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.
Chairman of the Herne Bay Carnival, Andy Birkett. Picture: Tony Flashman
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.
“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” – Kathy Walsh
“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.
Left: Princess Emma Hudson, centre Miss Herne Bay, Alice Upton, right, princess Kelly Roy
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.
Do carnival courts present the wrong image of young women?
“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.
Last year’s Herne Bay Carnival Queen was 18-year-old Aurora Summers
“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.
What do you think? Are carnival queens outdated or do they help boost a sense of community?
Have you been a Miss Herne Bay in the past? Share your experiences. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call the newsdesk on 01227 475928.