Cancelled: Horsham’s historic October Old Mill Steam Fair

HOR 301008 Horsham Town Centre Festival. Old Mill Steam Fair -photo by steve cobb
HOR 301008 Horsham Town Centre Festival. Old Mill Steam Fair -photo by steve cobb
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The founder of Horsham’s historic annual October funfair said he is ‘sad’ it will not be returning to the town centre for the first time in 17 years.

Old Mill Steam Fair will not be a fixture of this year’s half term holiday. Phil Read told the County Times it was ‘a shame for kids, parents and grandparents’.

JPCT 02-11-12 S12450051X  Old Mill Steam Fair, funfair, Bishopric, Horsham. Phil    -photo by steve cobb

JPCT 02-11-12 S12450051X Old Mill Steam Fair, funfair, Bishopric, Horsham. Phil -photo by steve cobb

The 65-year-old organiser said a combination of redevelopment works in West Street and poor takings from last year’s event meant there was not enough space to accommodate the fair and it would not be financially viable.

In October 2012 the fair was relocated from the Carfax to the Bishopric after discussions with Horsham District Council (HDC). It was moved for a number of reasons including the expansion of Horsham Markets and Swan Walk shopping centre.

Mr Read said the atmosphere last year was not the same and the fair made a loss.

“Last year didn’t really work down in the Bishopric and at the end of the day it was not viable,” he said.

The decision to cancel October’s funfair was made earlier this year.

“I’m sad about it,” continued Mr Read. “It was a family fair ground, a lovely event and unique.

“I saw kids grow up there. They came in as children and when I came back they were teenagers and some are mums now.

“So many people used to come out of Swan Walk and be treated to a maze of lights and colour and kid’s enjoying themselves, and it was lovely.”

He added: “It’s a shame for the kids, parents and grandparents that they’ve lost something unique.”

PJ Aldred, director of Horsham Markets, said: “We are very disappointed that Old Mill Steam Fair are not in a position to return to the town this year.

“We feel very much for showmen around the country who are finding it increasingly hard to compete with today’s entertainment offer including massive theme parks and even ‘at home’ gaming.

“We hope that Horsham will support the Old Mill Steam Funfair once again if and when it returns next year.”

The County Times learnt of the fair’s demise after HDC issued a press release about its Halloween events which stated in the final paragraph: “With West Street improvement works underway, the town cannot accommodate the funfair in the Bishopric this year. Contact is being maintained with the operator with a view to the fair returning at future events.”

However, as of today (Wednesday October 23), on the council’s bespoke events website www.horshamentertains.co.uk it stated ‘a fantastic range of family entertainment is on offer including a traditional turn-of-the-century fun fair which fills the town centre with festive fun’.

The Old Mill Steam Fair has been in Horsham for 17 years.

The October attraction sees hundreds of children and their families flock to Horsham town centre to sample to stalls, rides and locally famous Ferris wheel which is transported down from Essex.

Organiser Phil Read said at one time can-can dancers would take to the Carfax bandstand.

He added the fair could return in the future if negotiations for it to be situated in the Carfax are on the table.

What do you think of the funfair not appearing in Horsham this year? Leave your comments below.