Tag: funfairs

funfair events, Funfair Rides, Major Fairs

Tilburg Kermis, A Major Fair

23 March 2022
Tilburg Skyline

Another of our quick look at major fairs, a little different this time as it is in the Netherlands. Dating back to 1570, the Tilburg Kermis is the largest fair in the Benelux region, attracting over a million visitors annually which makes it big by any standard.

Playing host to upto 250 attractions spread over a 4.5km city centre site Tilburg is held around the third week in July. Like many fairs in the UK, it started as a market, being held to honour Tilburg’s patron saint. Unlike many UK based events though, the local community and businesses play an active part in the event. With local pubs and restaurants staging music events, large scale DJ sets and themed evenings. A stark contrast to the UK based scene, where many local businesses close for the duration of the fair.

Tilburg Fair
Tilburg Fair
Pink Monday Revellers
Pink Monday Revellers

Pink Monday

One of the most popular days of the fair, is Pink monday (Rose Maandag). Celebrating lgbt values, it brings gays and lesbians from across Europe, with many of the attractions sporting pink decor for the day. Attracting over 350,000 visitors this is a definite boost for the event. The slogan for the day is “Be Gay For A Day”

Pink Monday Slogan
Pink Monday Slogan
Pink Is The Colour
Pink Is The Colour

The event even has it’s own radio station. Kermis FM, offering a mix of information about the event, traffic data and kermis style music.

The final day of the Tilburg Kermis sees a massive procession towards the pius harbour. Culminating in a 15 minute firework display.

Resources: Kermis Tilburg Official Website

Event Planning, Fun Story, funfair events, Funfair Rides

Nottingham Goose Fair, A Major Fair

27 September 2021
Goosey

Another of our looks at some of the major funfair events throughout the UK. One of three fairs to carry the name ‘Goose Fair’. nottingham is the largest. The others being in Tavistock and Colyford East Devon.

History dates the event back to a royal charter in 1284 granted by King Edward I. Though fairs in Nottingham were thought to predate this. Originally taking place in September, it was moved to an October date in 1752 when the Gregorian calendar was adopted.

It has taken place every year since then, save for 1646 when an outbreak of the bubonic plague stopped it, the two World wars, and obviously 2020 when the covid pandemic struck.

Early History

The creation of fairs by royal charter was a common occurrence in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. King Henry II had granted a charter for an annual Martinmas fair in Lenton Priory in November. This gave prominence to that event and prevented other fairs from competing with it. The 1284 charter giving Nottingham it’s own fair saw the event grow in size and prestige.

Records first mention the Goose Fair name in 1541, where it is referred to in borough records as ‘goosey fair day.’ The name comes from the thousands of geese driven from Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire to be sold in Nottingham. Like many fairs it started as a trade fair, for the sale of livestock, geese and most famously its high quality cheese. At this time it was based in the Old Market Square.

When It Really Was A Goose Fair
When It Really Was A Goose Fair

Entertainment

In common with other events of the nature, side shows and other entertainment was added to the event, gradually diminishing the trade element. As shops evolved and transport links increased, annual events like this were no longer a necessity to stock up the larder. The dawn of steam and mechanisation saw rides being added to the event. The traditional carousels, switchbacks, gondola rides and animal manageries gradually increasing in mumber.

Historic Nottingham Goose Fair
Historic Nottingham Goose Fair

As the event spread out it overwhelmed the market square and began to cause problems with congestion, not helped by the increase in traffic through the town centre. The decision as taken to move the event in 1928 to the Forest Recreation ground. A move resisted by the showmen, but in the event proving ideal, being twice the size of the market square.

Modern History

Held annually on the recreation ground for five days, it boasts over five hundred attractions. Everything from traditional carousels to the latest white knuckle thrill attractions.

The roundabout on the approach to the fair is notable for its giant fibreglass goose called ‘Goosey’ which appears in the run up to the fair taking place. The Lord Mayor opens the event with the ringing of a pair of silver bells. Still a massively popular event attracting over 500,000 visitors annually the fair has an excellent record as regards safety and trouble happening.

Goosey
Goosey
Event Planning, Fun Story, Funfair Rides

Sid Howell, Fairground Artists

21 September 2021
Fred Thompsons Ark

Another in our series of portraits on the great fairground artists. Sid Howell, and indeed his father Albert, were two highly regarded painters at the firm of Orton Sons, & Spooner. Or more commonly Orton & Spooner as it was referred to within the funfair industry.

The company produced some of the most ornate and elaborate rides, stalls and showfronts during the early part of the 20th Century. Indeed little since has come close to matching their style, both the early rococo theme or the later Art Deco. They were well known for employing the best of artisans and artists to work on their rides.

Sid Howell was born in 1906 in Bristol, but moved with the family to Burton On Trent, the homebase of Orton and Spooner. He not only studied art at school, but was helped with additional coaching from his father, and received actual working experience at the firm.

By the time he was 18, he had completed a study course at Burton Art School, and eventually qualified to teach the subject.

Many would assume that he would follow his father in to the amusement ride firm, but he chose a different path, instead accepting a position as trainee draughtsman at Branston Artificial Silk. Sadly this didn’t work out as the company folded three years later.

Sid Howell
Sid Howell

Orton Sons, And Spooner

When Sid found himself unemployed in a period where jobs were scarce, he ended up joining his father Albert decorating funfair attractions. He brought the benefits of a new younger generation to the company. His knowledge of new techniques and his introduction of newer styles was evident in the standard of work being turned out.

The father and son team were a perfect match, especially on the many jungle scenes they painted together.

They were interrupted during the war years, as were most ride manufacturers. But happily by 1946 the company was back producing rides.

Edwards Ben Hur

Robert Edwards owned a Noah’s Ark that had been built in the mid 30’s. He placed an order for the ride to be rebuilt.

The rounding boards were painted in the familiar jungle theme, quite probably by Albert. Sid however designed and painted a scene from Ben Hur on the main front panels. At over 40ft wide and 15ft tall it was a stunning work of art. This was widely recognised as the finest work of his career. Keep in mind that the front not only had to look right at ground level, but also when it was placed in the air. Add in the fact that the front was curved, and you have an idea of the level of skill involved in his creation.

The Famous Ben Hur Front
The Famous Ben Hur Front

Much of the fabulous artwork from these early artists has been lost, either when the rides were retired and scrapped, or when, as often happened they were repainted to keep them fresh.

Dingles

Happily the Ben Hur ark survived. It is now a resident at the Dingles Heritage Museum in West Devon. Well worth a trip out to see.

Dingles Fairground Museum
Dingles Fairground Museum
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Sid eventually left Orton & Spooner as work from the showmen gradually dried up. The company turned away from the industry .

Sid had a spell undertaking freelance work, and worked at an amusement park, and also Blackpool’s famous illuminations.

He died in 1966, but the immensity of his talent lives on in his finest work.

His son, Alan S. Howell, researched and wrote a book about the artists of Orton & Spooner titled ‘Men At Work‘. This is fetching sums in excess of £100 for a paperback copy. It would be well worth a read if you can get your hands on one.

Men At Work
Men At Work

Resources;

Fairground Heritage Trust https://www.fairground-heritage.org.uk/

Joyland Books https://www.joylandbooks.com

Event Planning, Fun Story, funfair events, Funfair Rides

Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd., A Manufacturer Profile

14 September 2021
Orton Spooners Three Abreast

The golden years of fairgrounds in the UK, pretty much the Victorian era really. Saw numerous home grown companies providing the ever expanding scene with rides and shows that were works of art. Sadly like much of British industry, few ride manufacturers still remain. The legendary names of old seem to limp along in various forms until about the last third of the 20th century before finally fading away. Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd was one such name, responsible for some of the most ornate switchbacks, arks and shows ever to appear on the fairground, they ended as equipment handling manufacturers before ceasing to trade around 1977.

George Orton

Originally they were two separate companies. The first being the Lion Carriage Works. Set up by George Orton who manufactured gypsy wagons as well as drays and carriages for other industries. Based in Burton upon Trent, he received his first commision for a Showman’s wagon around 1883. At that period in history, showmen not only lived in their wagons, but they tended to be highly carved and ornate and formed the front part of a travelling show.

Typical Orton & Spooner Showmans Wagon
Typical Orton & Spooner Showmans Wagon

Charles Spooner

A young man named Charles Spooner, owner of the ‘Swan Works’, in Burton was one of Orton’s suppliers. A wood carver who had been apprenticed to Walter Gifford Hilton he supplied drays and carts to the thriving brewing industry in Burton.

Orton contracted him to provide carvings for his showfronts and wagons. This symbiotic relationship flourished to the point that the two companies were amalgamated in 1925 as Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd.

Ride Manufacturing

They soon expanded their range into the full scale building of rides and showfronts and came to dominate the market. Their highly ornate, exquisitely decorated constructions were far in advance of the plainer, less impressive offerings from competitors, indeed the breathtaking scale of their offerings haven’t been matched since.

Scenic Railway Whale

The picture above is a typical example taken from one of their scenic railways. Superbly detailed and robustly constructed, these cars were said to weigh around 1500kg’s each, with a complete ride in the 35-40 tonne bracket.

They built their first scenic for Holland Brothers in 1912, some 57 feet in diameter and powered by no fewer than eight electric motors. Over the next twenty years they completed over 30 of these rides.

World War I

The first World War, saw the company requisitioned to produce aircraft hangers, but successfully re launched into the fairground market in 1919 with another scenic railway.

Their final scenic was delivered in 1925, with the type coming to the end of its popularity. Smaller and lighter attractions now ruled the roost, with Noah’s Arks, Waltzers and Speedways being in demand. They also turned out an estimated 50 dodgem tracks, along with ghost trains, shows and side stalls. They built the first skid ride for the famous Midlands showman Pat Collins in 1928.

Sadly George Orton passed away at the age of 81 in 1924. The company now being in the hands of his sons, and Charles Spooner, who had married his daughter Anne.

From the onset the business employed only the best artisans and artists. The father and son teaming of Albert and Sid Howell being responsible for some of the stunning art gracing the fronts and rounding boards of these rides.

Painted By The Howells, My Gt Grandfather Fred Thompson's Ark Front.
Painted By The Howells, My Gt Grandfather Fred Thompson’s Ark Front.
Widely Considered Sid Howells Best Artwork, Edwards's Ben Hur
Widely Considered Sid Howells Best Artwork, Edwards’s Ben Hur

The Ben Hur front for Edwards ark was considered to be Sid Howells greatest work. The image above doesn’t do justice to the sheer size and scale of the work which was around 15ft high and over 40ft long.

Carving

Charles Spooner gained a reputation as being amongst the finest wood carvers in the business. Creating examples of pretty much everything required on rides at that time. The company was quick to respond to current affairs. Producing animals carved as Generals during the Boer war, and armoured cars and tanks during WWI.

Boer War Generals Carved As Centaurs
Boer War Generals Carved As Centaurs

They successfully transitioned from their early Rococo style creations, as the country moved into the Art Deco period. They produced modern, for the time, decor with curves and swooping forms. Decorated with modern airplanes and train engines, mixed in with bright colours and influences of the exotic from the far east and Egypt.

In common with much of industry, they gradually moved away from the one off hand crafted work. To a more standardised production line using stencils and patterned parts. To keep up with increased demand and competition this was a necessary evil. It did mean though that we would never again see the wonderful fronts and carvings for which they had become famous.

World War II

Charles Spooner died at the beginning of WWII. The bulk of the companies efforts being the manufacturing of military vehicles during the war.

They recommenced work in the fairground industry after the war. But it was a changed world, demand from the showmen was dropping off, and they began to diversify into other engineering work. 1954 marked the final break with fairground manufacture, and the company soldiered on until finally falling into receivership in 1977.

Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd will be remembered as one of the greats of the last century.

Sources;

The Fairground Heritage Trust https://www.fairground-heritage.org.uk/

National Fairground And Circus Archive https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/nfca

Fun Story

The Master

20 August 2021
Fred Fowle 'The Master'

A while back we published an article on the late, great, Fred Fowle, one of the famous names of yesteryear in funfair artwork.

This was intended to be part of our series on famous funfair artists. Not knowing Fred personally, we used that great resource Google to research the article.

A while after we published the post we were contacting by the great mans son Peter, who told us that much of the article was inaccurate, and drew on information in the public domain that he said was likewise incorrect.

Not wishing to perpetuate an article containing inaccuracies, we asked Peter if he could pen a short precis of his fathers life.

The article below is supplied by Peter to correct some of the misinformation around his Fathers career.

Fred Fowle

My father Fred Fowle was better known in the Fairground world as ‘The Master’.

At the age of thirteen he had a Saturday job painting Japanese scroll work onto grand pianos in a small workshop in Southwest London. This became a full time job for a short time after leaving school.

When the opportunity to work for Lakin Bros. arose, painting fairground rides, it was time to move on and follow his dream. After a period of time this gave Fred the opportunity to express himself with his creative skills and flamboyant colourful artwork.

World War 2

When the Second World War started, Fred was called up and joined the army. This included taking part in the Normandy invasion as a Medical officer.

After the war had ended, Fred’s life completely changed with the setting up of Hall and Fowle fairground artists. Unfortunately, over a period of time there was a difference of work practices and the couple decided to go their separate ways.

This was the time for Fred to set up by himself to carry out the work he enjoyed by forming his own business F.G.Fowle Ltd.

The Sixties

The sixties were an exciting time for the Fairgrounds, with bigger and faster rides taking centre stage. This suited Fred who adapted his style to the emerging modern day funfair of the time and for many years afterwards.

Every fairground ride or stall designed by Fred used patterns that were then stencilled onto the rounding boards. All the work was carried out using only Keep’s paint, many colours were mixed to Fred’s own requirements.

Since my father’s death in 1983, just a few weeks before retiring, the new artwork on fairground rides etc has not been the same since, although many have tried.

For those who maybe reading this article, you can see Hall and Fowl’s first ghost train machine at Dingles Fairground Exhibition in Devon plus various artwork completed by my father.

Peter Fowle August 2022

Catering, Event Planning, Fun Story, funfair events, Funfair Rides

Newcastle Hoppings, A Major Fair

1 June 2021

Newcastle Hoppings is the largest travelling funfair in Europe (though both Nottingham Goose fair and Hull Fair also claim the title). A major fixture in the funfair calendar. Held in the North East city of Newcastle Upon Tyne over 9 days in June.

With over 300,000 visitors a year, and featuring over 60 major adult rides, and a plethora of children’s rides, games and catering to match. The event is held in June to coincide with the Northumberland Plate. Part of the flat season races for horses of three years or older.

It is situated on the Town Moor, a large grazing land just outside the city centre (during the first world war it was held in Jesmond). The showmen commonly refer to the event as the Town moor, or even just ‘The Moor’, rather than the hoppings name used by the locals.

Temperance Festival Association

The driving force behind the establishment of the hoppings, was Alderman William Davies Stephens, chairman of the Temperance Festival Association. The association, typical of the Victorian era do gooders, felt that the horse race would attract drinking and gambling. They wanted to provide a temperance festival for the miners and other workers as an alternative, to save them from the fires of damnation.

I suppose in a way it was a better idea than the Americans had. Our abstinence gave us a major funfair, the American prohibition gave them Al Capone.

Early Years

In the beginning, the event will have been typical of fairs of that era, stalls, games and sideshows would have formed the bulk of the event. Indeed in the North East, funfairs are often referred to as ‘The shows’ in allusion to the preponderance of that type of attraction.

Typical Side Show
Typical Side Show

These tended to be animal managaries, or the popular at the time human freak shows. Large steam powered rides were appearing on funfairs by then, and quite possibly would have attended the hoppings, but at that time they were still a supporting act.

Over the next 50 years the event began to resemble what we would recognise today. With some of the early thrill rides appearing, Octopus, dive bomber, waltzers, all designed to fly you higher, spin you faster and scare witless.

The Moonrocket

A well known ride, the Moonrocket of Shaws, built in 1939. This was typical of the early rides that would have appeared at the Town Moor.

The Modern Era

Nowadays, well not 2020, and possibly not 2021 due to the little matter of a global pandemic, most of the top rides from around the UK appear at the event. Immaculate examples of the old favourites such as dodgems and Waltzers still jostle with the thrill rides for customers. There are fabulous examples of all the current funfair games, children’s rides and food stalls.

Newcastle Hoppings aerial view
Newcastle Hoppings

A look at the fair from the air shows the sheer scale of the event. Hull and Nottingham might possibly have more rides in attendance, or be classed as bigger due to some other statistic. But for sheer acreage, there isn’t anything else in the UK that comes near.

2013 was notable for the fair being cancelled due to the severe weather leaving the ground in a poor state. Work has since been carried out to improve drainage and add a metalled road to prevent a recurrence.

Charity

The event was always noted for the free riding the showmen provided for a number of charities, the Variety club would bus as estimated 3000 children in to enjoy the showmen’s efforts, usually on the first evening of the event.

Indeed records indicate that the very first year of the festival saw a tea provided for 1000 of the cities poorest children.

The Name Hoppings

When we used to attend the event, I often wondered about just why it was called the Hoppings. I presumed it was one of those stories lost in time. However recently I came across the official website for the event, maintained by the Freeman of the City/Newcastle Council. They offered two possible explanations for the name. One is that hopping was a very old name for a dance.

The other explanation the offer, is that the showmen used to wear sacks as cloths. These would become infested with fleas and the showmen being bitten would ‘hop’ about. Hmm, the photo below is a typical old image of showmen. Actually one of our earliest corporate entertainment crew who provided a show for Queen Victoria. Take a look, although it is in a poor state, it sure looks to me like they were wearing regular type cloths. Nary a cloth sack in sight.

Sources;

Discovering Heritage https://discoveringheritage.com/2019/06/27/the-first-newcastle-hoppings/

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hoppings

Hoppings Funfairs http://hoppingsfunfairs.com/

Catering, Event Planning, Fun Story, funfair events, Funfair Rides

Hire Dodgems Cars For Your Event

11 February 2021

When You Want The Most Fun For Your Event

If you have arrived here you are looking for a dodgems ride for your event. A really nice dodgems.

Well we suppose you could want a scruffy one, something that looks like it came from the theme park at Chernobyl. In which case you really need to talk to a dodgy dodgem guy called Vladimir.

If you want the nice type then you can have a package tailored to suit you, even going as far as preparing a bridal car with ribbons and flowers to match if it’s for your wedding, or adding branding for corporate hires.

Your dodgems service will be a great centrepiece for your event, designed around your requirements so you don’t have to worry.

Easily the most popular ride you can have. Ideal for all age groups young and old. Everyone loves to drive a dodgem car, making them perfect for your fun day, or just about any event you can imagine.

You have the choice of a full range of track sizes in both traditional dodgems and ultra modern versions.

Don’t dodge us, contact us for a quote.

Continental Bumper Cars
Continental Bumper Cars

Funfair Rides, Fun For All Ages, Children And Adults.

Looking back on our long term records, this is by far our most booked fairground ride. People rent dodgems when they want maximum fun. Smaller children can be accompanied by adults, so its suitable for kids. Teenagers love it, even the older generation find it a fun experience.

Although it has to be said the aim of the ride is to ‘dodge’ the other cars, not crash headlong into each other, hence dodgems, (we know, we know, in the North East they call them bumper cars, but they are a hardy breed ‘up North).

Together with the Carousel hire , Ferris Wheel hire  and Helter Skelter it is one of the iconic fairground rides.

We can advise you on the type and size of bumper cars rides to best suit your venue and requirements. And provide guidance on the best funfair attractions to complement your event.

You need to take into account the ages and requirements of your guests. A well presented ride  has music and lighting systems. Creating a fabulous centrepiece. Easily the most popular attractions available.

If you want  radioactive rides then you are gonna have to try harder to find Vlad!

Continental Dodgems For Hire
Continental Dodgems For Hire

This ride works well with other offerings from our stable of entertainment including rides, games and fairground attractions;

You can have us propose a complete package for your needs when a range of fairground attractions are required, be it a company fun day, corporate event, a birthday party or you simply want to hire dodgems for a wedding.

Why not enjoy the event yourself comrade and leave the planning and stress to our team.

Hiring A Ride, What Do You Need To Know?

How much to hire  bumper cars near me and dodgems hire price, are regular questions we receive, unfortunately there is no simple answer to fairground ride hire prices, as it depends on where, when and what type. The where and the when are easy to answer, the other questions might need an explanation.

There are basically 2 type of rides available, the traditional type which is supplied totally dismantled and erected piece by piece., he advantage of this being that they can be carried through small gates, over fences, even upstairs, the big disadvantage is the 6-8 hours set up time.

Commonly referred to as a continental track or modern dodgem, the alternative is a set up time of around 3 hours. These are folded up onto a centre trailer for transport tending to be more highly decorated than the traditional model, contain more elaborate lighting systems and higher powered music.

The only real drawback with a modern track is that they have to be driven into position. So it limits the venues they can be used in.

You also need to take into account the track sizes and quantity of cars required. To ensure whichever you choose will fit in your intended venue.

You need to take care when hiring rides like this. The internet is great for finding something you need,but there are plenty of cowboys operators out there, check out our short article on finding the best ride for your money.

Hire funfair bumper cars from us and you will receive details of what you will actually receive. And we definitely don’t have anyone called Vladimir working here.

Check out the history of the dodgems or as they are sometimes known, bumper cars.

Traditional Dodgems For Hire
Traditional Dodgems For Hire

F.A.Q.

WHERE CAN I HIRE DODGEMS NEAR ME;
All types and sizes of dodgem tracks can be provided anywhere in the U.K.

WHAT IS A BEST A TRADITIONAL OR A MODERN TRACK;
The ride experience is identical, so it all comes down to whether you want a modern glitzy look, or something more traditional. Additionally access restrictions may stop the larger continental track being used.

CAN WE USE BUMPER CARS IN THE RAIN;
As long as the track come with a top cover to allow use in inclement weather. All of ours do!

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DODGEM CAR HIRE AND BUMPER CAR HIRE;
Absolutely nothing, they are two names for the same ride, bumper cars tends to be used more in the North East.

WHAT IS DODGEMS HIRE COST;
It depends on the type of track, where and when you require the ride, expect to pay between £1700 and £2500

I HAVE BEEN OFFERED THEM FOR £1500 WHY SHOULDN’T I HIRE THAT RIDE;
Like most things in like, when it seems too good to be true, it usually is!

Fun Story, funfair events, General

Abandoned Spreepark

12 December 2020

Spreepark is a derelict amusement park located on the outskirts of Berlin, abandoned and eerie. It has been abandoned for over 10 years. Throughout the park you can find remains of children’s rides and game stalls as well as life size dinosaur statues. The park was originally created and set in 1969 and was called Veb Kulturpark Planterwald. Set up by the Communist government in East Berlin. The park thrived throughout the communist era until the fall of the Berlin wall 20 years later.

In 1991 Norbet Witte took over the park and renamed it ‘Spreepark’. Making many changes he transformed the amusement park, adding grass and water landscapes and bringing a line of new modern rides from the Mirapolis amusement park in Paris. Mr Witte changed the park numerous times and even added an English village. However it later came out that Norbet Witte was a controversial park manager and was involved in illegal activities such as smuggling cocaine, which he achieved by hiding it in parts of ride equipment that he shipped between Peru, Germany and Belgium. Due to this information surfacing the park was closed down in 2002.

2002

From 2002 the park remained shut down, with erosion and nature soaring throughout the park. Causing destructive damage and in 2014 a fire started by arson destroyed much of the equipment in the park. Due to this the government increased security on the site with new fences around the perimeter. Miraculously in 2016 a company put forward a plan to take over the park. To transform it into a location for arts and culture. The company Grun Berlin GmbH was owned by the city of Berlin. They forwarded the proposed plans in late 2018 and are considered to be implemented over several years.

As of last year many of the attractions was removed. However some of the main features such as the large Ferris wheel and rollercoaster remain. Along with the restaurant from the very first year of the park being open, and a water ride, carousel and cinema from the takeover period.

The park was the only of its kind in the communist era. Covering around 74 acres it welcomed around half a million visitors per year at its peak popularity. The Ferris wheel (photographed above) was the parks most popular feature. Being upgraded in 1989 to celebrate the 40th anniversary. Adding more cabins to the ride and increasing the height of the structure .

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.

This Is How Peterborough Felt
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
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.

Event Planning, Fun Story, funfair events, Funfair Rides

Educated Idiots. Health And Safety Fails

24 November 2020

As any responsible operator, we pay great attention to health and safety requirements. With regular testing required for funfair attractions and daily inspections whenever they are operated, our industry has one of the best safety records in the country. We also throw in additional testing beyond what is required by the H&SE.

Many people regard the HSE as an extension of the nanny state, a sort of legitimised semi Gestapo type organisation tasked with interfering. Having seen the shortcuts some of the cowboys take. I don’t think you can argue against needing a formalised organisation to make sure the rules are applied.

Unfortunately, like many times in life, the inspectors demonstrate that no matter how highly educated or trained they are, some of them are what can charitably be described as idiots.

Newcastle Hoppings

In the days when we still used to operate at public events. We used to attend the ‘Hoppings’, Europe’s largest travelling funfair at Newcastle Upon Tyne. We were there one year and I was controlling a flying chairs ride. You know the type, the kids sit in a suspended chair, and as the ride rotates, the chairs fly out.

Now, the safety guidelines required a lap belt. Which is what we had, but I was always worried that smaller kids could slip under this belt. So we fitted additional straps that came between their legs and attached to the lap belt to make a 3 point harness. This wasn’t a legal requirement, it was an extra we added.

Now, we only used this extra strap on smaller kids, as obviously it took extra time to fit when you were busy. One day a strap had worked loose. So I removed it, and only used that seat for bigger kids. We had 20 in all so this wasn’t hard to arrange.

An Inspector Calls

Anyway an inspector from HSE, pulled me to one side and told me she wasn’t happy with that strap missing. I explained to her that it was an extra, and that if she looked most kids weren’t using them. And I would only put large kids on etc etc etc, well you get the idea.

Her rather snotty reply was that she would shut the ride down if it was not reattached, as if they were fitted then all of the seats should have them. I thought for a moment and then asked, “If I remove the other 19 so none of them have them would that be OK?”

“Yes” was the reply. Hmmn so rather than have 19 seats with additional safety, she was now telling me she preferred none of them to have it. In the end I went and found a screwdriver and reattached it.

Not The Actual Ride, But You Get The Idea
Not The Actual Ride, But You Get The Idea

An Inspector Calls Again

Not 2 days later the same bloody woman was back. Now, there is a large book full of guidance for funfair ride design. One of the recommendations (note the word recommended), is that rides have a maximum of 3 entrances. On our chairs ride, we had 4 small gates, 2 to allow entry, 2 to allow exit. When not in use they were closed, so technically we only had 2 open at any time.

This genius came up and kicked off about there being 4. For some reason her grasp of the English language wasn’t good enough for her to understand that 3 was recommended, but not a legal requirement. I found that trying to reason with this idiot wasn’t working. In a fit of temper I grasped a large section of the safety rail surrounding the ride. Then threw it up the fair. Technically this left me with 2 small gates, and a large 20ft gap in the fence.

“1,2,3” I counted, “3 entrances, does that satisfy you?”

“Yes” was the FU***NG idiots reply. SO instead of 4 safe controlled gates, we now had a gap a whole herd of kids could run through into a fast moving ride.

After bringing my blood pressure under control, I calmly retrieved my section of fence, refitted it. Told the woman to go forth and multiply, and either fetch the Police to me. Or someone from her organisation who was in charge of the communal brain cells that day.

PC Plod

To give her, her due, she did what I asked and fetched the Police. I explained all that had transpired. To give him his due, he told her to go forth and multiply as well.

Not The Actual Office But You Get The Idea, a comical Police Officer
Not The Actual Officer But You Get The Idea

The moral of the story is, give someone a smattering of power and they will look very hard for reasons to abuse it. Power corrupts, and absolute power is even more fun. They are indeed what a friend of mine refers to as educated idiots, in that they possess a degree or two, but no actual sense.