Tag Archives: Fairgrounds

Fairground Attraction – ‘Try the Guns…?’ #blogpost

30 Jun

Try The Guns

‘Try the Guns’ the – sign said…I was cycling passed the Green in Histon today and I noticed it had changed. This struck me, not just as an odd thing to say, or to write on a sign, but more that it immediately transported me back to a time where I once fired an automatic machine gun into blanket between 2 lamp posts in Albania, as part of a fairground activity – but that comes later. So as you can see I have always had a real attraction to fairgrounds, especially the deserted places and spaces long forgotten and unloved. One of my first encounters was the deserted dodgem car shack in Shipley Glen in Yorkshire. Stepping off the rickety funicular railway built originally for Bradfordians to rise to the top of the moor to take the air, the deserted funfair was always a special treat…


The shrouded dodgems and the leaky roof on a misty November morning are really quite something to see. So this is where I started my obsession when we moved to Bradford back in 1996 – and thanks to ScrappyNW on Flickr for this image. So today, in Histon the light was perfect, and I wanted to grab some shots to capture the atmosphere – and to help bring back some of that story that had been lurking there since 1999 – in Albania. Today the Hook a Giant was a new one on me…

Hook A Giant

And the dodgems, whilst active were still great in the temporary structure that only the other day had been hauled off the back of the truck and this of course brought back to me, the story about being in the fairground in Albania…

Histon Dodgems

So back to the story of the ‘try the guns’  it was back in 1999 – we took a show to Albania. The civil war with Kosovo had ended only months before and the UN had only just left. It was a cold October morning and we headed out from the National Theatre in Tirana, where we were performing, for a day out in Durres, which is on the coast and just a mere hop across the sea to Corfu. Here the deserted strip had not seen visitors for some time. The derelict and recently burned out Dodgems was still operational. But with only one car, yes just the one Dodgem. With nothing to dodge. A solitary dodgem. Not really worth going on really. What with having nothing to dodge and all.

So the Dodgem guy said ‘would I like to do something else?’ Wary I smiled and sort of nodded. At this he reached behind his desk and pulled out an automatic weapon. I stopped smiling. But a big grin came over his golden crowned teeth and he pointed to a rough set of army blankets tied between two lamp posts on the sea fronted prom. ‘For you’ he said and handed me the machine gun. He led me over to the front and sure enough told me to shoot the blanket. I shook my head and did a kind of ‘OOH it’s really interesting, but you see I’m just a theatre director and I was just over here – from you know, England…’ kind of look – and then he grabbed the gun, which was still in my hands, and sprayed a deafening roar of automatic rounds into the now dancing blankets.
I nearly messed myself. Loud? yep really bloody loud. I nodded, thanked him and backed away, having handed back the blanket killing machine. And I gave a sort nod which I hope tried to say ‘good luck with your dodgem during the winter season’ and I turned and tailed it and ran like hell.

So you see my obsession with these places is really a matter of life and death to me these days. It’s that simple…

So it was with great delight to get back – alive. So, a few years later on holiday in France, I was to discover this beauty on the Ile d’Oleron – a real tide gone out gem. From 1900. A two seated only Big Wheel…

Big Wheel France

Where the only thing I can imagine as a source of nightmares would be – that I was in one seat and the gold toothed smiling dodgem owner from Durres was in the other and smiling down and telling me to ‘Try the Guns’