Swanage Carnival’s charity gifts go down a storm

Swanage Carnival committee brought sunshine to 20 local charities by handing out more than £27,000 – despite the rain which threatened to dampen some of the activities over the town’s week long summer festival.

Even as wave after wave of heavy showers and strong winds swept over Swanage through the end of July and early August 2023, supporters of the carnival kept spirits high and raised an impressive £27,650 to give away to charity and good causes.


Carnival chair Darren Strong received a badge for his 25 years of service to Swanage Carnival

“A week of madcap antics”

Despite some days of appalling weather and the cost of living crisis, volunteers still collected a near record, and at the annual presentation evening in The Mowlem on Friday 6th October 2023, chair of the carnival committee Darren Strong said:

“What a week it was! As 2023 marked the Year of the Coast, our theme was Under The Sea, and the weather did bring us a bit of a challenge – sometimes it really did feel like we were under the sea.

“We did not expect the week to be the success it was when it came to the wind and the rain, but only four events were cancelled out of 108 planned, and that was a fantastic effort by all of our volunteers and says so much about the wonderful people of Swanage.

“It was a week of madcap antics, fun and frolics, it was wonderful to see everyone enjoying themselves laughing, singing and dancing – that’s why we do it year after year.

“Without the committee and all our sponsors and supporters, we would not be here this evening to give away the grand total of £27,650 to some amazing local charities.”

A video of carnival highlights got everyone in the mood for an evening of fun

Event highlights replayed on video

Darren praised the redesigned carnival programme which was very well received, as well as the new carnival app which was a fantastic tool for the carnival committee to inform people about what was happening in real time – and also prompting them to donate!

A video of carnival highlights was played to the crowd at The Mowlem, including the traditional fire engine pull which was reintroduced for 2023, drawing a huge crowd and proving that the simplest events can sometimes be the best.

Elsewhere, the marquee was packed every night with a great musical line up and other highlights included the shore runners competition, gig running, the bay swim and the wheelbarrow event which had 86 teams take part.

Every year, Swanage Carnival recognises members who have given 25 consecutive years of service to the event, and in 2023 Darren Strong himself reached that milestone and was presented with his 25-year badge for service.


Praise from the heart for all carnival volunteers past and present, delivered by Swanage Mayor Tina Foster

Tribute to past chair Sylvia Haine

The evening also paid tribute to past chair and honorary life member Sylvia Haine, who passed away in May 2023.

Darren Strong said:

“It was her vision and taste for fun, as well as the steps she took to encourage youngsters to join the committee that formed the foundations of our carnival.

“Sylvia was chair of Swanage Carnival from 1979 to 1985, but she was instrumental in shaping carnival into the event it is today and her legacy lives on.

“She really did take carnival forward in so many ways with her great vision and obvious love of our town.”

An interval game of stand up bingo got the whole audience on its feet

Raffle raised funds for Emily

Swanage Town mayor Tina Foster joined carnival president Brian Norman and other senior officials on stage to congratulate representatives of the chosen charities – although the traditional cheques have now been replaced by bank transfers!

A traditional game of stand-up bingo kept the audience on their toes, and a raffle and a collection on the night raised extra funds for Swanage teenager Emily McDonald, whose family is trying to raise £70,000 for an operation in America to conquer her debilitating pain syndrome.

Retiring Carnival President Brian Norman was presented with a montage of memories from his time in charge

Lasting memorials for bereaved children

The final award of the evening usually goes to the chair’s chosen charity, but as Brian Norman was retiring from his position as carnival president, after 34 years as a volunteer, the last donations were given to two causes close to his heart.

Dementia Friendly Purbeck received £1,000 to support its work in the community, and £3,000 was given to Memory Box, a little known charity which creates lasting memorials for children whose mum, dad, brother or sister dies at Poole Hospital’s critical care unit.

The heart warming keepsake supports bereaved children, by giving them a chance to collect handprints, locks of hair, perfume or aftershave and other personal items in the last hours they have with their loved ones.

Each box is unique according to each child’s need and includes story books on bereavement and a pair of matching teddies – one of which stays with the child while the other remains with the person that has passed away to create an everlasting bond.

Jannine Golding pictured with a memory box similar to those given to bereaved children

Items to evoke happy memories

Jannine Golding, who attended the carnival presentation evening, said:

“Memory boxes are an extension of the care that we give and can be a positive moment in what is a devastating time for children.

“We fill the boxes with items intended to evoke happy memories and children are also encouraged to add in objects of their own, such as perfume, jewellery, photos and letters.”

Brian Norman was then given a rousing sendoff along with a photo montage of his most memorable moments with the carnival, as all volunteers got on stage for a rousing chorus of Sweet Caroline.

Receipients of cheques from Swanage Carnival 2023

All the organisations receiving cheques from Swanage Carnival took over the stage at The Mowlem

Who got what from Swanage Carnival

  • Coastguard / Fire and Rescue / Lifeboat donation: £650
  • Going for Bust: £500
  • The Lexi May Trust: £500
  • Tyler’s Friends: £500
  • Careline: £750
  • Mount Scar Cygnets: £750
  • Allsort’d: £1,000
  • Swanage Cricket Club: £1,500
  • Swanage and Herston Football Club: £1,500
  • Herston Village Hall: £1,500
  • Swanage Army Link: £1,500
  • The Friends of MS Purbeck: £1,500
  • Girl Guiding Swanage: £2,000
  • Swanage and Wareham Rugby Club: £2,000
  • Swanage Community Defibrillator Partnership: £2,000
  • Swanage Disabled Club: £2,000
  • Swanage Linking Lives: £2,000

Annual charities

  • Swanage Stroke Club: £500
  • Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance: £1,000

President’s charities

  • Swanage Area Dementia Friendly Community: £1,000
  • Memory Box Project in Poole Hospital Critical Care Unit: £3,000

The assembled volunteers of Swanage Carnival Club delivered a rousing rendition of Sweet Caroline

“Look forward to seeing you again in 2024”

Darren Strong finished the presentation evening by telling the audience:

“We hope the money raised will help every charity and that it is enjoyed every bit as much as we enjoyed rising it for you.

“Carnival is impossible without the support of all our amazing sponsors, supporters, volunteers, charities and of course, the local community who make the event the huge success that it is.

“On behalf of the whole committee, thank you to everyone, and we look forward to seeing you all again in 2024!”

Ian Brown collected donations for the Swanage Coastguard services and also Swanage Lifeboat Station

Carly Hopkin from the Lexi May trust receives chaeque from Swanage Carnival 2023
Claire Richards

Carly Hopkin received £500 for the Lexi May Trust which supports families who have children with a terminal or life threatening illness


Dani Elm collected £500 from Swanage Mayor Tina Foster on behalf of Tyler’s Friends, which helps bereaved parents have a fitting funeral for their precious child

Val Hodge receives cheque for Careline from Swanage Carnival 2023
Claire Richards

Val Hodge received £750 for Careline, which supports vulnerable people living at home

Carrie Gelder told the audience how £750 would help provide vital learning skills for pre school children at Mount Scar Cygnets

Paula Kirk and ambassadors for Allsort’d collected £1,000 to help support adults with learning difficulties and autism

Collecting £1,500 to support youth cricket in Swanage was chair of Swanage Cricket Club Craig Wells
Claire Richards

Collecting £1,500 to support youth cricket in Swanage was chair of Swanage Cricket Club Craig Wells

Barry Audley and Tina Foster at Swanage carnival presentation 2023
Claire Richards

Barry Audley of Swanage Town and Herston Football Club will put £1,500 into building youth teams at the club

Kim Gallagher told the audience how a £1,500 gift from the carnival will help to replace Herston Village Hall as it comes to the end of its life

Swanage Army Link works tirelessly to keep the verges of Purbeck free of litter all year round and Pete Duncalf collected a £1,500 donation to support its work

Nikki Holland collected £1,500 for the Friends of MS Purbeck which supports local families living with Multiple Sclerosis

Collecting £2,000 on behalf of Girl Guiding Swanage, Val Burden told how the group creates a safe and fun environment for girls to discover their passions and talent


Ian Brown told how Swanage Community Defibrillator Partnership had set out to bring four of the life saving machines to Purbeck – there are 42 and £2,000 will help support the network


Daphne Saville was presented with £2,000 for Swanage Disabled Club to keep its two mini buses on the road

Claire Richards

Helen McDavid and Linda Hernandez received £2,000 to support Swanage Linking Lives, a charity with provides friendship and advice for lonely and vulnerable people


Margaret Pratt and Pauline Dorland were presented with £500 for the annual supported charity Swanage Stroke Club which helps and supports stroke survivors in the community

Linda Hernandez from Dorset and Somerset air ambulance collects cheque from Swanage Carnival
Claire Richards

Linda Hernandez represented the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance charity, collecting £1,000 towards its running costs

Mike Bonfield and ambassadors for Dementia Friendly Swanage were presented with £1,000 as one of the President’s charities to continue its outstanding work


Swanage Carnival President Brian Norman presented Jannine Golding of the Memory Box project with £3,000 for its work with bereaved families at Poole Hospital’s critical care unit

Further information

  • Stay up to date with all announcements for the 2024 event on Swanage Carnival’s website

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