Sparks in the Park extravaganza

Horsham District Council will celebrate the London Olympics with a free summer spectacular in Horsham Park this weekend.

And subject to their training schedules at Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre, Olympic athletes from Grenada will meet the public at Sparks in the Park on Sunday (12-5pm). The athletes, who are at Broadbridge Heath from July 11 to 20, will also meet invited schoolchildren at the end of their training sessions.

Cllr Jonathan Chowen, district council Cabinet member for arts, heritage and leisure, said: “We are delighted to host the Grenada Olympic team in its pre-games training and I am sure that everyone is keen to meet them at the Sparks in the Park event.

“The timing of this year’s Horsham Park event has been adjusted to allow us to welcome the Caribbean athletes who will be training in our area. I wish everyone the very best in their training and when competing in the Olympic Games.”

Cllr Lionel Barnard, deputy leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “It has been a partnership effort to attract Grenada to come to West Sussex and to make the most of the exciting opportunity through our countywide initiative, West Sussex-Ahead of the Game. We also have team members from Paraguay, Dominica, Barbados and Bahamas training in the county in the coming weeks.”

The district council promises “plenty of sporting fun, live music, dance, street theatre and mascot mayhem” during Sparks in the Park – one of the biggest council-run events in the region.

Visitors can watch or take part in badminton, volleyball, football, karate, tennis, tri-golf and other sports. And Set4Success, the district-wide charity offering financial support to potential sporting champions, will offer information, competitions and have-a-go challenges.

The finale will be a flamboyant and colourful parade, the Rio-themed Blue Touch Paper Carnival, from 4pm. This ground-breaking project has brought together disabled and non-disabled people to create and perform top-quality carnival.

Funded by Arts Council England and the West Sussex Arts Partnership, it has been developed by the district council, Cusp Inc, the New Carnival Company from the Isle of Wight, Shademakers and the Strawford Centre in Horsham.

The project has been working alongside Embaixadores de Alegria from Rio, the only disabled samba school in Brazil, to develop a Rio-style samba school based on the theme of St George and the Dragon. St George is also the patron saint of samba. Embaixadores members came to the UK and worked with the New Carnival Company to develop carnival costumes and advise on how a Rio samba school functions.

Rio is the home of carnival and every samba school follows a structure including floats, flag bearers, bateria (samba band), drum queen and enredo (a song).

The Strawford Centre, Horsham Brownies, Roffey Brownies, Horsham Guides, Harwood Guides, St John’s School, Shipley School, the Queen Elizabeth II School, M8s, Together in Mind and Ashington Dance Group will join the procession, wearing costumes they have made.

Cllr Sue Rogers, district council Cabinet member for a safer and healthier district, said: “Carnival and outdoor events should be available and enjoyed by everybody. The Blue Touch Paper project has worked hard to make sure that disabled people, their voices and needs are listened to, acted upon and included in every aspect of what we do.”

Stay Safe Driving School, which is sponsoring Sparks in the Park, is offering a driving experience for anyone over the age of 14 who has parental permission to take part. This will give young people an opportunity to learn and practise steering control, basic manoeuvres, driver observation techniques and brain-to-action co-ordination. Donations will be given to the Sussex Air Ambulance.

Stay Safe founder Steve Lintott said: “Sussex Air Ambulance is an incredible charity and a dedicated team of highly skilled people, without whom many survivors of road traffic accidents would not be here today. I feel privileged to have seen the wonderful work they do for our community and I am delighted that we have this opportunity to offer them something back.

“We did a similar charity event during Piazza Italia and raised almost £400, which is a great amount, but I’m hoping that this event will raise even more.”

Bensons Funfair will open on Thursday and continue until late on Sunday.

Entry to Sparks in the Park will be free, as will parking across the town centre. A donation to the Rotary Club of Horsham will be requested from those choosing to park in Horsham Park during the day.

Cllr Chowen added: “I love the way this event celebrates so many aspects of local arts, leisure and community involvement and hope everyone who visits will have a wonderful day out.”

For more information or to check on any changes forced by bad weather, visit or

2011 photo by Toby Phillips Photography.

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