Western Section Annual Civic Luncheon 2020

The Western Section Annual Luncheon took place on Wednesday 4th March at its regular venue, the Hilton Swindon Hotel in Lydiard Fields, Swindon, attended by mayors and civic leaders from across the West of England.

Western Section Chairman Tommy Charles led the Luncheon speeches with a plea to civic officials to give special consideration to showmen when implementing low emission and clean air zone charges.

Showmen’s vehicles, he pointed out, didn’t pose a major threat to the environment – they had a much smaller impact than delivery vehicles and buses – given that they visited towns only once or twice during the year for just a few days.

He also asked for councils’ help with planning applications – showmen needed somewhere for their families to live and for their children to go to school.

He thanked the councils that host Guild-run fairs at Barnstaple, Bridgwater and Marlborough for their “fantastic” help and friendship; the Section had good relationships with all those councils, he said.

The Mayor of Teignmouth, Cllr Robert Phipps, a showman himself, gave the response.

Picking up on the climate change theme, the Mayor outlined showmen’s achievements in reducing their carbon footprint through the use of LED lighting on rides and 3-phase electric generators. He urged councillors to look at providing 3-phase electrical supplies to fairground sites.

The Mayor of Swindon, Cllr Kevin Parry, praised showmen for all the work they do for charities, work that is not sufficiently recognised.

Showmen’s Guild Senior Vice President John Thurston also picked up on the issue of low emission zones, saying that Transport for London, whilst not initially understanding what fairgrounds brought to the local community, had worked with the Showmen’s Guild and granted a 100 per cent discount to fairground equipment.

Two presentations followed. The first was introduced by Stephen Rawlings, who called forward John Lengfeld to receive the award of Honorary Membership of the Showmen’s Guild.

The second was to Billy Whitelegg, a Past President of the Showmen’s Guild as well as Past Chairman of the Section, on reaching 90 years of age. Section Chairman Tommy Charles presented Billy with a photograph taken of him and his Management Committee when he first became president of the Showmen’s Guild in the 1980s.

Cllr Nick Fogg of Marlborough paid tribute to Billy, describing him as “an institution round here”. He told guests how Marlborough Council had erected a plaque in his honour a few years ago that was now to be relocated to “the most prominent position in Marlborough” on the outside of the town hall.


1. Welcoming guests to the Luncheon were Section Vice Chairman Robert Kefford, Chairman Tommy Charles and Guild Senior Vice President John Thurston.

2. Section Chairman Tommy Charles and Stephen Rawlings present Honorary Membership to John Lengfeld.

3. Tommy Charles and his wife Sonia with the Mayor of Teignmouth, Cllr Robert Phipps, and Mayoress Karen Phipps.

4. Tommy Charles presents a framed photograph to Past President Billy Whitelegg to mark his 90th birthday.

5. Edward and Sandra Henderson with Robert and Jane Kefford.

6. Chairman’s lady Sonia Charles, Scotty Greatrex, Rob Ward (Barnstaple Town Clerk), Section Chairman Tommy Charles, Cllr Alan Rennles (Mayor of Barnstaple), Phil Vanstone, Barnstaple Mayoress Sue Rennles, and Ian Parker (Barnstaple Amenities & Properties Manager).

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