Traditions Upheld Since Medieval Times

Fairground Communities

Fairground and rides

The Fairground Community, known as ‘Showpeople’, have a long tradition of working the Fairs, many of which are hundreds of years old.

Many families have winter quarters, usually yards, where they can over winter and repair the Rides and prepare for the next season.

Fairground families are constantly on the move, erecting and pulling down as they go from one site to another throughout the year. They travel in a travelling wagon. Most are comfortable and have well-equipped kitchens and bathrooms. Families stick together and follow their parents in the business.

In 1889 The Showmen’s Guild was formed and it successfully defended their interests as there was a plan to restrict the use of caravans by Parliament, which would have made their lives almost impossible. The Guild has a weekly newspaper, ‘The World’s Fair’, which keeps everyone up-to-date with new equipment, details of events and reports of fairs.

The National Fairground Archive

The National Fairground Archive (NFA) was inaugurated by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sheffield in 1994, with the support of the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain and the Fairground Association of Great Britain.

The National Fairground Archive, based at Sheffield University, is now open to the public. There is open access to 3 large rooms of resources and archive material, plus a large exhibition area.

It is a unique collection of photographic, printed, manuscript and audiovisual material covering all aspects of the culture of travelling showpeople, their organisation as a community, their social history and everyday life; and the artifacts and machinery of fairgrounds.

The NFA collections are continuing to grow: there are now over 80,000 images in the photographic collection, in addition to audio and video material, journals and magazines, and nearly 3,000 monographs. The collection also includes a unique body of fairground ephemera (programmes, handbills, posters, charters and proclamations, plans and drawings).

The NFA represents an important part of the cultural heritage of the nation. It is a primary resource of rich potential for research at every level; it provides a new and exciting source of teaching material for primary and secondary education, and provides access to a wealth of popular cultural history both for the Fairground enthusiast and for the public at large.

For more information please visit their website.


Circus travellers

Circus Life

An article taken from the second issue of the Travellers Post published by the Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service, details life as a circus Traveller.

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The Ghost Show

Ghost showRuby Pester has written to inform us of an artists project about the birth of cinema on Scotland's showgrounds and the lives of Travelling Showpeople in the East End of Glasgow. Visit to find out more.


Further reading on Showpeople

All the Fun of the Fair

Established in 1997, this is a site for UK Travelling Showmen & Funfair Fans.

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Roll Up, Roll Up

By Valda Eagle, the Ringmistress. An article on living in the fair taken from the second issue of the Travellers Post published by the Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service.

Read the article


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