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

Memorandum by the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain, South Wales Section (TF 35)


  In the South Wales Area the historic travelling fairs are an important part of the lives of the communities in which they take place. They are dearly cherished in towns like Pembroke, Brecon, Hereford, Haverfordwest and Neath where they have been taking place for hundreds of years. The grand opening ceremonies where the Charters are read by the Town Crier with the Mayor of the town and those from surrounding areas attending in their robes and regalia, is a great sight. With the unique and very special character of a street fair, many are major tourist attractions in an area, which relies on tourism as a major employer.

  It is not just the old longstanding fairs that are important. We must continue to seek new sites. The vital and dynamic City of Cardiff only a few years ago introduced a fabulous funfair into the streets of the City Centre. This is part of their summer festival., which was designed to give great family entertainment to residents and visitors alike. It has become an instant success with over 200,000 people attending each year. Link this with the well-publicised success of Millennium funfairs not only in Cardiff but also throughout the UK and this demonstrates that the entertainment we provide is well received and in great demand by the public. More towns and cities therefore should be encouraged to make further venues available to us.

  With regard the Showmen themselves it is so self evident that one feels it almost unnecessary to point out the importance of these fairs to them and their families who earn their living exclusively in this way.


  These fall very broadly into two areas.

    (a) The streets of major towns and cities and

    (b) Open areas of land such as car parks, playing fields etc.

  The retention of the traditional funfair in the streets is essential to ensure they retain their special magic. It would therefore be very useful if a system could be introduced where Highways Departments etc had to consult with Showmen when changes were being planned. Areas being pedestrianised or even street furniture being brought in can have a serious effect on a fair. With discussion and therefore the application of a little knowledge and foresight, often, street furniture, planters, ornaments, lamp standards etc can be located in such a way the fairground rides can be accommodated: this without any major change to the original concept of the planners.

  We have experienced losses of fairs in Wales where there have been redevelopment such as those in Clydach and Potardawe which has not only resulted in hardship for showmen's families but also has been a loss of amenity to these small communities.

  The redevelopment of other sites sometimes means that the funfair is seriously affected or even lost, and in these cases consultation should be automatically in place with regard finding alternative sites. Any site however offered for a fairground must meet certain criteria in terms of the surface on which it stands, entrance and egress, and be situated in an area which is easily accessible to the public, especially those with young families. To be placed on remote sites miles out of town is simply not viable.

  Where a site is being proposed consideration must be given to the comfort of the families who will be staying on site or close by when the fair is open. They require a good surface on which to place their caravans in an area that is safe and secure for them and their children. They also need a supply of water and power.


  Apart from the need to have suitable places to stay at fairs, when travelling, the showmen have very specific needs with regard Winter Quarters.

  These need not only to be safe comfortable areas with all amenities so that Showmen and their families can have an enjoyable life but need attached to them areas where they can park their lorries and rides and other equipment and complete general maintenance painting etc. Ideally, because this work takes place in the winter it needs to be conducted in a closed or covered area.

  We feel Items 4 and 5 would be better addressed by Keith Miller, at our Central Office and our Planning Consultants.

February 2000

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