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Chairman denies accusations that court selection is outdated

The chairman of Herne Bay carnival has rubbished claims that the selection of a queen and princesses presents the wrong image of success to girls. Andy Birkett is starting his 26th year organising the summer event, where local businesses and community groups parade along the seafront. But this year’s selection of a new Miss Herne Bay and a carnival court sparked a row on Twitter, with critics stating it sends the wrong message to girls about how to be successful. Kathy Walsh challenged the existence of a Miss Herne Bay. She tweeted:

“Something for every young girl to aspire to, sitting on milkfloat in nylon dress and makeup, waving to drunk people. I want young daughters to aim for more than to be judged on looks as teens. Looks and figure are unimportant. Brains, ambition and personality are a must. Pageant queens in 2015, really? I love the carnival but not this.”

But the competition was defended by former journalist Liz Crudgington, who was one of the judges at the contest on Saturday. She said:

“I can say the overriding memory is not drunk people, but smiling people and a great sense of community.”

Carol King also defended the carnival queens. She said the contest is not about looks, and last year’s court dressed up as zombies which was very much against just looking attractive. Kathy Walsh said a better idea would be for town ambassadors for young men and young women to take part. She added:

“I don’t have a problem with brilliant dynamic young people, just seems dated to dress them up like toilet dollies. This isn’t about Herne Bay, a fine town. It’s a generic debate about how we talk to our daughters and sons.”

But chairman Mr Birkett has disputed Ms Walsh’s claims, stating it is not a beauty pageant, and that girls are asked tough questions about their personalities and ambitions in life. He said:

“Many girls will find lots of other things they want to do to entertain themselves. But for some girls they think ‘this is for me’ and they find out it’s good for their confidence and their CV. It is a year of their life and it is certainly not just a pearly parade and beauty pageant of any sort. They work hard through the year. The girls in the carnival court are treated as individual people, where not looking to knock the individual out of them at all. The carnival here has been around since 1898 and it’s not going anywhere. But why would we want to stop it now? It might not be as big as when we were little, but when you look at carnival events in other towns you see how big our one still is. When the event happens there is no better feeling in the town. There isn’t another town in the county which gets that, with a great sense of community spirit.”

The carnival this year is set to take place on Saturday, August 8 on the seafront.

NEW CARNIVAL COURT

Herne Bay has greeted its new carnival queens and princesses at a ceremony at the Kings Hall. Soon to be 18-year-old Alice Upton was crowned as the queen and will now have the title of being Miss Herne Bay 2015. She is currently a student working to become a veterinary nurse. Carnival chairman Andy Birkett said:

“There was no guarantee that she would win, even though she has been a princess for the last two years. It was great to see the delight in her face when she found out that not only was she in the court, but that she had won. I think she will do a fantastic job.”

Alice replaces Aurora Summers, carnival queen in 2014, and will be joined by 15-year-old Herne Bay High School pupil Emma Hudson and 16-year-old Chatham House Grammar School pupil Kelly Roy.

Herne Bay Gazette, April 9th 2015

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