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Event Planning, Fun Story, funfair events, Funfair Rides

Nutcases, Organising Funfair Events & Killer Swans

2 December 2020

Originally we were traditional funfair operators. We then started to make the move into organising funfair events. Eventually we reached the point where we decided to specialise purely in corporate and private events. The sort where we don’t charge the guests, the person booking us pays a fixed rate.

But in between the two extremes, we had a period, where we were taking on paid work and traditional festivals, fetes, galas, in fact we would try anything.

Over time we found that only a small percentage of events ended up financially viable, but it was a steep learning curve. Two events in particular stand out from this period.

Peterborough Showground

We were contacted by a gentleman who was putting together a huge event (his words) at Peterborough Showground. This was to raise money for charity, he was expecting in excess of 50,000 people to attend, and the night would be highlighted by a set played by One Direction, fresh from winning whatever reality show they had won.

Arthur and I travelled to meet him. He had the spiel, and he ticked the boxes showing us the contract already signed for One Direction, so it looked pretty good. In hindsight, (that most wonderfully useless of skills) we should have been a teeny bit suspicious of his qualifications to run an event of this scale, when we had to help him jump start his 30 year old clapped out Fiat Panda, because it wouldn’t start. But hey, he might have been one of those eccentric promoters. We have in fairness dealt with multi millionaires before, who looked like a close relation to Greengrass of Heartbeat fame.

We sorted a deal out, and agreed to organise a funfair event on a grand scale, thrill rides, family rides, games stalls, catering, the kitchen sink and all.

The Big Day

I was at another event on the big day. So Arthur, my part time partner in crime was going to be in charge. We had attracted a number of other operators with our enthusiastic selling of the event, so we did have a big selection of equipment set up.

On the morning I received two phone calls. The first was from a mate Graham. He wanted to thank me for letting him attend the festival. As he had this theory you see, that the more portable toilets at an event, the bigger the crowd was going to be. He told me that the toilets were lined up as far as the eye could see, he was already planning his retirement to a Caribbean island based on what he was going to earn.

The Second Call

The second call came from Arthur and was rather more panicked. When I had calmed him down enough to talk rationally he came out with a classic line. “Do you know how many tickets he has sold for this event?”

In fairness I had no idea, I was hoping for something like 40,000 but I thought that really anything over 20,000 would be a major event.

“427”, was Arthur’s now icily calm statement.

“Shit, 427 thousand, the venue won’t take that many people, health and safety will shut us down.” Now I was starting to panic.

“No”, said Arthur, “Not 427 FU***NG thousand, FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY SEVEN, as in three digits, as in we are in trouble. He thinks that lots of people will just turn up on the day and pay at the gate”

Well, at least I wasn’t there, so Arthur would have to deal with everyone. Graham didn’t talk to me for quite a while after that. I think they ended up with an attendance of about 800.

The moral of the story is never trust a guy in a broken down Fiat Panda.

Living in a ghost town
This Is How Peterborough Felt

Ripon Racecourse

The second, followed a similar pattern. A guy called Simon was putting an event on at Ripon racecourse. Rennie, another part time collaborator, and I went to meet him. He laid out the plans, the army was coming, the navy, airforce, a massive classic car show, giant car boot. Not as impressive as Peterborough, but a nice sized localish event. We agreed terms and shook hands.

Now the night before we were due to set up, I attended an event in Glossop with a couple of children’s rides. One of them which was trailer mounted, had a wheel bearing collapse, and being a Saturday afternoon in a small town, I couldn’t source a replacement.

After the event, the AA refused to recover the trailer and instead got me a quote of £700 to take it the 40 miles back home. Bugger that, I ended up adjusting the towbar to take the weight off the back of the ride, and came home on three wheels. The last leg coming through the centre of Barnsley, I passed more bloody Police cars than I have ever seen, but thankfully whatever was going off kept them too preoccupied to notice my DIY three wheeler.

I arrive At Ripon

Because of the hassles at Glossop, I ended up getting home in the early hours of the morning. Because both Arthur and Rennie were going to be at Ripon, I decided to let them sort the layout of the event out and I would turn up later to set my equipment up.

By the time I arrived at Ripon, it was raining lightly. I rounded the corner and pulled into a field, containing a fair bit of funfair equipment and nothing else. No Army, Navy or Air Force, no car show or giant car boot. WTF

As I jumped out of my lorry, that nutcase Simon ran up, with no shirt on singing ‘Three wheels on my wagon’. I looked at Arthur who smiled, he felt he still owed me for Peterborough. “You’ll have to explain to everyone why there is nothing here and no bloody people this time.” says he.

Oh Lord, “Where is everything Simon, I enquired politely though gritted teeth.”

“Not sure he beamed, thought it would be here by now, but don’t worry.”

“why don’t worry what have you got up your sleeve?” I hopefully asked.

“Well nothing really, but it’s great to be alive. God loves us”, he was still beaming.

It was at that point I decided to move him nearer to God. Thankfully, for him, Rennie and Arthur grabbed an arm each and kept me rooted to the spot, Simon, oblivious to his rapidly shortening life expectancy trotted off to his refrain of singing in the rain.

Killer Swans

When I had calmed down enough for them to let me loose. I looked at them and asked what we were going to do. “Your in charge” said Arthur, “Up to you this time”. He had a matching grin to Simons.

Just at that precise moment, karma decided to intervene. Ripon has a population of swans in its lake. Now most of them stayed away from us all in the lake. But one swan, a bit more adventurous than the rest had decided to come check us out. We were stood there, a bit like the three stooges, when the said swan decided to attack. Well, to be more precise, he left Rennie and I alone, and set about Arthur.

Ha, he wasn’t laughing now, and I hadn’t realised just how big and aggressive swans could be. Arthur ended up running away. But for the rest of the day, whenever he stopped in one place too long, the swan would swoop in and attack. Funny, it never bothered anyone else, well except for the young lady who had just bought a chocolate bun from the coffee stall, she had unwrapped it and was staring at it longingly, when a head on a long white neck, came from over her shoulder and snatched it.

Arthur's Mate. An angry swan
Arthur’s Mate

At Ripon we had only taken smaller attractions, so we just about covered our expenses.

We had a far more serious problem at another event Called The Great Yorkshire Carnival, but I am saving that for a future post.

If you would like to hire dodgems, games or any other attractions we can do that.

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