Forty one years ago (where did the time go) in 1979, I went to photograph the Battersea Easter Parade. I was using my new Canon AE-1 camera, recently bought on Hire Purchase which was the only way I could afford the camera, being on an apprentice wage.
The weather was somewhat like this weekend, warm and sunny. We got to Battersea Park a bit late as we had been out the night before, and walked around where the parade was assembling, but by the time we got to the route of the parade, I could only find a place to the back of the crowds lining the route.
For this Sunday’s post, whilst we are on lock down, and the thought of standing in large crowds of people now seems surreal, let’s take a trip back to the London of 1979, and the Battersea Easter Parade.
Disney characters get everywhere:
I have tried to adjust the colour of the photos, but they do have a heavy blue tinge. I had not scanned the negatives until earlier this year, so it may be down to a degree of deterioration.
1979 marked the 150th anniversary of the first horse-drawn bus in London, and there were a number of buses on the parade, starting with horse-drawn, through to the latest bus on London’s streets. A couple can be seen in the background of the following photo.
The Battersea Easter Parade was the latest incarnation of the Van and Cart Horse Parades traditionally held at Easter. My father photographed the parade at Regent’s Park in 1949. Although the Battersea Easter Parade by the 1970s featured many other different types of floats, horse and carts continued to participate.
Young & Co, when they still had a brewery in Wandsworth:
When the parade started, we could only find places towards the back of the crowd, so some poor photos of the parade in progress.
The Capital Radio bus:
This was when Capital Radio was a local London station, with creative broadcasters such as Kenny Everett rather than the national station it is today.
The 194 reference is to the Medium Wave frequency, which at the time served the majority of listeners with VHF FM gradually growing in use.
The 194 signal was broadcast from Saffron Green, next to the A1 and just south of the South Mimms junction with the M25. Capital’s original Medium Wave transmitter used a wire strung between the chimneys of Lotts Road power station in Chelsea.
What would Capital Radio have been playing that week? I checked the music charts for the Easter week, and this was the top 30:
Squeeze, Sex Pistols, Dire Straits, Kate Bush, Jam, Sham 69, Siouxsie, Generation X and Elvis Costello – those were the days when brilliant, creative music occupied the charts (or perhaps it is just that I am getting old).
A rather more traditional form of music:
I suspect the theme of the following float was 101 Dalmatians:
Post Office Telecommunications – my employer at the time. “London Telephones link the world”
There were a number of Carnival Clubs who participated in the Battersea Easter Parade. The following float was by the Wick Carnival Club from Glastonbury – probably not a theme you would expect to see today.
Continuing the theme of the old Van and Cart Horse Parade:
There was one photo left on the film, I took this as we walked away from Battersea Park, on the north bank of the Thames looking towards Chelsea Bridge and Battersea Power Station. A view that has changed considerably today with the development of the old power station, and east along the river.
Forty one years is not that long ago, but in many ways it feels like a different time.
As well as differences in fashion and haircuts, whenever I look back at my earlier photos the big difference is not a single mobile phone.
Associated Press have a newsreel style film of the event which can be accessed here.
The weather will be much the same this weekend as it was in 1979, but Battersea Park will be very different.
Thank you for the lovely, cheering pictures. I suspect we are of a similar vintage as you picked out the examples of great music that I would have chosen!
Thank you for taking the time and effort to post this excellent article. I’m struck by the complexity of the costumes, clearly an annual event they enjoyed. Also struck by the fact friggin in the riggin and bright eyes were in the charts at the same time!
I lost my father at Easter in 1979, a remarkable man who’d survived 5 years in Bomber Command as a pilot – a rare thing indeed. These photos have taken me back to those days and I thank you again for the effort.
Ps. I’m sure you know but Photoshop can take care of the colour cast issue the shots have, although there is something rather charming and dated about the blue hue.
I am told that the shutter sound I hear on my iPad when I take photos is a “sound grab” of the Canon AE-1. How iconic is that!
Yes, time plays tricks on us. Seems like yesterday, looks like a century ago. Thanks for the music list – have added Turn the Music Up to my Spotify playlist. I’d forgotten that corker of a floor-filler! Happy Easter.
Interesting that Squeeze were at number 3. Glenn Tilbrook is still going strong, and does a lot of charity gigs at smaller venues alongside his more mainstream work :-
Good article for Easter Sunday – a bit different than usual.
Take care and look after yourself !
Thank you again for keeping these posts going. Anything which maintains a semblance of normal life is most welcome !
Because my father was a showman in the fairground (Globe of Death and side-shows) we had a priveliged ‘private view’ of the parade behind the staff car park railings. School friends would often be with me with our sandwich packed lunches. I watched the parade every easter from 1957 to 1968 from behind the railings. It hasn’t changed too much in 1979 (there were always the pearly kings and the Wnadsworth Brewery, but note the hair styles (!) but by then I was no longer in London or associated with the Festival Gardens.
By the way, Joyland Books have just published a book about the history of Battersea Fun Fair 1951-1974 – lots of pictures and anecdotes and I have several of my own in there,
Quite simply a lovely post and very uplifting. Thank you.
thanks for such a cheerful post
btw your photography skills have improved dramatically over the years
Thank you. Great post to read in these awful times. You’re not getting old – music was better then!
As always you never fail to amaze us and brighten our darkest days. We all love our London terribly, and share the passion for our shared embedded history. Please never stop. Happy Easter to us all.
Excellent. Nice to see Young’s dray horses which were still going until 2006. And that chart: even if you are getting old your assertion is correct. 🙂
Thanks for including the hit parade for Easter 1979 ! “Something Else ” performed by the Sex Pistols great stuff !I think I’ll go and dig out my “Never Mind the Bollocks” LP. Luckily for the neighbours I no longer have a record player and amplifiers.
The ‘Snoopy’ cart was by the Bulldogs Carnival Club from Highbridge in Somerset, titled ‘Snoopy and the Red Baron’.
The Somerset Carnivals still take place in November across 7 towns. However the size and technology of the carts has rather moved on since 1979. See more at
Many thanks for taking me back to my youth. On that particular weekend I would have been on a tartan blanket in our suburban garden in NW London enjoying the sunshine with Capital 194 as my companion. To say I loved that station is an understatement and I often find myself to this day singing out loud the rich crop of jingles by the likes of the great Christopher Rainbow etc. With shows from Kenny Everett, Roger Scott, Dave Cash, and Peter Young and many more I think it occupied a place in radio history in those years which has stayed with old geezers like me forever. Favourite for me was the Capital Hit Line which took place on weekday evenings and allowed you to phone in and vote for your favourite song of the day. I remember making my call to vote for ‘Sultans of Swing’ which at the time was by a pub band from the north east and the joy of tuning in just before 6pm to see if they had made it to number 1 that day. For a wannabe mainstream station it had a playlist akin to the soft rock AM stations although it would definitely have been championing Squeeze etc (definitely not the pistols though!). Many thanks for you post, and remember,
“For all the hits and more,
It’s Capital Radio 194,
Do doo Dee do de doo”
Nice to see that Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” was in the charts—that’s what I sing while I wash my hands! Happy Easter!
My last year in London living in Balham. Happy memories. Thanks once again.
That used to be a really big occasion as seen by the photo’s any reasons why it stopped.
Thank you so much. I had forgotten all about it but realise now that I was there too with my three little girls. It does indeed seem like another era.
That was a lovely trip down memory lane!
We did not even have to pay to attend these events!
As I sit here on the current lockdown in my PJ’s at 3.30pm as “Nobody” is allowed out, and now as a grandmother, looking back I feel so fortunate to have been born in the 60’s and had what I feel was the best times ever!
Really can’t believe how many years have passed as I still look & feel very young at heart!
Thanks again for this!
PO Telecommunications also became my employer in late ’79. I was drawn to that strange coloured Buzby costume – much darker than I recall. And I know, because I wore one a few times at Carnival processions in Hertfordshire a few years later.
A reminder of happy days before life became more complicated. Tangentally, Capital Radio was a great station back then – full of proper DJs who appeared to curate their own creative output. The year of my A-levels, I was often listening to 194MW from the Graham Dene breakfast show, all the way through to Nicky Horne’s “Your mother wouldn’t like it” rock show at 9pm. Had to re-tune to John Peel at 10pm weekday evenings though..!
Thank you so much for all your work. You are keeping history alive. Also correct that music was better before all this overdone stuff today.
The photos show a time that seems so much different from today. Without all the technology, things were more honest.
I live in Vancouver Canada now and greatly miss the UK and my home town of London.