Paul Wright (1954-2019)

We are very sorry to report the death of the acclaimed fairground artist Paul Wright, who passed away in March after a long and painful illness.

Paul, who was born in 1954, was studying for a degree in the Fine Arts Faculty of Newcastle University when he was first commissioned to decorate a fairground ride. In June 1978 the showman Ronnie Taylor spotted Paul sketching some of the amusements that were gathered on Newcastle’s Town Moor for the annual ‘Hoppings’ – Britain’s largest funfair. Ronnie, who was presenting his boxing booth at the fair engaged Paul in conversation and, having realised that he had great skills as an artist, asked him if he would like to decorate his Rib-Tickler, a small ride that he had just acquired. Paul agreed and based his design for the ride on the highly-popular film Star Wars, released the year before. This led on to other commissions from Ronnie and, two years later, he decorated the new front that had been made for his boxing booth. By then Paul’s talents had become known to many other showmen. With a considerable amount of business flowing in, the university degree took second place to the fairground.

As Paul’s work developed he took to airbrushing rather than painting the fantastic schemes he designed for the fairground amusements he was asked to decorate. Essentially figurative, his work was noted for its stunning photorealism. It spawned several imitators, but there were none who could match his innate skills as an artist. He went to great pains in designing each job, executing numerous sketches and visuals.

Some years ago Paul was generous enough to donate to the NFCA, via the Fairground Association of Great Britain, all his working drawings for a Ghost Train he had decorated.

Sadly, ill-health made it necessary for him to give up the actual job of painting. He continued to accept commissions, however, and engaged other artists to execute the designs he had prepared. The last of these made its first appearance just a week before his death.

Paul Wright was an artist of immense skill and imagination and his work will rank on equal terms with that of the other outstanding fairground decorators - Edwin Hall, Albert Howell and Fred Fowle.

This article has been kindly provided by Graham Downie