Organisers of Sunderland Carnival ‘85 promised it would be the “biggest and brightest yet” – and more than 100,000 visitors agreed.
The three-day event at Seaburn Showfield featured jazz bands, baby contests, races, fancy dress, puppet shows and a cabaret by comedian Lennie Bennett.
Death-defying feats from the Man with the Bionic Eyes, a treasure hunt and Sunderland’s first Rock ‘n’ Roll pop festival also brought in the crowds.
“Although the weather wasn’t exactly kind, tens of thousands of Wearsiders had a great time at the carnival,” said Echo photographic archivist Susan Swinney.
“The Bonny Baby contest was hotly contested, as was the half-marathon and Miss Carnival Queen competition. These photos reveal a lot of fun was had by all.”
The roots of Sunderland Carnival date to Victorian times, when tug-of-war contests, sports contests, fairs and community events were held on the Town Moor.
Sunderland Carnival ‘85 promised fun for all the family, and delivered it in style. I hope these photos bring back many happy memories.Susan Swinney, photographic archivist for the Echo.
The year 1892 even saw theatre owners launch special nights in aid of Sunderland Charity Carnival – a tradition which raised £2,500 in just over ten years.
“Among those to host charity nights was King’s Theatre in 1913. The show boasted “all the stars of the north” and must have been an amazing event,” said Susan.
The carnival was abandoned, however, during the dark days of World War One – but re-emerged in 1923 as Sunderland Carnival and Roker Regatta.
This time the action switched from the Town Moor to Roker, with yacht racing, bowls, tug-of-war contests, jazz bands and motor boats among the attractions.
“The combined carnival and regatta proved hugely popular, raising £5,000 for charity between 1923 and 1933. It was a social highlight of the year,” said Susan.
Yet again, however, war put a dampener on Wearside’s carnival fun, but the event was resurrected once more in 1977 – much to the delight of residents.
And, by 1985, the carnival had reached its “biggest and brightest” level yet – with stars such as Joe Loss, Big Daddy and The Platters among the big draws.
“Sunderland Carnival ‘85 promised fun for all the family, and delivered it in style. I hope these photos bring back many happy memories.” said Susan.
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