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.

Sideshows and stalls on South StreetLorries unloading on the Market PlaceThese 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).

Spick & Span

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 the customers.

On Wednesday Morning

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.
Helter Skelter

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.
Lower Market Place

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.
The Opening Ceremony

The Opening CeremonyThe Opening CeremonyThe 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.
Hook A Duck

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,
The Cyclone

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 Waltzer

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.
The Gallopers

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.

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