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Show people speak of devastation after Mop cancellation

Girls having fun at Stratford's Mop Fair in 2016
Girls having fun at Stratford's Mop Fair in 2016

CANCELLING the Mop Fair has had devastating consequences for more than 60 families, showmen have warned.

Stratford District Council made the decision in late-September to cancel the annual October Mop and Runaway Mop due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A group of six lady showmen have come together to form a group called Future 4 Fairgrounds, asking local authorities to reconsider their stance.

They are urging residents to write to their MP asking why Covid-secure fairs are not taking place this year.

Group member Hayley Danter said: “The public don’t always understand that the families who own and operate the rides and stalls each year at fairs such as the Stratford Mop are the same ones who have been attending for centuries.

“Our industry is unique in the way it has been handed down over the course of hundreds of years, with businesses nurtured from generation to generation. In fact, some travelling showmen families are sixth-generation showmen.

“Events like the Stratford Mop aren’t just a job for us, they are our lifetime. It’s a heritage we are extremely proud of and one that we feel is not understood by many outside the industry. Future 4 Fairgrounds is doing its best to change that.”

Colleen Roper added: “Showmen are very resilient by nature and have even managed to put on local fairs for local people throughout two world wars. However, coronavirus brought everything to a standstill. With no income and little to no help from the government grants system, it has been a very difficult time for the families affected.”

Colleague Bernice Wall said: “We don’t understand why we can’t function when other businesses can. Shops, markets, theme parks, pubs, piers have all been able to operate with seemingly fewer restrictions than us, and we don’t understand why we are different. No one has explained to us why their Covid-secure businesses can open but our Covid-secure businesses can’t.

“We strongly believe everyone should be able to make a living. There is no difference between one responsibly-operated business and another.”

A spokesperson for Stratford District Council said: “The district council sympathises with the Future 4 Fairgrounds group and the showmen and we have been able to reach a compromise with our current contractor for this year’s Mop Fairs. But we could not justify holding the fairs during the current health emergency.”

The Stratford Mop and Runaway Mop hold a special status as “statute fairs”, governed under an 1847 act which confers an absolute right for the fairs to be held annually in the streets of Stratford. The right that can only be nullified by another act of parliament.

To maintain the statute, and in recognition of the fair’s ancient charter, a children’s ride was placed in Rother Market near the American Fountain on Monday, 12th October – the traditional date of the Mop.

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