Fairs as we know them today emerged from the need
to have an organised system for the trading and bartering of surplus
material, a defining pattern of modern civilization. With these
trading fairs came a cross-fertilising of different cultures, and
an imperative for joy and festivity. The pleasure fair became integral
to the trading fair, a time of both importance and social release.
As trading in the market and festival driven fashion
declined, with the advent of department stores, the associated joy
and festivity, the sense of detachment and dreaming of the pleasure
fair survived as a social need. Showmen had adapted to the situation
and in many ways shaped their own destiny by cleverly creating a
blueprint for thrills and the transformation of time and space.
Many fairs are rooted in ancient times, from the
Anglo Saxon period or earlier, and are said to be 'prescriptive
fairs'. Other fairs will have been granted a royal charter to cement
their importance and secure their future, and these are known as
'charter fairs'. The tradition of hiring labourers, particularly
in agricultural regions, gave rise to the 'mop fair' and often has
an associated 'runaway mop' (normally 1 week later) when employers
have a chance to dispense with unsatisfactory staff and re-hire.
New categories of fairs are constantly evolving
as showmen stay one step ahead of rival entertainment forms. Recent
years has seen an emphasis on 'city centre fairs' and a move towards
providing 'travelling theme parks' with more and more singular thrill
rides towering in to the sky.
This section of the website lists some of the
more famous fairs in the UK.