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What's In A Photo: Carnival Queen

Philip Yaxley Published: 26 May 2022

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Carnival Queen

A strong committee had been formed to mastermind Wymondham’s Coronation celebrations in June 1953 and members are pictured here with Janet Crane of Ashwellthorpe, the Carnival Queen, and her attendants Christine Walker of Bracon Ash, left, and Doris Bell of Wymondham.

The chairman of the committee was Mr. W.A.Ogden, 5th from left in the middle row behind Doris Bell, and behind him on the back row popular Doctor G.C.Gaynor, the vice-chairman. The committee’s secretary was legendary town clerk Tom Turner, second from left in the middle row. The lady in the middle row is Miss D.M.Clarke, who later became Margaret Reeve, headmistress of Wymondham Secondary Modern School, now Wymondham High Academy, in front of which the picture was taken.

Queen in a limousine

The Carnival Queen and her attendants were chosen from fifteen girls, who paraded before the judges and an enthusiastic audience on the stage of the Regal Cinema, now the Regal Lounge of the Wymondham and District Ex-Services’ Social Club. It was stressed that the competition was not confined strictly to a beauty contest, but deportment would be taken into account. Another rule stated: “The judges will however pay regard to the volume of applause from the audience should qualifications and conditions in all other respects appear equal between two or more contestants”.

On the Wednesday (3rd June 1953) of the week’s celebrations the Carnival Queen and her attendants, driven in a limousine, together with the Drayton British Legion Band led the Carnival and Fancy Dress Parade round the town. There were 88 entries in 12 classes in the Fancy Dress, including decorated cycles, horse-drawn vehicles and even lorries with the Carnival Queen, accompanied by her attendants, presenting the winners with their prizes.

Queen walking

On the Saturday (6th June) the Carnival Queen was called upon to present prizes at the Eighth Annual Sports and Cycle Racing meeting on the King’s Head Meadow. In a speech at the sports she thanked the town for the honour it had bestowed on her and said it was an occasion she would remember all her life. Other prize presentations at which she did the honours were at an Over 60s bowls tournament at St. Peter’s, Norwich Road, and, following a cricket match between Wymondham Minors F.C. and an Ayton Asphalt XI, she handed the Minors championship medals they had won during the football season.

The Carnival Queen and her attendants visited street parties, including one for the Pople Street area and one at Preston Avenue. When they looked in at a tea and concert for 250 old folk at the Women’s Institute Hall on Norwich Road Janet Crane with ballet dancing and Christine Walker with a violin solo added to the entertainment. Janet had passed her professional ballet examination and was to put her talent to good use shortly after the Coronation. Two chorus girls had to pull out of a show, perhaps appropriately called “Don’t Be Shy Girls”, at the Norwich Hippodrome, which was sadly demolished for the St Giles car park, and Janet was one of the replacements for the remainder of the show’s tour.

In January the following year she was dancing with the then well-known Sherman Fisher Girls in pantomime at Eastbourne Hippodrome. In about six months she had gone from the contest on the stage of the Wymondham Regal to entertaining on the stage of theatres – but did she continue to pursue this dancing career?

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