REVIEW ONENARBERTH MAGAZINE: As Narberth gears up for the centrepiece of the community year, a look back at last year, town, gown and the loosely scripted street pantomine with a bicycle made for two thousand..
Editor’s Blog: Dateline Sunday 31 July 2011: If anyone says that the Carnival is over and that the Western World is on the brink of an abyss, then they haven’t seen the Parade at the end of Civic Week in Narberth.
No Chapel bells now at Bethesda, but this morning when they offer prayers for the World, as well as bleak thoughts that America’s debt crisis might topple us all into financial oblivion, there will also be a Song of Praise for a little town in Pembrokeshire that brings a ray of sunshine through the clouds at this point in the calendar. What were the highlights of Civic Week? Look at the Sun as it plays on the faces of all the people who took part. See how it makes them smile and fills us all with a warm glow in these such troubled times. Answer. All of it.
We began by shooting the rapids with Wet N Wild. The shrieks of delight from the children ran out along well trodden tracks. Action shots to frame for the mantelpiece delivered up into the new, all singing all dancing, Civic Week website within hours.
Into the week with 101 events. An array of local favourites, new additions. If you want to get ahead as a Civic Week Committee in Narberth get a Hat Thursday. Quiz night, fun nights in the pub, tea dances, and new for Narberth a psychic medium and helicopter rides. Two tickets to the heavens. They missed a trick. Next year a family booking for both.
It is an eclectic mix, and such a celebration.
And that is all before the main event. Civic Week Saturday and the Carnival Parade.
If anyone says that the Carnival is over and that the Western World is on the brink of an abyss, then they haven’t seen the Parade at the end of Civic Week in Narberth. Stalls with creative produce strewn along the High Street now Google nominated as ‘one of the top twenty in the UK’. The tables laid are just for starters.
At 11:30am, there is a Hullabaloo and the Narberth Youth Theatre makes its entrance. Twenty plus young somethings with something to say, and a series of first sketches that could have played to houses in Edinburgh. Port Talbot has Michel Sheen and the Passion Play. Downtown Narberth now has the players of the Narberth Youth Theatre.
This is not the Cambridge Footlights and Beyond the Fringe in 1960. These young people are the graduates of the chalkboard of the International Youth Centre, the bus stop by the old primary school. It is a different kind of education and a different kind of satrical take on the modern world. In the New Age of Austerity, it’s the School of Hard Knocks meets the School of Rock.
Look closely and somewhere in their midst you might just have seen a young Alan Bennett, Peter Cook or Jonathan Miller. It was fresh with wit and invention. It was pavement politics that started with the Contented Sole as a backdrop and a sketch about suicide. From the side, a young performer with binoculars, kept shouting jump, and we did.
King Lear meets South Park. Act One Scene One. A first folio edition that kept us entertained for an hour and 10 minutes. Some seriously stunning takes on the Bard permeated the whole proceedings and by all accounts that was a taster. The young woman who performed the Hamlet Soliloquy should be booked for BBC4.
New productions are in the Milford Haven pipeline. My guess is that we are going to be seeing much more after the intermission. The 21 sketches were brimful of pasha. How cool would it be if Narberth could become a centre of vernacular excellence for Youth Theatre in Wales? It just did.
And then on to the Parade itself. As the samba drums banged and the Harry Potter float came into view, we knew that we were in for the ride of our lives. Streams of wit, a lovely spectacular and the heart strings pulled as the double buggies appeared, as they always do, with the kids in full pantomine regalia. And of course we had a girl dressed immaculately in her riding gear with a suitably dressed bicycle for a horse. Brilliantly done.
And it is the suitably dressed bicycle for a horse that gives the game away. This is the secret to the success of the Carnival and to Civic Week. It is written down the wind.
Pride of place in the history books at Narberth Museum is a set of images from the Carnival in 1908. Look carefully and you will see the suitably dressed bicycle for a horse. That’s the secret. The very special part Welsh, part English, pure South Pembrokeshire mix of a glue that holds the community together is stuck fast through the pages of history. The ties that bind bring joy.
It is the chapel going spirit, part pantomine, with a twist of Rebecca rioting in the News of the World headlines, and most definitely a procession.
There’s a hundred years of history plus in the High Street Week. That’s why it works. It’s a tradition that the town can trace back to the granting of its charter in 1688. It’s called Civic Pride and it’s what we saw on Saturday.
And the credits now please, while the applause is still ringing in our ears. Possibly the best presentation of Civic Week for many years. A roll call…. first and foremost, our Lady Mayor, Elizabeth Rogers. tremendous work, tremendous pressure, she and her Civic Week team delivered the goods, period.
The Natherth and Whitland Round Table. Forget the typos, no-one noticed. The best Civic Week Programme we could possibly have ever wanted.
The Narberth Winter Carnival Committee, great wit to the organisation as always and hitting the heights of precision engineering with clipboards and stop watches at the ready, and a Pram Push done to Model T Ford perfection.
And of course there really was the guy down near the chip shop who thinks he is Elvis and the Basket Case whose rippling stomach fed the 5,000 with the kind of infectious laughter that they can dine out on for another month of Sundays. Golden Globes to both of them.
That and a brand new Youth Theatre Troop for Wales, steered by Meredydd Barker, Cherylee Barker, Declan Connolly and the team at Spanarts. Credits to the town. Credits to all the visitors.
In these dark times there is a message. What shines a light is the people of Narberth. A small group of thirtysomethings standing underneath the limelight outside the Spar delivered their verdict. Out of towners, you could tell by their jumpers. One said to the other ‘this is a very small place you know’, ‘yes’ said his friend ‘and isn’t it just superb what they put on?’ Yes it is superb, and they will do it all again next year.
This is Narberth and That Was The Week That Was. The wit, the new Establishment Club, rioting Rebecca, the Civic Pride and the suitably dressed bicycle for a horse. The people of Narbeth should feel today immensely proud of their achievement. This Borough is a Beacon of Hope.
There is a name to be coined for the success behind the show, and since the money of this country comes from the Welsh Mint, we might as well coin it now.
Narberth Civic Week. It is in the footfall of the Preseli Hills and it is called pure gold.