This may sound like a question from a cold-case review but can you remember what were you doing from the early nineteen seventies until the mid nineteen eighties? Doubtless you’ll have forgotten more of that period than you can remember but if you are of sufficient vintage to have attended any of the Barsham or Albion Fairs that took place across Norfolk and Suffolk during that period then it’s unlikely that you’ll have forgotten the experience.
The Fairs were an East Anglian anomaly; a pool of leftfield, anarchic fun and diversity in a period which started in austerity and ended in stifling conformity. Rougham, Bergholt, Lyng, Barsham and a handful of other villages were the scenes of the Fairs which, looking back on them now, appear to be the bridge between the 60s flower-power generation and the road-protesters of the 1990s – and seem in many ways to have formed the blueprint for what festivals have become in the 21st century.
If you do have fond memories of one or more of the 44 Fairs held between 1972 – 1986 – then those memories are in demand. The good folk who run The Fairs Archive – http://fairsarchive.org.uk/ – and who are to be found at various events around the region with their travelling exhibition, are applying for a Heritage Lottery Grant in order to record people’s memories of the Fairs to form an oral archive of this piece of unique East Anglian social history. It doesn’t matter how small your memory, they would like to hear from you. The more people who offer up their memories, the more likely it is that the grant will be secured and this small but beautiful part of our heritage will not be lost in the mist of history. If you would like to contribute – it’s pain free and costless – then e mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether or not you attended, take a look at the Fairs Archive website. It has a history of how the Fairs came into being, as well as some fantastically evocative photographs to further prompt the memory.
The power contained in eye-witness oral history is just being realised as the capacity to make relatively cheap, large scale recordings becomes widely available. If they are successful with the grant application, then in addition to finance, the Fairs Archive will receive training in how best to make the recordings and, even more importantly, how to archive them so that they are accessible for future generations. The opportunity to contribute to the preservation of anything for the benefit of those who follow behind us should not be lightly turned away from, so if one of the Fairs played some part in your past why not drop them an e mail; they will appreciate it.