Tuesday, 16 August 2022

May fair moves back to town centre after three decades

THIS year’s Henley May Fair is to be held in the town centre for the first time in about 30 years.

The move from Mill Meadows follows the decision by Henley Round Table to pull out of organising the event.

The fair, which traditionally marks the start of the summer season in the town, will now be organised by a committee led by town councillor Sarah Miller.

It will be held in Market Place on Bank Holiday Monday, May 1 from noon until 5pm.

New attractions could include Maypole dancing, Morris dancing and traditional games including a tug-of-war competition involving the town’s pubs while the Mayor could be put in the stocks.

There will be a May king and queen competition for children aged five to 11 and another for youngsters to design their own Maypole with ribbons. Councillor Miller said she felt the fair had become “stale” and that being in Mill Meadows it had lost its link with the town centre, where it used to be held.

Cllr Miller said: “The fair started in 1982 and it was in the market place and was a really good, fun event. We want bring it back to Market Place and to put the fun and tradition into the fair and to include schools, businesses and residents. I’m really excited about it.”

She said there would the usual range of stalls and she hoped to have traditional games, street artists and performers.

“We want to get a stage in the square so we can have Steph’s Divas and Dudes and perhaps a gymnastics display and a martial arts display. We’re probably going to have to have some sort of marquee as it often rains in May.

“I need to speak to the food and beverage shops and restaurants around the square before anything is finalised. We need to make sure they are on board.”

Cllr Miller is being helped by town councillors Lorraine Hillier, David Eggleton and Kellie Hinton as well as residents Tracey Lhea Lambourne and Irenna Bailey.

IBS Office Solutions, which is based in Henley, has offered £500 towards the cost and the event is also supported by Joseph Nicholson, chairman of the Friends of Trinity School.

Round Table pulled out of the event in December after the council decided to withdraw its grant.

Round Table member Dr Nick Woodthorpe said the group had originally been able to fund the fair through money collected at Mill Meadows car park. When the car park switched to being unmanned, the council provided a grant. However, this was reduced from £1,500 in 2006 and to £500 in 2014. The most recent grant was £750 but it was then withdrawn altogether.

Dr Woodthorpe said: “As a result, we cannot provide the high-end attractions that were previously afforded. We also have to be mindful that the event is weather-dependent and deposits have to be paid to secure more lucrative attractions. This results in us having to budget accordingly and assume it could be rained off.

“In essence, this event is not a charity fund-raiser and is put on purely for the local community.”

Cllr Miller is appealing for more volunteers and sponsors. Email her at cllr.sarah.miller@gmail.com or visit the Henley May Fair Facebook page.

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