News and Updates: 2004 News
Mitchell & Kenyon book release
October 2004 sees the release of "The Lost World
of Mitchell and Kenyon, Edwardian Britain on Film", the first part
in a series of books, DVDs and a three part television series marking
the culmination of the three year, AHRB funded research project between
the National Fairground Archive and the British Film Institute.
The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon contains essays
from leading historians covering film history, popular entertainment,
the seaside, transport, the earliest sporting events and the social and
economic context of Edwardian Britain. Together they provide a vivid commentary
on an unparalleled collection.
Exhibition at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh
16th October 2004-8th January 2005
The magical, topsy-turvy world of the fairground is
explored in a new exhibition celebrating the fascinating tradition of
the great British funfair. Pleasurelands will display outstanding images
and items of fairground memorabilia, spanning two hundred years, drawn
from the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield and
public and private collections of national importance. Pleasurelands premiered
at the Millennium Galleries, Sheffield in October 2003, moved to Croydon
Clocktower Gallery in April 2004, and concludes at Edinburgh City Art
From menageries and sideshows to the contemporary rollercoaster,
the fairground has long been a part of popular culture and over two hundred
fairs still take place very weekend in the UK. Pleasurelands investigates
a world where reality is suspended, where visitors shed inhibition and
indulge their fantasies. The fairground is also a place of down-to-earth
reality for those who work to create the magic for visitors. The exhibition
looks at this reality alongside the spectacle, illusion and experience
of the fair.
Pleasurelands focuses on the lives of the showmen involved,
including families such as the knife-throwing Shufflebottoms, the Smarts
and individuals such as Billy Bellhouse, the former Sheffield Wall of
Death rider. Many rare and unusual articles will provide a colourful,
contrasting and multi-sensory display including decorative panels, carved
animals, costumes, photographs, archive film and music.
As visitors venture in to the world of the fair, they
will be bombarded by the spectacle. A city created overnight, moving on
as quickly as it arrived. Sound, light and colour will create a sensational
and magical impression of the fair.
Pleasurelands explores the anticipation and thrill of
the past and present fairground experience through the eyes of the punter.
Visitors can read memories and anecdotes and view personal memorabilia
collected from generations of fairground fun-seekers. The role of technology
and innovation in the creation of the experience is also examined.
Showmanship is central to the illusion of the fair.
Pleasurelands introduces some of the great showmen and women who created
the mystery of the fair. Pleasurelands looks at the real lives of characters
such as Wee Macgregor and Davy the Leprechaun.
The exhibition also lifts the lid on the reality of
life on the road and the temporary nature of the funfair. For families
living on the fairground, their business is their life. At odds with the
popular romantic perception of the fairground life, Pleasurelands examines
how the working fair is bound by a strong sense of tradition and respectability
and a complex network of relationships, within a highly organised community.
Pleasurelands is a Sheffield Galleries & Museums
Trust and City Art Centre exhibition supported by the National Fairground
Archive, University of Sheffield.
Pleasurelands is at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh from
16 October 2004 – 8 January 2005 with FREE admission.
City Art Centre has provided a full events programme,
and produced a variety of excellent publicity and educational material.
The Pleasurelands Catalogue is a 96-page
A4-size glossy paperback book containing 4 illustrated essays by Dr Vanessa
Toulmin, Director of the National Fairground Archive, on the four themes
of the exhibition: 'Spectacle', 'Experience', 'Illusion', and 'Reality'.
It contains many black and white and colour photographs relating to the
world of the fairground.
The catalogue is available by post, price £10+95p&p, from:
National Fairground Archive
University of Sheffield
tel: 01142 227231
Exciting new collections
The holdings of the Archive continue to grow, with some
important collections donated at the end of the summer.
The Testo collection was donated by Francis Testo following
the wide stream of media publicity around the 10th anniversary and Pleasurelands
exhibition. The collection dates back to 1830 and includes a rich history
of fairground shows, including lavish detail on the famous Testo family
Pleasurelands (Croydon) also led to the donation of
the Hal Denver collection, donated by his son Monty Norman. Hal Denver
(Ralph Norman) was a wild west performer featuring heavily in the USA
before joining forces with his brother Tom Norman who ran the famous travelling
Glyn Jones contacted the Archive to carry out the wishes
of his late father, Arthur Jones, and to donate the photograph library
of the FCFS (Friendship Circle of Showland Fans). This collection includes
much new material relating to famous fairs, engines and rides.
Finally, the Archive is honoured to receive the David
Braithwaite collection, kindly donated by his wife and daughter Joanna
and Naomi. Braithwaite was of course the author of 'Savages of Kings Lynn'
and 'Fairground Architecture' and this huge collections includes photographs,
postcards, plans and record books from the famous Orton and Spooner company.
This hugely important resource is now undergoing a lengthy
conservation process, and an introduction to collection, written
by Joanna, is available here.
Machine research and website updates
As promised we have now augmented our section on Modern
Rides by incorporating parallel 'machine lists' for all machines listed
with a contextual history. These lists are the result of much research
here at the Archive, drawing on existing research from the enthusiast
community, our own resources here at the Archive, and help from various
showmen. The lists are an attempt to include all machines of a particular
type, drawing out a complete history to encompass existing rides, those
in store, those in parks, and those scrapped or rebuilt. Obviously this
information changes from week to week, so we will attempt to update as
often as possible.
A selection of Loughborough photographs taken by Jack
Leeson have been added to our pages on important fairs. To view them click
Hull Fair Project
With Hull Fair 2004 just completed we have gathered
a mass of oral history after a week of interviewing various showmen throughout
the duration of the fair - this material is in the process of being transcribed
and added to the website. The fair
and the project drew good media interest, with a live broadcast of the
opening, cut with footage from the Archive, used for Calendar News. The
project is run in partnership with Hull Libraries and the Showman's Guild
of Great Britain.
Bridgwater St Matthews
The Archive is proud to have contributed to Guy Belshaw's
recent publication on this famous fair. Guy has been a dedicated user
of the Archive whilst compiling both this book and a forthcoming publication
on Tom Whitelegg. He selected a series of Lionel Bathe images of Bridgwater
to help illustrate the book, including one of Lionel's famous panoramic
shots for the front cover. The book is available from New Era Publications,
PO Box 549, Tweedale, Telford, TF7 5WA, priced £12.95.
The National Fairground Archive recently celebrated
its tenth anniversary - producing a new booklet 'A Decade of Delights'
and organising a free one-day event in Sheffield.
For a report on the event, and a link to download the
new booklet as a pdf file - please click here.
Printed copies of the booklet are available free on
request by contacting the Archive.
Network on Local Film in the early 1900s
British Academy (June 2003 onwards)
The British Academy has awarded a grant of £10,200
to Dr Vanessa Toulmin of the National Fairground Archive to set up an
International Network on Local Films in the 1900s. This is in partnership
with the University of Trier and the University of Stockholm.
The Network provides a forum in which a core group of
ten academics from different countries meet on an annual basis. The first
Network meeting was held in Germany at Trier University, Department of
Media Studies & Cinematheque Municipale de Luxembourg on 3 and 4 June
2003. Subsequent workshops will be held August 2004 at the University
of Stockholm and July 2005 at the University of Sheffield.
All photographs are copyright the
British Film Institute and are taken from the Mitchell and Kenyon Collection.
This is a three-year research collaboration funded by the AHRB with
the University of Sheffield and the bfi.
Ron White Collection
We have received through the support of FAGB member
Alan Ingram the photograph collection of the late Ron White, donated by
his wife Val. This collection contains very valuable pictures of Scottish
fairs, particularly in Ayrshire, from the 1960s onwards. Ron wrote various
articles for the Fairground Mercury on Ayrshire showmen such as the Lawrence
and Bastable families. His photograph collection also includes early colour
images of Lancashire gala fairs, taken whilst Ron lived in Blackpool.
Machine research and website updates
Finally we hope to have a website updated with some
regularity. We have added pages for all our digital
collections and have produced further work reflecting our research
into contemporary machine histories. New pages have been added for Octopus
rides and Matterhorns / Super
Bobs. Last year also saw the culmination of a great deal of research
into updating the FAGB booklet on Arks - the finished project available
for £2-50 from FAGB Sales Officer, Chris Gibson, 157 Field Lane,
Horninglow, Burton-on-Trent, DE13 0NJ. It is hoped that this is the first
of many lists utlising our research available through the FAGB.
Hull Fair Project
The Hull Fair Project began in January 2004. Supported
by the Heritage Lottery Fund and running to June 2006. It aims to gather
oral histories from citizens of Hull and the community of showmen, as
well as images and other ephemera connected with this important event.
Initial access is through a dedicated website
with a DVD to follow. The project is run in partnership with Hull Libraries
and the Showman's Guild of Great Britain.
Article on Freak Shows
Vanessa Toulmin has written an article on Freak Shows
for the National Science Museum. You can read this on the National Science
Museum website: enter 'freak show' into the site's search facility, then
follow the second link, 'Naked Science'.
Noel Drewe Collection
We have received the kind donation by Mr Noel Drewe
of his Circusama collection of films. The collection comprises over
100 films with circus as their subject matter, on Super 8, 9.5mm
and 16mm format film. The many wonderful titles include: 'Chumming
with Animals', 'Chimps, Champs and Chumps', 'Circus of Fear', 'Jealousy
at the Circus' and many others. We have just finished listing the
collection and look forward to seeing what is on the films.