Picture special: Barnstaple Fair opening ceremony

Scenes from the opening ceremony of Barnstaple Fair, Wednesday, September 18, 2013.

Scenes from the opening ceremony of Barnstaple Fair, Wednesday, September 18, 2013. - Credit: Archant

Proclamation Ceremony at the Guildhall marks the start of Barnstaple Fair week.

Scenes from the opening ceremony of Barnstaple Fair, Wednesday, September 18, 2013.

Scenes from the opening ceremony of Barnstaple Fair, Wednesday, September 18, 2013. - Credit: Archant

BARNSTAPLE Fair has officially opened for business today (Wednesday) following the traditional fair proclamation ceremony.

Scenes from the opening ceremony of Barnstaple Fair, Wednesday, September 18, 2013.

Scenes from the opening ceremony of Barnstaple Fair, Wednesday, September 18, 2013. - Credit: Archant

Councillors, guests and dignitaries filled the Guildhall for the annual Proclamation of the Ancient Fair, an event still eagerly awaited and thought to be as old as the town itself.

The fair at Seven Brethren runs until Saturday and concludes with Barnstaple Carnival celebrations in the evening.

At today’s ceremony the Mayor, Councillor Lesley Brown, presided over the occasion, which sees a series of toasts and responses from guest speakers, while the assembly is plied with ‘fairings’ or sweet biscuits, whose recipe is a jealously guarded secret!


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The opening toast to ‘the Queen’ by the Mayor was followed by four speakers, before Mrs Brown concluded by urging everyone to enjoy the fair:

“It brings together all generations of families, from grandparents who have gone along to experience the sights and sounds of the fair to the youngsters who all try to outdo each other,” she said.

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Other speakers included local author and television producer Trevor Hill reflect on the fair of bygone days, how it had changed over the years but was still just as popular today.

“Today’s young people are about to have three great days of fun and in 50 years time one of them might be lucky enough to stand here and record their memories of one of the best fairs ever,” he said.

Mr Hill’s toast to ‘Barnstaple Fair’ was responded to by Vera Ackland of Barnstaple Floral Art Club, with her own and her Exmoor farming family’s memories of the fair, stretching back to the days when her granddad would take his wife and children to the fair aboard the family horse and cart.

Once again, the Floral Art Club was responsible for decking the Guildhall out in floral splendour for the occasion.

David Atton, head teacher of Park Community School, went on to propose a toast to the ‘Prosperity of Barnstaple’, responded to by Graham Harris, chairman of Barnstaple Town Centre Management and North Devon Gazette publishing manager.

After the indoor ceremony, the proclamation of the fair was read to the crowd outside the Guildhall by Town Clerk Ann Jenkins, before the Mayor, councillors, beadles and gusts formed up for a procession along the High Street, with the proclamation read out at intervals.

During the ceremony a large white glove, decorated with flowers and ribbons, was suspended over the street from the top window of the Guildhall, said to symbolise the ‘open hand of friendship’ for any who wish to trade at the fair, and those attending.

A lunch for dignitaries and guests was followed by, of course, a trip to the fair and the opportunity to try out the latest rides.

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