Shaftesbury will be bustling with the excitement of Gold Hill Fair this Sunday 1stJuly.
Alfred spoke with David Wynn-Mackenzie about the highlights of this year’s event. David is a member of Shaftesbury’s Rotary Club, who have organised Gold Hill Fair for decades. “It’s a bit lost in the mists of time but it is certainly over thirty years old,” said David. “I have fond memories of it when our children were very small. The Rotary Club has been running it for well over 20 years.”
Gold Hill Fair serves two main objectives. It raises funds and it’s fun. “What we are keen to do is have an event that draws Shaftesbury together as a community and also brings in some money. There would probably be easier ways of just raising money, if that was all we wanted to do,” David said.
The event takes a great deal of planning and hard work. “About half a dozen of us work on it through the year and the whole club comes together for the weekend. It requires quite a lot of setup and then takedown at the end of the fair,” said David.
Over the past two years, the range of activities in town for Sunday’s Gold Hill Fair has been boosted by Fringe events. “It achieves what we have always tried to do and had great difficulty in doing other than to a very small degree – namely trying to get lots of other things happening in Shaftesbury over the Gold Hill Fair weekend,” David said.
The annual event has generated a massive amount of money for good causes in and around Shaftesbury. “We usually make a profit of a few thousands of pounds. We have sometimes made a bit more than that. If you multiply that by the 25 years or so that we have been doing this then that is an awful lot that has been put back into the community,” David stated.
The Rotary isn’t fundraising for a specific project this year. “We haven’t got one at the moment. The money will go to general charity funds. Most of the spending from that goes to local good causes,” David explained.
David said that he has many fond memories of Gold Hill Fair and one particularly daring challenge stands out. “Abseiling down the Trinity Church tower was the personal highlight for me. Whilst you won’t be able to abseil down it this time, you will be able to climb the tower and take in the view from the top,” David said.
Scaling the church tower is the only activity that Gold Hill Fair attendees will need to pay for. The £3 fee goes towards good causes. And it’s a small price to pay for the experience. “Access to the top of the tower gets you the highest view in town. It’s a wonderful sight over what is happening,” said David.
If you’re super fit, you’ll probably take the ascent of the tower’s spiral steps in your stride – literally. And there’s another challenge you might enjoy – the Stalbridge Linen Van Pull. “They provide one of their vans with a few towing points fixed onto it. Teams of five can enter and try to beat the Fire Brigade, who will also be at the fair,” David said.
Gold Hill Fair officially opens at 11am as the Town Band lead a parade along the High Street. Some traders’ stalls will be open before then, though. “We want it to be an event with music and dance. We’ve got that going on in the Abbey grounds, to which admission will be free,” David advised.
“The music programme in the Abbey will start at 12 o’clock. We have the Shaftesbury Community Choir coming and the Shaftesbury Arts Centre is doing a trailer for Mack and Mabel, their summer show,” said David. The actors will perform an excerpt on Park Walk at 12.15pm and 2.15pm. As Mack and Mabel tells the story of the Hollywood director who created the famous Keystone Cops, you can expect an appearance from those hapless police during the day! The Choir will entertain the crowds with their 45-minute song list, also on Park Walk from 1pm.
The Gold Hill Fair live music list starts with Dan Evans at midday and goes on to include No Fixed Abode in the Abbey grounds at 12.30pm and Jim Penfold performing one hour later. Wild are scheduled for 2.30pm and Brett and Blake play piano and guitar from 3pm. If you’re passionate about traditional English music or dancing, the area outside the Town Hall will feature Steps In Time, Morris Dancing and then Sam Skey from 3pm.
Sadly, the fun fair won’t be in attendance this year. They’ve had to cancel due to a bereavement. But with donkey rides, craft stalls in the Town Hall and the Buddhist monks in the Abbey grounds at 11.40am, there’s more than enough to see and do on Sunday. “We hope that loads of people will come. It will be much nicer than going down to the beach,” said David.
And for visitors coming into town, there are additional parking options. The High Street will be closed to traffic on Sunday but the regular town centre car parks will be open. Drivers can also leave their vehicles at the Cattle Market or they can park on the grass at Castle Hill.
“The entrance to Castle Hill is quite narrow. It will be marshalled during the morning when most visitors tend to arrive. Later on, I can’t guarantee that there will be anybody there,” said David. “I would just ask that if people go onto the field, apart from taking care in the narrow entrance, that they drive well onto the field and do not block the initial, narrow part because it does restrict access and leads to increased damage to the grass,” David requested.