SHAFTESBURY put on a show to rival towns twice its size when it staged the switching on of its Christmas tree lights on Monday.
Hundreds of people turned out on a chilly but dry night for the Shaftesbury Christmas Spectacular (click here for video) organised by the town’s Chamber of Commerce.
There was live music from Shaftesbury Community Choir and Shaftesbury Town Silver Band, street entertainment from acts including fire juggler Lizzy, children’s rides, a fairground organ and a steam engine, market stalls and a Christmas craft fair, and plenty to eat and drink.
The evening festivities kicked off with the illumination of Gold Hill and a lantern parade from the football club in Coppice Street, led by a fire engine and Shaftesbury Town Silver Band and including carnival queen Roisin Cook and princess Carrymay James.
The parade made its way up the High Street to the town centre.
There the lights were turned on by Carl Barlow, star of the Hovis bread TV advert that was filmed on Gold Hill 40 years ago.
Earlier in the day Carl had posed for photos there with the bike he had pushed up the hill as a 13-year-old boy and whose basket had been filled for Monday’s photo-shoot with loaves from Queen Camel Bakery.
He and his wife Linda also planted snowdrops in the garden of Gold Hill Museum as part of the Shaftesbury Snowdrop Festival project.
Now 54 and a retired London firefighter, Carl spoke to the Blackmore Vale Magazine about how he was picked for the part in the advert that went on to be voted the nation’s favourite of all time.
“I went to stage school in London after I had finished the normal school day,” he said.
“As part of that we did auditions – film, TV and adverts.
“I was sent to the auditions for the Hovis bread advert and I got down to the third audition with two other boys.
“The first one couldn’t ride a bike and the second one wouldn’t have his hair cut in a pudding basin style – hair was long then.
“I said I could ride a bike and would have my hair cut.
“They said they would let me know and my agent phoned me and said ‘you have got it’.
“We were here for two days and there were lots of takes.
“It was scary riding the bike down the hill and I had to keep doing it until the director Ridley Scott was happy.
“But it was very exciting at that age to be told it was going to be on TV and you would be on telly all the time.”
Also there for the filming 40 years ago was Pam Harries, who went along with her three-year-old son John.
Now 83 and still living in Shaftesbury, she remembers looking after the bike between filming sessions.
“I was thrilled to meet Carl again,” she said.
Also thrilled was chamber of commerce chairman Clive Carter.
“I couldn’t believe the size of the crowd that turned up,” he said, “when I was standing on the stage I couldn’t see to the end of the crowd.
“By working together we can achieve things like this – it is the independent traders who have made this a success and we want the national retailers to come and join us.
“And Carl is a lovely bloke. I asked him if he would come back for the 50th anniversary of the advert and he said he would love to.”
Take a look at our photo gallery from the Shaftesbury Christmas Spectacular.