In the World of Travelling Showmen

7 Feb 2013 – 10 May 2013

Department of Coffee and Social Affairs

London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Closest tube Chancery Lane

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In the World of Travelling Showmen


Anyone can turn on a Nintendo Wii. Few know how to set up a carousel. In an age when corporations, focus groups and global supply-chains like to dictate how we are entertained, a defiantly independent community, the travelling showmen, maintains the art and industry of a far more eclectic experience - the funfair.

This photography exhibition goes behind the scenes a meet the showmen themselves, including Zoah, the first showman to attend Cambridge University; Flo, who ran away with the fair when she was 14 and is now in her 101st year; and Joby, whose family has been running funfairs since 1775. At the heart of their world lies a self-reliance, entrepreneurship and organisational skill wedded to a warmth and joy of life. This attitude was evident in abundance at 'Molliefest', an impromptu fund-raising music festival to enable Mollie, a five-year-old showman afflicted by a rare cancer, to receive expensive treatment in the USA. Tens of thousands attended. Hundreds of thousands of pounds were raised.

This community is very much alive and in step with the modern world. Yet, the showmen are not slaven to the digital age. Their business dates back centuries and most families trace their involvement back two centuries. The seasons demarcate their working year, with spring the start, summer the high point and autumn the close. Whilst they continually adapt to the changing world they never lose sight of who they are and what their world is about.

In an age when people search long and hard to find their roots, looking back in order to understand their present, the travelling showmen offer an example of a community that never lost touch with their past and, consequently, have the confidence to look to the future.

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