Monday, 15 August 2022

Residents call for May fair to return to town centre

CALLS have been made to move the Henley May fair back to the town centre.

Town councillor Sarah Miller sparked a discussion on Facebook after suggesting the annual event should return to Market Place after being held in Mill Meadows for more than 30 years.

The event, which traditionally marks the start of the summer season in the town, began in the Seventies and has been run by Henley Round Table for about the last 30 years.

It raises thousands of pounds for charity each year.

Councillor Miller said she preferred the fair when it was held in the town centre and wanted to know if other people agreed and if they still attended the event or had any suggestions for improvng it.

She said: “It’s something I particularly want to have back in the centre of Henley purely because I think the footfall would be higher and it would benefit the retailers. It’s a win-win.

“I just think the location is wrong and I think we need to bring it back to how it was all those years ago. Where it is at the moment there isn’t a link to the town. We could get kids and the schools involved and make it a more traditional event.

“What I want now is the council to perhaps take back the reins. I would like to put together a working group of people and go from there. I have been in contact with the Round Table, who have done such a fantastic job.”

Cllr Miller said she would raise the subject at the next meeting of the town council’s town and community committee.

Her call was backed by almost all those who responded to her online post.

Sarah Blossom Lee said: “I loved it when it was in the centre of town — more of a community feeling. I would certainly attend.

“I’m sure the council would be delighted to have the May fair back in the centre. It would bring trade into the town. Get the local schools involved.” Alison Jones said: “Town centre. I did go a couple of years ago but it had become smaller and not so much of a mix of things.”

Sue Turner said the fair was “much, much better” in the town centre.

“The Chamber of Trade was involved and had a stand,” she said. “People knew the shopkeepers and would support local businesses.”

Paula Isaac said: “The town centre would be much better. It also needs some new stalls — it is virtually the same every year, which doesn’t excite people to come back.”

Emma Taylor said: “I think the location is fine, it just needs stuff there to do — pocket money stalls for kids, more entertainment (there used to be loads) and a Tannoy you can hear so you know what’s going on.

“Surely local groups could put on demonstrations? I contacted the organisers a couple of years ago offering to run some stalls for kids’ games if they gave me a table, with profits to charity, but nothing came of it.

“I always go but it hasn’t been good for about 15 years. It could be brilliant, though.” Margaret Thompson said: “I remember going to the May fair in the Market Place many years ago. There was such a lovely atmosphere, so much to see — Morris dancers, many stalls and even someone sheep-shearing near the King’s Arms pub. It was so much nicer then.”

Former town centre manager Pete McConnell said that Market Place wasn’t large enough to accommodate all the attractions.

“I imagine all you folk who haven’t been for a while would be pleasantly surprised,” he said.

George Thomas, a member of Henley Round Table, confirmed the group were to meet Cllr Miller but declined to comment further.

The fair has been supported by the town council in the form of grants but funding has been cut in recent years.

In 2008 the organisers were concerned that the fair would be the last after an application for a £1,500 grant was rejected by the council, which gave £750 instead.

l What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email

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