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Stratford Mop Fair

One of the more wonderful aspects of living in Stratford, and something I’ve been looking forward to for months, is the annual Mop Fair. According to Wikipedia, it’s so named because of its roots as a celebration for workers who would attend carrying items symbolising their trade, and generic servants would carry a mop head. Whatever the reason, the streets are closed to traffic and taken over by fairground rides, food stalls and games tents. I first encountered it when working here in 2001, when I hit as many rides as possible during my lunch hour :-)

I knew the fair was coming soon, but didn’t know it was this week. The first sign was the Reverse Bungee towering over the town centre shops. I was most excited – I go a bit giddy in fairgrounds :-) Something about the lights, noise and colour just appeals to me. My friend Ben happened to be back from Oxford, and along with Nod we headed into the fray in the early evening.

Children's rides in the market square

Incidentally, Oasis’ Champagne Supernova started playing while I was editing the photos, and my brain has for some reason deemed it official Mop Fair song. Don’t know why; is just how it is.

Not your average Wednesday evening

The rides were surprisingly exciting. Our favourite was ‘Storm’, which rose maybe eight storeys above the ground, then whipped round at great speed, spinning the seats themselves in the process:

Storm

We were stationary at the peak for a minute while riders were loaded into the other end, and it was an excellent view. Tests your faith in engineering, but good nevertheless :-) Nod stayed on the ground for the first time, and took photos that make me laugh:

Me and Ben demonstrating angular momentum

We wandered around and grabbed something to eat, before I finally managed to talk somebody into going on the Reverse Bungee with me.

Leaving the bungee

The cage is held at ground level while the elastic cords tighten on the towers to either side. After a countdown (then another few seconds) the ground cable releases and you’re shot upwards until gravity asserts itself, you reach the tip of the arc and begin falling. And repeat.

The reverse bungee

It was great.

Mop Fair along Bridge Street 'Stargate' upside-down

We headed back to the flat and ditched all extraneous items so we could all go on the rides at the same time, then returned to town. We all went on ‘Storm’, then another that I’ve forgotten the name of. A central hub had six arms, each of which had four seats in a 2×2 arrangement. The seats then spin and rotate independently as the whole thing turns and tilts. Ben and I sat opposite Nod, who was on a different arm from us. Ours was neatly weighted by the two of us, but Nod was the only person on his particular arm and unbalanced it, so whenever there was a moment of calm his chair would promptly rotate 180 degrees so he was upside down, which was perhaps the funniest thing Ben and I had ever seen. We spent the whole time in hysterics, made worse by Nod’s bemused expressions.

Carousel Smoke and Light

Despite the crowds the queues were always very short/non-existent. I know it’s stereotypical of me, but I do find it funny when I see skinhead, khaki-wearing, earringed teenagers looking at a ride and saying ‘no f-ing way!’ The mop lasts until tomorrow, then returns in a week’s time in the smaller ‘runaway mop’, where children who traditionally ran away with the fair return to their families. I think I’m going to run away with the fair.

Fun House Chaos - on Bridge Street

An excellent evening :-) The others seemed to enjoy themselves too. The whole flickr set is here. It’s still going on today, and I’m considering going for a ride on Storm at lunchtime. I can actually hear the screams from my desk…

8 comments

  1. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! =D I hadn’t heard of the mop fair before =)
    You wouldn’t get me on any of those ;) Ooh but there’s a kiddy carousel at Exmouth fair =PP

  2. Thanks! This brought back many happy memories of the Stratford Mop and what we used to call the “Little Mop” (the Runaway, up to a fortnight later). The latter didn’t have anything to do with kids who’d run off with the fair, though. It was the Runaway Mop because it was a second hiring fair for those servants taken on at the “Big Mop” on the 12th who weren’t happy with their new masters: they were allowed to “run away” and have a second go at finding a job two Fridays later. (Because the Little Mop was always held on a Friday, the regular Rother Street market had to shift from its usual venue to other streets — does that still happen?)

  3. Thanks – I don’t know where I got my idea from :-) I didn’t see the market at another location, but I assume it must have as its usual patch was completely covered in rides.

  4. is chaos good ? or scaary ? :S

  5. Thanks for the blog article. Really Cool.

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