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Carnival Centenary

by EN

EN Editor Saul Leese pops few travel sickness pills before hitting the rides at Europe’s largest indoor carnival at the SEC.

IRN-BRU Carnival, the biggest event of its kind in Scotland, celebrated its centenary in January. The event, which attracts around 163,000 visitors is organised by QD Events is basically an indoor Winter Wonderland – it is huge, less the rain. You can’t help but get a little bit overexcited when you first walk into the show (like an big-kid). It’s dazzlingly bright with noisy rides whirling and whizzing around. QD Events MD, Greg Cherry, my host for the day printed off scores of tokens and we proceded to battle it out on darts, shooting and Kentucky Derby racing. He said: “I love this show, we get people from every corner of Scotland. Generation after generation plan their day around this event and it really is a major event in the year in Glasgow. It is unlike anything I have done in the past”.

He’s right too. On my way from the airport to SEC, the taxi driver asked me if I was heading to the SEC for the carnival. He explained that everyone in his family were going that evening and it was a special occasion because his grandson was going for the first time.

The Carnival opened in 1919 and was created as an event for the people of Glasgow after the First World War. It was originally held in the Kelvin Hall and during the Second World War the venue was used as a factory for barrage and convoy balloons.  After the war, the Carnival reopened in 1947-48 and was a six-week show including a large circus. The circus, which was always part of the event stopped in 1985 when it moved to the SEC.

Cherry adds: “The IRN-BRU Carnival has become a Glasgow institution and a family tradition over the years. Going into our centenary year, it was important that the Carnival celebrated the people who have kept it open all these years and the memories the funfair has created. 

“For the 100th event we created a special Hall of Memories exhibition, showcasing old Carnival memorabilia, exhibits, photographs and footage which allowed visitors to travel back to the early years and understand the journey of the Carnival from 1919 until now. We also incorporated our visitors’ own Carnival memories and showcased these within the exhibition.” 

This year was the largest IRN-BRU Carnival event ever organised, with more than 65 rides, stalls and attractions, as well as the new Star Flyer outside the main building. 

Cherry explains he is incredibly proud of the event’s history: “It is an incredible achievement to celebrate 100 years of the Carnival. To put it into numbers, the Carnival has lived through 25 prime ministers. It has seen the invention of the jet engine, helicopters, the internet, computers and smartphones, and all the while remained a firm festive tradition. 

Our visitor numbers show how much of an impact the funfair has on the people of Glasgow and we are honoured to have offered the city a place to enjoy the thrill of the Carnival and the inhabitants to spend time with their families over the years. The Carnival has given 100 years of incredible memories to our visitors and we hope people can continue to make even more memories here over the next 100 years.”

Cherry admits that this formula could be replicated anywhere in Britain and is a great way to generate valuable revenue during venue downtime.

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