Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bridport Carnival: Common Sense 1400 - Red Tape and Bureaucracy 0.

Last week I attended the Bridport Carnival and torchlight procession. After all the floats with dinosaurs on and majorettes had paraded past, over 1400 people wound their way down increasingly narrow roads to the beach half an hours walk away. The vast majority of people, whether aged five or eighty five carried foot long ‘torches’ which would have made more than ample flame throwers. In an era where putting on any kind of public attraction requires a hefty tome of insurance policies, health and safety assessments and permits I was amazed that the event had been allowed to happen. The list of authorities (District Council, County Council, Fire brigade, police etc) who could have objected on safety grounds would have as long as a fully lit torch. But even as the streets narrowed and became more crowded common sense prevailed. One stupid ten year old boy did throw his still flaming torch into the hedge, but almost immediately a member of the public went over to extinguish it. Numerous lads had to drop their torch in an amusing hurry after encouraging their light to flame rather too extravagantly, but no damage was done.

Of course the event was well planned and there was an ambulance on hand, but marshals kept a low profile and the success and safety of the event was dependent on the community’s common sense as a whole. People not only took responsibility for their own actions, but also kept an eye on others and were prepared to intervene if necessary. Health and safety rules and regulations are in part a response to the breakdown in communal common sense. If enough people aren’t prepared to take responsibility for those around them then, yes, ‘there will always be one that spoils it for everyone’. The Bridport Carnival showed that it doesn’t have to be like that, but that it’s in everybody’s hands to ensure that risky public events aren’t extinguished under the weight of bureaucracy and red tape.

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