From medieval marketplace gatherings with performing jesters, actors and musicians, to the thrilling funfairs of today, fairgrounds have been popular places to go for hundreds of years. While they started out mostly as market stalls with performers threaded between, drawing small crowds of passing shoppers, it didn’t take long for the entertainment factor to take the spotlight and flourish. By the 18th and 19th centuries, the market stalls had been pushed out to surrounding streets while fairgrounds expanded, quickly dominated by swings, roundabouts, curiosities, circuses, and games – presenting thrills and delights of every kind. With the industrial revolution came the introduction of the latest and greatest steam-powered rides, which were very popular in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, forming the basis for many of the more daring fairground rides we know today. Several steam fairs still operate in Britain, with fully functional vintage rides.
Regardless of who you are, fairgrounds thrive on the basis that there is something there for everyone. If braving the rides and heights or testing your luck and skill with games is not your style, there are always exciting things to eat and intriguing things to see and experience, such as the Hall of Mirrors or Haunted House. The popularity of fairgrounds remains strong today, and in recent years there have been as many as 200 fairs taking place every weekend in the UK.
WHY DO WE ENJOY FAIRGROUNDS SO MUCH?
Even through the darkest of times, fairgrounds have been a bastion of positivity, entertainment and joy. During the blackouts of World War II, funfairs appeared all over Britain, continuing fairground experiences with muted music, black canopies and tents, to hide them from bombing raids. Throughout the war, fairgrounds were there to boost morale with their therapeutic gaiety, light and laughter, despite the distressing times. They were a huge success, so huge in fact that The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain managed to raise enough money to purchase a Spitfire for the RAF.
Part of the charm of fairgrounds is their ambience, with a sensory feast always on display: the colourful artwork, the smells of sweet and indulgent food, the vivid displays of lights and the crowds of happy, laughing people. As transient places – appearing overnight and disappearing after only a handful of days – they embrace the idea of seizing the present moment and enjoying it to the fullest. This allows people to vent their anxieties and frustrations while enveloped in positive, visceral feelings evoked by fairground games, shows and rides.
PERMISSION TO BE PLAYFUL!
Curiosity has also always been a driving force for fairgrounds. As places that remain only fleetingly before moving on to travel to their next destination, funfairs contain a strong sense of magic and mystery that invites playfulness and experimentation. The distinct vibrancy of the fairground, contained within the bounds of its own tents and fences, separated from the cities or towns around it, creates an otherworldliness. A place apart from everyday life that offers temporary escape. This enables people to step away from their day-to-day life by entering this other place, letting go and allowing themselves to experience small releases that alleviate pent-up emotions.
The games and rides at the heart of fairgrounds present a multitude of opportunities to improve wellbeing and mental health. By offering up invitations to conquer fears and explore challenges or competitions, whilst in a safe and engaging environment, people can push themselves to build courage and self-confidence without negative real-world consequences.
In fact, the sense of closeness built between strangers, friends and families by the shared fairground experience, serves as a kind of background positive affirmation, encouraging further exploration. This makes the setting of the fairground a great backdrop for therapy, enabling therapists to engage with client(s) in playful and creative ways.
Follow signposts to Therapy Fairground. The playful platform for therapeutic connections that’s coming to a ‘virtual’ town near you!