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Travelling Showman speaks out
THE Guardian interviewed funfair lessee, Harry Sharland, who discussed the plans to create a permanent pitch for travelling showmen at Winsford Industrial Estate.
Harry and his family have been bringing the funfair to Winsford for more than 40 years. He settled in the town in 1990 and recently organised the popular funfair for the Five Rings Circus.
Harry is a Lessee – a name given to the person who oversees booking rides, paying rents to the council, and managing a fair’s day to day business.
As with most showmen, the married father of three was born into the job.
“My father, Stanley, was in it. It’s a family thing and I’ve just carried on from where he left off. It’s in my blood. I’m 59 now. I don’t love it as much as when I was 18, but it’s still flashing lights and music after all,” he said.
Cheshire West and Chester (CWAC) plan to build a new permanent pitch for travelling showmen at the entrance to Road One Industrial Estate.
A petition set up by the industrial estate’s leaders, Winsford 1-5 BID, revealed a large degree of opposition to the plan.
Harry said he’d been ‘saddened’ by the furore surrounding the issue, and by a banner which has been put up at Road One in protest.
“My daughter’s were all born in Winsford and went to Verdin High School. Two were prefects. We’ve always felt part of this community, but when we saw that sign we were very saddened by it.”
Harry said he thought there was a misunderstanding of the amount of trade the showmen bring into Winsford.
“Any maintenance I do, I go up to road one industrial estate. I have my cars tested, buy my tyres; get welding work done there.
“I think the industrial estate would benefit from that new site. People wouldn’t take their equipment elsewhere to be mended. They’d take it to their local place, here in Winsford.”
Harry pointed to Europe – where he said showmen are given ‘a lot of support’ in using industrial parks.
He said the lack of useable sites was threatening the future of Britain’s fairs, because showmen had to travel further afield.
“It costs you a bomb in fuel, and there are the emissions to the environment to think about too,” he said.
He added there were a lot of misconceptions about show people.
“I’ve just paid my taxes; paid my council tax here for the last 30 odd years. I think it’s a misunderstanding. It’s something that’s the norm unfortunately. Everybody likes the fair, but they don’t want us in their back yard.”
Harry is now calling on the industrial leaders to open up a dialogue.
He said: “Ok, if the factories don’t want us up there, then fair enough. But at least let us have a meeting. I’ve asked for meeting after meeting and they will not meet us.
“We’re just normal people going about our jobs, and we just want somewhere to settle. I don’t think that’s too much to ask in these times.”