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Midland Section

Administrative area: The historic counties of Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire.

The Midland Section can boast more street fairs than any other part of the country.

When Easter falls at its earliest, the Shrovetide fair held in Lichfield’s market place becomes the first fair of the season. Dating from the Middle Ages, this fair on the eve of Lent was once famous for the sale of cured fish.

In late April the May Fair is held in the Worcestershire former spa town of Tenbury Wells. The town once had two fairs just a week apart: the first in April, the second in May. The first fair survived, but is known to the townsfolk by the name of the second!

Standing in the shadow of the castle walls, Ludlow May Fair occupies the town centre square on 1 May, as it has done since it was chartered in the early seventeenth century. On the spring bank holiday Monday in Staffordshire two of the county’s traditional customs are supported by the showmen’s amusements: the Greenhill Bower in the cathedral city of Lichfield and the well-dressing at the Moorlands village of Endon.

A legacy of the days of the Friendly Societies, the Shropshire town of Shifnal plays host to the Old Club & Carnival in June with fairground amusements lining the main street. The Midland Section is at its busiest in the autumn. From September onwards an almost non-stop sequence of what were once hiring fairs, the ‘Mops’ and ‘Statutes’, takes place. Included in this intensive itinerary are the statute fairs at Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Burton-on-Trent, and the mop fairs at, among other places, King’s Norton, Alcester, Evesham, Stratford-upon-Avon, Southam and Warwick. At some of these places, the showmen make a return visit a week or so later to uphold the tradition of the ‘Runaway Mop’, once a second chance for those seeking employment to find a job.

Loughborough November Pleasure Fair, held since the thirteenth century in the town centre, is the year’s last major fair in Britain. This once marked the end of the season for most showmen, but in recent years fresh opportunities have been added to their calendar.

Worcester Christmas Fayre was launched by the city council in 1992 as a boost to trade in the run-up to the festive season and quickly became popular. By a neat coincidence, the amusements stand in the Cornmarket, where a long-defunct Christmas fair used to take place.