North West Norfolk MP James Wild spoke about Lynn’s historic Mart at Westminster Hall as he called for more support for fairs and showgrounds this week.
In the debate yesterday, Mr Wild asked for fairgrounds to be given equal status to museums, theatres, and other organisations when applying for the Cultural Recovery Fund, which has already supported cultural businesses such as the Princess Theatre during the pandemic.
He highlighted fairgrounds’ important place in the nation’s cultural heritage. Mr Wild referred to nineteenth century engineer Frederick Savage of Lynn, and his role in supplying steam powered fairground rides for the Mart.
And he also spoke in support of a campaign co-founded by Collen Roper, a constituent whose family runs Rainbow Park in Hunstanton, who is the sixth generation of a fairground family.
Together with five other female showmen, she has formed the ‘Future4Fairgrounds’ group who are increasingly worried about the future for their families and thousands of other showmen across the UK.
Mr Wild called for greater consistency between national guidance and how local authorities act.
Future4Fairgrounds told him they have continued to see cancellations of winter fairgrounds and others being stopped from operating despite being told they were able to go ahead.
Mr Wild said: “Fairgrounds have spent considerable amounts of money to be Covid secure and it’s been incredibly frustrating for them not to be able to have their events while other events have gone ahead.
“We should not underestimate the financial impact of that but also we should not underestimate the mental health impact on the wellbeing of having all those events cancelled.”
He asked the culture minister to work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government to provide more direction to local authorities to tackle this inconsistency so that fairs can safely reopen.
Mr Wild said: “As a new MP, my interest comes from the King’s Lynn Mart, which is the oldest fair in the country and it’s traditional Valentine’s Day opening ceremony marks the first event in the travelling Showman’s calendar.
“This year I was delighted to attend the 816th Mart and be part of the procession through the town before taking part in some competitive dodgem driving and whizzing down the helter skelter, and despite what’s known locally as Mart weather, it was typically popular with families coming along to enjoy the rides and attractions.
“There was great optimism of the events to come and then of course a little more than a month later we entered the national lockdown and everything changed.”
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