FAIRGROUND workers say the cancellation of local mop fairs have left them ‘on their knees’.
Travelling showpeople have launched a campaign this week, when the mop would have taken place in Stratford – an historic event dating back to the 1500s.
While covid restrictions were due to be in place, the district council and fair operator had reservations over crowd control. And calls to cancel the event were made by councillors and residents alike. Stratford District Councillor Ian Shenton called the decision ‘regrettable but inevitable’.
But show families say such decisions – including in neighbouring Warwick – have meant dire financial consequences and long-term damage to businesses which have been handed down over generations.
Campaign Future 4 Fairgrounds, formed by six show-women, aims to raise awareness of the impact of the cancellations on the industry, while urging local governments to reconsider their stance.
Spokeswoman Hayley Danter said: “The public don’t always understand the families who own and operate the rides and stalls each year at fairs, such as the Stratford Mop, are the same ones who have been attending for centuries.
“Our industry is unique in the way it has been handed down over the course of hundreds of years, with businesses nurtured from generation to generation. In fact, some travelling showmen families are sixth generation showmen.
“Events like the Stratford Mop aren’t just a job for us, they are our lifetime. It’s a heritage we are extremely proud of and one that we feel is not understood by many outside the industry. Future 4 Fairgrounds is doing its best to change that.”
There was some hope for the community in July, when the prime minister announced that fairgrounds were legally able to open. However, central government then passed powers to local authorities to decide whether mops and fairs could still run.
According to Future 4 Fairgrounds, nearly every council across the country has acted as Stratford has, and refused permission for fairs and mops.
And given other businesses including theme parks and piers are continuing to operate, the families say their livelihood and culture has been overlooked.
Fellow campaigner Nicola Wallis added: “We would like to think the people of Stratford have great memories of coming to the mop over the years and are sure they will be missing the fair as much as we are.
“However, we feel the fairground industry has been overlooked far too many times and, as a result, many showmen families are on their knees – struggling financially and mentally.
“We need more support from local authorities and government to help us to reopen for what is left of this season and to ensure we can operate next year.”
The families plan to address more areas which have seen fairs axed over the coming months, before taking the issue to Westminster. They are also urging would be fair-goers to write to their local MP.