1972 – A Future For The Fair – Part 2

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During the last four years “The Fair Magazine” has covered many aspects of history of the Fair. This Year we change the emphasis and ask Bo’ness Academy 6th Formers James Braes and Lindsay Easton, who have brought great honour to the town by winning the English Speaking Union Public Speaking Competition, for which they received the Balfour Trophy, to give the younger generations’ views on……

A FUTURE FOR THE FAIR part 2

I approached the writing of this article with not a little apprehension. Not a native Bo’nessian, I wondered if it was not sticking my neck out a very long way for me to comment on the Fair. However, having gone thus far there can be no turning back.

In this, a computerized, high-speed society, many old customs and festivals have been neglected and have fallen by the wayside as men look to the future and turn their backs on the past. It, therefore, reflects great credit on Bo’nessians that their festival is not only surviving, but is thriving, and showing every sign of continuing. That the Fair continues at all shows the depth of community spirit and feeling for the town which exists in Bo’ness.

However, lest we become complacent, may I point out what are, in my opinion, some minor defects whose correction would, I feel, improve the Fair and help to ensure its future? Firstly, is it really necessary to include the Academy in the schools from which the Queen is chosen? We now have five primary schools from which to choose the Queen. Would it not be better to allow a primary schoolgirl a chance to be Queen than to give honour to a girl from the heady heights of Class 6 at the Academy?

The same arguments can be applied to asking girls from 1st and 2nd year to be fairies and flower girls. Would it not be better in future for organisers to bow to the wishes of the girls and exclude the Academy, for great difficulty is experienced in getting girls to fill the available places? The Academy contingent is always the smallest from the schools at the Fair: why not omit the Academy, accepting philosophically that the mites, like the times, they are a-changin’.

Another criticism is that in recent years, the Fair has, like Topsy, just growed. New events of great spectator appeal have been introduced – the soap-box derby, piano-smashing, ladies football tournaments, etc. This escalating of Fair events is fine but as the Fair gets bigger and bigger, so people will become blase, they will grow to expect bigger Fair each year. There is a limit to the number of external events which may be introduced without losing sight of the original concept of a children’s Fair Festival – a celebration at the end of a school year. Already, I think that the primary schoolchildren, for whom the Fair was originally intended, are beginning to be overlooked. The main new activities of recent years have been intended more for adults, such as clay pigeon shooting and the Fair Club. Is this the correct state of affairs at a children’s Fair Festival? I doubt it.

Opponents of this argument will say, “So why shouldn’t the whole of the community have a good time at the Fair?” There is, of course, no reason why they shouldn’t but if the function of the Fair is to amuse adult Bo’nessians, is it not hypocrisy to call it a Children’s Fair Festival?

Likewise, can the Queen’s Revels honestly be described as children’s entertainment? How many children prefer folk-dancing even from South Africa or Poland, to Punch and Judy shows, clowns or performing dogs? Of recent years, there have been puppets and clowns, I’m glad to say, but not as part of the main entertainments. Is this not losing sight of the objectives of a Children’s Fair Festival?

I think that the time has come for a reappraisal of the whole Festival. The Fair must continue: it is part of our heritage, eagerly anticipated by young and old alike. It keeps Bo’nessians’ links with the town very strong – even when they are thousands of miles away. It encourages good neighbourliness and friendship, as people join together to build that special arch, make a costume or simply turn out to watch the procession. It is the highlight of the Bo’ness year: long may the sun shine on this,

“Our Festal Day”.

LINDSAY J. C. EASTON

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