COMMUNITY: Fair chance to boost economy

Alnwick Fair in its heyday.
Alnwick Fair in its heyday.

As a hopefully soon-to-be resident of Alnwick, I’ve found a lot about it that catches the eye from the outside in a way that is truly unique.

Most unique of all is the sense of community spirit, the way people come together as organisers and participants to put on events or shows that benefit the town as a whole, and happen to be a hell of a lot of fun at the same time.

I was fortunate enough to both work at and enjoy the food and beer festivals in September.

It may sound like I’m exaggerating but if such spirit is generally dying out, as a lot of people seem to fear, then in Alnwick it’s hanging on longer than anywhere else I know. In any other part of the country people would swear it’s having a renaissance.

To use a simile that locals would readily recognise, it’s got kind of a Hogwarts feel to it.

Chief among the events that have interested me as I’ve learned more about the town is the Alnwick Fair that ran from 1969 to 2007.

Although it’s said by many sources that it gradually declined from the 90s onward, it’s clear to anyone who does even a small amount of research and talks to the people about it, that it was something amazing and unique whose spirit is something woven into the fabric of the town itself, even after seven years of abeyance.

For instance, a game where you lose points for being sober (genius in its own right) and a ducking stool?

Just the idea of either of these made me picture hordes of rampaging self-appointed ‘correctness police’, but somehow not only did they exist, they thrived for a long time and both continued into the fair’s final days.

Personally, I would love to see this event come back to life with the same spirit that it had in the 70s and 80s, with market stalls spread right down the cobbles of Bondgate and up Market Street as well as the Market Place, events in every local pub and the entire town involved, with school kids planning their own events and every bank clerk, shop assistant and traffic warden in period costume for a week.

It’s true that elf ’n’ safety legislation makes things harder these days.

The changes to licensing legislation meant dwyle-flonking had to be adapted to beer gardens instead of the Market Place for example, but there is a way around or through everything with enough persistence and know-how.

I would love to see the fair live again at the standards of old, involving and profiting everyone who comes near it and in the words of one lady on a TV news piece, making the whole town feel like ‘it’s Christmas for a week.’

I’m also sure the economic force a revived fair could bring to Alnwick would make such a thing worthwhile on its own, if staged at an appropriate interval from other events.

If there’s anything Doctor Who (a slightly different adventure in time-travel) can prove, it’s that great things may seem gone forever after going downhill, but after a few years rest and with time for the dust to settle, they can come back better than ever before if they’re planned right.

Jamie Sleeman,

Andover, Hampshire