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

Memorandum by John Biddall's Funfair (TF 10)

  With reference to your advertisement in last week's Showman's Worlds Fair newspaper, I am trying very hard to keep the business running of travelling fairs that my great grandfather started. I have photos taken in 1873 when my grandfather was presenting performing dogs doing various tricks at the Agricultural Hall in Islington.

  In the early 1900s, our family was the pioneers of the electric bioscope show, which was the start of silent movies. Just after the war, my father started trading with modern equipment in many of the major London parks. The last two years have been utterly frustrating for me with councils, for no valid reason, denying me and the families I represent from operating modern and efficient funfair equipment, which is purely for family entertainment.

  I would like just to pinpoint two recent problems, which are extremely worrying. For the last 12 years, I have operated my funfair on Islington Green. I insisted that the rental of just over £2,000 was given to Mayors' charities. The fair has been a wonderful success financially and has provided the families I represent with a very good living. We also always employ at least eight or none people from the local area on a temporary basis. The fair has never been a problem, we have always closed promptly at 10.30 pm and I have always been on site at all times to make sure things were running smoothly.

  A few weeks ago, due to the death of a Labour Councillor, there was a by-election and the council is now Liberal. The council had agreed that I go on site as usual for the period of December 1999 and the first week in January 2000 but the new council today have sent me a letter stating the fair can no longer go to Islington Green but has to be placed at either Caledonian Market or Highbury Fields. Both these sites I turned down a few months ago because I know my business very well and to operate at either of the other sites, which are not visible from the main road, would be like fishing in an empty pond. So we now have a situation where 90 people have been out of business over the Christmas period and I must point out that whilst on site, each person spends at least £10 a day in the local shops on food, etc. I think it is very unfair to be turned down on a decision, which is only political.

  Also, we have operated in Bethnal Green since 1943 with no problems and I am being turned down for every site I ask with no proper reason. Fairs are still bringing in the crowds but if I have no sites, I am out of business. In today's world, we now have lap dancing, strip clubs, massage parlours in every town—why is there not room for genuine clean and above board family entertainment?

John Biddall

February 2000

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