Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Birmingham City Council, Department of Leisure and Community Services (TF 52)

  By way of introduction, Birmingham has a long tradition of providing Council owned sites, mainly parks, on which proprietors of travelling fun-fairs can operate.

  Funfairs in Birmingham's Parks fall into three main categories:

    (i)  Stand Alone Funfairs;

    (ii)  Funfairs associated with Community Events;

    (iii)  Funfairs associated with major events.


  It is the Council's experience that the allocation of sites for funfairs to operate on can sometimes cause considerable opposition from people who live in close proximity to the sites selected, and therefore over the years a very robust process has been developed to ensure all relevant views are canvassed and presented to the Committee concerned as part of the decision making process. In the case of each site, the views of Ward Councillors, local community groups and residents associations, the local police and the funfair operators are sought, and included as appendices of the main site designation report.

  The Leisure, Culture and Tourism Advisory Team (formerly the Leisure Services Committee) of Birmingham City Council are very mindful that campaigns against the staging of funfairs can be orchestrated by people living close to a proposed site which can be very vociferous and emotive, whilst not necessarily reflecting the wider views of the community served by the park concerned. Often issues of noise, anti-social behaviour by young people and a perceived increase in local crime are cited as reasons for not staging a funfair. In reality, in the majority of cases, these fears are not supported by the facts, and in most cases the Committee will facilitate local meetings between the funfair proprietor, Ward Councillors, Council Officers and the local police, and those opposed to the funfair, to air the concerns and come forward with an agreed set of conditions for the operation of the funfair that meets, as far as practicably possible, the concerns expressed. These conditions often refer to siting of the fair, hours of operation, noise levels (especially amplified music), policing and security, site re-instatement and close down arrangements.

  These conditions are agreed with the funfair operators and monitored by locally based Council Officers. It is our experience that in the majority of cases this process works very well.

  The funfair proprietors themselves also understand they have an "image" problem with some sections of the community, and have in recent years become involved in a range of community based initiatives to address this issue. These have included work with local schools, special rates and sessions for deprived sections of the community and people with disabilities, and support for local community based initiatives. There is no doubt that some of these actions have helped to build bridges into local communities and reduce opposition to funfairs.

  Interestingly one of the funfair proprietors operating mainly in Birmingham has recently been successful in promoting and securing funding for a "Gateway to Learning" outreach programme in conjunction with the City Council and a local college to engage local young people attending his funfair in pursuing opportunities for further education and training. This innovative scheme is scheduled to start this year.


  The "Urban Villages" that make up Birmingham have a very strong tradition of staging community events in their local parks, especially local carnivals, religious celebrations and fun days. The Council allows small funfairs to operate as part of these events, with the income from the funfair rental being used to support the events and reduce the dependence on the Council's own budget.

  The fairs usually operate on the days of the events, and are allowed up to three additional days' operation for each event. Again, the funfair operators often become involved in the wider organisation of these events. It is the Council's experience that this arrangement works very satisfactorily.


  The City Council has a history of staging major events for its citizens ranging from the Lord Mayors Show to annual bonfire carnivals. Many of these major events include a substantial funfair, with the fairs being much larger than those associated with community events or the traditional "travelling fair". They tend to have a larger number of "white knuckle" rides, and usually operate only as part of the event itself. The site rentals are usually used to offset the overall event staging costs.


  In the course of a year some 50-60 funfairs are staged in Birmingham in the various categories described. There has been, and continues to be limited opposition to funfairs in the City's parks, especially if an incident relating to unruly behaviour occurs at one of the fairs.

  Whilst the negative elements of funfairs tend to feature in the media headlines, the Council feels that funfairs do have a role in a modern, multi-cultural urban environment.

  They provide a useful income source for the Council, and assist in meeting the cost of staging both community and major events.

  They also have an important role in terms of low income households and social exclusion. There are inevitably those in large urban cities who have extremely limited incomes, who cannot afford to go on holiday, or even visit major theme parks like Alton Towers or Drayton Manor Park. For these groups, especially children and young people, the local funfair can represent a real leisure opportunity at an affordable price that they would be deprived of if funfairs did not happen.

February 2000

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