Feb 24 2012: Twenty Five Views of a Largely Deserted Fairground (Newark, Nottinghamshire, 2008)
When I was growing up, first in South East Derbyshire, then later in mid-Wales, the annual coming of the fairground was an event of huge significance. From the first sight of the lorries and trailers moving through the small towns, to the night you finally went to experience the rides, blink dizzily at the spectacle, eat the candy-floss and walk home with a goldfish in a water-filled polythene bag, there would be a palpable excitement in the air. It was as though the gigantic UFO at the end of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind was preparing to land, transforming the marketplaces into temporary baroque constructions that seemed made entirely of lightbulbs, household paint and plywood, held together by the sound of dated pop records and the pervasive smell of frying onions. Entering this realm was an overwhelming experience that seemed to grow a little smaller, a bit less impressive, with each passing year, until, as in these photographs – taken on a cheap flash camera in the shadow of the ruins of Newark Castle during the summer of 2008 – the fairground seems to have shrunk to a random scattering of painted sheds exposed by daylight and their lack of customers. Perhaps, as the mall has reduced many once glamorous high streets to rows of fried chicken shops, charity chains and the odd ‘To Let’ sign on a boarded-up window, so its equivalent, the theme park, has drawn all the life from the fairground. Maybe the singularity of that one week each year when there was something to do distinguished it, and the growth of competing attractions has caused it to pall, much as multi-channel TV seems to offer no greater choice, merely exhaustion at the task of trying to find the same small number of programmes you might want to watch now they’re spread across sixty instead of four channels? Or perhaps the fairground always looked like this in those down moments between dawn and the evening darkening enough for those coloured electric lights to cast their spell again?