THOUSANDS of people lined Southend seafront to watch a colourful carnival procession in all its glory.

The annual Southend Carnival featured more than 60 floats and acts which organisers say is one of the largest processions in the country.

It has been a mammoth logistical exercise, taking a year to get everything planned down to the last detail.

But it was well worth the time and effort as the weather held out for an impressive parade.

Garry Lowen, who has been carnival chief executive officer for six years, said: “It went exceptionally well, the gods smiled down on us with the weather.

“People were collecting money for their own charities so they must have collected a considerable amount.”

The two most popular charities this year were the Southend RNLI and Havens Hospices.

Garry said: “We were led off by the Britannia Pipe Band from Hockley which gave a rousing start to the procession.

“Then we had a VIP bus which the mayor was on wearing full civic regalia.

“It’s one of the only times they get to see virtually all of the citizens come together at once.

“We were also blessed with the mayor of Castle Point this year.”

Bolivian dancers from south London joined the procession as well as a firm favourite, the Luton carnival group Rampage.

Garry said: “We are always really pleased to see them as they are a bit of a showstopper, their costumes are out of this world.”

He thanked all the sponsors and volunteers who put hundreds of hours into organising the event.

He said: “It takes about a year to organise so we will be starting on next year in the next couple of weeks.

“It’s a mammoth logistical exercise and we work with the police and council and traffic management as we have 21 road closures. There is a big team behind it.”

The carnival has evolved over the years including how money is raised for charity.

Garry said: “Four years ago we took a drastic decision to change the way we raised money. We used to do it but we couldn’t always say how much money we could give to charity as we didn’t know if our costs would be covered.

“Now everyone is raising money for their own charities, there are people giving money along the route as well, it makes it more personal.”