As in bonkers. I’ve written a lot about the festivals etc out in Italy. Whether it’s to celebrate the chestnut harvest, the palio, or a religious/historical event the Italian occasions have a point to them. Now in Buckingham we have the Charter fair. The Charter was granted to the town by Queen Mary Tudor in 1684 to reward them for their loyalty to the crown during various rebellions not least the Civil War period. Local rival Aylesbury was always a Parliamentary town which probably explains why the town of Buckingham lost its County town status to its rival.
Anyway during October we get the Charter fair. On the 3rd Friday of the month the relatively small town centre is closed to traffic whilst these enormous fairground rides and side-shows are set up. They are crammed into every nook and cranny and given that the centre is on a slope, they are all propped up on jacks, beams and precarious-looking levelling devices. The work continues through to Saturday morning. Then the Fair effectively kicks off in the afternoon and closes around midnight.
We used to go when the kids were younger but now it’s just a nuisance to be honest because there are huge diversions just to get across a really small town. I’m never sure these rides etc are all that safe either. There are quite a few people who live around the old market area and have to put up with these monster rides and trucks acting as generators disgorging fumes inches from their property. Plus there’s really loud music belting out all night. It must be a nightmare to put up with the nuisance.
The fairground people have to dismantle everything early Sunday morning and leave the town by mid-morning. Now this strikes me as huge amount of effort on the part of the fair people for just one day’s takings. I’d be amazed if they came out seriously in profit. And the location is just stupid. Why not stick it on a public car park or school playground you know somewhere flat, with proper hard standing on the fringe of the town so that it’s not so disruptive? I guess there ‘s something in that charter which affords them the right to host the event within the heart of the town and if they ever changed from that they’d find themselves losing their automatic rights down the line.
But do you know what’s really mad about this whole thing? This weekend they come back and do the whole thing again. That’s right it’s held on subsequent Saturdays. They tend to park the bigger vehicles up on lay-bys around the fringes of the town during mid-week. So they don’t go off and do a Tues – Thurs fair somewhere else. So this Friday the town centre will get shut down again and the noise and bother returns for one more night.
All this disruption to town centre access must have had an inevitable impact on local business over the years. Indeed the small shops in the town have been closing down at a steady rate whilst we’ve lived here. It’s virtually all charity shops now in Buckingham apart from a few banks, building societies and hairdressers. The last decent clothes shop for men closed more than 10 years ago. Someone on the town council even allowed Tesco to open an Express store in the centre to hoover up what’s left of local spending following the creation of one of their supermarkets on the edge of the town some years ago.
You know what I’d have done if I was on the town council? I would have allowed the Fair to continue and Tesco to create their store but only on condition that the Fair re-establish itself on Tesco’s car park out on the ring road for a whole week, just to allow other the other shops 7 day’s opportunity to maximise the sales opportunity for themselves. Now that would have made for a more balmy Buckingham.