Bungay May Fair 1976

Bungay May Horse-Fair 76 (16)There were a group of us who restored and built horse drawn carriages. Through our connections with the "horse drawn" world I heard that there was once a horse fair and race day on the common at Bungay The common had been chartered as commonage by Charles II and had somehow been taken over and turned into a golf course !!!

So on the" Original" date of that event we pulled a bunch of bowtop waggons onto the site and proclaimed rights for a fair!!!! You can well imagine the reception we got - damage to the greens etc . We got out before the old bill arrived but the word went round amongst the travelling people that Bungay May Fair was back on track and would be a big event "next year". So next year came, we found a site, and every horse dealer from East Anglia turned up and we were" away at a hack". It didn't last long, crime rate went up - police spurred by local community started getting difficult We pulled off another one - what a great event !!!
It's the age old problem - "There’s them that sits, and them that roams"” Keith P

“Bungay Horse Fair at Mettingham Castle, was the scariest and most exciting (for me). KP had disappeared to Ireland to keep out of some trouble and it was touch and go to find a site, pick up the pieces and find out if it would run. One or two meetings in the Fleece in Bungay made it clear that the travellers involved would not be pleased if it didn't happen, so it did.” Keith B

BU76 SW 184 First appearance of the Hank Wangford Country Roadshow. The Clarion ran a piece (written by Andy, the drummer and Clarion music correspondent) telling of how Wangford born Henry Hardman had been brought up in the States and made it big on the country music scene, and now back in the mother country had got together with some local lads and lasses to form the Roadshow.

1976 Bungay May Horse Fair flyer front




Roger [Deakin] was our English (lit and lang) and music teacher for a while (he spoke to us about "The Hissing of the Summer Lawns" which was a bit different from the Haydn and Bach we'd been learning about) . I did not get involved in the fairs through him but through my friends, one of whom was Jonathan Burr, whose father, Selwyn Burr bought (I think) the yard in Diss (off St. Nicholas' Street) - we were the sort of 'hippy' group of pupils. Can't remember the name of the yard, now: I recall that one of the domes was fabricated there (we were asked to carry on building it while the builders went down the pub, but managed to drill too many holes and got dismissed). Lucy Thwaite (one of Philip Larkin's "Chorus Line") and some of her pals were more involved with Roger - I think she helped run the 'Cosa Nostra' school magazine. We did all read the Waveney Clarion, though. Quite a few of the Diss Grammar School pupils were involved with the fairs because of this dual connection (Roger and the hippies).

For one of the Bungay May Fairs I can remember turning up a weekend or so before with John Kinley and painting the rails around the racecourse white while the course was being completed. I think that there was a pBU76 SW 085 arade of sorts at the opening of the fair - we rode on top of a hay-cart (horse-drawn of course). One night of the fair (of one of the years) I had no accommodation (read: tent) but that made little difference as we tended to sit up all night around a fire anyway: it sticks in my mind because when I removed my blanket it was frosted on the side away from the fire.

For Barsham I was just a day visitor. I dropped a line to James Lascelles a while back about trying to get a recording of "The Last Barsham Fayre" which was a track by Cuckoo (of which he was a member). Roger got us involved in listening to them - I have their album, somewhere, which was bought at, I think, Hoxne Village Hall. The atmosphere at Barsham was unique because, I think, people tried to be in character (as medieval peasants): things like shouting "It's the devil's work" at cameras. There was also a poem that started something like "Bart, Bart, he don't give a fart, he don't give a monkey's arsehole...". There were stalls under the trees and events happening all over the site...excuse the tear-stained email.

I found the Eye shows not so good (well, the dancing girls were good) - for me, the feeling had become more 'corporate' and the show at Oaksmere was the last I attended. You have to bear in mind that it's all a little hazy from being so long ago, me being quite young at the time (14/15/16) and other reasons. Robert Ladyman

These years were a life-changing experience for me.

In November ‘75 my friend Lindsay Blackmore and I saw a poster advertising a public meeting at the ‘Gate’, Hulver, nr Beccles being held to start the organisation of the Bungay May Horse Fair, May ‘76. We walked into the pub and found a group of complete strangers talking about the nuts and bolts of staging a Horse Fair. There were lots of jobs to be done and very few people at the meeting, so somehow we came out charged with the task of organising the Craft Market for the ‘76 Fair.

We set to and armed with a list of suggestions as to whom we could contact and a list we made of any ‘crafty’ people we knew, we started phoning and writing around.  We were working to some fairly strict guidelines as to the types of stall that would be welcome (no commercial goods or market stalls) and managed to attract about 100 stalls that first year.

I don’t know about Lindsay, but I had no idea about all the other work that was going on or even really what to expect to see on site. When I walked onto the field and saw it all laid out it took my breath away.  A strong memory is going to Mettingham Castle before the Fair to watch the maypole being raised and being struck by the reverence and ritual that accompanied this feat. Most of my time at this Fair was spent welcoming the stall holders in, showing them to their pitch and then walking round and round the site asking them for the 10% of the takings that they had agreed to pay.

Staying overnight at Barsham Fair was compulsory – we took a pony and cart there one year – but I never stayed over at Bungay and didn’t really become part of the ‘inner circle’ as I saw it.  I was shy and somewhat out of my depth, but passionately committed to doing ‘my bit’. Jill Parson (West) April 2018