Young and old raise the roof at Bloxwich Baths

Senior citizens from Bloxwich and district tuck in thanks to Bloxwich Carnival (All pix: Stuart Williams)

Senior citizens from across Bloxwich and district joined forces with local youngsters and carnival supporters in an afternoon of food, fun and fine entertainment on Thursday when Bloxwich Carnival hosted them as guests at their annual party at the former Bloxwich Baths.

And some unexpected guests from local schools put the icing on the cake for the more than two hundred “old folks” attending, who tucked in at the invitation of the Carnival Committee via various local groups, organisations and nursing homes in the very civilised Art Deco surroundings of the former 1920s baths on Pinfold, which is now a permanent function hall associated with Bloxwich Leisure Centre.

Carnival Royalty ( L to R, rear) Abigail Nicholls (Bloxwich Carnival Queen 2011), Jessica Jones (Carnival Queen 2010), Lucy Kirk (Carnival Princess 2011) and Phoebe Willetts (Carnival Rosebud 2011) serve members of Leamore & Blakenall Snr Ciitizens Sons of Rest and 50+ Forum groups

The tradition of an “Old Folks Party” associated with the carnival goes back a long way in the village, with the annual spectacular (this year on 6 August) originally raising funds for local hospitals and ex-servicemen of the Great War following the 1919 peace celebrations, together with doing general good deeds and raising funds for the elderly of Bloxwich.
When the carnival – which has had remarkable ups and occasional downs over the decades and finished in 1985 due to lack of support – was revived by the Friends of Bloxwich Parks for the Millennium in 2000, it continued successfully under a new committee and in 2001 the “Old Folks” tea party was revived, at first taking place on the Friday before the Carnival, where invited senior citizens attended a performance by one of Pat Collins’ fairground organs.

Air Cadets of Bloxwich-based 196 (Walsall) Squadron fly up and down the aisles delivering lunches with pinpoint accuracy!

This year’s happy throng were not only very well-served by ‘carnival royalty’ Abigail Nicholls (Bloxwich Carnival Queen 2011), Jessica Jones (Carnival Queen 2010), Lucy Kirk (Carnival Princess 2011) and Phoebe Willetts (Carnival Rosebud 2011) but also by many members of Bloxwich Carnival Committee and other supporters, together with local young people from 196 (Walsall) Squadron Air Cadets, based in Bloxwich.

Carnival Committee member Roy Peace (right), Chairman Terry Bate (centre) and Mrs. Peace hand out scones

The event started off with a prayer from Rev. Kareen Lowther of Holy Ascension Church, Lower Farm.  Then, as well as a fine tea, the guests were treated to a grand singalong by veteran professional musicians and vocalists Antoine Socci (on accordion) and son Antony Socci (on trumpet) of Sapphire Entertainments, who really know how to work a crowd.

Two musical generations in harmony: Antony (left)  and Antoine Socci play up a stormIn addition to the serenading sounds of the Soccis, guests were also entertained by the remarkable talents of two groups from local schools who very kindly stepped in at the last minute after another act let the party down.

The wonderful voices of the talented choir of Abbey JMI School, Mossley, easily filled the massive hall with a great range of songs.  They were followed later by a number of remarkable routines from the graceful young ladies of Walsall Academy Dance Group, plus excellent singer Jack, also from the Academy, who proved particularly popular with female members of the audience!

Members of Abbey School Choir sing their hearts out for the senior citizens of Bloxwich!

Young performers from Walsall Academy dance and sing to the delight of the audience

Little did they know that they were performing on the very stage that legendary acts such as Jerry Lee Lewis rocked on back in the 50s and 60s!

Finally, accompanied by much jollity from both stage and audience, the guests all took part in a free prize raffle organised by the carnival committee, with the winning tickets picked out by one of the Air Cadets.

Raffle organiser Yvonne Westley (left) with prizes & Terry Bate (right) looks on as a young Air Cadet draws the raffle

Master of Ceremonies Terry Bate, Chairman of Bloxwich Carnival Committee, led proceedings and introduced both entertainers and carnival royalty alike to the happy, cheering audience.  And a very special moment was reserved for the most senior of the guests, Mrs Florence Elizabeth Riley of Bloxwich, who will be aged just 102 in August, with birthday wishes announced to all from the stage, and congratulations from Rev Lowther!

Rev Kareen Lowther (right, standing) congratulates ‘Lizzie’ Riley on her forthcoming 102nd birthday

Air Cadets join guests for a final dance on-stage, led by their Commanding Officer Flt Lt Ian Averill RAF VR (T)

Finally,  apart from having the pleasure of witnessing a great celebration of the value of our older residents and their irrepressible spirit and sense of humour, this reporter drew two important lessons from this event, which ought to be better acknowledged in the cynical so-called “big society”, big-media Britain of today.

Firstly, that the age-old British sense of community and charity does still exist – it shines out from all those involved in the organisation and support of very special events like this and Bloxwich Carnival itself.

And secondly, that our often much-maligned “youth of today” deserve to be given far more credit and support than seems to be the case from the rants of politicians and tirades of the gutter press.  Certainly these kids, from the Air Cadets and the schools alike, surely have “the right stuff” and should be given credit for it.  The Bloxidge Tallygraph salutes them all!

For a full album of photos from the party, follow this link to the hi-res set on Flickr.  And to find out about the history of Bloxwich Carnival, see our Bloxwich Carnival page!

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