In 2011 the Writer’s Workshop sent my book to Sam Jordison for a critique. I waited (he’s a busy man) and it was worth waiting for. He praised where he reckoned it was due. The form was good. It should have been. I’ve several books out with big publishers before. But there were faults, he pointed out, and it wasn’t going to be easy to sell. I knew that too, my former editor at Penguin had turned down my proposal. Universities were interested but they didn’t have cash to help me, and Showmen didn’t seem to fit any category worthy of a grant. Sam however, lives close to a yard-full of Showmen and he was interested in them. Cautiously, he encouraged: this was a boost.
Cautiously, the book was taken by a dedicated one-man publisher. He took more than a year – there’s nothing so daunting as waiting. But copies of a handsome, copiously illustrated book are being delivered in time to get some out for Christmas. On the first day of February, 2013, the Library in Wells-next-the-Sea will host a launch. Walk up! Walk up! Appropriately, this is where the book began.
About the book:
Nearly all of us have been to a fair. Have you ever wondered how the snazzy girl minding the Bouncy Castle or the strong-armed man on his wheeling, caterpaulting ride, feel about their lives? Rides go down very fast, and unexpectedly. And then they go up. They make you laugh. Make you scream. But it’s a business, and a determined one, with an ancient precedent. The showmen aren’t doing it ‘just for fun’. Who, exactly are they anyway? How do they define themselves? Current interest in minority groups has largely bypassed them. Sally Festing engages, in an af-fair with Fairground people in East Anglia and the Home counties. She looks at the way tradition as well as the current climate affect their lives today. This copiously illustrated book is the first of its kind for more than 40 years. It charts the best times, and the worst times. In their own words, Showmen reveal their strengths, their hopes, and their fears.