Jurassic Penparcau

08 September 2016

Karina Shaw discusses the role of a carnival in building community cohesiveness.

Meet Dave. Yes, Dave is a dinosaur. More importantly, he’s our dinosaur. The result of months of perseverance, effort and hard work from the fantastic community that I live in. How did Dave become a member of our community? Let me take you back to 2015, when it all started…

Dave the Dinosaur.

I am part of the Penparcau Community Forum History and Heritage group. Last year, we took part in our first Aberystwyth Carnival. This was an opportunity to celebrate the history and heritage of our village. We wanted to highlight the positive aspects of where we live, which is sometimes overshadowed by the history of other areas.  We soon decided our 2015 float would be called ‘Penparcau through the Ages’. After months of planning, we were ready to construct the float. We started by building a replica Southgate Tollhouse which used to be prominently situated in the village, but was removed and is now housed in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. We then built the Wellington Monument that sits on top of Pendinas - an Iron Age Fort, located in the heart of the village. Finally, we recreated a small scale street party - our village was well known for holding the most amazing street parties.

We unanimously agreed that the carnival had been a great experience. It was great fun and to win the ‘Best Overall Float’ was an added bonus. But it was more than a bit of fun. It connected people and allowed them to share skills and ideas while enjoying themselves. And the wider community also enjoyed and appreciated our efforts. The feedback from spectators was fantastic. We felt we had done our job - putting the history and heritage of Penparcau back on the map where it belonged. There was a real buzz around the village whenever the carnival float was mentioned. We all agreed that we would definitely be entering a Penparcau Forum History and Heritage Group float in 2016.

A visit to Bath in October 2015 gave us the idea for the next float theme. One activity on the itinerary was a trip to Longleat where there was an exhibition called ‘Dinosaurs Alive’. Walking through the huge dinosaur structures was just the catalyst we needed. Soon, the Jurassic Pen–PARC-au float was underway.

The first job was to design all of the dinosaur masks. We recruited new and old volunteers and the mask making workshops soon became weekly social events. We soon realised that not everyone who wanted to help could join us in the Community Centre so we arranged for materials to be delivered to people in their homes.

‘Penparcau through the Ages’ showed us that, with teamwork, we could challenge ourselves and nothing seemed impossible. When a huge dinosaur was suggested as the centre piece, nobody batted an eyelid.

Dave was 11ft long, 4ft wide and 7ft tall. We got some funny looks when we were moving him – in fairness, it’s not every day you see an 11ft dinosaur crossing the road!

A dinosaur crosses the road.

A few days before the event, we put out a shout out for volunteers to help us set up the float on the morning of the carnival. We were not disappointed by the response! We recruited gluers, stickers, painters, drillers and expert tea makers!

Dave roared around Aberystwyth. People stood amazed as his jaw moved up and down. Spectators even gave us a standing ovation as we passed! People were shouting ‘Amazing!’ and ‘Well done Penparcau!’ Everyone on the float wore their masks with pride.

Did we win, you might ask? Yes we did. We were awarded the ‘Best Overall Float’ in Aberystwyth Carnival for the second year in a row. Winning was lovely, but working together on the float has provided something far more important than any prize. It has helped to build stronger relationships in our community. It has given people a network to lean on in tough times and a group to share ideas and skills with. For some, it has been a great source of therapy. For others, it has been a chance to reconnect with their community and feel part of something special. It has made people proud of where they come from and all they have achieved. It was also a boost to people’s self-esteem, hearing all the positive comments and those drop jaw moments when Dave came around the corner, which wouldn’t have happened without their hard work.

So what does next year hold? Well, people have already come forward volunteering to help so we will be working together again, side by side. People ask me, “What will the theme be for 2017?”

All I can say is, we already have some ideas... See you soon, Aberystwyth Carnival 2017.

Karina Shaw

Director and Trustee, Penparcau Community Forum


Penparcau Community Forum is funded by People’s Health Trust through ‘Local Conversations’, a neighbourhood-led programme which supports local people to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and which gives them access to money to make it a reality.

The Penparcau Community Forum History Group is one part of this umbrella project. You can connect with Penparcau Community Forum on Facebook here.

You have already completed an application for funding, are you sure you would like to submit another application? You should only submit another application if it is for a different project. If you want to amend an application that has already been submitted, please call us on 020 7749 9100.

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