Swanage Carnival History

The Swanage Regatta & Carnival goes back to the mid 1800’s when the first sailing regatta was held in Swanage Bay.

Several years later, in the early 1900’s, a carnival was held to celebrate the finale of the sailing regatta, hence the formation of the Regatta & Carnival.

The road race, or the “Swanage 12”, as it is traditionally known by, was the next event added, soon becoming one of the most popular of events and attracting competitors from a wide radius.

The South Coast Rowing Association started holding their races in Swanage in the 1950’s, becoming part of the Regatta programme that was, at a later date, to set the pattern for the present day Regatta & Carnival Week.

In the 1950s the Swanage Carnival gained further renown when the children’s author of the moment, Enid Blyton, took up the position of Carnival President. Blyton was heavily involved in various aspects of Purbeck life – with her husband, Kenneth Darrell Waters, she owned the Isle of Purbeck Golf Club in Studland and many of her books are heavily influenced by the landscape of this, her favourite holiday destination. It’s recorded that Blyton also helped to organise the famous fireworks display that continues to be one the main attractions of the event to this day.

“I hope the Carnival and Regatta will be as successful as ever, with real summer come at last. But my main thoughts are, of course, with the children, whether resident or visitors. This year they have a very full and exciting programme, and will enjoy every minute. Happy days to you, children, and a great welcome to Swanage, if you are our visitors.”

Enid Blyton, in her Carnival Presidential foreword

With the event of the restructuring of local councils in the 60’s the Carnival was taken over by a band of volunteers who formed The Swanage Regatta & Carnival Association. A constitution was formed and it stated that the aims of the Association was to “promote and provide public entertainment and to raise money for charitable causes”, this is still the basis of the constitution used today.


Over the past 40 years, the Regatta & Carnival has grown into a major south coast attraction, run by solely by volunteers, it is a week full of events (over 100), and features something for everyone, a week filled with family fun, entertainment, live music every day, running races, sand castle competitions, the sailing regatta, treasure hunts, magnificent firework displays and not forgetting one of the longest processions around.

It is now a non-funded Community interest Company, with thousands of pounds raised and given to charities and good causes each year.


Raising thousands of pounds each year for our chosen charities and good causes

In 2023 Swanage Carnival celebrated another successful year, giving away a staggering £27,650 to 20 selected organisations. The donations were awarded at our annual presentation night and we have been delighted to learn how these hard raised funds have been put to great use in our community.

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