By Harry Mottram: A few years ago, Axbridge’s Blackberry Carnival would take place without too much interference from officialdom. A police car would take part in the procession, a WPC (Woman Police Constable) would stand in the Square and a few posters would be put up at either end of the town to remind everyone the roads would be closed. The local press would be notified, and the town council would take part in the parade led by the mayor and ‘the chain gang’ of mayors and officials from across the county. The cost to the carnival was minimal – with the final float an open trailer for people to throw in their pennies. Happy days.

On Wednesday 13th March 2024, Axbridge Carnival is hosting a music quiz night to raise funds to simply be able to pay for the road closures after Somerset Council hiked the costs. It now costs £575 to close a road for the carnival – and with at least three roads affected it’s a pretty expensive event to stage. Add to that health and safety, marshals, signage, publicity and hire costs and you can see why the carnival needs to raise cash in advance.

It’s not just Axbridge of course as Somerset has a number of carnivals with even Bridgwater hit by the increased costs – they have had a double hit with the ending of Sedgemoor’s funding for barriers and temporary toilets – giving Bridgwater an added £16,000 to find. Fortunately, Axbridge has the public toilets in Moorland Street but even so the town’s carnival committee run entirely by volunteers needs to raise £5,000 just to stage the popular family event.

And of course it is not only the Carnival that has to pay up – the Axbridge Pageant in 2022 – was hit by massive costs for the road closures and insurance – as the event lasted in effect for a bank holiday weekend. When it is next staged in 2029 the costs will have risen again. Then there are events like Santa in the Square run by the Sports and Social – and one offs like the Jubilee celebration. All will be subject to the costs from Somerset Council – and despite what politicians say – these costs are universal and beyond party politics – even wealthy Bath and North East Somerset is likely to run out of cash next year.

Every council and local authority across the country has been hit by a combination of reduced funding from central government and a rise in social care costs along with increased provision in education and a multitude of expenses from an aging and increasing population. Several have already filed a Section 114 Notice – effectively saying they are bankrupt – such as Birmingham, Hackney, Thurrock, Woking and Northamptonshire – with Somerset Council only staving off the same fate for another year by making cuts and savings of £100 million pounds. I’ve written a piece explain Somerset’s situation at

For those new to the town the Axbridge Blackberry Carnival has been going for generations and coincides with the funfair that is set up in the Square making it one of the most colourful weekends of the year. And unlike most carnivals it is in the afternoon with walking entries popular along with vintage tractors and classic cars with an accent on families and social groups.

The next carnival is on Saturday 21st September 2024 – so mark your diaries. The music quiz is on Wednesday 13th March 2024, in the town hall. Tickets at £5 are available in the Post Office or online at

For a taste of the carnival – if you have never seen it – visit

More info on the Music Quiz:


in Aid of Axbridge Blackberry Carnival

Presented by: Barry Walsh UK

AXBRIDGE: Town Hall (map)
Wednesday 13th March, 2024
Door time: 7:30pm, Start time: 8:00pm
15+ (under 18s must be accompanied by an adult)

Event Information

Calling all music quizzers and pop-masters!
The only quiz where all the music is played live on the piano.
6 themed rounds including topics such as chart hits (50s to current day), Broadway, TV themes, specialist rounds, movie music and much much more. Raising money for Axbridge Blackberry Carnival.
Table snacks included in entry fee. Teams of up to 8 people. Raffle.
WInners Cash prize.