Shaftesbury is the place to be this Sunday, 7th July. The traditional Gold Hill Fair promises a range of fun events to complement a busy Shaftesbury Fringe weekend programme of over 170 shows.
Alfred’s Keri Jones spoke to some of the organisers.
“The fair has been running for the last thirty or so years. We set out to create an event for the whole community and for all the family,” said Rotarian, David Wynn-McKenzie. The focus of Sunday morning’s Gold Hill Fair events will the High Street. Local favourites Steps in Time will join visiting Morris and folk-dance groups performing outside the Town Hall from 10am.
The dancers and musicians will pause for a short time from 11am, when the opening parade winds its way up the High Street towards the Abbey. “We encourage volunteer community groups throughout the town to come and take part in the parade, which will be led by the Town Band. We also hope to have some performers from the Fringe there,’ said David.
There’s an incentive for clubs and organisations to take part. “There’ll be a draw for cash prizes to go to the benefit of the group winning the prize,” said David.
This year, there will be a fashion element to the parade. Georgie Faulkner Bryant says that 6 to 12-year-olds who have joined her ‘Stitch and Bling’ fashion workshops will treat the High Street as their catwalk, when they show the crowds what they have created.
“Lots of my lovely pupils have been learning to make and embellish their own clothes, and they’ll be walking along in the parade. We may even have a pony and trap,” said Georgie. She’s keen to encourage people to enhance and ‘bling up’ their charity shop finds.
It’s known as ‘circular fashion’ and that’s different to sustainable fashion. “Sustainable fashion can cover new brands who use sustainable fabrics, but we feel the most sustainable clothing is circular fashion. It’s when you reuse clothes, instead of sending it to the landfill,” said Georgie.
As the crowds follow the parade towards the Abbey, the afternoon programme of music will begin. The town’s Community Choir and Robin Walter’s Ukulele Orchestra will put on a show near to the War Memorial. “The choir sing for half an hour by themselves. There’s generally about 60 or 70 of them,” said Ukulele leader Robin. “It starts at 12.30pm. We join them about 1pm and then at 1.30pm we play by ourselves. I’ve invited the players from my Shaftesbury group and also the groups I run in Wimborne and Salisbury.”
During the afternoon, more live music is offered on the Abbey’s stage. It begins at 12-noon with blues-influenced band, Losing the Plot. At 12.50pm Liz and Charlie from Hummingbird perform their folk and pop harmonies. And at 1.40pm, Montpellier perform, and Tom Jobling takes over at 2.50pm. Five-piece local band The Songsmiths finish the set at 3.10pm.
Lovers of musicals will be catered for. Actors will be performing excerpts from a Monty Python show on Park Walk at 11.30am and 2pm. “The Arts Centre have got Spamalot on as their summer musical later in the week. And we’re going to have them doing sketches from their show at the fair,” said David. The show opens on 10th July at the SAC.
Rotarian Bernard Skam says there’s another new attraction on Park Walk this year. “We’ve now got what’s called a ‘human fruit machine’. It’s like a normal fruit machine that you would pull a lever and hopefully get three oranges. This is three volunteers who will sit behind a screen and pop up an apple, an orange or something. If you get three of a kind you get a bottle of wine,” said Bernard.
Gold Hill Fair includes an incredible test of strength and endurance when a team of up to six men or eight women try to pull a 1.5-tonne van 58 metres along the High Street. Entrants will be trying to beat the time set by the Build Squad team, who finished in 22 seconds last year. It’s £25 to enter. The funds raised will support the firefighters’ charity.
“We’ve got a number of teams in at the moment. But if anybody wants to put a team in last minute, please feel free to contact me at The Retreat in Bell Street on 850372,” said Bernard. “The best we’ve ever had was about eight teams,’ he added.
A slightly different level of fitness is needed to climb all 126 stone steps to the top of Trinity Tower. The 360-degree view from this vantage point, 228m above sea level, is superb. You will enjoy a birds-eye view of all of the Gold Hill Fair and Shaftesbury Fringe activities around town. The tower will be open from 10am until 3pm.
Gold Hill Fair brings in cash for goods causes and provides entertainment for both locals and visitors. “When it was two days, it used to be a serious fundraiser. But now it still raises funds for local charities. We feel it’s returning something to the community. Most of our funds come from the community,” said Bernard.
The Rotary Club is currently raising money for Shaftesbury Guides. They are creating a new headquarters with an extension to the Lindlar Community Hall. The shell of the building is complete and now they need to fund the interior works before autumn. Gold Hill Fair also helps the Freewheelers. They offer an out of hours motorbike courier service to the NHS.
“They run organs, like hearts, between hospitals and they take medicines, records and things that are required urgently. They do it for free. I believe that it costs them about £70,000 per year. We’ve now got our own bike stationed in North Dorset,” said Bernard.
With Sunday’s forecast of 21°C and sunshine, and with Shaftesbury Fringe activities continuing into the night, Sunday’s Gold Hill Fair is set to be popular and packed! Shaftesbury High Street will be shut to traffic on Sunday. Town Centre car parks will be open and there will be additional parking on Castle Hill and at Abbey View Medical Centre and Shaftesbury School.
“The whole spirit of the fair is the community of Shaftesbury coming together for a festival of music and dance. And the parade is our way of gathering people together and to give something back to the community, because that’s what we aim to do,” said David.