Ilkeston - It's Fair Week Again (The 760th)
w/e 21 October 2012
All this week's pictures were taken
with a Kodak DX6490
When I was a youngster growing up on Nottingham Road,
there was always an air of excitement and anticipation as the
middle of October approached and I watched from the cottage where
I lived with my parents for lorries, trailers and caravans to
trundle up the hill for about a week before the Annual Charter
Fair was due to start.
days however, the travelling showmen seem to arrive in town and
set up camp overnight and when they start to erect the rides
they appear in the town centre as if by magic. Roads are closed
and before lunch on Tuesday most of the heavy gear has moved
in (left) to position the rides in their allocated places. Twenty
four hours later the smaller attractions and food stalls are
also in place (right).
On Wednesday it is a matter of making sure everything is spick
and span ready for the opening. That means washing the paint
work on the Big Wheel so that it looks at its best ready for
Overnight rain had cleared and shutters on the stalls had kept
most of the attractions dry but there was still work to do on
the Dodgems which had been left with puddles all over the floor.
By teatime though all was in order and the Fair was open for
business even though the official opening ceremony didn't take
place until Thursday lunchtime.
It was on Thursday as the proprietor put the final touches to
one of the Helter Skelters that graced the Fair this year that
I spent a little time talking to him. There were at least four
such slides at this year's Fair situated on South Street, Pimlico,
East Street and this particular one in the Market Place. He told
me it takes three men two to three hours to erect the Helter
Skelter and a couple of hours to take it down again.
The gentleman at the Helter Skelter very kindly allowed me to
climb to the top to take some photos of the Fair and this one
looking north over the Lower Market Place from street lamp height
(bottom left) illustrates how the rides and stalls snake through
the town centre streets. Notice in this image how the majority
of the people are walking towards the camera.
reason for the migration to the town centre was that it was almost
noon and the opening ceremony was about to take place. If you
have been to one of the openings previously you will know that
the ceremony follows a similar format each year with the reading
of the Charter of 1252, welcoming speeches, the playing of the
National Anthem and the ringing of the bells by the Mayor of
Erewash to declare the Fair open.
During the daylight hours the focus is mainly on entertainment
for children with many roundabouts such as the Tea Cups but I
noticed this year there was quite a significant number of Hook
A Duck stalls, I only saw one though where a dog was employed
to keep the ducks in order,
It's at night though that the Fair really comes alive with the
bright lights and loud music. In recent years the Magic Mouse
rollercoaster has been erected on the Pimlico car park and it
usually arrived a few days before the rest of the Fair. This
year it has been replaced by the Cyclone. I'm not sure whether
this is the same ride with a different name but it certainly
seemed to be erected in a much quicker time and without the need
for a crane.
The Pimlico car park is the focal point for many of the Fair's
thrill rides but one old favourite among the newer rides was
a Waltzer but this one appeared to be a souped-up version spinning
at a ferocious speed and spewing clouds of smoke out in the process.
Another ride on the car park, the Stargate, not only matched
the speed of the Waltzer but also tipped the riders upside down.
Needless to say my days of thrill rides are long gone and even
years ago, I wouldn't have been tempted on this one.
This is more my cup of tea, The Gallopers which are now to be
found regularly outside the Albion Centre on East Street rather
than their traditional place on the Market Place which was where
they were to be found when I was growing up. That set me thinking
about other changes that have taken place over the years for
whilst it is possible to think the Fair is the same from year
to year, subtle changes often take place. Yes of course the Big
Wheel still spins next to the Town Hall and a Waltzer and the
Cake Walk have been opposite as long as I can remember as too
have the Dodgems.
Today though, gone are the Coconut Shy and Freak Shows that were
a feature on Wharncliffe Road. We no longer see the Boxing Booth,
the Hall of Mirrors, the Bingo stalls, the Whip, Caterpillar
and Rockets or even the stalls selling cockles, winkles and the
like. But on Saturday, there was a reminder of Fairs from a time
before even I can remember with a Gavioli Organ and the steam
engine Victoria in the grounds of the Erewash Museum.
A misty Sunday morning just before 11:30am and the Market Place
had already been cleared. By lunchtime most of the showmen were
on their way to their next venue and it's hard to believe there
was a Fair here at all - but they'll all be back next October
for the 761st Charter Fair.