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Myth Busters On The Funfair

10 July 2020

Myth Busters on the funfair. Growing up in a funfair community, before making the move into full time corporate entertainment. I came across over the years some stunning examples of ignorance concerning our industry.

I will attempt to expel some of the most common, and in same cases hilarious examples I have personally been witness to.

Be Careful They Don’t Steal Your Kids

I think this is a holdover from people thinking we are gypsy’s. As I have heard the same comments directed at them. As far as I can find out from a medical point of view, people brought up on the fairground, have the same levels of fertility as the wider community. So why an earth does any rational person think we need to steal kids. The community also being extremely tight knit, wasn’t really very accepting of outsiders. So anyone magically acquiring a kid they had purloined from the outside world would find it very quickly ostracised.

As an aside, there have been occasional cases in the news where people have abducted children from hospitals etc, and been caught. To the best of my knowledge, none of these people have ever had a connection with our industry. So perhaps we have more to fear for our kids being stolen than the other way around.

All The Men On The Fairground Have Tattoos

Hmm, looking at the popular media portrayal of the fairground worker you would think so. Only we don’t, tattoos are considered about on par with halitosis or scabies, you don’t want them. The actual fairground owners just don’t have tattoos. Dave, who you met on the waltzers will almost certainly have them. But here’s the thing, Dave is a local lad that has been employed to help on the rides. He is one of you, not one of us.

The Lads On The Fair Will Steal Your Girlfriend

This is one that I have to hold my hands up and admit has more than a grain of truth. To some teenage girls the bright lights and big rides seem exotic. And there are many cases of hook ups between said young ladies and guys on the fair. It was usually followed the next day by punch ups between irate boyfriends and guys on the fair.

When The Fair Is In Town Crime Goes Up

This is a persistent one that we could never seem to shake off. Some towns we visited would see many of the shops close the week we were there. It’s a stark contrast to the continent, where the fairs and the local chamber of commerce and shops all work together. Indeed on many Dutch Fairgrounds, the shops will sponsor prizes for the best ride or attraction.

I once asked a local superintendent about this, and what he told me was that in his experience the opposite was true. He said that most of the toerag thieves and druggies tended to visit the fair, rather than be out on the rob, so he claimed a reduction in things like housebreaking.

We Know He Was Off The Fairground Because He Wasn’t Wearing Socks Or Shoes

This was an actual quote made to me by a police officer. We had all arrived to set up in Preston Park for an annual event. A squad car turned up with a couple of young officers in. The officer in charge started enquiring if any of us were missing a member of staff. He explained that a body had been found on the motorway about 20 miles away. When I asked why they thought a random body was anything to do with us, that was his reply. “He wasn’t wearing socks or shoes.” Funny thing, I looked down and all of us had socks and shoes on. Well at least we had shoes, without going round pulling trousers legs up I couldn’t swear to the socks. Obviously the officer in question had failed the intelligence test to become a Unigate milkman and joined the police force instead.

We Have A Large Suspect Pool, It Consists Of Everyone Who Was Working At The Fair

We have endured similar over the years. I once received a message from the police that they would like to interview me. It is only routine they said, but they were interviewing everyone who had attended Stokesly Show Fair due to a young lady being sexually assaulted. I told the female detective that she couldn’t see me that day as I was just leaving to an event in Ripon city centre. “No, probs, I did my probation at Ripon nick, could you pop in and see me, only take a minute.”

I duly popped in, and as I sat down in front of her she told me that I was free to go. Turned out they weren’t actually interviewing people, they had a description and if you fitted it they would arrest you. Just out of interest I enquired as to how they intended to track everyone who had attended the fair to see if they fit the description. “Oh we don’t, we are only interviewing people off the actual fair!”

So there might well have been 100,000 people visit the event. But the suspects were strictly limited to the couple of hundred showmen. Who would actually have been hard at work during the time of the fair. Sometimes in compiling these myth busters I truly despair as to the levels of prejudice.


A similar thing occurred a few years later at the Harrogate stray funfair. It seems that someone had been knocked off of their bike and killed on a country road leading to harrogate. Because that particular week the fair was in town, it was decided by the local Stasi, erm sorry constabulary, that it must be a funfair vehicle that had hit him. I mean, there was at least 20 funfair vehicles used that road on that day compared to only a few thousand non funfair vehicles, so its obvious isn’t it.

Anyway said local force turned up armed with paint scrapers to scrape paint samples from all the vehicles on the fair. I must admit this still annoys me all these years later as I had just had my vehicle resprayed, some two weeks before. Again I asked if the paint vandalism was being carried out on all the local hauliers vehicles. Silly question that I knew the answer to before it was asked.

They Don’t Pay Taxes

Another common misconception that we can use in our myth busters. Oh, if only. If I didn’t pay taxes I would be able to afford that 4 seat Cessna airplane I fancy. Or a nice motor cruiser. Obviously there will be some who don’t declare everything to HMRC. But the proportion will be no different to the wider world who aren’t showmen. I don’t for one minute think there are enough funfair operators fiddling their books to keep all those tax inspectors in employment.

Myth Busters They Just Turn Up And Set Up

In January I used to be able to tell you almost every fair I would be attending that season. There would be an occasional gala I might pick up at the last minute. Or occasionally the weather would cancel a fair and I would manage to secure a plot at an alternative. But by and large the events I attended were regular events. That had in some cases been going on for hundreds of years. Even the smaller events would still need permission from landowners, liaison with the police and other local emergency services, sometimes road closure orders, and all would need the layout and mixture of rides and attractions sorting out well in advance. We also needed to advertise the event in advance to ensure we had enough patrons to make it worthwhile.

I cannot remember in 50 years, once ever just turning up and deciding a plot of land would be nice for an immediate funfair to be opened.

Hopefully we can add some more myth busters to our list in the future.

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