Here’s something you don’t normally see in local parades nowadays. Floats! Pictured in 1981 are several floats for the gala that year. Current health and safety rules mean a whole new level of safety needs to be considered before floats are permitted (an end to dangling legs over large wheels!)
The decline of floats in Blantyre parades was foreseen even in the 1960s. In 1967, Mr George Greenhorn, President of the Blantyre YMCA Committee that year took several complaints as to why the parade had been so short, with so few floats. The inference was that Blantyre YMCA had not “been trying hard enough” to put on a spectacle for all. A frustrating position for them indeed, when one of the few floats was actually their own!
George published a response in the local paper address to all of Blantyre that he had personally written to all churches, Sunday schools, uniformed organisation and schools in Blantyre, including contacting major businesses. All had been contacted. Few responded. Even fewer took part.
In the previous 6 years (1961-1967) only David Livingstone Primary School had ever put on a float for the main gala day, all other schools not contributing. The Guides had similarly responded with their own float each year. In addition, there was a feeling that volunteers were growing smaller in number.
George warned that Blantyre families seemed most keen to have a gala parade, yet there was an overwhelming expectation for “the greatest show to be put on” not understanding the (hidden) lack of engagement by youth organisations. Speaking of the lack of decorated floats in the ’67 parade, he said at the time, “It’s a sign of things to come. Growing annual apathy will damage Blantyre’s outdoor flair for public gatherings and parades unless the right kind of people can be found that exhibit a calibre of volunteering enthusiasm that can last at pace and length. People without distraction or desire to drift away to other pursuits. It needs the most minimal of commitments to get these ventures underway, the real work is in maintaining consistent and even building on efforts. Those organisations rising to the challenge, taking part each year will not just reap rewards in free advertising, but will be seen as doing good for community and in the best light by one and all.”