Kingston-upon-Hull, or Hull as it is commonly known, is situated on the North Bank of the River Humber, in Yorkshire England. As Autumn takes hold, leaves drift earthward and rain and wind increase, what is still often called the largest travelling fair in Europe arrives in the city of Hull.
It is noisy, brash and many would say expensive. It has a long history and remains a popular event for locals and visitors to the city.
A LITTLE HULL FAIR HISTORY
"This carnival of merriment is the largest travelling fair in Europe and one of the oldest - the fair celebrated its seven hundredth anniversary in 1993. The first charter granting permission for a fair to be held, from 9 to 23 March, was granted in 1278. The anniversary celebrated by Hull City Council dates from1293, when Edward I allocated six weeks in May and June for the festivities. By the 16th Century the festivities had become a 16-day fair, with 20 September as the start of the annual feast after an additional Charter was granted by Charles II.
As Autumn approaches many locals in the city of Hull look forward to October and the annual fair. If truth be known these days as many locals probably dread this annual event as anticipate it; however it is a tradition that as a child was enthralling.
In the 1950's
When I was young Hull Fair opened on the first Saturday of October and ran until around 11pm the following Saturday. The fair was always closed on a Sunday and local children would mosey around the fairground during the Sunday afternoon, hoping to collect small coins dropped, lost or forgotten by fair-goers.
The fair was the largest travelling fair in England and an amalgamation of many fairs which toured during the summer months meeting up in Hull each October. The fair was, and still is, situated on 'waste ground' on Walton Street, in Kingston-Upon-Hull.
Even back then there was talk of relocating this fair but a move has never materialised to this day. These days the Walton street fairground is used throughout the year for weekly markets and car boot sales. A section of it is used for local buses, as part of the Park and Ride transport scheme in the city.
The bonus is, these days, much of the fairground has been levelled and is tarmac. When we were kids it was mainly cinder paths and the often wet and windy October weather left a muddy, messy area underfoot.
Back in the fifties, and sixties, the fair incorporated stalls such as The Fat Lady, small zoos and other peculiarities. A local eccentric called Roland could be seen outside some of the stalls trying to entice visitors inside. With his walking stick and strange attire he was quite a scary character to children.
The fair was large and had many rides but it is massive now.
The actual street is longwith a park at one end near the fairly new Hull City football ground and it links two of the main roads of the city. This street has stalls selling candy floss, chips, hotdogs, novelty dolls, roast chestnuts and more. These line both sides of the street and the smells and sounds are always as much a part of a visit to the fair as the actual attractions.
There was a time when Spring Bank West, during Fair week, had twinkling lights along it leading to the fair. This helped build a feeling of excitement as you approached the bright lights of Hull Fair. The fairy lights sadly disappeared years ago.
Hull Fair today
These days the fair is brash and noisy, but it always was to those who dd not wear rose-coloured glasses.
The rides are expensive and overly loud music hurts my ears. Still, I assume that older people felt just the same when teenagers, such as myself, hung around the rides whilst the music of The Beatles and The Stones belted out across the fair-ground.
There was a time I would never have missed the fair. I had to visit it at least once each year but as a child I had to visit much more often and usually did, living within a half-hour walk. These days, although I do not live too far from the fair-ground, I do not often visit. All I can see now is expensive, tacky goods and noisy, sometimes foul-mouthed, people.
When I took a friend’s child a few years ago it was shocking to hear younger people swearing appallingly as they toured the fair in the early evening. This means that, even if you visit early evening children may have to suffer abusive language. This behaviour can give the fair an almost threatening feel, which is a shame. A larger police presence has improved some concerns.
Despite some problems the fair remains great fun for youngsters and really anyone who loves Fairs. As a travelling fair the rides are assembled for the week and then taken down, but generally there are no accidents.
Hull Fair now runs a day longer, as it opens on a Friday. The Lord or Lady Mayor of Hull traditionally opens the fair around lunchtime Friday.
The local bus companies operate extended bus services for the duration of the fair and the council provides additional parking spaces. These are in demand as visitors come to the fair from near and far
From late September travellers arrive in Hull and park up their caravans at West Park, which is near to Walton Street. Once the fair is up and running the air is full of smells such as fries and hot dogs. If the wind is blowing in the right direction the noise, smells and chatter of what seems to be a million voices all speaking at once wafts on the air around streets. In our rear garden it can sound as if a million people are all chattering at once.
Local residents sometimes say, “I can smell Hull Fair is on the way” and that “it's Hull Fair weather.” Perhaps smelling Hull Fair is about associating it with the start of Autumn. Hull Fair weather means that it is usually wet and windy but when you are young the fair is fun even in appalling weather. For me these days it is no fun at all in such dire weather conditions.
Thinking of the fair as the time approaches though, brings back memories of my Dad, who died in 1969. He always loved the fair and all the rides. As children he took us on the Big Wheel, the Waltzers and many other stomach churners.
Hull City Council website gives timings of the this annual fair, road closures and more
Note: Dates: 5 October 2018 – 14 Oct 2018
Location: Kingston upon Hull
Location Venue name:
Walton Street Car Park
My hometown, or rather city, Kingston-upon-Hull on the north bank of the River Humber, in the county of Yorkshire, hit the news in November 2013 and for once it was for the right reasons, as the city was named UK City of Culture for 2017.
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, announced that Hull, as it is also called, had beaten Leicester, Swansea Bay and Dundee to win the four yearly title. She said: This is brilliant news for Hull and everyone involved in the bid there. "This year's UK City of Culture, Derry-Londonderry, demonstrates the huge benefits that the title brings. These include encouraging economic growth, inspiring social change and bringing communities together. "It can produce a wonderful mix of inward investment, and civic pride, and I hope Hull's plans will make the most of all that being UK City of Culture can bring."
Will the title make a difference to the city?
Blitzed heavily by Nazi bombers during WWII Hull lost many of its architectural beauties. It also lost some of its squalid, tiny houses but sadly many of those remained for years.
Hull traditionally has high levels of unemployment. The fishing industry was the city's major employer until the Cod Wars between the UK and Iceland during the 1970's. The fishing industry of Hull collapsed. In 2009 the affected fishermen received some compensation from the government but their communities were already lost. It was too little and too late.
Following the global economic downturn of 2008 the caravan industry, which had become a major employer in the city, stumbled. Unemployment rose again.
Dogged at one time by poor housing and drug-related crime Hull now has something to celebrate
The title City of Culture should lead to an upturn in the economics of the city, with predictions of a £60million boost for the city.
What does Hull have to shout about?
For a relatively small city Hull offers visitors a wide-range of museums, a world-renowned art gallery, two theatres, a premier league football team, two rugby teams, modern shopping centres and more.
Sadly like most UK cities and towns it also has many empty shops and run-down parts of town but today we will concentrate on the positives.
Free Museums, yes these are free to visit
Wilberforce House, birthplace of the slavery abolitionist of the same name, combines one of the few 17th Century buildings in Hull with informative displays about the slave trade and its abolition in England. Situated along the old High Street this area of the "old town" gives visitors a glimpse of a bygone era.
Streetlife, Hull's transport museum, the defunct trawler Arctic Corsair and the archaeological museum complete the so-called Museum Quarter of Hull.
Town Docks, Maritime Museum, across town in Victoria Square but only a few minutes walk away, features displays relating to Hull's seafaring past. The building was once the Dock Offices of a vibrant seafaring community.
Queen's Gardens behind the Maritime Museum was once a busy dock. These days it is a green area of flowers, grass and ponds. Concerts during the summer months use the Mick Ronson Memorial stage. Mick was a member of David Bowie's "Spiders from Mars" band along with fellow Hullite Trevor Bolder. Sadly both are deceased.
The Ferens Art Gallery is across the square and houses works of art by Frans Hals, Antonio Canaletto, Stanley Spencer, David Hockney, Helen Chadwick and Gillian Wearin, maritime works of art, modern and old masterpieces. If you are planning a visit check the gallery's program of events.
The Deep is located where the River Hull meets the River Humber at Sammy's Point and although it charges an entrance fee is still worth a visit. This huge Submarium, shaped from the outside like part of a ship's hull suits Hull's history down to the ground.
The New Theatre offers a more traditional programme while Hull Truck Theatre provides more contemporary entertainment. Hull's City Hall is also a venue for comedy and music events.
The KC Stadium home to Hull City FC, or the Tigers, hosts musical events from time to time. Previous shows have included The Who, Sir Elton John and Neil Diamond.
Need I go on?
The above is just a hint of the attractions available.
So was Hull a good choice for City of Culture 2017?
Of course I am biased but, yes I think it was and recognition for this tough city and its people was long overdue. It may be a diamond in the rough but it will rise to the City of Culture challenge.
Note: Famous citizens of Hull include - Tom Courtney-actor, The Housemartins-pop group, Mick Ronson and Trevor Bolder-guitarists in David Bowie's Spiders from Mars, John Alderton-actor, the late Norman Collier-comedian, Maureen Lipman-actress, Phillip Larkin-poet, Andrew Marvell-writer, William Wilberforce-slavery abolitionist and politician, Joe Longthorne-singer, John Prescott-politician and one-time deputy prime minister of the UK, Alan Plater-playwright, Amy Johnson-early aviator, Roland Gift-musician and actor, Andrew Motion, Keith Devlin, Nick Barmby-footballer, Barrie Rutter-actor, Sheila Mercier-actress, Francis Durbridge, Ian Carmichael-actor, Herbert Baker, Brian Rix-comedy actor, David Whitfield singer, Thomas Ferens-philanthropist, Thomas Reckitt-philanthropist and business man and Maria Gilhooley (aka Waterson).
A final obscure fact is that Arthur Lucan, also known as Old Mother Riley is buried in Hull!
(C) Eileen Kersey