During 2014, we are celebrating 30 years of bringing customers from the UK to the Channel Islands. As part of this celebration, we will be writing about 30 Jersey essentials, from attractions and outdoor activities to special local food and some lesser-known island treats.
Part 8: Battle of Flowers
Let’s leave talking about the history behind the Battle of Flowers until last as it is mainly a visual event, a popular and colourful event with a carnival air and a great sense of community behind it. For months floats are designed, manufactured and decorated in sheds around the island’s twelve parishes, with some incredibly dedicated people working many hours, year after year. All for the great viewing pleasure of islanders and visitors alike on the day of the Battle, every August.
The two key ingredients are secrecy and originality, until – for one day and one night only – the parade reveals the ingenuity of some remarkable, sometimes magical floats. The flowers are now mainly made out of paper and come in as many shapes, colours and forms as their creators can think of.
The idea is to bring to life an evocative world, be it Aladdin’s Cave, a scene from the Wild West, Alice in Wonderland or a scene from the island’s life. There will be two parades, one during the day on Thursday and the spectacular Moonlight Parade on Friday evening, when Jersey’s main avenue looks like a street from the much larger Rio de Janeiro during its famous carnival.
The Battle might have started as a royal affair – more on that later – but nowadays it is a family and community effort. As we mentioned earlier, many of the island’s parishes and community organisations will have a committee dedicated to thinking up a novel idea each year, and organising the volunteers to bring that idea to life.
The floats are rarely static but instead have dancers in fabulous costumes to precede them during the parade, musicians rhythmically cheering the crowds (or is it the other way around!) and often parents and their children acting on the floats.
Every year a lovely Miss Battle is elected locally and a Mr Battle chosen, sometimes internationally. Together they bring extra glory and beauty to the Battle.
A Royal Affair
It all started in 1902 as a celebration of the Coronation of King Edward VII and his wife Queen Alexandra. A parade was staged during which flowers ended up being thrown to the crowd, many of whom returned the favour, thus creating ‘ a battle of flowers’. The event proved immensely popular and was kept on Jersey’s calendar until the outbreak of World War I. It returned in 1926 then again had to be cancelled for the period of the German Occupation during World War II.
However since its return in 1950, the Battle of Flowers has grown in size and success but is now much more a festival than a battle!