Hull Fair returned this week after last year’s hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only World Wars had stopped it previously.
Now running for more than 740 years, the modern lights of today’s fair ensure it is visible from miles around.
For the eight days it is in town it serves as a hive of colour and vibrancy, which perhaps this year more than ever people are being drawn to after the difficulties of the 19 months.
A considerable police presence intermingles with the busy crowds along the entrance strip, which is adorned with dozens and dozens of catering outlets offering many different tastes.
We visit the fair on the second Friday of this year’s stint. The litter adjacent to the catering outlets is considerable, as bin space simply cannot cope with the huge numbers of people in attendance.
The rides operate on a mixture of cash, card and tokens. Many have queues of 10 minutes or more, but despite the crowds all of the rides soak up the demand with relative ease.
The ambience of large funfair at night is quite unlike anything else, and Hull Fair is no different. Perhaps its main weakness though is that it lacks a clear headline ride such as a large rollercoaster.
This year the fair represents one of only two opportunities to experience an event in such a scale.
Nottingham Goose Fair – usually held the week before Hull – this year fell to coronavirus fears for the second year running.
Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is of course the flagship British travelling fair and is back next month, but Hull offers a much less corporate feel.
There is even a caravan offering palm readings, and close by is a local chip shop outlet associated with the city’s market.
The East Yorkshire event feels safe despite the absence of security checks or the pre-booking which will be introduced at Winter Wonderland next month.
Technology on show
Like many funfairs, it is not for everyone. Some of the music on the rides is deafening in volume and a little too ‘happy’ hardcore in nature.
But with many of the rides being the same (or similar) type, it is usually possible to find a more bearable alternative if the pop-up nightclub vibe is not quite your thing.
Despite the very busy crowds, people steadily move through the fair. Only occasional bottlenecks occur, and toilet queues are little more than a minute’s worth.
Hull remains a bastion of the traditional British funfair, but that does not mean that modern travelling rides are not on show.
More people seem to be filming the more technologically advanced rides than are actually riding them, tonight best demonstrated by the modern inverting Round Up/Milk Churn called Mega Spin.
Elsewhere, a £2.50 ghost train may be deceptively unconvincing from the outside, but with Halloween just around the corner, the ride contains surprises which make the charge worth it.
But perhaps it is the three Ferris wheels that offer the most sensational experience of all.
£5 gets you several rotations and birds-eye views of the whole event – better than any drone footage can hope to provide.
Hull Fair completes its 2021 run this Saturday, when it opens between noon and 11 pm. Admission is free and rides have varying fees.