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

Memorandum by Paul Needham (TF 21)


  My first thoughts are of surprise the question would need to be asked at all but perhaps it is because we've grown up and have forgotten.

  As a child its value was obvious. As a child I looked forward to Christmas, Birthdays, Easter, Bonfire Night and the fair coming. Decades later I spend a lot of my time on the fairgrounds and have lost count of the number of times I have been asked "when's the fair open mister" by some small boy or girl. Often an hour before I knew it would be open. "Am I tall enough to go on the Hard rock this year?" (a Miami ride) "I was too short last year but me mum says I've really shot up since then". Another group will be taking the "mickey" out of each other—"are you gonna dare go on this year"? Others remembering anecdotes from the fair's last visit "where's the waltzer this time"? "it was here last year"! "Is it the same price on here as last time?" they ask me. All milling around for nearly an hour or so and as soon as the car covers came off they ran jostling to find the best seat! This happened several nights in a row with much the same faces. Do playstations only work when the fairs gone? Soon the fair's in full swing with children pulling parents hither and thither "can we go on here Dad? Me Mum says we can". "Oh go on Dad!" Teenagers queueing to go on rides, I'm too scared to, girls to impress the boys! Boys trying to impress the girls! Crowds sat around the back of the waltzer listening to the latest tunes with light shows better than any night club—free to all no entrance fees here! The screams of the girls—"if you wanna go faster you gotta scream, let's hear you scream come on"! The eyes of the children on the juveniles, shining bright—so full of joy, ringing the bus bell or driving the train, value here I'd say. Come into the town centre on a grey cold February day and witness the transformation the fair brings with its vivid colours and flashing lights. The smell of hot dogs, candyfloss and toffee apples. The ground shudders with the movement of the rides and the air's alive with music and laughter. You know it won't be there forever but after 10 days it starts to feel part of the town, like its always been there and you almost can't remember what the streets looked like before, but come the dawn and its gone, just marks on the ground.

  I could mention the Showmens Guild bought a Spitfire for the war effort or the work they do for the disabled and charities that, I've been given the run of thousands of pounds worth of equipment many times to measure for a model with nothing asked in return save to "show us it when its done", but I'm straying from the point.

  The way some grown ups behave you'd think they'd never been children and the "knockers" and "moaners" in society always make the most noise. Were there no fairs there would be something else for them to complain about for sure. The silent majority are just that—until its too late!

  The fair's gone now and the greyness reappears, the IRA cease-fire could collapse, famine, plague, war in God knows where, the awful side of life returns. It was always there of course, we'd just forgotten it for a while. The fair like some roller coaster Hollywood blockbuster, an assault on all our senses took it away,—truly escapism on a grand scale.

  "It'll be back though Dad"? "It will won't it Dad"? "I hope so son", "I hope so"!

Paul Needham

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