Wednesday, 3 July 2013


(Fairground - a prompt from Studio30+)

You look a little tense.  I think I know why.   It’s because this is a fairground, and fairgrounds are a little…  disturbing aren’t they?

I don’t take it personally any more, but do try to relax a little while we chat.    A lot of people find fairgrounds spooky, don’t they.     Have you seen how many horror novels and films have them as settings?   Theme parks or circuses too, I suppose.  All part of the same set of tropes.

There’s a lot of reasons for that.

Firstly I suppose there’s an element of the Outside about fairgrounds.  They come and they go, and the people who run them are not settled like most people.  They travel.   They arrive, they set up, they take your money in exchange for some rare entertainment and then off they go again leaving only muddy grass behind.   Maybe that triggers the deep deep fear of the outsider, the stranger.   The sense that these people are not like us and maybe they’re not playing by the same rules.    Could be a touch of racism in there too, eh?  Ever hear Cher singing Gypsies tramps and thieves.   Love that song by the way.  Papa would have shot him if he knew what he'd done.   Makes the hairs on my arms stand up that line, wondering what had gone on.

Then there’s the experience of the fairground itself.  It’s out of the normal isn’t it?  Not a habit.  It’s a place that’s only there at certain times, so it’s always a little bit different, and not part of everyday life.  Like a dream, all show and no substance, with bright coloured facades over grimy old cabins.   Fun and flashy entertainment that, like fairy gold, is not all it seems.    In the morning... it’s all faded away and a little bit tawdry.

Perhaps that’s why people find fairgrounds disturbing.

Or perhaps it’s the nature of the attractions.  A maze of mirrors, all dark and distorted, and the lingering suspicion that the contorted dwarf or gangly giant in the mirror may be slightly more… real… than the you that is doing the looking, the soul of you, not so pretty as you'd like to think.   And then there are the laughing clowns in their booths who are probably, almost certainly, most likely mechanical.  But you don’t want to look too close at their hungry eyes just in case.

Relax.  Relax.

I’ve been running fairgrounds for most of my life now, travelling all over with them.   Nobody knows more about them than I do, and really they’re very prosaic.  Just another type of workplace that’s all.  I’ve seen, oh, tens of thousands of visitors?  Hundreds of thousands?  Possibly more, who can say.  And they come and they go; some of them wide eyed and wondering, some of them grumpy and bitter, some of them… like you… with a little bit of that old fear growing and spreading just behind their eyes and wondering just why you’ve always found fairgrounds to be so very unsettling.

Perhaps it’s a cultural thing.  All those things I mentioned combining together and growing like a venomous pearl around a tiny piece of grit, some old truth, some real nastiness that once happened in such a place, at such a time long ago.  More than once maybe.   And the pearl swells and grows and glistens nastily and before you know it… Fairgrounds are spooky.   So unfair really, stops you enjoying yourself.

Fairgrounds are places where you should be able to enjoy yourself.  I do.  I enjoy my life in my fairgrounds immensely.   Every new stop brings new joys.

Like you.  You’re a joy just to look at, lying there all relaxed and… well not exactly calm, perhaps, but certainly… limp.

I know you can’t close your eyes, but try to focus on the music, such pretty music, while I change.  

Do you want to know the  real reason people find fairgrounds scary?  Spooky?  Disturbing?   All the way back to the first travelling oddities that roamed in the shadows when the pyramids were new.   Do you know why, even then, the fairground people were looked at sideways and rushed out of the bazaars, and why people dreamed a little bit darker when the show was in town?

It’s because of me.  Always me.

There.  All changed.  The mirror-me, you could say.

Let’s begin.