COLUMN: Fairs have a special atmosphere by Rev Christine French

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I love the fair. Not just because of the rides, the stalls, the food or even the loud music and bright lights.

For me, what makes our fairs special is the atmosphere – hundreds of people, all ages and backgrounds, coming together to enjoy themselves.

Perhaps it’s in my blood, my mother’s family were travelling fairground folk, who settled in Skegness when Billy Butlin opened his first camp just outside the town, where she met my dad.

In winter times the rides were dismantled and serviced, if you have ever felt scared on a ride just imagine the people who have to climb up and take it down piece by piece.

There wasn’t much health and safety guidance at that time!

But the summer time was fantastic, yes it was long hours with every member of the family helping out, doing what they could, Elvis Presley blasted out while the waltzers span faster and faster.

Then in Nottingham I spent nearly a decade living close to the Goose Fair site – where I not only discovered minty mushy peas but also had my annual ‘cock on a stick’.

So of course I’m looking forward to the Ilkeston Charter Fair, it may be the 763rd for the town, but it’s a first for 
me.

Church was very important to my mother and all us children were regularly taken to the parish church.

I do have very positive memories of church as a child, people there were kind and made a fuss of us children, possibly they felt sorry for us, the poor fairground folk, or I prefer to think because they wanted to include us in their congregation.

However my dad never came, the major barrier was he couldn’t read and write.

Today how often when we walk into a church are we greeted with a smile and an assortment of books for the service.

Sometimes I still find it daunting - what to use and when, so I can only start to understand the stigma someone in my dad’s position would feel.

So I hope and pray as the sights, the smells, the food and the rides drawn in people from all around, so too may our churches be beacons for all too.