HAVE you seen the big news? No, not Brexit, a female Dr Who, the temporary traffic lights or anything trivial like that; I’m talking about The Big News – the changes to Devizes Carnival.

One of the first things that children in Wiltshire learn is that Pewsey Carnival is the pinnacle. It’s the oldest in the country. People from all over gather to celebrate King Alfred’s victory over Guthrum’s Vikings at Ethandun, just months after the Dane’s surprise attack at Chippenham had almost spelt the end of the Saxon hegemony in Wessex. It was a great triumph and a key moment in the creation of our England. But enough of the Ladybird Book of History stuff and back to carnival.

As I say, Pewsey is the one. I played a lot of my cricket (if you could call it that) in the Vale of Pewsey and made a lot of friends out that way; many of them regard Pewsey Carnival as a ‘must do’ event.

Until recently (I presume it’s stopped), Pewsey saw the coronation of the overall Wiltshire Carnival Queen – a girl chosen from the winners of many other Wiltshire carnivals, including Devizes. I don’t know how the exact date for Pewsey is set – presumably it’s something to do with the phases of the moon, the runes or folklore – but Devizes, and others always took their lead from it. In the case of Devizes, the procession was three weeks before Pewsey. Not two, not four; three. Dulce et decorum est, it was an immutable and irrefutable fact.

You might have noticed that the last couple of sentences were written in the past tense. That’s because it’s all change in Devizes. Next year’s carnival is severing that quasi-umbilical bond. The procession will now be on Saturday, July 13, or maybe even Sunday, July 14. The new link appears to be with Devizes Beer Festival, which will be on the preceding Saturday – but perhaps I’m flattering us at Devizes CAMRA a bit there. Let’s hope it doesn’t go head to head against the Saddleback Music Festival which will be at the sports’ club, as per usual. I doubt it will as the organisers are talking to other organisations.

Anyway, there are changes afoot. The International Street Festival which has, to be honest, come to dwarf the procession over the last few years, will still be on August Bank Holiday weekend. The Colour Rush and Confetti Battle will be the new finale on Saturday, August 31. I don’t know what’s happening to other events (including the quiz, which it’s been my pleasure and honour to front lately), but I guess they’re still going on in August.

Now that we have a seven-week carnival season, rather than a ‘Festival Fortnight’ (a term that more than a few dislike), there is scope for more events and opportunity for more people to get involved. You too could become a DOCA Festival maker. Remember, no volunteer, no carnival. And that doesn’t just apply to Devizes.

This news will ruffle quite a few feathers, I suspect. It’s always been at that time of year, many will cry. Many of us will be sad to see this change to an event which marked the end of summer – carnival this Saturday, schools must be going back next week. But schools are one of the main reasons for the change. Like Whitney (well, Michael Masser, actually – and yes, I did have to Google that), I believe the children are our future and this change will give the schools more chance to get involved. Few schools have been involved over that last few years, mainly because they’ve been on holiday. This will give them a sense of pride and we can let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be.

I seldom miss a Devizes Carnival procession but, over that last few years, the number of people lining the streets has been diminishing. Let’s hope this revitalises the Devizes Carnival to keep going for another 100 years.