Archives for posts with tag: funfair

Postcards I have added to my collection over the past six months.

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A miniature print of Messiah (1919) by Ernst Neuschul, an Austrian born painter associated with the New Objectivity movement. I purchased this from the New Walk Museum in Leicester, which holds many German Expressionist works – and those of a similar ilk – which I will write about in the near future. You cannot help but be pulled into this image, which is so unflinching and unapologetic. The figure reminds me of the singer Richard Hell.

 

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This is from a box of postcards of Penguin Classic covers, which I was able to purchase singly from Oxfam Books and Music. The novel is The Drowned World by JG Ballard. Ballard’s novels are mainly dystopian in style, his most famous works being Crash and Empire of the Sun. I haven’t read The Drowned World (yet), although I have read others of his, but the submerged image of the Chrysler building, combined with the strong colours, really spoke to me.

 

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I received this in the mail around a month ago. How exciting it was to receive. My friend was on holiday in Scotland and sent me this postcard of John Byrne’s Jock and the Tiger Cat (1968). It is from the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, where the painting is currently held. Byrne is a Scottish playwright and artist, probably most known for the television series Tutti Frutti starring Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson.

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The funfair is something I’ve spoken about a few times on this blog, so adding this image to my collection isn’t a great surprise. I like that the shot is slightly out of focus, connoting movement, that the top of the image almost looks tarnished, and the soft natural haze mingling with the neon lights. It reminds me of Coney Island.

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Whilst on a recent trip to Dublin, I stopped at the National Gallery of Ireland for a look at their current exhibition, Lines of Vision, curated to celebrate 150 years of the gallery. I purchased this postcard of a painting I was drawn to in the collection entitled Moonlight (1926) by Paul Henry. Henry was born in Belfast and was particularly fond of the West coast of Ireland, where he spent a great deal of time painting landscapes. I liked the simplicity of the work, and on a personal note it reminded me of sailing to Norway last year.

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A few months ago I shared part of my postcard collection. Over the past six months I have added a few more to my paper hoard. They were found at a couple of museum gift shops and a stationers, and encompass many themes, including cats, the fairground, vintage advertising and sci-fi.

Let me know which one is your favourite and if you know of any creative ideas for their display.

'Black Cat' Japanese matchbox label, collection of Jane McDevitt

‘Black Cat’ Japanese matchbox label, collection of Jane McDevitt

Brasso ad from 1950

Brasso ad from 1950

Scrabble-inspired letter L, purchased from Paperchase

Scrabble-inspired letter L, purchased from Paperchase

Space Dust packaging from the 1980s

Space Dust packaging from the 1980s

Robot design, from Paperchase

Robot design, from Paperchase

Rowlands Rodeo Ark (date unknown)

Rowlands Rodeo Ark (date unknown)

I purchased this last postcard from Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre, which I wrote about here.

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Yes, I was back at the fair. This time it was a real life travelling vintage one. Based in Berkshire, Carters [sic] Steam Fair has been on the go since 1977, featuring rides, stalls and games dating from the 1890s to the 1960s. Whilst some of the ride are steam-powered, such as the Yachts (1921) and the Galloper (1895), others rely on electricity.

I have been to funfairs, or ‘the shows’ as they are commonly named, many times but this fair felt much more authentic. The sweet smell of popcorn and candy floss, the blinking lights and the 1950s rock and roll music all added to the old-time atmosphere.

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The Dive Bomber (1946) was originally owned by Billy Smart, the famous circus impressario.

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This ride, the Jungle Thriller Noah’s Ark, dates from 1934 and has been restored to its art deco roots. It emulates motorcycle speedway rides of the 30s.

Penny Arcade

Luna Park game inspired by the famous Coney Island amusement park (opened 1903). There are now fairgrounds named Luna Park all over the globe.

‘Pussy’ game, in which you shoot cats with a handgun. How lovely. The moon in the background of the game is very George Melies, A Trip to the Moon (1902). This was filmed at around the same time as the first Luna Park opened in Brooklyn, which was named after a 1901 ride called, funnily enough, A Trip to the Moon.

Carters sometimes features a wall of death stunt show. This was not on during my visit so I may try to see this another time.

Upcoming fairs will include fireworks displays for bonfire night. See the website for dates. http://www.carterssteamfair.co.uk/

If you enjoyed reading this post you may like one I wrote about Coney Island back in May.
https://decodomino.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/goodbye-my-coney-island-baby/

I’ve always had a fascination with the travelling funfair. Back in the days before cinema and television, attending the funfair was a big deal. Not only was it a chance to let your hair down and enjoy the thrill of a ride, the fair was where you saw exotic animals in the flesh for the first time. In an era where global travel was not readily available, fairgrounds became a form of escapism that took the visitor to another world.

Of course, there was a darker side to the fair: as well as animal cruelty, freak shows were commonplace. The funfair as a symbol can also connote insanity, which is shown to great effect in feature films such as The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Carnival of Souls.

I could spend hours writing about the history and different aspects of funfairs (I might do a series of posts at some point), but there is a reason for this particular post.

During my recent trip to Devon, I visited Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre in Lifton. Dingles features a plethora of fairground memorabilia, including vintage rides, games, vehicles and machinery, as well as road signs, art work and related ephemera.

The museum is housed in three buildings, the first of which is more like a ‘typical’ museum, with models and displays in glass cases as well some more interactive exhibits, such as carriages and living wagons you can climb into.

The second building displays larger rides and – here’s the fun part – they still run. The rides include a ghost train, galloper (carousel), waltzer, switchback and dodgems. You can also play traditional games such as the coconut shy, rifle shooting, and hook-a-duck. (Rides and games incur an additional cost).

Prizes for funfair games usually include goldfish, cuddly toys and coconuts. ‘Carnival Glass’ was a name given to second rate glassware, usually with an iridescent finish, given as a prize.


Two very different organs. Unfortunately I don’t have dates for these but the one on the right has a distinct Metropolis feel about it.

In the third building, which was more like a storage facility, there were a lot of items that looked as if they were waiting for repair. It’s sad to think of items languishing in storage but often independent museums lack the funding for conservation.

Overall, Dingles is an entertaining and intriguing museum, one that lets you take photographs and interact with the displays. I believe that the fair is an important part of social history, one that seems to be forgotten in an internet and video game obsessed age.

Dingles is open Thursday- Monday, April- October. Tickets cost £8 for an adult. 20% off online.
http://fairground-heritage.org.uk/