THE BUTLER CARNIVAL PARK
The Glastonbury Carnival Committee manage and run the Butler Carnival Park which is currently home to six of our local carnival clubs, including some of our smaller walking entries. It also provides us with a dedicated base from which we can work from.
The Carnival Park has been a long-term project of ours – which started back in 1994, when it was apparent clubs were struggling to find new places to build their entries when their existing sites were being sold off for redevelopment. The Carnival Committee worked hard, busy fundraising, planning and building and after seven years the site was ready to be opened by the then Mayor, Cllr. Janice White on August 12th, 2000 and named in honour of Herb Butler – a long term carnival committee member and
The History of the Building site.
In 1994 at meetings with Mendip District Council, it was recognised that the future of local clubs were in jeopardy. Many built on waste land & corners of fields in conditions less than acceptable. It was suggested that the Mendip Committee’s sought to purchase suitable land on which a site could be established for their local clubs to have a permanent home to build their entries. Derek Hooper of MDC threw down the Gauntlet & off the 4 Towns went to seek some suitable ‘Land for sale’ (Glastonbury, Wells, Shepton Mallet & Frome).
MDC said that if sites were purchased then they would assist with planning consents & perhaps some funding to get the ball rolling.
Glastonbury was the only Town to successfully do this. A plot of some 6 Acres was purchased from a local land owner along Common Moor Drove & the dream became reality! MDC approved planning consent for 6 sheds & pledged that there would be no charges in setting it up or for the running of the site by making it 100% exempt from any rates.
In the 1997 Carnival Programme, the Treasurer Mr Herb Butler put in an appeal as follows:
Glastonbury Carnival Committee have decided that the future of Carnival in Glastonbury could be in jeopardy if we do not set up a secure site for 6 – 7 clubs. We estimate that the cost will be in the region of £100k, our aim is to raise £20k to enable us to make a bid to the Lottery for the balance of £80k. So far we have raised £12k and would gratefully welcome any donations from our friends towards the £7.7k to reach our target.
The following year in 1997 the programme reported:
Our provisional estimates of last year were well below what our actual costs & quotes have worked out to be. We did think that we would be exempt from VAT Wrong! Planning has insisted that the walls between the sheds are fireproofed. On doing exploratory drilling we find that the foundations have to be double the depth because of the peaty ground. Currently the costs have now risen to £169k. A decision was made to apply to the Art Lottery Board for £100k and partnership fund the rest. We had raised £12.3k at last Novembers Carnival and we have now to date raised over £64k, which leaves us approx. £5k short. Additional costs were incurred by deciding to make the sheds environmentally acceptable in an olive green colour to blend in. This was also a condition of one of our benefactors, Mr Michael Eavis of Worthy Farm, Pilton. However we are very pleased to have raised £52k in the past year.
The Lottery bid was scheduled for a decision in December of that year, only to fail! The aim to have the site habitable in 1998 would not happen. More appeals were the order of the day & generous donations were received from Local & County Councils, local businesses, generous benefactors, but the longer it took, the more the costs increased.
The first jobs were to create an entrance over the ditches, put down hard standing & plant screening trees. Then Gates at the entrance, supplies of Electricity & water to the site, septic tank for waste water, not counting of course the actual cost of the sheds & their erection.
Avid fund raising continued without assistance from the lottery for the following 3 years & in 2000 on August 12th Her Worship the Mayor of Glastonbury Cllr Janice White officially opened the site. In honour of the tremendous efforts put in by our Treasurer, it was named ‘The Butler Carnival Park’. 4 Sheds were erected with all services connected & the first occupants were Wick & King William CC of Glastonbury & Gorgons/Cobra CC of Wells. All were overwhelmingly pleased with their new homes & hoped that this would in turn attract new members & enable more spectacular entries to be built & entered in to the Carnival processions. At that stage just under £150k had been raised! Large donations had been given by MDC (£23.5k), an anonomous Trust Fund(£13.5k), M. Eavis,(£10k), Glastonbury, Wells & Street Town Councils, (total £25k), Wells Carnival Committee, (£3.75k), Clarks Village (£1k), but the majority raised by our own Committee of just under £50k, much of which came from the ‘200’ club, which Herb Butler ran for several years. The monthly Glastonbury Farmers Market also provided a venue to fund raise with many friends of the Committee together with Committee members baking cakes & donating produce to sell. Also a Carnival Badge was introduced in the early years of fund raising, selling for £1 each over the Carnival period. The first year 20,000 were purchased & 14,000 sold! Many other supports had given sums ranging from £5 to £500, all very gratefully received.
A local juvenile club, Key Kids were desperate for a home & the emphasis for the next stage of development was to provide a home for them, also another Wells club, Mendip Vale were looking for a new home. Again renewed appeals were made for more money and the local clubs were encouraged to help themselves by helping us with their fund raising efforts.
By 2001 fund raising had reached over £171,000 allowing interest free loans of £7,500 to be repaid. The good news was that in October the 5th shed would be erected for Key Kids Junior Club. The Committee recognised the need to support Juvenile clubs, being the Carnival clubs of the future, another local club, Manikins had to fold after a very successful year simply due to a lack of suitable building site. Whilst the sheds have been open since 2000, the idea of building another shed is still ongoing in the background
It was hoped that if the fund raising continued in the same pace that the 6th shed could be a Museum/Demonstration building to allow local people & children to come along to view. It was also hoped that classes could be organised in Carnival Art, Craft, Costume making etc, to try to get people interested in joining the local clubs.
It took until 2005 to complete the 6th shed, fund raising becoming ever more difficult. Unfortunately it was not possible to set up a Museum as planned as this would cost an additional £36,000, due to additional insulation/dry conditions required to prevent condensation & as such damage to costumes, photographs etc. However it was hoped to be able to exhibit some Carnival models & run talks & demonstrations.
But the building will be in full use. There is a need to store the Champions float & collecting floats, trailers etc. The road signs & Barriers are ever increasing in number & need to be stored securely to preserve them. A workshop to maintain these assets is also required & perhaps a meeting room for the Committee.
This all happened & the 6th shed is now fully functional for the Committee.
Since then planning applications were approved for another 4 sheds on the opposite side of the site. The Committee funded this and also put down the hard standing to get the work under way. Unfortunately, Herb Butler retired and sadly passed away during this time & the Committee made a decision that any future sheds on the site would have to be funded by the occupants.
Mendip Vale came up trumps and paid for the erection of a double size shed, which they now occupy.
Today, the sheds are now not exempt from Business Rates and the committee have been fighting this battle for many years, now all the individual clubs receive a rateable bill and have to apply for Business Rate Relief. For some unknown reason, all the sheds are now under the class for Motor Vehicle Workshops. A far cry from the original set up to make sure it was a rate free site.
In March 2017, will see the juvenile Club Key Kids hand over their shed keys as they had to fold their club, due to lack of members. Several clubs have already shown an interest in occupying the shed.
The committee awarded a new lease to The Academy of Carnival. Who then took over Key Kids shed, after some modification moved in 6 months later. Many individual masquerader entries and groups now have a permanent home to create and build their entries. The masquerader entries have access to a shared workshop and tools, each with their own small storage areas.