Majorettes in the Canvey Carnival 1980

and the Canvey Zulu

Once again I found some interesting clips of old cine films c1980, this time of some Canvey Majorettes. My daughter, Lesley was one of them, but try as we might we could not remember the name. They met every week in the Catholic Church Hall and during the season were in the Canvey and Southend-on-sea Carnivals. Several weekends we would meet up in the Wind ammer car park or sometimes the Waterside Sports Centre car park where the girls would go off in the bus to whichever carnival was being held that day. The film was taken at the start of the Carnival in Thorney Bay, up Thorney Bay Road before it turned right into Long Road. The area at the time was surrounded by fields which have all dissappeared today, instead it is all houses.

Here are some of the things she remembers bearing in mind she was only about 6-7 at the time:

  • We used to stand in lines to practice baton twirling.
  • I can still twirl a baton but can’t remember what any of the movements were called.  Think the one where we twirled the baton in front of us with two hands was called the butterfly by our troupe leader because our hands would form the shape of a butterfly.
  • We would practice our march by marching around the edge of the hall in a big square.  Think there might have been a white line marked on the floor with tape or something.
  • There were wooden benches along the back wall where we would leave our coats and outside shoes.
  • They would play music from a small tape recorder for us to practice to and we used to sing along to it at the very end of the class.  We would usually end every lesson with a march.
  • Songs I remember them playing a lot were ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ by Pink Floyd and ‘Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick’ by Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
  • Carnivals were exciting and colourful but scary.  So many people and you didn’t want to miss a step or drop your baton.
  • We used to be very wary of the Zulu’s. (one can be seen in the picture above)  They were funny but distracting.  They used to be by our section of the parade a lot of the time.  They would walk beside us or sometimes run through us while we were marching which would cause us to miss a step.  During one carnival a Zulu carried off one of the girls, slinging her over his shoulder, her face was bright red she was so embarrassed.  One of the older girls got kissed by a Zulu while she was marching and was left with makeup marks on her face.  Think one of the girl’s dads was a Zulu.
  • Our feet would get very sore and swollen from marching especially if the laces were done up too tight.  At the end of the carnival sometimes my feet would be so swollen you could see the imprint of my socks, shoe laces and the eyelets on the plimsolls.  Very painful.  Of course if you did the plimsolls up looser at the start of the march they would constantly slip on your feet and give you blisters.
  • Think I had two uniforms during my time as a majorette.  Both were red, white and blue but one was a shiny fabric (maybe nylon?) and the other was rough textured cotton.  There was a cape, epaulettes and a hat included in the uniform.  The hat had to be pinned on and was worn at an angle.  My hair was worn in a silver bun crocheted by my mother (some of the other girls were envious of that little bit of silver) and I think there were pins in that too.  They used to hurt my head and I was always glad to get them out.  Think we just wore a leotard and our plimsolls for our lessons.  Was my leotard pale blue?  Can’t remember.
  • There was a bus or van (can’t remember which) that would travel in front of us at the carnivals.  If any of the girls got too tired, injured or unwell they could go and sit inside.  The vehicle had speakers or a stereo system of some kind set up on the back playing music for us to march to.
  • Had one evening of competition baton twirling and marching while I was a majorette.  I got awarded the bronze medal.

Most of the girls must now be in their late 30’s early 40’s, if you are out there perhaps you can fill in some of the gaps. Do you have some pictures from the carnivals? Do you still have your baton? We would love to hear from you. We would love to hear from any Zulus still around too. I remember being chased by one myself…………………

Comments about this page

  • Just remembered something else, we were always being told by our troupe leader ‘Shoulders back and point those toes!’ She made a big deal over pointed toes.

    By Lesley (15/02/2009)
  • My sisters and myself were in the same troupe I believe, and the woman who ran the troupe was called Eileen. Those carnivals were great, but very tiring. Can’t remember many names but have a lot of photo’s, mainly post 1985. I was one of the younger members, and the only male- dead embarassing now, but good fun at the time, and got to go to competitions surrounded by lovely ladies, lol.

    By John Whiting (01/03/2009)
  • Please share those photos with us John

    By Janet Penn (02/03/2009)
  • Hi John

    Please email in the photos!

    By David Bullock (03/03/2009)
  • Eileen is my nan….her troupe was called ‘golden eagles’ she is still very much involved in majorettes (and still has thing about pointy toes ha ha)

    By Kelly Cheshire (19/05/2009)
  • Yes Eileen Cheshire ran the troupe with Ken & George used to be one of the Zulu’s! I remember loads of the girls & John Whiting who wrote above – his sister Marissa & Ruby. Vicky Price, Lisa Clever, Lisa pearson, Beverly King, Elaine Bright, Lyndsey Tomsett (my partner for all duo’s) & one of my long standing best mates, & many many more – I’ll have to see if i can dig out some picture & load them on here as i have several from Camber sands, A huge troupe photo, & lots of carnival ones!

    By Marie Hall (13/10/2010)
  • Hi, Marie I remember you! I belonged to the troupe from the age of 5 until I was 14! I lived in Benfleet. I have a very good memory so I have loads of memories from back then….did you go to the trip to Switzerland , I think you were a couple of years younger than me, I am 38 now. The bus broke down and we slept on the bus all week waiting for the part to arrive so that Bert Wright could fix the bus. I remember we used to have a break half way through and get our sweets! I still have all of my batons and the funny thing is I am actually better now than ever!! lol My mum has all my old photographs and she lives abroad so when I speak to her I will see if I can get hold of any.

    By Debbie Buscombe (nee Stevens) (15/10/2010)
  • Hey! I remember the switzerland trip, one of my clearest childhood memories, when I went it was called Canvey Island Majorettes and I remember you John, you had a sister called Marisa?

    One song that sticks in my mind is brown girl in the ring, and done alot of my solos to popcorn which my daughter now uses as her tap solo music! lol.

    The good old days would love to know what alot of the old crew are up to now? xxx

    By amanda taylor (04/02/2011)
  • hey! my name is leighanne and i trained under eileen from 1993 when i was 6 and didnt leave the troupe until it closed down a few years back (about 7 maybe?) and now me, amy phillips and charley gaunt have all re-opened it and now run the troupe again! majorettes was my main hobby and i loved it! loved competing and now im loing being back involved again, especially with it being my 1 and only troup! and im pleased to say we will be taking part in canveys carnivla again this year! x

    By leighanne (18/04/2011)
  • Hi The Zulus were kentish coal miners from the only mine in the south of England. The zulu idea came from their work blackened faces. Regards Sparrow

    By sparrow (21/04/2011)
  • My sister Selina Berg belonged to that troop in the late 70s and early 80s I remember my uncle Donald and his regiment brought his tank and it was used in the carnival one year can’t remember what year it was. But I do remember a picture was taken of the girls sitting and standing on and around this massive tank but I can’t find any pics myself has anyone got any or does anyone remember it good old days I do miss Canvey loads


    By Ian Lewis (18/08/2011)
  • Hey Debbie I remember you too! Remember the batersea routine we used to do & pontins, carnivals, thames telethon 85, playschool, French & Saunders! lol all that and more from 15+ years with the majorettes…..I too am now teaching again with the reformed Golden Eagles with Leighanne, Amy & Charley….superb fun!

    By Marie Hall (23/08/2011)
  • hiya all i was in canvey majorettes aswell around the same time as leighanne. i moved away after a few years of proudly being part of the troupe. i miss everything about it especially the great friends i made

    By laura (26/12/2011)
  • Hi ya all I was in your troupe with my sister Amanda (who is no longer with us ) we use to train on a wednesday nite at the white church hall which was always freezing then again on fridays, I was with the troupe for about 3 or 4 yrs and loved every minute of it, one of my earliest memories are doing a fete at Leigh Beck school with my fellow majoretter John who was the only boy in the troupe I was really scared and he helped me through it plus all the great friends i made.xx

    By sarah harper (nee clarke ) (16/10/2012)
  • Hi all, I was in the Eileenettes from age 5/6 (1975) to age 11. I remember Eileen and Ken as so kind. I took part in numerous Carnivals, fetes, competions and displays and so many songs remind me of routines we did. I did a solo to Long Haired Lover from Liverpool, and Una Paloma Blanca. I also remember Brown Girl in the Ring! I recognise some of the names here – Debbie and Leighanne. Hi! Th Switzerland breakdown… how our parents must have worried, but we had a great time. I still have my medals,  sewn onto a white sash. I remember the pop socks we used to wear, and making our plimsolls white with some kind of paint you probably can’t buy now.

    Two memories of I wanted to share. Eileen used to give us half a glucose tablet for energy on those long carnivals. I thought it was magic. And the annual awards at Waterside Farm (I think). Glitterballs and disco music. 

    By Dorinda (17/04/2017)
  • got an ancient picture up online Canvey Island Majorettes at Weymouth

    By John Griffiths (10/06/2020)
  • That’s great John can we use it on here? We will credit you.

    By Janet Penn (10/06/2020)
  • Certainly can use it Janet, I worked at Weymouth Station at the time, I think maybee the Majorettes went over to Jersey on the boat from Weymouth, I could be wrong though..

    By John Griffiths (10/06/2020)
  • Thank you

    By Janet Penn (10/06/2020)

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