Cuckoo Fair 2022 returns
The Downton Cuckoo Fair will take place on Saturday 30 April from 10am to 4.30pm. Visitors will be able to enjoy the usual mix of creative, crafty and delicious things being sold on more than 300 stalls on the greens and in the produce market behind the Co-Op - as well as bands, choirs, morris dancers and entertainers. The fair is free to visit and is well signposted for visitors to the village. On the day of the Fair, the Cuckoo Fair Princess will be crowned outside The Goat Inn at 10am, which signals the official opening of the Fair. This will be followed by the procession, beginning at The Bull Hotel and ending at The Maypole.
The B3080 through the village will be closed from 8.30 am - 6 pm. The Co-op car park will be closed on the evening of Friday 29 April to allow for setting up the Produce Market and vehicles will need to be removed from there before 6pm. Letters will be circulated in advance to those residents who will be affected by the road closure, detailing alternative car parking arrangements. Visitors are asked to use the car parks available (at £5 for the day) and avoid congesting the roads around the village which may be required for access by emergency vehicles.
20,000 people are expected to visit this year and visitors will be encouraged to follow the best practice surrounding Covid: wearing masks where appropriate, using hand sanitiser etc . Anyone experiencing any Covid symptoms is asked to be considerate of others and to stay away. The committee understands that there will be concerns about holding the fair. They say: “We’d like to take this opportunity to reassure everyone that we have direct contact with Wiltshire Council’s Event Safety Advisory Group and take account of Industry wide guidance on holding safe events. We have highly qualified and experienced health and safety people on the team as well as people who are on the front line of managing the impacts of Covid. So, we hope you’ll agree that we have been very well placed to make an informed and measured decision about the Fair based on the latest information.” The FAQs on the front page of the Fair’s website highlight considerations and decisions about holding the Fair in 2022 https://cuckoofair.co.uk/
Fund raising for local organisations
Jo Ramsay Horbury, Communications Manager of the Downton Cuckoo Fair said: “After a two year hiatus, we are looking forward to getting back to fulfilling the purpose of the Fair - to support our local community and organisations by facilitating their fundraising at the Fair.” It is estimated that since 1980 the Fair has helped local organisations raise in excess of £1 million, creating a very important source of income for them. This opportunity has been much missed in the last two years. For example, Hale Primary School said they would have used the fundraising from the last two years “to renovate an outdoor classroom”. Previous funds they have raised at the Cuckoo Fair have enabled them to purchase ipads, playground equipment and interactive whiteboards. 1st Downton Girl Guides have previously paid for extended activities such as transport to wider Guiding UK events and would have used funds from the last two years to update their camping kit. They said: “The Fair is not only an important fundraising activity but it is something which brings the whole community together. It gives the village an identifiable activity to work towards for the benefit of all.” Downton Baptist Church will be open for refreshments and St Laurence Larder will be back at the Memorial Hall.
The history of the fair
The Downton Cuckoo Fair is mentioned in an old history of Wiltshire as having 'started in 1530, when the cuckoo was let into the village. A Cuckoo Prince was chosen and he became Cuckoo King the following year.' The fairs had ceased by 1920 but the fair was reborn in 1979 thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of a group of local people. At that time, a traditional straw cuckoo sat on top of the maypole every year but due to wear and tear was replaced by the cuckoo flag in 1999. Since then the cuckoo can always be seen 'flying' over the festivities.
Who organises Cuckoo Fair?
The Fair is run entirely by a team of volunteers and meets its costs using the income generated from stall holders, advertising, car parking fees and donations from local fundraisers and village businesses who benefit from the income generated by the Fair to cover their costs. Any money raised over and above running costs is offered back to the local community (for example, covering the costs of the Christmas tree which is gifted to the village) - or it goes towards running the Fair the following year. Downton Football Club, who raise critical core funds at the Fair said: “Thank you for the work of the Cuckoo Fair team. We know running our own voluntary organisation one rarely gets thanks for the thousands of volunteer hours we all put in!”
If you’d like more information, or to get involved and help, please contact the Cuckoo Fair Committee on email@example.com
Photos are by Jo Ramsay Horbury of the 2019 Cuckoo Fair.