logo Minutes of a Committee meeting
held on 3 June 2019

Present: Dick Baxter (Chair), Charles Hattersley (Secretary), Peter Gotham (Treasurer), Rosica Bates, Sue Gordon-Roe, Jo Hesslewood, Nick Levine and Sue Woodsford. Invited guests: Jane Brown and Frankie Harris from the Showman's Guild; City Councillors Tim Bick and Ian Manning; Alistair Wilson, manager of Streets and Open Spaces in the City Council. Apologies from Kate Hurst due to clash with other meeting.

This meeting was planned to occur between Strawberry Fair and Midsummer Fair.

1. Strawberry Fair.

FoMC had a stall in the children's area. Thanks to Jo for holding it together with support from a small team of helpers. The stall enabled a good engagement with fair goers on a very hot day. The gazebo and chairs provided a respite from the sun for many. Two new members were secured. One has subsequently engaged with Dick and Ros over St Albans Rec which is under threat. Additionally she wishes to survey the bat population and will use our detector.

The feedback about the fair was generally quite positive with minimal negative comment.An Email was received from Brunswick Gardens regarding marshalling and another comment that water tap provision could have been increased.

2. Cycling issues

Sue Woodsford took the discussions from last meeting to Cambridge Cycling Campaign. It was generally accepted that to make progress on issues around conflicts there needs to be real hard information as most is hearsay. As with other issues of this type a diary of events to put forward is essential. The meeting encouraged this approach. The secretary will be happy to keep a list of incidents giving time, date and details plus photos if possible.

3. Midsummer Fair

Alistair Wilson explained that Cambridge Live has been taken back into the City Council governance from April. They had been in conversation with the Guild for some time and it has been decided to 'lease' the common to them for the event (as done for Strawberry Fair). There will be a City Council office nearby for the event with phone numbers plus ringing police on 101.

Road closures were discussed. Even if practical and desirable it is too late for this 2019 event but Ian Manning suggested a survey after this year’s fair. The only day this really involves is the Saturday.

Jane Brown and Frankie Harris from Eastern Showman’s Guild attended the meeting but were not able to show details of how the event would be managed. A few disjointed points were discussed. Extra parking on the Common on Saturday has been approved by City Council to try and relieve pressure of traffic problems around Victoria Avenue and backing up into Mitcham’s Corner. Police and Fire services have been consulted as part of SAG procedures. No fencing will be provided, apart from limited sections to prevent vehicles roaming the area. This promoted vigorous discussion with formal request being put to the Guild to provide fencing similar to Strawberry Fair and Half Marathon. Marshalls for specific side streets was also formally requested. It was stated that Traders who cause trouble will be or have been banned. 'Elders' of Travelling Community are engaged with the Guild and have undertaken to try and control the young yob elements, however this was seen as unlikely to have much effect as the respect seems to have evaporated. Fort St George footbridge to be closed from approx 06:30 to 23:30 on the Saturday. Kate provided very good input regarding the Midsummer Fair problems experienced by boat dwellers.Parking Enforcement by County Council are being encouraged to ramp up their performance but as they are County this appeared to be a little disjointed, Councillors and Guild said they they would press for commitment. Meetings with City Council officials via Councillor Tim Bick are being promoted.

The chair wrote to the Guild after the meeting calling for considered action (see below).

Charles Hattersley (Secretary)
5 June 2019.

Dear Jane

Thanks to you and Frankie for joining us at last night's meeting in the Fort. Apologies for the hostile reception but we had just discussed the problems of Strawberry Fair. You were condemned for like problems before you had even opened your mouth! Sorry for that.

We both want Midsummer Fair to run smoothly and be enjoyed by everyone. But history is not on our side. The Cambridge News already carries headlines saying "Residents worry Midsummer Fair will descend into 'riot' for a second year". And go on to say "there are calls to end the historic festival as some residents claim it is a nightmare". We want to prove them wrong but this will not happen without some serious rethinking.

Unlike in previous years, FoMC and local residents have had little involvement in planning this year's event. We are conscious that 'ownership' has passed from the Council to the Showman's Guild. Our fear is that good practices learned over the years by Council staff and local residents will be lost in the transition to new management. These fears became more evident during yesterday's meeting. Let me rehearse the argument.

1. During the year there are many events on Midsummer Common and most run without social problems. But Midsummer Fair is a large fair and, like Strawberry Fair, attracts unwelcome behaviour. This is exacerbated in your case by the arrival of traders and their followers at the weekend.

2. Keeping attendees in the fair and not straying into the neighbouring residential areas is a top priority. This has been achieved with fencing along the southern edge of the Common (Brunswick Walk, North Terrace, Parsonage Street, Brunswick Cottages). Attached is a photo taken from my front door on North Terrace in 2015 and another in 2018 showing the change from wood to metal fencing; Strawberry Fair has gone further with taller metal fencing in two belts. This fencing has stopped fairgoers using gardens as toilets, streets as trash bins and drug trading. Your decision to stop this fencing practice could, I believe, have disastrous consequences.

Fencing and bridge closures on the river side of the Common has reduced antisocial behaviour in that area of town over recent years and, I believe, you will continue this practice. This boundary must be policed rigorously, especially on Saturday. The Fort, in particular, is very exposed to troublemakers.

3. Vehicle movements and parking is the next priority. Fairgoer cars must be kept out of the residents-parking only streets. This has been achieved by road closures in the past but, at the recent Strawberry Fair, stewards posted at the entrance to Brunswick Gardens, Brunswick Terrace, Parsonage Street and Auckland Road achieved moderate success in keeping unauthorised cars out although some insisted on access and took the risk of parking tickets (which were posted and hopefully paid), Some control must be exercised, especially on Saturday when traders fill these streets with parked cars. Similar controls are need in Pretoria and adjacent roads (although bridge closures do ease the problem there).

4. You agreed to provide a map showing the parking areas, toilets, fair units, trading stalls, caravans and currently planned fencing and bridge closures. I know from personal experience it has often proved necessary to suggest different placements, especially of toilets, near houses. Your members should be disciplined in their car movements during the week.

5. You made it clear that complaints during the fair would be dealt with through personal contact. I believe the previous practice of a daily briefing for all at 10am would be a much better arrangement. I think it would also help ease tensions if there were a walkabout when everything is in place on the day before the fair starts.

This has been a long epistle and I have possibly forgotten some of the issues we discussed. But I would like to believe that you and your team would consider what I have said and find some way to ease my concerns. Doing this would, I believe, allay residential concerns.

kindest regards

Dick Baxter (chair of FoMC)