I should imagine that a vast majority of the town’s population are totally unaware of what is involved with the organisation of the Fair, and the role that the Bailiff plays in bringing it together. There is the Fair itself, and then there’s Monday morning.
Let’s have a look at the Fair itself. The first problem that has to be overcome is the date of the Fair. With it being governed by Trinity Sunday, the dates change every year. This can create a clash of dates for some of our regular Showmen, so some years it can be incredibly hard to fill the ground, this year being no exception. So having organised who is coming with what, the next problem is where do they stay whilst they are here? When I was a child the caravans would be parked at the football club, down the Rec, on School Lane and some down Well Lane. This enabled the Showmen to be close to their equipment and that gave them a great deal of security and comfort. We then had the use of the field on Desborough road, but that too has now been lost forever. Luckily, the President of the Rowell Fair Society has some fields that we can park the caravans in, but they are a long way from the Fairground and a lot of our regular showmen are seriously considering the viability of Rowell Fair.
So, we have the equipment, and a place to park the caravans! Now to put the Fair in the town. To enable this, a road closure notice has to be applied for. This involves a detailed risk assessment, co-ordinating with the Police, Fire and Ambulance services, local householders, businesses, bus companies, highways department and any other interested parties. Also, organising road signage and barriers for the diversion routes and marshals to put it into place. Volunteers are always welcome!
So we have the Fair in place, but can the Bailiff now relax? Well, not really, as he now fully assumes the role of safety officer. Besides being available to sort out any issues that may arise whilst the Fair is open, he has to ensure that all the necessary tests and checks have been carried out on every piece of equipment, electrical, hydraulic, crack tested, food handling, first aid trained personnel – the list is endless. Also, the bailiff must check that all the necessary insurance policies are in place and up to date.
You can see from this that the Bailiff doesn’t just turn up on the Monday morning, sit on a horse and read the Charter a few times. But what is involved with the Monday morning?
Firstly, a horse is needed for the Bailiff, and a carriage – The Dray- for the Lord of the Manor. VIP guests need to be invited, and every Mayor’s office has a different form to fill in. A band has to be assembled, Halberdiers, old and new need to be arranged, marshals organised. Landlords are visited to arrange the drink, refreshments, and breakfast for the invited guests. The list of tasks goes on and on.
As you can see, there is a lot of hard work involved in putting on Rowell Fair, but the Bailiff has a lot of help and support from many sources, especially the Committee and members of the Rowell Fair Society.
Finally, I ask myself, is all this work that goes on worth the effort every year? There is only one answer possible – of course it is.
Where would Rowell be without this great and unique heritage? Nowhere.
It is a great and privileged honour to be the Bailiff, following in some great footsteps.
God Save the King and the Lord of the Manor.