Could it be farewell to Preston city centre's Whit Fair?

Showmen fear council bosses are set to move Preston's historic Whit Fair from the city centre, ending a tradition dating back centuries.

Thursday, 21st September 2017, 8:40 am
Updated Thursday, 21st September 2017, 8:45 am
Whit Fair

Fairground families, who have been staging the May event for generations, claim local authority chiefs want to move the four-day festival out of town.

The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain is due to meet council officials in less than two weeks to decide the funfair’s future.

But John Silcock, whose family have been regulars at the Whit Fair since the 1930s, declared: “It feels like we’re fighting a losing battle. We believe they’ve already made their minds up.”

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The travelling showmen were forced to scale back the event this year because of work on the new indoor market.

They say their attempts to get answers about the fate of the 2018 fair have been met by a wall of silence at the Town Hall.

Their fears were heightened when the Post contacted the city council asking about the event’s future and received just a one sentence response.

We were told: “Officers are meeting with representatives of the Showman’s Guild North West within the next few weeks to discuss arrangements for 2018 and to offer suitable locations.”

Those ‘suitable locations,’ say the fairground families, will almost certainly include Moor Park in Deepdale where there are already three funfairs a year.

“No-one wants to go to Moor Park,” said John Silcock. “The Whitsuntide Fair has been held in the town centre for centuries. It’s part of Preston’s history.

“It is a chartered fair, which means it was granted a Royal Charter hundreds of years ago.

“It has always been on the Flag Market and in the covered markets. Yet for at least the last 10 years the council has been trying to get us out and on to Moor Park.

“We have managed to resist that so far. But after this year, when we had to scale things down because we couldn’t put rides under the big covered market because of building work, it seems they want to go the whole hog for next year and get rid of us altogether.”

The Showmen’s Guild says the fair’s origins date back to a charter granted by King Henry II in 1199, making it more than 800 years old.

They believe the Preston event is the premier town centre funfair in the whole of the North West.

“It is unique,” said John. “And yet it would seem the people who run the council want to sweep away a piece of history.

“We were told that it damages the flagstones on the Flag Market. Well there hasn’t been one flag damaged in the last 10 years. Other events on the Flag Market have damaged flags, but we haven’t.

“They have said the tiles they are putting down in the large covered market won’t stand the weight of large rides and big trucks. So we have offered to pay the extra for special tiles that will support them.

“They just keep putting things in our way and fobbing us off. It’s obvious they don’t want us there and are planning to get us out.

“But if we weren’t there over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May the city centre would be dead.

“The fair creates a buzz and attracts thousands of people in. We have the support of traders in the city centre. Preston is supposed to be working hard to get more people into the city centre by staging events.

“Yet here they have a traditional funfair which fills the place for four days and they want to move us out. It’s bizarre.”