Dr Vicki Pugh

School of History, Philosophy and Digital Humanities

Research student (awarded)


Thesis title: Problem bodies and sideshow space: A study of twentieth century sideshow in Blackpool 1930-1940.




Thesis abstract:

The fairground offered a realm where reality was temporarily challenged: it opened new reflections in a specific context where the weird and wonderful was theatrically enframed and contextually contained.

Through the acknowledgement of the body as abnormal and arcane this atemporal context, which emphasised the "other", was paradoxically involved in a process of self-reflection, acting as a distorted mirror to the twentieth-century fairground goer and the temporal world outside its boundaries.

Through my research I will explore some of the intriguing and complex dialogues around the body, specifically allowed and facilitated within the fairground context.

Throughout, the fairground is regarded as a liminal space in which contradictions are not only created, but are fundamental to its significance in twentieth-century "sense-making". For example, the fairgrounds inclusion of "freak shows" occupy a space between anatomy and art, the living being and the object on display, entertainment and education.

Using the National Fairground archives, I also aim to remain sensitive to the materiality of the collection itself. I acknowledge the subjectivity of archival resources, particularly those of photographs of side shows.

  • PhD History, University of Sheffield, 2015 - 2020
  • MA History of Art, York University
  • BSC Anthropology, University College London


  • PhD scholarship: University of Sheffield funding dedicated to developing its research resources, in this case the National Fairground Archive.