Build another Barsham 3

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The Site


Whoever the landowner may be he is going to need convincing that a Faire will not damage the land. The best way round this is to involve him, or a representative, by asking him to join the committee. If he doesn't wish to do this he should be sent minutes of the meetings and consulted about such things as fire sites and holes.

When considering a fee for the site bear in mind that a farmer may not be charging a rent so much as charging for loss of use of the field for the time it takes to erect the Faire, clear it up, and allow pasture to recover. We found that a fee of £30 per acre for three days of the Faire, plus access two weeks before and one week after, is agreeable.




Ground Work

To draw up a suitable layout for any site first explore the geography of the place noting any natural assets and obvious limitations. Rectory Paddock has a long road frontage with two gates at either end. If during the Faire long queues develop at the gates it is very tempting for people not to wait, but simply hop over the fence. After much experimenting we eventually discovered that the way to avoid queues is to have an entrance corridor roped off with at least two ticket tables either side. The other entrance is kept mainly for vehicular access. Apart from gates the other fixtures which have to be given priority on the draft site plan are the bar, toilets and stages, because they all take up a lot of space. You should also decide where you hope to place the bulk of the craft market and the children's play area.


Site map

It is good thinking to place the bar tent in an altogether obtrusive central position, within easy staggering distance of the loos. All the better if it faces an area or arena where events are happening intermittently. The main music and drama stages should be given quieter spots. In the open and without amplification, which has never been used at Barsham, a great performance can be lost through a capricious breeze, so if possible site stages beneath a spreading tree.


At every large gathering there are a few small children who lose their parents, panic and howl in fright. They are usually led towards the nearest policeman. Unfortunately, the unparalleled thrill of being allowed to wear a real policeman's helmet and play with a real policeman's whistle does not always compensate for being lost. During the '75 Faire playing with children threatened to jeopardise efficient traffic duty, so a new plan emerged with the St. John's Brigade running a special creche for itinerant infants.


It's good policy not to allow whoever erects their own thing to charge people entrance to it; better to promise them a donation from the proceeds of the Faire. Visitors to the Faire should get as much entertainment for their entrance fee as possible. (Town Halls can provide information on the whereabouts of supervised adventure playgrounds).

Finally we come to firesites which need to be allocated well in advance and sensibly positioned in consultation with the landowner. The rules should be strictly adhered to and the allocated areas must be the only areas in which fires can be lit. It took us four years to arrive at a solution that minimises damage to turf. Tin drums cut in half lengthways, raised and stabilised by bricks are an ideal arrangement. Dents can be made in each end to support a grid or iron bars for cooking.

At an event lasting more than a day there will be some people who want to camp so it's best to be prepared with a camping site. At Barsham stallholders are allowed to camp by their stalls to keep charge of their wares. Everyone else is asked to put their tents on a specially reserved field which can also be used as an overflow car park. If possible, provide water and toilets on the campsite.

Other items to be marked in on a draft site plan, which will be dealt with individually include stalls, food areas (to be centred around fire sites), car parking, Maypole, fireworks, animal grazing, games etc. Make certain firm decisions on your plan but design it to be flexible, the real thing is never quite the same!



Take your toilets seriously from the very beginning to avoid nightmarish experiences on the day. You can hire loos from Landsmans Co-Ownership Ltd., Buckden, Huntingdon. The mobile toilet units include mains units which need connecting to a sewer or septic tank and no-mains units which are like giant Elsans, with a holding tank for solids that are treated chemically. The overflow is safe for disposal into ditch or stream.


Landsman units are delivered and collected and you need adequate access for a 30 feet caravan. An example of costing is large ladies and large gents, no-mains unit, for four days including delivery and collection. . . approx £260. No-mains units do not need plumbing for water although the tank needs refilling a couple of times a day. Barsham Field is usually equipped with two 500 gallon holding tanks capacity for four large units used continuously throughout the Faire, and emptied twice a day by the council sludge-gulper (booked in advance). Landsman units must be booked months in advance; without them you will have to build your own. . . .

Ex-government Elsans can still be bought for £2.50, a star bargain because of the lovely wooden seats (so warm) and attractive galvanised pail. Search the columns of Exchange and Mart for the lucky chance of securing these excellent lavs.

If there is a Public Sewer near the site contact the council and they may be able to arrange for a manhole to be opened. Otherwise, dig a BIG PIT away from the site and empty the Elsans into that. Ask the bravest souls to be responsible for emptying. Tell them that it's easier to deal with an Elsan that is half full rather than full to overflowing, and supply them with free beer to numb their senses. It is possible to hire a small sludge-gulper – cattle farms sometimes have them – for emptying the pails.

To build a gents' pissoire make a screen from old packing cases to support guttering which runs into a ground ditch or soakaway. Make sure the ditch falls away from the site.



If the site is near a mains water pipe it is easy to put taps on the site. A permanent connection to a standpipe is a worthwhile investment. Put in a stopcock so that the water can be turned off. Dig a good soakaway under all standpipes or people will have to swim to get their water. We have four standpipes at Barsham. An old bath supported by four stakes is useful for washing paint pots, brushes, children and yourselves. The bath taps can be connected direct to mains and the plug hole placed over a soakaway.


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