Sometimes, especially right now, it’s nice to not think about think the big stuff. It’s nice to find something that, temporarily at least, will take your mind off the news. Something that will be a distraction from all the grown up stuff that’s happening, even if only for an hour or two. When I need distracting, I usually opt for a few pints down the pub with mates. That’s not so helpful just now though, because after an ale or two, we usually end up talking about the big stuff again. What I needed this weekend was something bright and shiny that would really take my mind off things, and I found it at Carters Steam Fair.
Carters Steam Fair was established in 1977, and is entirely made up of vintage rides and attractions. According to their website, Carters is now believed to be the largest travelling funfair in the world. Largest or not, the funfair has come to Walthamstow for three days, and it’s incredible. OK, I’ll confess, I like old stuff, and I am partial to steam engines (I blame my Dad and my Uncle for that). But Carters isn’t a nerd fest, It’s fun, but like how fun was long before play stations were invented.
The funfair has set up in Lloyd Park, near the green gym behind the bowling green. To be honest, I don’t think you could miss it if you tried. It’s bright, colourful, and loud. The competing strains of fairground organs drift through the air as you approach. The waltzer clatters as it whizzes people around in circles, the whistle blows every time the steam gallopers set off, and the air is thick with the smell of candyfloss. It’s like someone has taken an old Pathe film of a fair ground and bought it back to dazzling life. It really is magical.
The Steam Gallopers, a carousel, is the main attraction. This was the first ride the Carter family purchased, and it dates from 1895. One kid today said to his Mum that it was like the one in the Mary Poppins film, and he’s not wrong. The beautifully painted horses gallop around, bobbing up and down to the organ music, as the steam engine at the centre of the ride hisses and clicks as it propels the horses and their riders forward. The occasional toot of the whistle bringing gleeful smiles to kids faces (and to those of some adults).
If dangling on the end of a couple of chains whilst you are spun around in a circle is your kind of thing, then the Chairoplane is for you. This ride is from the 1920’s, and whilst I would probably throw up if I got on it, the people riding on Saturday seemed to be having a great time. Other rides include the Dive Bomber, Hall of Mirrors, Dodgems, Swing Boats, and the impressive Steam Yachts, which date from 1921. The decoration on this ride is incredible, there is an incredible fairground organ on one side of the ride, and at its heart is a living breathing steam engine. Technology has come a long way since these rides were built, but they are no less impressive today than they were back then.
I know fairground rides aren’t for everyone, but even if you are like me and almost throw up just by looking at the waltzer, it’s still worth paying the fair a visit. The rides and brightly painted vans and lorries are a sight to behold, and the atmosphere is incredible. These may not be ridiculously fast or high roller coasters, there may not be computer graphics or virtual reality goggles, but this place is proper fun. The fair is in Lloyd park for one more day (Sunday 11th June), so you still have time to visit. Carters is a feast for the senses, and really shouldn’t be missed. For more info, check their website.