Chichester Gala Day set to be revived for Queen’s jubilee

chichester gala day
chichester gala day

Order the cornflowers! Chichester’s annual Gala Day, started more than half a century ago, looks set to be revived next year to celebrate the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

The event was founded in 1955 by the late Leslie Evershed-Martin, and was a highly-popular attraction in the city for many years.

The Queen herself was a visitor to Chichester shortly after the 1956 Gala Day, accompanied by Prince Philip.

She inspected a military guard of honour in Priory Park, and the main streets were decorated for the occasion, when thousands of people turned out to see her.

Now city councillors are about to start planning a Gala Day revival for next year’s nationwide diamond jubilee celebrations.

Other appearances by the Queen in Chichester included one in 1986, to distribute Maundy Money.

In 1977, in her silver jubilee year, she became Colonel-in-Chief of the Corps of the Royal Military Police, and in this capacity paid several visits to the city’s Roussillon Barracks, when it was the home of the RMP training centre.

The city council’s community affairs committee agreed on Monday night to pencil in the date of Saturday, June 2, 2012, for the big day.

It backed a proposal by chairman Cllr David Siggs that a working group should be formed which would include both city councillors and representatives of local organisations, to take the gala plans forward.

“The idea will be to produce a memorable day for everyone in the city,” he said.

Town clerk Rodney Duggua said officers would produce indicative costings for members to consider.

“But it doesn’t necessarily have to be the council that puts its hand in its pocket,” he told the committee.

“We would want to strike deals with commercial and other sectors, to seek sponsorship for events.”

Mr Evershed-Martin, who also founded Chichester Festival Theatre, once said the idea of the gala was to brighten up the city and give people something to look forward to.

Its traditional emblem was the cornflower and thousands of these were sold over the years in aid of charity. A gala queen, accompanied by attendants, presided over the event.

But it was eventually scrapped, partly because of problems over finding enough volunteers to undertake the organisation, although there have been occasional revivals in more recent years.

The night before the Queen’s 1956 visit, a severe gale blew down many of the decorations around the city.

Some Cicestrians recall being taken round the streets, as children, to look at the damage.

The biggest Gala Day attraction in its heyday was a parade of carnival floats through the city centre, and there were also arena events in Priory Park.

At one time the most exciting part of the day for young boys was a soap-box derby around the grounds of County Hall.