Build another Barsham 5

Build Another Barsham

Previous page Contents page Next page

Spectacles and Showmen

Events are a kind of mass theatre where the intoxication of colour and ritual, spectacle and pageantry, urges everyone to join in. For the spreading of infectious delight there's nothing to beat a dancing procession led by assorted musicians.



A parade of rainbow clad revellers on foot and horseback making its way from the nearby town of Beccles has become the traditional way to start Barsham. As the dancers spin onto the field so the proclamation of the Faire is read loud and clear. We once released a basket of pigeons at this point and anyone wanting to flying start should contact local pigeon fanciers.

There have always been horses and ponies at Barsham, some carrying their owners to the Faire, others giving rides or pulling painted carts full of children. The owners of the bright gypsy wagons which roll onto Rectory Paddock need grazing for their horses, so if you think they may be coming to your event it's best to decide beforehand with the site owner whether to use his field for grazing, or to find extra space. If you want to encourage travellers with their painted caravans, horses, wares and herbs then find one traveller well in advance and ask him to spread the word.

Fire breathing - Barsham Faire 1976 Goats, chickens, dogs, pigs, kittens, parrots..... animals and birds of all kinds make an appearance at Barsham. One year we booked a small circus which gave several performances each day. If you are keen on the idea of a circus it's as well to realise that there will be some difficulty in booking a different one for the following year if you don't like your first choice - a good example of showman solidarity.

Advertising in ‘Worlds Faire’, the fortnightly newspaper of the Showman's Guild is the best way of attracting showman acts, circuses, etc. The address is 151A King Street, Drighlington, BD11 1EJ. Telephone 01132 853341. A display ad 2 column widths by 5cm costs around 80p for a single insertion. It usually pays to advertise for at least three consecutive issues some six months before your event.

The advertisement is likely to bring forth a flood of literature from fire-eaters, trapeze artists, high wire acts, fakirs, snake charmers, sword swallowers and multifarious exotic performers. Fees range from £80 per weekend upwards. Early booking is essential. Some showmen will perform in booths and charge admission, but at Barsham we prefer to pay artists to perform spontaneously, in the open around the Faire, as befits our policy of providing as much entertainment as possible for the price of the admission charge.


Some of the stalls which appear in the craft market add flavour to the Faire in other ways besides selling beautiful goods. You may get herbalists, Tarot readers, astrologers, graphologists and craftsmen who will demonstrate their skill working by their stall.


firework A good way of involving people in the entertainment at the Faire is to approach clubs and societies. Pigeon fanciers, kite fliers, hot air balloonists, parachutists, body builders, weight lifters, judo clubs, etc.... ask them to do something special for the Faire.



Firework displays are an expensive method of giving a great deal of enjoyment and excitement to a vast crowd. At least everyone can see at a firework display, however big the crowd.

It costs a minimum of £400 for a splendid spectacle. Most commercial firms overcharge and amateurs tend to disappoint. We have been lucky enough to find Phlegathon Fireworks, with their imaginative and humorous displays. For the best effects give six months notice.


If planning fireworks there are a few cardinal rules to follow:


  1. Fireworks have to be set off at a distance and may involve hiring extra space.
  2. Notify and consult with the Fire Brigade well before the event.
  3. If the display is to be set off within the vicinity of crops, thatched buildings or other inflammables extra insurance may be needed.
  4. Fireworks frighten animals. Warn spectators well before the time of display so that animals can be removed or pacified.
  5. Do not allow any other fireworks apart from the organised display.


sheave tossing


Games are more or less anything that all and sundry can join in, with a show of skill or buffoonery, whichever applies. Archery, organised by local archers, is always popular at Barsham, with demonstrations competitions and the chance for everyone to try their hand at the bow. One word of warning though.... utmost precautions must be taken to protect people from wild arrows; also make sure that your Public Liability Insurance (see Insurance) covers you for archery.

Chess has been a great success at Barsham being peaceful and simple to arrange. All you need are long tables, seats and a supply of boards and pieces. Chess freaks keep on playing until beaten or exhausted.

There is also sheave tossing, tug-o-war, greasy pole and all kinds of races for kids and adults. Someone said that we should suggest races with a difference such as stretcher bearer races and waiters running great distances balancing trays full of beverages. The combinations are endless.


The cane maze

Previous page Contents page Next page