Goose Fair 2020 – Cancelled

Nottingham’s Goose Fair in Abstract
Photograph by Lamar Francois

On 21st August 2020, Nottingham City Council and the Showmen’s Guild announced the cancellation of the 729th Goose Fair. This decision was inevitable I suppose

The incredible photograph above is by Nottingham photographer, Lamar Francois. It shows the fun and the joy of the Goose Fair, an abstract take of the Big Wheel and Tower Slide attractions.

Lamar is offering for sale a limited number of the image, and each on sold will include a donation of £1 from each print sold will be donated to Autism East Midlands. See Lamar’s website for details

Porchester Press is making a similar pledge. For every sale of the paperback version of The Showman, a donation of £2 will be made to Autism East Midlands. This offer will run until 31st December 2020.

Nottingham City Council gave this statement about the decision

Despite current Government regulations allowing fairground rides and attractions to open, the challenge for the council’s Events team and the Showmen’s Guild has been how to manage the 420,000 visitors who attend the five-day event, while maintaining social distancing and ensuring that other Covid-safe measures are in place. Several options were considered, including creating a number of timed sessions to limit capacity to 25,000 people, or extending the length of the fair to ten days. However, neither of these options came close to providing capacity for the more than 400,000 visitors who would normally attend. The other consideration was one of atmosphere. With reduced numbers, social distancing measures in place and lowered music levels, it was felt that if the event had been staged, much of the traditional atmosphere would have been lost.

Here’s a section from ‘The Showman’ where Michael attends the Goose Fair in 1978

Now within sight of the fairground, Michael could appreciate the location better in daylight. The fair actually covered about a third of a large public park, flanked by a wooded hillside. The sun was out and although low in the sky behind him, it was warm enough to create a mist-like vapour to rise from the dew on the grassed areas away from the trees. He could see activity in and around the fair but he was one of only a few pedestrians.
At the first opportunity he asked a stall holder where he could find Bob Collins’ Waltzer. He was given vague directions which did not really help, but he soon found it. As he approached, some men were removing a tarpaulin cover from the side of the ride.

   “Is Mr Collins around?”
   “Which one?”
   “Bob Collins.”
   “You after lost property?”
   “No, I’ve been told that he may be able to help me about the history of   the fair.”
   “He’s over at the Big Wheel. He’ll have a black woolly hat on.”

Michael made his way to the Big Wheel that was right in the centre of the fair. A man in a black woolly hat was talking to some other men near to the control booth. He was about sixty years old and wearing a black workman’s jacket that had an orange patch across the shoulders on the back. Music was playing and the lights were flashing but the wheel itself was still.

   “Mr Collins?” said Michael
   “Who wants him?”
   “I’m told you may be able to help me find out about my family who worked on the fairs.”
   “No, English but with an Italian name. Mattoni?”

Mr Collins had a wise and weathered face that suggested he was astute. Despite this, his looked to the ground and paused. The name had clearly meant something to him.
    “Who are you to them?”
    “I’m Michael, born to the family in 1948 but taken to America as a baby after my mother died.”

Mr Collins looked thoughtful and nodded his head very slightly after he listened to what Michael was saying. He reached inside the control booth and turned the music off then whistled to attract the attention one of the men nearby. The man came over.
    “Start her up Joe! I’m going to take a ride with this gentleman. Check each car in turn for safety.”

Mr Collins then turned to Michael.
     “We open in about half an hour. Jump in and I’ll see what you know. I don’t know much to be honest.”

They got into a car on the Big Wheel, an open bench that behaved like a rocking chair. A metal bar was closed and locked into place across their thighs. The wheel started its rotation, moving forward then up and round, stopping as each of the sixteen cars reached the gangway. Michael felt like he was on the second hand of a giant clock, time ticking away with each stop. He felt as though he had sixty hypothetical ‘seconds’ to get whatever information Bob Collins had for him. Once the wheel had turned its full circle, his time would be up. Michael told him all that he knew. He blurted it out in almost one breath. Whilst Michael knew very little, it was his account of Rosie going to the United States, raising a family before dying of cancer that seemed to resonate with Bob Collins. When he replied he also seemed to take a deep breath.
     “Well we did not know the Mattoni’s well. I can remember the Mattoni boys and their father. The boys were similar age to me. As you have rightly said, they only produced girls. They had no sons to continue their name or the business. After the death of your mother, they must have had enough. They did not disappear, they sold up and went to Italy. Not really heard any more about them.
     “How did my mother die?”
     “Well you’ll have to ask the coroner about that. As we understood it she fell onto a railing.” 
     “On this fair ground? At the Goose Fair?”

The one word answer of Bob Collins was the most important and informative word that he had ever heard to date. It made his heart miss a beat.

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