The Lost Carnival, Crewe

May bank holiday weekend is one of the best of the year. Firstly, it’s my birthday. Secondly, there’s always good stuff going on. Last year we went to Geronimo festival. And this year the super team at Wild Rumpus invited us along to the second ever Lost Carnival*, which this year was in Crewe.

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Even before you get to the carnival, there are stories, podcasts and videos on their website to get you into the story of two rival carnival troupes, descending on Crewe to fight for survival — but is all as it seems? There was even a Charleston-style dance routine to learn, if you so wished.

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We rocked up at 5pm, still enjoying the remnants of a glorious sunny spring day. From the start, the vibe was quirky, Victorian, a little creepy. We were surprised by people’s commitment to dressing up, adults and kids. Crewe’s steampunk scene is thriving!

Before we got there we were worried that the whole thing would be too creepy for the kids, but it was just right. We chose to side with the bright, energetic Ingenue carnival, rather than the mysterious Birds — though two of us had defected by the end of the evening.

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The grounds were lovely and green, and nicely enclosed by trees. The whole thing was split into Ingenue and Bird sides. There were two craft big tops, little circus tents housing, among other things, a levitating wonder, a tattooed lady, and a temporary tattoo parlour.

Every hour we were beckoned to the main stage for a showdown between representatives of the two troupes. 5pm saw a standoff between two jugglers, which incorporated a hair-raising ‘walk of death’ with daggers. 6pm was an acrobatic clash. 7pm was time for the dance off, and 8pm a contest between the Ingenues’ Clare V’oyant (get it?) and the Birds’ magician, Max Mager.

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The Bookworm getting a dance lesson from two Ingenues and a Bird.

In between there were periodic performances all over the grounds. My favourite was Max Calaf Seve, from Spain, whose trampoline act was theatrical, physically impressive and genuinely funny.

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Max Calaf Seve losing his trousers…

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…and finding them again.

Sarah and the kids loved Pif-Paf, an acrobatic trio making exceptional use of a rotating 15-foot rotating metal wheel.

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Both of the children were transfixed for the whole half hour (which is no small thing for a six- and two-year-old). The Bookworm has been trying out her own acrobatic routine ever since, including some hair-raising stunts on a climbing frame.

We all loved Voodoo Love Orchestra, who roamed the whole site performing joyous latin-inspired brass music, before playing a set from the stage. The Chap got a shout out for his truly individual dance moves.

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As well as being mega-talented, all of the performers — each commissioned individually by Wild Rumpus — did a great job of staying in role throughout the evening, making the magic and rivalry all the more real for the kids.

In her review, the wonderful Geekmummy wrote about how safe, comfortable and relaxed the whole event felt, and she’s spot on. It was a really chilled evening. Sitting in the evening sun, watching our kids snuggle up and enjoy Pif-Paf, bellies full of pizza, chips and brisket — it was a beautiful thing.

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Can’t wait to see what they do next year.

And you can catch Wild Rumpus at Macclesfield’s Barnaby Festival this June (17th–26th) and the Just So Festival at Rode Hall (19th–21st August).

* we got free tickets — all views are our own, natch.

What did you get up to on your bank holiday weekend? Did anyone else head to The Lost Carnival? Let us know in the comments.

Adam

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