve missed one out, but that’s a truckload of things to arrange.

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In an area as affluent as this, Arts Funding will always give with one eyed squinted, it really is up to us support and fund DOCA. So please treat this bulletin as cautionary, consider damage done by taking our major events for granted and do whatever you can to help DOCA. One phone call with Loz, confirmed my already concrete notion that she is thoroughly dedicated to this position, is worthy and capable of the task. Think, while we have other great events in our wonderful town, they usually come with a price tag.

 
You know what? I blame the bad weather, yeah, the stresses over national politics and so on; understandably tetchy in February, but decent summer entertainment is that one time to put cares aside, let your hair down; don’t let austerity take it away.

Devizes Outside Celebratory Arts (DOCA)

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