All the fun of the fair

I was recently invited to attend the opening of an Evesham tradition which has been taking place in the town for about 700 years.

Evesham Mop began in 1546 when Sir Philip Hoby, who owned the abbey ruins and lands, was granted the right to hold three annual fairs.  The only charter fair that remains in Evesham to this day is the Autumn fair and is traditionally held on or around Old Michaelmas Day (29th Sept).

I successfully hooked a duck

I successfully hooked a duck

The original “Mop Fair” was primarily used by local landowners to hire employees to work on their land from October to October.  At the end of the employment they would attend the Mop Fair dressed in “Sunday best clothes”, carrying tools of their trade and a “tassle” worn on their lapel showing what that trade was.  This is where the term “Mop Fair” originated.  A person with no particular skill would carry a mop head.

Employers would discuss experience and terms and once agreements were made the employee would receive a small sum of money and the “tassle” would be removed and a bright ribbon attached to signify they had been hired.  Modern Mop Fairs do not hire employees and since the last war mop fairs have undergone major changes.  New attractions such as dodgem cars, ghost trains and the “thrill” rides have been added to the more traditional big wheel, helter skelter and the still much-loved carousel.

Me with various cuddly toys

Me with various cuddly toys

John and I were welcomed by Edward Danter and later met up with his wife Ellen, who showed us two very interesting books on the history of fairs and “Danter’s Travels” about the Danter Family Funfair Transport, depicting 60 years of fun fairs from 1952 to 2012, which we enjoyed whilst sharing a buffet supper.

Attending Mop Fairs brings out the “child” in all of us and looking at these books certainly brought back many memories of fun fairs of yesteryear. I’m pleased to report I successfully hooked a duck for which I won a cuddly dog on a lead. It was a really fun night and well supported by the public.

It was part of a busy few weeks for me which has involved, amongst other things, hosting a civic lunch for Mayors and Town Clerks at the Evesham Hotel.  It was a very informal lunch with lots of chatter, a few tall stories and fun shared with our civic counterparts from the district.

We also attended a fascinating lecture at the University of Worcester Arena entitled – Invisible Spirits in Tudor & Stuart England – given by Professor Darren Oldridge.

Me and Prof Oldridge

Me and Prof Oldridge

Professor Oldridge has spent 20 years exploring society’s relationship with witchcraft and evil spirits, including good and bad angels.  The lecture considered the impact of the English Reformation on attitudes towards spirits and examined the tendency to emphasise the invisibility of supernatural agents and explored the reasons why angels and demons became invisible during this period and the implications for the history of the supernatural more generally.

I also enjoyed my first game of bowls as part of a charity afternoon at St John’s Social Club in Kidderminster at the invitation of the Chairman of Wyre Forest District Council.

Me in bowls action

Me in bowls action

None of those present had ever bowled before and the Mayor of Kidderminster was given a pair of shoes 2 sizes too big and because the green was a little wet she rolled her trousers up to her knees so that she could bowl. We were not sure who won but it was an afternoon with lots of laughter and something a little different.

Me and some of the other guests at the charity bowls match

Me and some of the other guests at the charity bowls match

Later on we travelled to Worcester Cathedral for the Worcestershire County Harvest Festival service of thanksgiving for the produce of the land, the hard work of the farming community and a reminder of the way all of us are dependent upon agriculture.  Representatives from Worcestershire Young Farmers Clubs made presentations of soil, seed, fruit and vegetables, animal produce such as wool and leather and flowers from the vineyard.

Then on Monday, 3 October, I was presented to HRH The Princess Royal at Sixways Stadium.

Waiting for HRH

Waiting for HRH

HRH has been patron of YSS since 2008, an intensive support scheme for young people which was celebrating 30years since its inception.  YSS provides community based support services for children, young people, adults and families who are vulnerable, have complex needs and who face difficult challenges. HRH gave a keynote speech and presented three awards to volunteers.

HRH arrives

HRH arrives

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