The fair came to Barking Park for a week every year, opening after the carnival parade, which included a celebrity waving from an open-top Roller – this year it was singer, Sandie Shaw (still trying to live down “Puppet On A String”) I got her autograph. I never spoke to her, just shoved the specially bought note book towards her and hoped for the best. This made Sandie Shaw the very first celebrity I met but didn’t speak to, the first in a long and honourable line.
The fair was not fun during the day, it was dead, only at night-time did it truly become the funfair, brought alive by a galaxy of bright light bulbs blazing away (Climate change wasn’t a known thing in those days); sugar sweet smells of bright pink candy-floss, fresh doughnuts; a cacophony of dings and siren blasts from rifle ranges. (They used real ammo). And, to complete the fun fair experience Dave and Ansell Collins’ “Double Barrel”, also known as “The Magnificent”, playing loud and distorted by the fact you were being hurled from one speaker to another by the whiplash of the Wurlitzer. As a pre-pubescent child I could spin around and get dizzy (one of my favourite past-times). I could be thrown around by Waltzers and The Swirler and still walk in a straight line afterwards, laughing. But that all changed when I hit puberty. Today, just mention the word Swirler and I feel motion sickness, go green, vomit and have to lie down for three days.
However, the main hazards at fairgrounds were the skinheads. No matter what age, they would beat you up and take your money, or vice-versa, that is, take your money first – give you a false sense of security. A story circulated that they pushed one kid in the boating lake, he couldn’t swim and drowned. Turns out the story wasn’t true, the body found was that of a drunken tramp. They never discovered who he was.
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Kindle version available. FREE from Friday 30th April – Monday 3rd May
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The following video is purely an illustration of the excellent music around at the time and is for enjoyment purposes only