The 38th Annual Nunney Street Market and Fayre was halted by torrential downpours and thunder after some 10,000 visitors enjoyed a hugely successful morning.
With more stalls than ever and the car parks full to overflowing, Nunney Street Fayre was off to a great start.
The current Lord of the Manor of Nunney and owner of Nunney Castle, Robbie Walker, officially opened the event at 10am.
By then, many of the stallholders had been up and running for hours. The first started setting up their gazebos and tables for Nunney Street Fayre as early as 6.30am, some having travelled from as far as Yorkshire to take part.
Visitors too came from far and wide. A coach load of people from Bournemouth came to Nunney Street Fayre for the second consecutive year.
Some vehicles were dumped by the side of the road by visitors trying to avoid parking charges in the three official car parks. This created problems for public transport and emergency vehicles.
Jeremy Gaunt, Nunney Fayre Secretary, said: “We charge £4 per vehicle for parking, less than at other events. Nunney Fayre itself is free and we don’t sell tickets. The parking fee covers all the cost of putting on this event with an army of volunteers, from the bands and Morris dancers to insurance and promotion.”
“The Nunney Community Association, which organises Nunney Fayre, is a registered charity and raises funds for local community projects. We don’t think £1 a head is too much to ask for a family of four. Unfortunately, you always have people who try to avoid paying for events such as this at all. It happens at other events and it happens in Nunney.”
The Nunney Community Association had received applications for 300 stalls. However, due to health and safety regulations and the already limited space in the village centre only just over 120 stalls can be allocated.
First-time exhibitors Whinberry & Antler produce furniture, fabrics and homeware products inspired by traditional skills and the British countryside. Their textiles decorated with hares, badgers and other wildlife proved so popular that they had to dash home several times to get more stock.
An arts and crafts market was located in Nunney Village Hall, surrounded by fairground attractions.
The theme for this year’s event was ‘Nunney in the Middle Ages’. A knight on horseback posed for pictures outside The George at Nunney inn, where a reception took place for sponsors. Many visitors and stallholders came dressed in period costume.
Archery demonstrations by the Frome Town Archers in Old Quarry Gardens, an exhibition inside Nunney Church and medieval street theatre also succeeded in bringing the Middle Ages to live around the moated 14th century castle at the heart of Nunney.
The Bathampton Morris Men performed in the Market Place. The Frome Swing Band was one again a big hit with the crowds gathered around the moat of Nunney Castle.
The whole event was buzzing around lunchtime, when volunteers serving teas and coffees in the church were struggling to keep up with the sheer number of people queuing up for food and drink. There were queues too for the exhibition, which will remain in the church for a few days to give many a chance to see it in more peaceful surroundings.
A traditional hog roast – described as ‘epic’ by one visitor on social networking website Twitter – proved popular. The owners brought three hogs instead of last year’s one, but still sold out before 2pm.
There were stalls serving posh burgers, Thai street food, Pimms, German sausages, chicken curry and vegetarian delicacies. The Nunney Players had a busy morning raising funds by serving bacon rolls.
At The Salthouse, the shared office space and therapy centre next to Nunney Church, a woodland crafts display attracted large crowds. Children thronged to the shows of Simon’s Amazing Magic.
Then, in a split second, the heavens opened and torrential rain and thunder halted the event for about an hour. Visitors found shelter under the many gazebos. Stallholders rushed to cover their stock in plastic sheeting.
It was at this point that some stallholders decided to ignore health and safety warnings to drive their vehicle through the crowd in an attempt to rescue their stalls and leave. Stewards rushed around to try to prevent accidents. After a short dry spell, the rain started again and the organisers had no option but to call off the rest of Nunney Street Market and Fayre.
Nunney Fayre secretary Jeremy Gaunt said: “Unfortunately, we had a small group of exhibitors who not only put lives at risk, but put the future of the entire event at risk by ignoring the driving ban. We could potentially be banned from hosting Nunney Fayre again for such a serious breach of health and safety.”
“These stallholders, some of whom have been coming to Nunney Fayre for over thirty years, will be prosecuted, fined and blacklisted for future events. I would like to stress, however, that the vast majority of stallholders were professional and good-humoured and waited patiently until the stewards decided it was safe for them to fetch their vehicles. I am very grateful to them.”
Nicki Davey, manager of the Salthouse, said: “Saturday was an excellent day despite the weather. Prior to the downfall our garden had a lovely peaceful vibe, with people sitting in the sun watching the crafts. It was just wonderful.”
“Obviously, all that changed once the rain came, but it did generate a bit of a siege mentality. Everyone came indoors and started talking to each other. So it was still fun, although it did take me ages to clear up all the mud afterwards.”
Terry and Jo Mizen-Brown of The Soap Bar Company were first-time visitors to the fayre. They said: “The event has its own lively atmosphere with great footfall. Up until the rain we were looking at a record day. Despite the unbelievable torrent of water that fell on us all we really enjoyed the Fayre.”
Fromage en Feu, the faux-French gypsy band from Bristol and Frome, proved real troopers. Originally scheduled to perform in front of Nunney Castle, they started an acoustic set in The George at Nunney‘s car park after the rain forced them to abandon the sound system.
Due to persistent heavy rain, they then moved inside the pub where they played a full set to an appreciative capacity crowd. At one point Gordon Hedges, owner of The George at Nunney, found himself locked out of his own pub and unable to get back in due to overcrowding.
The next day teams of volunteers were up early again to start a massive clean-up operation. A sign outside the closed door at Castle Kitchen café summed up the ‘morning after’ feeling perfectly: “Re-open Tuesday. Normally open Sunday. We’re too knackered.”
Next year’s Nunney Street Fayre will take place on Saturday 2 August 2014.