Photojournalist and communications specialist

Silcock's Travelling Fair

The Silcock Brothers got their first taste of becoming fun fair operators over 100 years ago. Their first venture was running a games stall outside the coal mines in Wigan each night as the miners made their way home. A third generation ensures that Silcock’s remain one of the best known names in the business. Arthur Silcock has been running the fair for nearly fifty years.

The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain was founded in 1889 in Salford, Lancashire. The Guild protects the interests of its members - travelling showmen who gain their livelihoods by attending funfairs. A showman all his life, Arthur Silcock has the rights to the fair on Hindley market square near Wigan. But Arthur can't go it alone. He works with other showmen to present a variety of attractions, and follows the well-established code of conduct of the Showmen's Guild. 

The 'Pull-on' is an important part of this tradition. The attractions are positioned and set up on site from the largest rides to the small food franchises and novelty stalls. Arthur Silcock, as the principal showman on site, is responsible for allocating positions. The precise placing of every ride is critical, and this involves many gestures and much pointing. Lots are drawn to allocate sites fairly and to avoid arguments and disputes.

“There’s not much spare cash around,” said Arthur, “so we introduced the '£1-a-ride' promotion.” In the weeks before the fair was up and running there was extensive advertising with posters, and local radio and local newspapers publicising the fair and featuring the ‘£1-a-ride’ promotion to attract the public. “People won’t pay two or three pounds", added Arthur, "especially when they have two or three kids, so the ‘£1-a-ride' promotion is good for everyone.”

“It’s no good having an empty fair,” concluded Arthur. “It’s much better to fill your rides at a pound a time, and run them a bit shorter than usual.”