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to think it can't be half bad being in a travelling fair......

(39 Posts)
LEMisdisappointed Sun 12-May-13 20:02:23

We have the travelling fair visiting out town this weekend. I finally relented and took DD (we are broke and these things are a money pit). It was quite surreal really - AMAZING camper-vans, if thats the right word - those superdooper jobbies with the bits that come out of the side for extra rooms when they park up - probably worth more money than my house! What made me smile was the prams - practically every ride or stall holder had a Silver cross coach built pram smile <wistful> I had one for DD1, just not practical for DD2. Also a real sense of community between the fairground folk - they were friendly, but gaurded to be honest.

Sigh - I know im probably being naive because it must be bloody hard work and i can only imagine what the running costs must be, then prejudice from locals etc etc, but I felt kind of envious, travelling up and down the country, meeting folk - must be nice? Apart from the bloody shite music they have to play which would do my head in of course smile

IABU aren't i, it must be a tough life

fuzzywuzzy Sun 12-May-13 20:09:20

I actually felt the same when I saw a circus yesterday, really want to run away and join

D0GWithAYoni Sun 12-May-13 20:10:44

I always want to run away with the fair or circus. Must be such fun

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Sun 12-May-13 20:13:23

You're being naive. It's a shit life for a woman roots...constant packing up...camping on a full time basis is a regular GP and no regular friends but those you work and live with.

edam Sun 12-May-13 20:13:58

I know what you mean about the prams, last time the fair came to our town there was a gorgeous little girl in the most beautiful pram by one of the children's rides.

I imagine there's a lot of hard physical labour and having to work in the cold and wet and listen to horrible music. Even if you like the stuff they play at fairgrounds, hearing it all day ever day would surely drive you up the wall.

zukiecat Sun 12-May-13 20:17:27

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

rambososcar Sun 12-May-13 20:25:22

It is and it isn't. smile

The camaraderie, the support, the strength of family bonds in the travelling amusement occupations are fantastic, better than anywhere I've ever seen before. When the weather's good, it's not a bad life - though remember, what looks like fun in the sunshine can be very "same shit, different day" for the Showmen!

You build up good working relationships with the EH officials and are often respected for doing a sound, safe job and keeping sites clean etc - but it's a nightmare if you have to deal with a council official with a chip on his shoulder.

Being in a different place every few days has its appeals too. For the men in particular being a Showman has a bit of pulling power. wink grin (But you can bring them back down to earth by saying that they're part time romeos and second class film stars!).

Downsides? How long have you got?

It's financially insecure and seasonal. The weather can screw up ever hope of a good return. The weather can just really piss you off in fact. The public very often mistake Showmen for travellers and adopt a "lock up your daughters & family silver, the gypsies are in town!" approach when Showmen are neither and don't deserve that reputation.

Education for the kids is sometimes varied - some home ed, which is fine and generally involves a lot of help from all the family, some even educate their kids in one school in the summer (where the family's bricks and mortar home is) and another in the winter (where the family own a fixed, seaside fair). That's less common now mind.

Winter is a financial write off and spent getting re-paints done, sorting insurances, buying and selling rides etc - oh, and going on holiday, because you can't really do that in the summer. You have to be very careful to be seen to be doing the right thing - you're a member of the Guild and have to live up to their expectations.

And drunken teens who want to take on the world, tsk! Then they leave all their rubbish and it's the Showmen who have to clear up after them!

But for all the good and all the bad, for many Showmen it's just life. It''s what they were born into and what they were raised amongst, a trade they learned from their parents' knees and knew one day they'd take over, never questioning that fact.

Hassled Sun 12-May-13 20:30:13

rambososcar - that's really interesting - thank you. I have to confess that I did think travelling fair people were travellers - not that I have any issues with travellers. But I just sort of assumed, I guess.

So is a Showman born into it? How many have inherited the job, how many move out, how many move in?

YoniBottsBumgina Sun 12-May-13 20:36:59

I had a bit if a dream to run away with the fair when I was a teenager. I would have been too weak and weedy to be much use then, though. I'd probably be awesome now grin but I have a DS and a soon to be DH and it just isn't really something that appeals to me any more, although I'm still fascinated by the lifestyle and sense of community. I'd love to read a book or something about it.

An old school friend if mine is currently working (performing) in a travelling circus and seems to be having the time of her life!

rambososcar Sun 12-May-13 20:45:24

Most Showmen are born into the life, yes, Hassled. There's nothing to stop you from buying a ride or two, a living wagon and becoming members of the Guild of course - people do - but it takes a big cash investment, a certain personality and can sometimes be hard to be accepted. Many of the Showmen travel to the bigger fairs in long, long established groups and breaking into that can be difficult.

For example, you go to the Cambridge spring fair (not Midsummer, if anyone knows Cambridge, that's different), and you'll see several names on the rides and vans. The big ones are Thurston, Manning and Harris but there are other, smaller families/individuals too. The fair is arranged by one company - in this case Stanley Thurston - and then pitches are rented out to the Harris's, the Mannings and so on. Generally this is arranged months if not years in advance and the pitches have been occupied by the same families for generations. As a result there's often no room for newcomers.

rambososcar Sun 12-May-13 20:56:23

Yoni - here's a book to start you off -

PinkyCheesy Sun 12-May-13 21:50:42

We have Showmen living in our village and they are some of the nicest, most generous and easy-going folk you could hope to meet smile Their kids mix well in school, even when they're not there half the year (school is very accommodating and even celebrates their return), and the adults are law-abiding hardworking citizens who give a lot, financially and morally, to our community. Brilliant for children to see a different, but equally valid, way of life being led.

I am told that lots of the families are struggling financially, due to the recession, as there is just less disposable income. The showmen work bloody hard as it is...

mrsjay Sun 12-May-13 21:52:42

I have a nosey in one of those caravans I want to live in it grin there was a programme last year about show folk and circuses it seems a great life,

mrsjay Sun 12-May-13 21:52:52

I have had*

LEMisdisappointed Sun 12-May-13 21:56:16

Thanks rambososcar, really interesting, thanks for sharing. I can't begin to imagine how much it must cost to run one of those fairs!! Sadly, i don't think they did very well this weekend, the weather was crap, i was chatting to one of the guys and he said it was a poor weekend. Shame really - i think its because they come on a really random weekend, we used to have them on carnival night years ago, that was a brilliant night - now our carnival is a bit of a letdown and no fair!

NatashaBee Sun 12-May-13 21:59:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

rambososcar Sun 12-May-13 22:17:11

The Showmen are self employed, Natasha, so like anyone else, they take a cut of the profit, if there is any, and reinvest into the business. The guys who work for them at the fair (Gaff lads, casuals or cazzies, depending on who you speak to) are not Showmen but are employees, usually paid an agreed weekly wage. What they earn is dependent on loads of things but I must be honest and say I've never heard of anyone getting rich through working for Showmen as a casual at the fairground! (Then again, I've never heard of anyone getting rich through working for Marks and Sparks or for the owner of a market stall either!).

Pinky, it's interesting that you should say what you have. The Showmen who occupy a fixed caravan site in a village close to my own have the same level of respect and admiration from the settled community there. This is not so with travellers, who used to live on a site opposite the Showmen and who, when they left, caused the villagers to sigh with relief. There was talk of reopening the traveller site - the villagers fought against it and the Showmen immediately made a statement announcing that if the travellers returned they, the Showmen, would leave. They wouldn't feel their possessions were safe and they definitely don't want to be tarred with the "those fairground people are travellers, they're the cause of the rise in crime and dumped rubbish in the village" brush.

Also interesting is that your local Showmen's kids are part timers at your village school. That's becoming increasingly rare - although the Showman I know well enough to be able to share what I have here was educated in town in the summer and at the coast where the family's fixed fair is in the winter, he's 50 so it was more common then. When I asked him if he felt he'd lost out educationally his response was an emphatic no. Where he missed in the schoolroom he more than made up for it in the fairground, learning to count, add up, do accounts, bargain, learn about electronics and engineering as he went along.

mrscumberbatch Sun 12-May-13 22:53:14

This is a really interesting thread. Thankyou rambososcar for sharing!

Would be great to know if there's a 'list' of legitimate showmen/travelling fairs in existence.

We've had a few travelling fairs nearby recently and it's really obvious that one of them was very dodgy. One rubbish one tarnishes the reputation of the rest etc.

PinkyCheesy Sun 12-May-13 22:53:52

Rambososcar I think we live rather near to each other grin I helped with the campaign too. We're all lucky to live in such a fab community (and with such a good local councilor!)

Not all the kids are part-time at school but my son's classmate is, which is how I really heard about that happening, and its great how the school really values every pupil, no matter the background.

rambososcar Sun 12-May-13 23:02:51

The Showmen should be registered with the Showmen's Guild, mrscumberbatch, though some are members of the Association of Independent Showmen.

Pinky -did the traveller campaign you're referring to involve a councillor with a Dutch sounding name by any chance?

rambososcar Sun 12-May-13 23:05:47

mrscumberbatch, I was nosy and had a look at your profile to see if I might know of your local fair people (I don't btw, I'm going towards the other end of the UK!), then I saw what you do for a living. This is totally off topic but wow, it sounds like a job which is a real joy. envy

SolidGoldBrass Sun 12-May-13 23:15:27

It's not generally a great life for women. Gypsy and Traveller culture is misogynistic, Showmen culture probably is as well - any 'traditional' lifestyle usually boils down to male superiority and a lot of guff about women being 'honoured' - as long as they stick to domestic service, chastity and obedience.

rambososcar Sun 12-May-13 23:24:15

Showmen culture is a heck of a lot less misogynistic than traveller's, Solid.

mrscumberbatch Sun 12-May-13 23:26:54

Heehee rambososcar, I will have a look into Showmen's Guild!
The job was a hard slog at first, it's a bit of a 'man's world' but I'm getting there!

Fairly on topic- I used to collect a lot of old travelling persons/showmen posters and autographs etc so learned a bit about them while I was at it... arguably- historically a lot of the women involved in the shows had a greater level of independence, education and capability of earning a wage than their peers.

(For example, Olive Oatman, Chrissie and Millie McCoy to name but a few)

rambososcar Sun 12-May-13 23:27:28

And domestic service? For many women in the travelling fair community their service is front line! They run the rides and sideshows, working just as the men do. The only difference is in the heavy work - and as better engineering and hydraulics take over there's slightly less of that these days - but that's the same in any industry, the acceptance that, for example, this slim short woman can't heave items around like her over 6 foot, broad shouldered other half can.

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