Following the declaration last month that 16-year-old James Gallop would be stepping up onto a horse-drawn carriage to lead the procession of Ringwood Carnival, organisers were forced to change tact.
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An outburst of online abuse aimed at the carnival committee and James over the “woke ideological” decision led to Hampshire police investigating.
It sparked the committee to instead appoint James as carnival “ambassador” as part of a “carnival court” alongside carnival princesses and members of Ringwood Town Council.
The fallout did not stop James from wearing a dress on the big day on Saturday, though. The teenager was determined to stand up to the “bullies and bigots” during the event, which saw two processions watched by thousands of people. The carnival has been the highlight of the town’s calendar since 1929 apart from during the war and Covid years.
A post on the carnival's Facebook page said in August: “Since (announcing James as queen), due to some threats of disruption and abusive language (both publicly and privately), we have referred to the police for a safety review and evaluated any potential risks and safety concerns.
“James is well, although upset. He is still keen to be a part of the carnival but will be taking on a slightly different role as Ambassador.
“As James is over 16, he is able to make these decisions himself and we and his family support him. For the safety and wellbeing of everybody, the carnival committee has now formed a Carnival Court.
“The Carnival Court will travel across a number of vehicles, with James travelling separately – all led by the truly magnificent Sampson Percheron Horses.”
Organisers added: “Carnival is organised and delivered to the town by a committee of 15 volunteers, who put in an incredible amount of work to make this event happen.
“Public and private online abuse is something that nobody wishes to receive. We are grateful, however, to all those who have given feedback constructively.
“So let's all move forward unanimously. So, we politely request to cease negative comments, and let's all move forward positively whilst respecting each other's views or opinions.”