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Showmen’s Guild letter to councils on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The President of The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, John Thurston, has sent the following plea to councils for fairs to mark the passing of the late Queen.

To whom it May concern:

9th September 2022.

The Showman’s Guild of Great Britain has shown its loyalty and its support for the Monarchy throughout its 133 year history.

  • Many of our fairs were granted and protected by Royal Charter with a significant number dating back over 800 years.
  • They are held annually, listed alongside markets historically, in towns and cities throughout the country.

The Showmen’s Guild has a longstanding history of working with the Royal Household, with Fairs not only in the Royal Parks across London and beyond, but also in the garden of Buckingham Palace itself (most recently in June 2002) and the Mall (in 1999-2000 from Millennium Eve for several days as the only public entertainment in London at that time and again over New Year in 2000-2001) by personal permission from the Queen herself.

The sad news of the passing of our Queen on Thursday, resulted in many of our members’ Funfairs immediately closing on the Friday and several additionally during the following days, on their own initiative and out of respect for her Late Majesty.

We have taken advice from the Cabinet Office in the new Westminster Government and DCMS  in the form of national Guidance: Guidance – The Demise of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: National Mourning Guidance’ Published 9 September 2022.

Within this Guidance, it is made crystal clear, that there are no restrictions on events such as Funfairs and other entertainments going ahead with the exception of the day of the funeral thus in item 6:

“Major Events, Entertainment & Sports

There is no obligation to cancel or postpone events and sporting fixtures, or close entertainment venues during the National Mourning period. This is at the discretion of individual organisations. As a mark of respect, organisations might wish to consider cancelling or postponing events or closing venues on the day of the State Funeral. They are under no obligation to do so and this is entirely at the discretion of individual organisations.”

We at the Showmen’s Guild, are concerned that some councils will take the easy option of seeking to prevent our lawful Funfairs taking place during this period; which, unfortunate, as it is, coincides with numerous historic and prescriptive rights of Fairs to open.

These Fairs constitute local Community Entertainment, as specifically supported by the government, including the Treasury in a Consultation as recently as April 2021 thus:

“Impacts on the price of goods and services households and/or voluntary organisations use or pay for over the long-term 

2.28 The travelling fairground and circus sector made persuasive arguments about the potential impact on ticket prices if their fuel costs rose. As a result, the government accepts that losing the entitlement to use red diesel could have a material impact on the costs of the entertainment that they provide to families all around the country.”

The Fairs are trading events for our members, who work them in the same way as the markets, from which they derive; just as all other traders in year-round businesses in the same Council areas trade, who expect not to be summarily be prevented from doing so.

 The Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Ninth Report – ‘Travelling Funfairs 1.March 2000’ drew the following conclusion:

“Conclusion C.

We are very strongly in favour of an urban renaissance. No large community ought to be without a central focus for public entertainment, a place where events such as funfairs can be held. Villages, towns and cities with such spaces ought to ensure they are designed to make holding funfairs easy, with good access to services such as water and electricity, while those which do not have such areas ought to be striving to get them, as recommended in the current Planning Policy Guidance Note 17 (PPG17). Further, we recommend that the revised PPG 17 make specific reference to the value of historic travelling fairs and the role which they can play in the regeneration of town centres (paragraph 23).”

Link to the report’s recommendations and conclusions online:

Huge investments are made by our members and staff, in preparation for these historically significant Fairs, well in advance and the local community at each Fair-location also look forward to them, as an important occasion to mark in their town’s calendar.

We are concerned at the casual dismissal of our and each town’s historic Fairs in a stroke of unplanned low-level administration, without a thought for the Fairs’ significance, and without consultation. This is not acceptable.

This behaviour mirrors the way that that our industry was often singled out for dismissive treatment at a local level, as the country reopened following the Covid-19 pandemic; despite specific instructions from the government departments DCMS; BEIS and MCHLG, along with the leaders of the LGA in writing,  expressly to the contrary.

Then, several councils were reluctant to allow Funfairs, despite approved Government Guidance including operating the ‘Rule of Six’ when appropriate.

The Showmen’s Guild fought hard to establish that Fairs could and should continue; with notable achievements of many that did, in association with enlightened local and regional administrations.

Whilst we appreciate that the current circumstances are rather different, we do not feel that it’s right, that local councils should single out Funfairs for unfair treatment, in defiance of the Government Guidance. By contrast Football matches are only being suspended for one weekend.

Numerous businesses in the Hospitality and the Visitor Economy Sector, including Travelling Funfairs, suffered for two years during the pandemic, with little or no financial help.

No other industry (and I believe some councillors  overlook the fact that we are an industry) can sustain being shut down, whilst similar fixed attractions are allowed to continue to open operate and trade in the same catchments.

This is not only grossly unfair, but is unconstitutional and against the Gunning Principles, as documented by the Local Government Association in their ‘LGA Guide to Engagement’ (

Our members are marking the passing of the Queen by inviting Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to attend our Fairs, free of charge as our guests and in doing so, keeping music and noise low; just as we, at the Showmen’s Guild did during WWII with Holidays at Home, in association with the national government to lift public morale.

We hope you will carefully consider these issues, including the:

  • heritage
  • community nature and
  • trading environment

of the Fairs, curated by our members on behalf of local populations, before putting a financial burden on our industry, through  rejecting the clear  the government guidance, sanctioned in advance by the Royal Family itself and allow our members to continue to trade and meet with our public, in what is an emotional time for us all.

Yours sincerely,

John Thurston


The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain
Central Office
Guild House
41 Clarence Street
Middlesex TW18 4SY
Tel: 01784-461805
Email: [email protected]

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