The annual Lancashire Section civic luncheon took place on Friday 10 January at the Crow Wood Hotel, Burnley.
Among the dignitaries attending were the newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle and his father, Lord Hoyle. Both are Honorary Members of the Section and long-standing supporters of the showmen.
Sir Lindsay received loud cheers from guests as he was welcomed into the room. Section Chairman Albert Hill, also newly elected, paid tribute to Sir Lindsay, saying how proud the Section was of him.
The Chairman spoke of Burnley Wakes fair being one of the oldest forms of entertainment in Burnley, pre-dating the popular football club.
He urged the councillors that if they needed entertainment for their town to get in touch with the showmen. Whether it was for a fete, a gala, a fairground, or a Christmas market, the showmen could provide it.
The Heads and Tails game traditionally played at the luncheon raised £744 for the Burnley Mayor’s charity. The Section rounded this up to £1500.
The firm of John Collins & Son donated a gallon bottle of whisky as the prize.
The Mayor, Cllr Anne Kelly, thanked guests and the Section for their generosity. Her main charity this year is to raise money for a scanner for Burnley Hospital that can detect a cancer the size of a pinhead.
Showmen’s Guild President Philip Paris spoke of his pride in being elected to the role – the first Scottish president in 61 years.
One of the biggest problems showmen have is having their own identity recognised, he said.
“We are travelling showpeople … a community separate from other groups of travellers”, he continued.
This year, for the first time, showpeople will be able to register in the census as travelling showpeople rather than being grouped with others. “This is a major milestone”, he said.
Discrimination, unfortunately, is still rife. Showmen are still fighting many of the same battles as their forebears 131 years ago when the Guild was founded.
Getting planning permission for showmen’s yards and getting sites to operate fairs on is still difficult.
“If you can make anywhere available or keep existing fairs in existence – many of them are very historical – your help would be appreciated”, he told guests.
Senior Vice President John Thurston also attended the luncheon, along with Past Presidents David Wallis and Cllr Anthony Harris.
Yorkshire Chairman Garry Leach and Vice Chairman Michael Cowie and Northern Section Chairman Arthur Newsome were also present.
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Photo 1: Lancashire Section Treasurer Teddy Holmes (3rd from left) and his wife Caroline with the Mayor of Prestatyn Cllr Tony Flynn, Steffen Cubbins, Mayoress of Stockport Mrs Lynn Glover, Bronson Cubbins, and Mayoress of Stockport Cllr Laura Booth.
Photo 2: Journeying down from Newcastle to attend the Lancashire luncheon were members of the Stewards Committee of the Freemen of Newcastle Alan Bainbridge, Sir Leonard Fenwick (Chairman), Jim Johnson, and Kevin Batey.
Photo 3: Lancashire’s Billy and Mandy Hill (far left and far right) had a very special guest at the Lancashire luncheon – the surgeon who saved their son Billy Bernard Hill’s hand, Alex Hamilton. Pictured with Billy and Mandy are the Mayor and Mayoress of Bury Cllr Trevor and Mrs Evelyn Holt, and Alex Hamilton and his wife Nicola.
Photo 4: Past President of the Showmen’s Guild, Cllr Anthony Harris, attended the Lancashire luncheon with daughter-in-law and PA Elleray Harris. As well as being a councillor for Walsall Metropolitan Borough, last summer Anthony was appointed their West Midlands champion for the Armed Forces.
All photos: © Lynne Whatmore