Separating the Men from the Boys: Pepsi Max BoyzToyz Live!
One advertisement for BoyzToyzLive! suggested: 'If you're a lover of fast cars, extreme sports, toys and games or just beautiful girls, then the Pepsi Max BoyzToyzLive! show is the place to be on the 17th and 18th of September.' Any expectations that the event would be one highlighting speed, risk, and glamour - something for stubbly men with excess cash, adrenalin and sex appeal - proved, however, entirely erroneous. This was a show about cars, for slightly overweight men who like cars, and things to do with cars...
june 1971 marked the jubilee of the Northern Ireland parliament. Plans to commemorate the event began in 1968, but from the start, the organisation of what ultimately became known as 'Ulster '71' was fraught. This was because during this period Northern Ireland had three prime ministers, and more significantly, was suffering serious civil unrest. Despite this, the attempt of the Northern Ireland government to secure a royal visit as part of the celebration was a top priority. However, the security of Queen Elizabeth II could not be guaranteed, and there was ultimately no royal presence...
Monkey Man at the Great Exhibition
In January 1850, under the heading 'A Curious Contribution to the Great Exhibition of 1851,' a letter appeared in The Times from a Mr Issac Ironside. Ironside expressed concern that the British public was not generally acquainted 'with the discovery of a race of men, in the interior of Africa, having tails.' Citing the French explorer who had discovered these peoples, Ironside furnished readers with a description of one such...
Flogging the Cottage Craft: The Irish Village at the 1893 Chicago World Fair
There was an eleven-ton cheese. There was a replica of the Venus de Milo, made from chocolate. There was the world's first ferris wheel, designed by Mr Ferris himself. The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was spectacular, a celebration of America's industrial achievements and a sign of the increasing global importance of the United States. And if all the industry and new-fangled electricity was too much for you, you could kiss the Blarney Stone. Well, a plaster replica of the Blarney Stone...
Lilliputian Wonders and Travelling Fairs
Vanessa Toulmin, National Fairground Archive, University of Sheffield
Fairs and shows all over the world harbour many amazing and grotesque figures whose peculiarities can earn them a living. There are fat men, thin men, strong men, dwarfs, giants, bearded ladies and Siamese twins to mention but a few, all plying their various roles for the entertainment of the crowds that pay to gaze on them in wonder...
An Authentic Market Experience
A few months ago, while writing about the album Congotronics by Kunono No.1, the reviewer from the Observer newspaper described the sound as being 'like an African market falling over a cliff'. Anyone who has visited an African market knows exactly what he meant. Three things immediately set an African market apart from those with which most western shoppers are familiar. The first is the noise, a kind of insistent, optimistic cacophony which resonates with people trying to persuade you to buy. The second is the colours, bright primary hues drawing visitors to stalls strewn with garments screaming red, yellow, florescent green and orange. Finally there are the smells...
Welcome to Gunland
The following theme is most likely to find you, the reader, with a strong opinion. I don't intend to change anyone's beliefs but would like to express mine. Firearms, or guns, as they are more commonly referred to, tend to provoke strong emotional reactions, mostly from people that disapprove of them. My position here is simple: I like guns. I have liked them since I was a little boy, running round with a toy rifle my father made for me for when we played 'partisans and Germans' or 'cowboys and Indians' or 'cops and robbers'. I admired how firearms looked, how precisely they were made and how they fitted in one's hand before realising they were primarily designed to kill...
The Soviet Union at the 20th-Century World's Fairs
Since London's Great Exhibition of 1851, world's fairs have given the nations of the world a chance to show off what they do best in industry and the arts. The world's fairs were the primary arena of peaceful international competition until supplanted by the Olympic Games and the World Cup in recent decades. With the appearance after 1917 of the Soviet Union, a new kind of state based on socialist ideology, national competition increasingly took on an ideological colouring. Soviet participation in the world's fairs of the twentieth century focused not on simply raising national prestige, but on advertising the achievements of socialism...
For most, the centuries-old tradition of the fair conjures a variety of benign images; bustling market stalls selling food; the tacky flashing lights of amusement rides; or tireless enthusiasts on their hands and knees, rigorously sifting through boxes of records in search of some limited edition pink vinyl which was deleted back in 1976. However, the transient nature of these melting pots of commerce and competition can also create an environment where more illicit activities are able to flourish...
Who Will Buy My Prize Bovine Sperm?
The contemporary agricultural fair is an event which has its history in ancient festivals, markets and carnivals, but which really only took on its current form (livestock exhibitions and sales, special displays of rural crafts and sports, trade in machinery large and small, eating and drinking) in the early eighteenth century. At this point agricultural societies and breeding clubs began to organise their annual marts to coincide with the more important traditional fairs and festivals. These days the agricultural fair, usually the largest social gathering in a region's calendar, is augmented throughout the summer by numerous game fairs...
All the Fun of the Funferal
Think of the fairground: its crowds, lights, noise, music, smells, its tacky glamour, its hint of violence, its sheer sensory dazzle. Such variety necessarily produces juxtapositions which are sometimes startling enough to be paradoxes: for starters this very variety has a banal familiarity; then there are the screams from the rides that are equal parts pleasure and fear; the way that punters at the games of 'skill' connive in their own duping through a knowing gullibility; the healthy vanity of the hall of mirrors where we study reflections of ourselves as we never will be...
The Affair At Belmullet
It is difficult for a writer when dealing with the west of Ireland and its people, even if he knows both reasonably well, not to be dragged into the Somerville-Ross-Synge controversy which still rages among the Irish literati. Especially difficult if the writer happens to be a 'West Brit, atheist heretic'. The latter was just one of the epithets hurled at me by my friend, a poet cum radio producer, during the usual drunken aftermath of a recording we had made of my short story about a hireing-fair in Belmullet...
The Tug 'o War
Brian O'Kane is the Chairman and Coach of the Glens Of Antrim Tug Of War Team. He revealed the truth behind Tug Of War and rural fairs to Ruth Graham one sunny day in Martinstown, just north of Ballymena.
RG: How did you get involved in Tug Of War?
B'OK: I started when I was about 17, mainly competing in fairs around the Antrim Coast. We progressed onto the Young Farmers Clubs and it just built up from that...
Summer Fairs and Fair Days
There are fairs and fair days. Fairs for selling horses. Like in Ballinasloe, County Galway. Fair days. Fairs that people visited like in Omeath across the border from Warrenpoint. Fairs in town, for raising money. Fairs that were permanent like Smithfield in Belfast. Until it went up in flames. Smithfield was our casbah. Fairs in the countryside for country people. Selling and buying. Summer fairs. Fun fairs. Fair days. My fair is a fun fair. A summer fair...