Nottingham City Council and the Showmen’s Guild have today announced the cancellation of the 729th Goose Fair. The popular annual event was due to be staged at its regular home of the Forest Recreation Ground from Wednesday 30 September to Sunday 4 October.
Despite current Government regulations allowing fairground rides and attractions to open, the challenge for the council’s Events team and the Showmen’s Guild has been how to manage the 420,000 visitors who attend the five-day event, while maintaining social distancing and ensuring that other Covid-safe measures are in place.
Several options were considered, including creating a number of timed sessions to limit capacity to 25,000 people, or extending the length of the fair to ten days. However, neither of these options came close to providing capacity for the more than 400,000 visitors who would normally attend.
The other consideration was one of atmosphere. With reduced numbers, social distancing measures in place and lowered music levels, it was felt that if the event had been staged, much of the traditional atmosphere would have been lost. Getting people to and from the site on public transport was also a major factor in reaching the decision.
The fair is normally the busiest week of the year for NET and in 2019 the tram network carried more than 455,000 passengers – around 8,000 more people than the previous year. Nottingham City Transport also reported an uplift in passengers with 42 extra services running to support the event. Measures such as creating additional public car parking, a cycle park and encouraging walking to the event were initially considered as potential alternatives, but this was not felt to be sufficient.
The fair has only ever been cancelled on eight occasions previously during its more than 700-year history, including in 1646 due to the Bubonic Plague and during the First and Second World Wars. Councillor Dave Trimble, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture at Nottingham City Council, said: “The annual Goose Fair is Nottingham’s iconic event and making a decision to cancel this year due to coronavirus is something that the council does not take lightly.
“As with our other major events, we took the decision not to cancel earlier in the year, but to work with the Showmen’s Guild and our partners to come up with potential alternative solutions to stage Goose Fair safely in the current circumstances. We know how well-loved the event is and what a boost it would have been for morale in the city. Unfortunately, due to its scale and popularity, in the end this was not possible.”
William Percival, Chair of the Showmen’s Guild (Derby & Notts section), said: “We are obviously disappointed that the 729th Goose Fair can’t proceed as planned this year. “As with other sections of the entertainment industry, fairground operators have been hit hard by the pandemic, with many not operating at all during this year.
“We have been working closely with the council to consider potential options that would have enabled the safe staging of the fair, but following consultation with our members, we have jointly decided with the council not to proceed for 2020.”