Gunnislake Carnival

Archive: South West Film & Television Archive
ID No.: AD1720
Title: Gunnislake Carnival
Date: 11 August 1939
Film-maker: Mr Nicholls
Colour: Colour
Sound: Silent
Duration of complete item: 3 min. 40 sec.
Themes: Pre-War Build-Up; Community Life


Rare colour footage of Gunnislake Carnival in East Cornwall, held just a month before war was declared in September 1939.


The film clip used here shows the carnival poster which reads 'Gunnislake Institute and Public Hall, Grand Carnival, Friday Aug.11 1939' and states that the day's events will include a Baby Show.

The film then shows children in fancy dress standing in a group for the camera. The children then walk along the street, some accompanied by their parents, some carrying union flags. A woman tidies the hair of a toddler who stands on a platform holding a small silver trophy (perhaps as winner of the Baby Show?). Behind him is a sign concerning the 'Election of Carnival Queen'. A man in a flat cap leans against a wall and is then seen wielding a broom outside an entrance. Two men in costumes with white top hats and red jackets are then seen standing outside the entrance. The Carnival Queen is then presented with a bouquet and the crown is placed on her head.


This film was acquired by SWFTA from a resident of Gunnislake, along with a number of other films of Gunnislake and the surrounding area. It is thought that a well-known amateur filmmaker –Mr Nicholls of Plymouth – shot the film although there is a possibility that it was shot by another well-known amateur filmmaker – Mr Endicott of Plymouth. SWFTA also holds both the Nicholls and Endicott collection.

Carnivals and fetes played a large part in the pre-Second World War community life of the South West. This particular example was chosen because of its proximity to the start of the war. In some cases villages and towns did not reinstate their local Carnival after the war, however, Gunnislake is an example of the many communities that chose to reinstate their local Carnival. Examination of the complete item shows no reference to concerns about the larger political picture, although SWFTA does hold other recordings of carnival celebrations that show an awareness of the larger political picture, for instance, caricatures of Hitler and Mussolini on Carnival floats.

Gunnislake Carnival (August 1939)

Gunnislake Carnival (August 1939)

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