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2016 Jersey Battle of Flowers – The Optimist Club

It’s not long now until The Optimists Club will be fighting to retain the title at this years Jersey Battle of Flowers, and we took a trip to find out more…

After 4 years of straight victories at the Jersey Battle of Flowers, this year The Optimists Club are building a ghost ship called ‘Rosanna’ for their float. The biggest float so far after decades of involvement as a team; we were blown away by the magnitude of the construction, and the fine detail of the design. We spoke to team leader Steve Buchard.

Do you meet regularly as a team?

We have a hardcore team of 30 people that have been meeting all day on Saturdays and 3 or 4 evenings a week for about 3 months. Everyone has their own role, which works well as nobody crosses over.

Tell us a bit about the design concept…

We have an annual meeting at the end of each year where people can submit ideas. We then discuss from there and add thoughts before beginning. There can never be any compromise on design if you want to stand a chance of winning, as it’s very tight at the top.

This year we wanted to do something different after winning 4 years in a row. This design is going to be all white, which is a completely original concept. We built a pirate ship 25 years ago, and this year we wanted to go off of the back of that but in a new direction, and so this ghost ship based on Pirates of the Caribbean was born.

It’s been difficult to keep it at 45 feet so that it can fit in this warehouse, and ideally we would have gone higher but it wouldn’t fit.

This is by far the most adventurous float so far, and with the addition of an 8,000 watt PA system – it’s certainly something nobody has ever done. The music we’ve chosen was taken from ‘The Prince of Egypt’, in particular the scene when slaves go out to work to find the promise land. It was then adjusted to suit with the addition of sound effects. The white chrysanths are going to look spectacular!

Additionally, the canons on the side will fire smoke. We have two big smoke machines under the floor which send into the smoke chamber, and they have a pressure limit which releases the smoke and ensures it comes out of all the canons at same time. The ship is also suspended on four pivot points and will rock as a pendulum, emulating the rough weather as it moves along the parade. That’s something else that’s never been done!

The driver will have a TV which will be fed the view from the front via a camera, and that’ll be the only view he gets as he drives.

What about the name?

That’s quite a story. The ghost ship is called ‘Rosanna’ because there was a member who was a key part of the styling team. They were all working on a few bits last week and I locked up after finishing and heard them all chatting and laughing outside. The next day I had a phone call in the morning at 8am and she’d unfortunately died that night. It’s been difficult to take, but we’ve since changed the name to Rosanna.

How long had Rosanna been a part of the team?

The team started in 83. Rosanna had worked on about 20 years worth of floats, so she was a huge part of it.

When does work on the project begin?

Ideas for each year start as we work on whichever project were focusing on at the time – so it never stops. The engineering started in December 2015, based on my sketched concept designs, and finding the materials and building starts in January normally.

It always has to be real flowers, (apart from in the paper flowers class), and so flowers are ordered from the uk no later than February, and some are also from holland. We used to use local flowers but they’re simply too expensive nowadays.

You mentioned chrysanths. Are there any other flowers or material used and how are they attached so neatly?

Hairs tails flowers are also used, as you can see on the ships wheel for example, and they’re bought from Italy in large quantities. We take the head of the flower and it’s stuck on with glue. So far we’ve paid a glue bill of £700!

Any materials must come from something that grows. Rope for example, which we’ve used a lot of, has to be built out of things that have grown. We’ve got 900 metres of rope this year – costing £1000, and taking 12 weeks to assemble!

How many entrants are there this year?

29 entrants. We’ve got some strong rivals, and it’s recently always been a straight fight between us and St Clements.

What are the rules?

The whole thing has to be covered in flower.

In terms of the height and size, the committee put a 17 foot bar up at Millbrook playing fields on Victoria Avenue, and if the float doesn’t fit under you are disqualified. The width is 13 feet, and the length is 45 feet – unless 3 months prior to parade you apply for protrusion. This year we have the approval.

Why the name The Optimists Club?

The name came in the 60’s. The founders were elite players of the Table Tennis Club. There was an argument, from which they wanted to form their own club. The Table Tennis Association said they didn’t care if they started a new club but thought it would be ‘optimistic’. The rest is history!

We’ve been involved for 20 years now and have loved every year! How have ICCI helped?

We simply couldn’t do it without ICCI. To get that sort of money with no strings attached, there isn’t many companies in this day and age prepared to do it. We do our best to pay back the support, and we have a fantastic relationship!

 

Look out for ‘Rosanna’ in this years Jersey Battle of Flowers, as well as their junior float as seen in the gallery!

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