Fairground ride set up for Sloe Fair in Chichester

A fairground ride has been set in the Northgate car park to mark the Sloe Fair.

The fair dates back about 1107 when the right to hold a fair was granted by Henry I to then Bishop of Chichester, Ralph de Luffa. It is said that if the fair is not held, then the city loses its right to hold it in the future.

During the Second World War, showman Harry Stroud set up a stall to protect the royal charter, and there were fears the fair may face extinction amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

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Joey Noyce, treasurer of the London and Home Counties Section of the Showman's Guild said he was disappointed the fair could not go ahead.

Bernice Wall, Joannie Park and Narvenka Noyce, three founding members of Future for Fairground, in Nothgate car park today

"I'm disappointed the fair couldn't take place because of the Covid-19 test centre. We had all the paperwork, crowd dynamic assessment and an assessment of how many people we could have had on site.

"We had completed the Covid risk assessment. We understand, from the Guild's perspective and we have worked very closely with the council."

Chichester District Council said the event was unable to go ahead due to a Covid-19 testing centre being place in part of the car park.

Members from Future for Fairgrounds also attended to show their support for all the people who were unable to set up their attraction.

Josephine Henry, left, and her mother Barbara Stewart-Newell

Bernice Wall said: "They came down and one of the ladies brought the official paperwork down to be signed so that the fair was signed off as if it took place. A representative from the showman's guild was the witness for that.

"The fair is lost, this one ride has been brought here today to represent all the rides and all the stalls that would normally attend this impressive funfair. The Chichester Sloe Fair.

"We are very disappointed. We are a victim of the covid-19 pandemic. We are another victim aren't we. We couldn't charge. It's her just as a token to keep the charter rights alive but no, all the families that would normally attend, they have got no wages this week.

"All over the country charters have been kept alive by attending with one attraction, in special circumstances including a pandemic legislation allows this to happen, as in the War."

John Templeton, left, and Rodney Chambers, members of the Chichester Society Executive Committee

Joannie Peak said: "It's a significant loss of income. What we are doing is trying to keep them alive, the charters of all the different fairs all over the country.

"We are keeping them alive this year so that next year that can return in full swing and provide incomes for lots of families."

Members of the Chichester Society executive committee also attended and shared their gratitude that the ride was set up.

Rodney Chambers said: "It's part of the city. I think to be realistic in this year of Covid 19 we weren't surprised. It was difficult to do but we are very grateful indeed to the Showman's Guild for producing this and for the council for permitting it."

Fellow society member, John Templeton, added: "We got worried a few months ago about what would happen if the fair were to not go ahead. If we broke the chain, would it ever be allowed to come again.

"It's so much part of the tradition of the city. It never seems to get that much publicity but it arrives every October 20 and everybody boils in to enjoy it. All the young people from all around and the next day it's all disappeared — it happens every year."

Three generations of Sloe Fair fans came along to show their support.

Barbara Stewart-Newell from Sloe Close, said: "I thought it would end up worse than this right back in June so I messaged a few Facebook friends to ask them what they thought."

Had nothing been arranged to protect the ancient charter, Barbara said she planned to bring down a paddling pool for a make-shift 'Hook-a-duck' attraction.

For Barbara and her family, the Sloe Fair is part of their own annual tradition. She added: "The first time [my daughter] came to the Sloe Fair, she was six months old in a pram. Both my daughters have been ever since every year as long as they were in the country and if they weren't in the country I had to come in their stead."

Barbara's daughter Josephine Henry came along with her own daughter who hoped to enjoy the fair on her third birthday.