Borders MSP Christine Grahame’s headline-seeking attack on the Twenty10 club’s Jimmy Savile float at the Lauder Common Riding fancy dress parade first made me angry, then the total ludicrousness of it sank in and it made me laugh. If only she had a sense of humour, she might have had the same reaction.
Fancy dress parades are about one thing, and one thing only, and that’s having fun, whether you’re watching or taking part.
Having first been thrust, reluctantly, into the Jethart Callant’s Festival fancy dress parade at the age of five as some strange concoction of rags and boot-blacking (sorry mum) I have enough experience to consider myself a connoisseur.
As a weekly newspaper reporter, I walked the lines of eager hopefuls seeking inspiration and the story behind the costume.
As a father, I proudly watched my daughters walk up the High Street dressed as Maid Marion and Friar Tuck, and have listened to the elder’s moans ever since about being traumatised by having to wear a beard made up of her own chopped off curls.
People go to huge lengths to come up with an idea and make it a reality so that other people will laugh at them.
Yes, the Jimmy Savile float pushed the boundaries a bit and the Twenty10 club have apologised, but from what I’ve read in the papers and on social media websites, a substantial percentage of Lauder folk laughed at half a dozen young blokes in skirts and another in a wig with a cigar.
None of them believed the paraders were either condoning Savile’s actions or demeaning the victims.
No-one goes to a fancy dress parade (unless they’re an MSP) looking for reasons to complain. They go to appreciate the originality, ingenuity and the effort. Many of the best floats are tableaux extensions of Have I Got News For You, satirical takes on the current news agenda. If they’re about anything, they’re about freedom of expression and the right to poke fun at subjects that are normally taboo.
Making a complaint about them is like the Victorian vicar having a dose of the vapours because he’d seen a lady’s ankle: not to be taken seriously.
• Douglas Jackson is a best-selling novelist, author of Caligula and Claudius