In 1971 a group of friends met and decided to organise a medieval fair. This was to become the first Barsham Faire and was the first in a series of summer events that lasted the following 15 years. Four more medieval fairs followed, culminating in the Last Barsham Faire of 1976. The money raised by the fairs was used to run a variety of events throughout the region, including music, theatre, and childrens events, art shows and a travelling cinema.
In 1976 the first Bungay May Horse Fair was also held, the revival of an earlier tradition which had died out in the 1950s. In 1977 the second Bungay May Horse Fair was held and an ad hoc group participated in the Eye Show. The following winter some of the Barsham crew and friends set up Albion Fair, an attempt to take the fairs to the rest of the country – though financial limitations kept them mainly within East Anglia.
The next six summers were punctuated by weekends of creativity and spectacle, as different groups and individuals organised their own fairs, supported by the amorphous core group known as Albion Fairs.
After 1983 the number of fairs dropped rapidly though smaller local offshoots persisted and Barsham and Albions’ influence continue to be found in odd places today.
An archive is currently being created of materials and memories relating to the fairs. In September 2008 this is to be given into the care of the County records Office at Lowestoft Library.
A few of us met up recently and assembled the start of the collection. This included posters, programmes, photos and film, an incomplete run of the Waveney Clarion, plus meeting minutes and other evidence of planning. We are putting the whole thing in order and noting the gaps. The current list of items in the archive can be found on this blog’s home page.
A further part of the project is to create an exhibition space suitable for its subject. At the least this will be ready for the handover next September, at the best it will be this winter’s work and will result in a travelling exhibition stopping, from spring onwards, a week or two at different venues across the region, gathering more for the archive as it goes.
Got anything to contribute? This doesn’t have to be a donation, loans can be scanned and the originals returned. Individual creators copyright will be protected.
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