by Malcolm Farrelly
The triumphant return of Hull Fair this October was in marked contrast to the situation in Nottingham, where the city’s famous Goose Fair was shelved for a second year running.
The Hull spectacular took place on Walton Street from Friday 8 to Saturday, October 16. Usually one of the three biggest funfairs in the UK (along with Nottingham and Newcastle), the event was undisputedly the number one in 2021. Sadly, this was because of the other two’s cancellation.
Hull City Council’s decisions to proceed with the event – which is organised in partnership with the Yorkshire Section of The Showmen’s Guild – was in line with the Government’s Autumn and Winter Plan, published in September. This stated that the emphasis in England was on managing Covid-19 “without most of the restrictions on lives and livelihoods that have had heavy economic, social, and health impacts”.
Yet in Nottingham, whilst you could crowd into a stadium to watch Nottingham Forest or Notts County, visit the theatre, a nightclub or the city’s many pubs and bars, wandering around a fair on the Forest Recreation Ground was deemed unsuitable due to “ongoing concerns and uncertainty around Covid”.
The financial impact of Goose Fair’s cancellation again this year hit not only the showmen but also their suppliers, as well as the wider hospitality industry. People travel from across the county to the event, boosting trade for hotels, restaurants, bars etc.
Hull, meanwhile, proved that even the biggest of fairs can be held safety during the pandemic.
The messages were plain and simple on all the newspaper advertising, thousands of posters across Yorkshire and on social media. If you have Covid symptoms stay away, the public was told. Keep moving around the fair, do not congregate, use hand sanitiser and take notice of the one-way systems in place, and wear a face mask if you can.
Whilst most people did not wear a mask, the Hull Daily Mail reported on October 27 that there was actually a slight fall in Covid cases across the city almost two weeks after the event, the time around which new infections would be expected to show. In fact, said Hull City Council’s director of public health, Julia Weldon, local rates were 28% lower than in the rest of England.
Wonderful weather on Walton Street
The last time Hull Fair was held, in 2019, the participating showmen experienced one of their best Saturdays in living memory with warm October temperatures. This year was unseasonably mild too, with the first weekend nudging 20°C.
Although the Friday seemed a bit quieter than usual on the inner rows, Saturday built up to be an excellent day for the showmen. Temperatures remained pretty good throughout the fair and business midweek was also decent.
Goose Fair’s cancellation meant there were changes to the fair’s line-up with some new attractions and other pieces of equipment moving around from other areas of the ground.
The official, civic opening took place on Friday the 8th. Pipers lead the civic dignitaries and Showmen’s Guild officials from the KCOM stadium, along Walton Street and towards Terry Atha’s Hell Blazer Waltzer, where they assembled just before 5pm. And a decent crowd was there to welcome them.
The Guild’s Yorkshire Chairman and Vice-Chairman Garry Leach and Michael Cowie were joined by past Section hairmen Raymond Eddy and Keith Carroll, national Guild President Philip Paris, the Chaplain to the Yorkshire Section, the Reverend Allen Bagshawe, and the Lord Mayor of Kingston upon Hull, Councillor Lynn Petrini.
Describing Hull Fair as one of the city’s most popular annual attractions, the Lord Mayor said the organisers had done a fantastic job. “I am so glad we are able to hold the fair this year after missing last year due to Covid. This fair attracts people from across the city and across Yorkshire.”
A ride on the Waltzer followed before the civic party headed to Richard Storey’s games, where cuddly toys were handed out
Hull Fair 2021: attraction highlights
The 2021 Hull Fair was arguably one of the best the Yorkshire city had seen, and certainly the biggest and best fair in the UK over the past 18 months.
For many, it will be remembered as the year of the giant wheel with, for possibly the first time on these shores, three examples being present on one ground. Fortunately the rides of Observation Wheel UK, Global Events and Attractions and the Giant Wheel Company (Jan de-Koning) were evenly spread across the site, therefore offering unique views across the fair and beyond.
There was much anticipation behind the arrival of Gerald Reeves’ new Extreme Orbiter. Named Void, the ride was making its debut on British soil after a summer season in Bundoran, Ireland. It certainly lived up to the hype with its stunning backflash, lighting package, effects and sound system.
The same showman also brought along his excellent Ice Jet Matterhorn. Normally appearing in Nottingham at this time of year, it replaced Danter’s Air on this occasion. Together the two rides won the Reeves family the Hull Fair Trophy for exceptional showmanship.
Two full size spinning rollercoasters were on offer with Ryan Crow bringing along his Magic Mouse and Freddy Jnr, Davis and Spencer Stokes presenting the colourful Crash Test.
Most of the line-up changes could be found in ‘Scotch Corner’, where there was a welcome return for the Power Surge after many years. Now in the ownership of the Vallentgoed family from the Netherlands, the thrill ride has had an extensive refurbishment since being purchased last year from Darren Noble. Prior to its appearance in Hull, it completed a number of engagements in the North East with the Noble family.
William Roberts’ Mega Spin was back on the main ground on a position in that in 2019 housed Tony Litliernhurnest’s Super Bob. There was only ride of that kind this year, which came in the shape of Bradley Bedford’s machine on of the inner rows. Also new for 2019, side by side on the edge of Scotch Corner, were Stanley Reeves Jnr’s Extreme Top Scan and Danter’s Attractions’ City Star Flyer.
Another ride displaced from Goose Fair, Farrar’s Dodgems were the only track on the main walkway which did not have to be slotted in sideways, operating as it did next to Jay Barwick’s Freak Out. Elsewhere there was a new Dodgem for 2021 courtesy of Michael Harris. Named Road House, the Czech-built construction debuted this summer on the Pat Collins Fun Fairs run.
Waltzers were in plentiful supply as always. The 2021 roll call was as follows: JW Shaw Amusements, William H Clark, Terry Atha, Stewart Robinson, Albert John Evans and, just off the main ground, David Richmond.
Fairground attractions could also be found, as is customary, by Parker’s Pub, on the car park of the New Walton Club and by the Level Crossing at Spring Bank West. And Walton Street was full to capacity with a mass of stalls selling food and drink, including those Hull Fair favourites, brandy snaps and Carver’s pattie and chips.
In summary, Nottingham’s loss was Hull’s gain this October. Other than the showmen who usually attend Goose Fair, the main people to suffer were the Nottinghamshire public who missed out for the second year. Here’s to 2021 and the return of ‘the big three’ – including also Newcastle’s Hoppings.
Top photo. Gerald Reeves’ new Void Extreme at Hull.
1. The backflash on Void.
2. General view.
3. Guild President Philip Paris addresses the crowd at the official opening on the Waltzer.
4. William Roberts’ Megaspin and Vallentgoed’s Power Surge were back.
5. Michael Harris’ Roadhouse Dodgems.
6. Atha’s Hell-Blazer Waltzer.
7. A busy evening as Jan de-Koning’s Giant Wheel lights up the night sky.
8. The fair from the air.
9. Gerald Reeves’ Ice Jet.