Lee Spring Fair 2015

OPINION: England’s country fayres are not places to enforce false images of diversity - Dave Griffin

Dave Griffin

In spite of horrendous parking problems that always accompany the event, Lee's annual Spring Fayre was a resounding success.

Car-wise, it's like putting a quart into a pint pot. A glorious sun blazed down upon the village hall's garden into which had been brought a wide variety of plants for sale, all cultivated by amateur horticulturists.

Naturally, a tombola stall relieved everyone, including myself, of a few quid, and my collectoholic partner and I made a bee-line for the bric-a brac table, generously loaded with stuff I never knew I wanted so badly.

I congratulated myself on bargain-spotting a card of Laura Ashley curtain hooks, priced at £2, and still bearing the original price tag of £24.

The fayre's relaxed, bucolic atmosphere exemplified a traditionally English rustic-style celebration, typifying what a visiting Martian might expect to find in Devon's beautiful countryside.

Tables groaned with home-made cakes, tarts and pastries, whilst beer and cider quenched the thirst of real-ale connoisseurs who crave the very heaven of Wizard beer.

Ah! The combined aroma of sizzling burgers and hot dogs suffused the joyous ambience of this traditional village fair – if only one could bottle it.

A few dog collars and local dignitaries hovered around alongside worthies from nearby charities and good causes. Ilfracombe's popular town crier, Roy Goodwin, turned up, always a welcome guest at gatherings he is parachuted into, whilst dozens of children zig-zagged excitedly in between the throng of chattering adults.

The youngest visitor, a three-week-old baby boy, managed to sleep throughout. Older kids joined the sing-song of folk melodies provided by musicians determined to make every foot in sight tap to their rhythms.

Restored that day was an England we thought had been lost to Covid. Not represented, thankfully, were businesses, corporations and pressure groups who would dearly love to sponsor these occasions and fill them with their logos, pamphlets and propaganda.

None of that at Lee's Fayre. That evening, stuffed with lemon drizzles, I switched on Midsomer Murders, the TV crime drama set in a fictional county based on Somerset, in which Causton CID's Tom Barnaby and his current CID sidekick, Sgt Jamie Winter, investigate theatrically gruesome murders that occur in the unlikeliest of rural settings.

The essence of Midsomer Murders is its quintessential Englishness, and in particular, genteel middle-class characters intent on slaughtering each other. The show regularly features summer fetes and country fayres that Midsomer's provincial towns seem to hold in profusion, but somehow, their festivities differ immensely from Lee's annual summer extravaganza.

A Midsomer Murders' garden fete resembles humanity as depicted in editions of the Jehovah's Witness magazines, Awake and Watchtower, which to the sect's credit illustrates an optimistic view of mankind's future. In a corner of chocolate-box England, otherwise untouched by international migration, Midsomer boasts a rainbow of races unrealistic in any context.

An analogy of these absurdly politically correct assemblies might be the organisers of Zimbabwe's splendid Victoria Falls Carnival insisting that for the sake of balance and diversity, the concerts must include performances by the Dartington Morris Men, complete with a Cornish pasty marquee.

I do wonder what the producers of a drama whose very appeal is reassuring viewers that the worlds of Miss Marple and Margaret Rutherford still exist, are trying to tell us. I can guess. Behind this distortion of reality is an obsession with quotas and racial representations that seek to realign the profile of established communities.

TV companies must now demonstrate to Ofcom their 'diversity credentials', which may include encouraging staff to join in with fasting rituals of other religions, and arranging canteen tables in a 'welcoming' way.

Nevertheless, however well-intentioned these attempts at global inclusivity are, they are an unedifying and patronising insult to black and Asian people.

A few years ago, in China, I was the only English guy exercising with five hundred pensioners in a Beijing public park.

The whole event was filmed. Didn't anyone think to fly in a couple of dozen oldies from Barnstaple?