Abingdon Michaelmas Fair will take place on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th October from 12 noon to 11pm each day. It is the longest street fair in Europe, running from the Market Place, through the High Street, The Square and the full length of Ock Street. This historic street fair has its origins in the labour problems which prevailed after the Black Death of 1348/9. Men were hired for agricultural work at Michaelmas and the Fair provided an opportunity for staff to be hired for the next 12 months. The Fair remained partly a hiring fair until the 20th Century and the smaller fair, held a week later and still called The Runaway Fair, provided the opportunity for unhappy employees to change their minds and contracts.
Nowadays the Fair continues but as a fun fair. It includes some of the latest state-of-the-art fairground attractions which operate alongside more traditional rides, side-shows and refreshment kiosks. Cllr Alice Badcock, the Mayor of Abingdon-on-Thames, stated, “The annual Michaelmas and Runaway Fairs are proud Abingdon traditions which continue to flourish to this day. The Fairs provide an opportunity for people to meet up and enjoy the attractions which are brought to town. The Fairs are also an important milestone in the town’s year, heralding the start of autumn and darker evenings which show the attractions lit up in their full glory.”
Both of these Fairs are organised by a professional funfair operator, Bob Wilson’s Funfairs. Based in Birmingham, they are responsible for the organisations of many funfairs throughout the country. Like many of the showmen who attend Abingdon Fair, they have a long tradition of working in Abingdon which goes back many years.
The Michaelmas Fair starts setting up from 8.30am on Sunday, after which there are road closures and diversions to enable the traditional street fair to take place. There are also closures and diversions the following week for the Runaway Fair. Please click here for a link which will take you to the page which conains these details.
To mark the start of the Fairs, the Town Council is organising the traditional Fairground Service of Blessing and Dedication. This will take place at 8pm on Sunday 9th October 2016 on the Galloping Horses on the Market Place. This will be led by Father Philip Carroll with music provided by the Abingdon Town Band. All are very welcome.