Following easing of national restrictions under Stage 2 of the government’s Roadmap, Beaconsfield’s 752nd annual charter fair took place on Monday 10th May 2021.
This represented the first socially-distanced street fair, as The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain’s own version of a pilot event. It paves the way for other towns with charter and street fairs to follow suit, with Covid-mitigations.
Last year a miniature fair was held to protect the historic charter, granted in 1269. However, following detailed negotiations with South Bucks Council and discussions with Hall Barn Estates, the charter custodians, the Showmen’s Guild London & Home Counties Section were able to present the real thing last week.
The fair had plenty of stewards at the entrances to the four ‘Ends’ (roads) to explain procedures and to assist with the NHS Test & Trace procedure, whereby visitors (over the age of 16) interacted their smartphone with the fair’s unique QR code. A paper version alternative was on standby.
Visitors, as predicted, stayed within their family household bubbles as they toured the attractions, with further stewards to assist them and copious hand-sanitising stations among the other facilities throughout the fair.
Low level barrier separated the street fair from the adjacent pavements, for local access for non-fairgoers without compromising the fair’s controlled attendance.
Whilst having an attendance ceiling of 4,000, with fairgoers counted in and out, the fair in fact worked to a lower traffic of pedestrians. Planned road-closures were in place as in other years.
Even with free entry, the fair was controlled to ensure space for family household groups to roam, maintaining social distance, in the fresh air.
Each attraction underwent enhanced cleaning regimes, continuing throughout the day, with individual entrances and exits on rides, to ease customer flow.
The family-focused promotion of the fair drew both local visitors and from surrounding areas, arriving and leaving throughout the day from 2pm to the fair’s close at 10pm.
The Showmen presenting the rides and attractions experienced families eager to make the most of the fair, staying longer than usual and spending freely. The weather helped this and the outdoor experience, responsibly managed, worked well.
This mirrors the positive attendance and trading that the Showmen have experienced across the country, wherever fairs have managed to operate since 12th April, including the London Section’s three-week long Blackheath Fair in Greenwich.
All the Covid-secure measures, both practical and in audited-administration, are being rolled out, using the Guidance for reopening Fairs Covid securely, along with the Local Authority Guidance that the Guild worked on with the DCMS (Dept. of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) and as endorsed by the LGA (Local Government Association).
Beaconsfield Charter Fair, whilst being the first street fair to reopen, represents the 150th fair overall to reopen since 12th April. Another 112 fairs are in the pipeline, from now and into the summer.
However, there are several areas where fairs have not been allowed to go ahead by local councils, especially in larger settings and it is hoped that Beaconsfield can be the perfect example of good practice to follow.
Organisers of other similar charter fairs, including Ludlow, are looking closely at the success of Beaconsfield to pave the way for similar community celebrations, with successfully-trading occasions.
1: Martin Draper’s Crazy Frog ride standing outside the Saracen’s Head in the Windsor End of Beaconsfield Charter Fair.
2: Martin Draper’s Tango Afterburner standing in the Wycombe End of Beaconsfield Charter Fair.
3: QR codes and social distancing information was prominent.
4: Mats at kiosks enforced distancing regulations.
5: Signs attached to rides reminded fairgoers about hand sanitising.
6: Signage at the entrance indicated all the Covid-secure instructions.
7: There were plenty of reminders to social distance.