This year we were lucky to be awarded a Festival of Museums grant to hold a funfair inspired event for the first time. We started planning the event back in the autumn on 2016 in time to apply for the grant and once we heard that we had been successful we were ready to start organising! We wanted to hold the event to celebrate opening the newest building in the collection here at the museum, Lochanhully House. The house, donated and moved here from just near Carrbridge, is being interpreted for the 1950s, so we felt that a 1950s funfair would be a lovely way to mark the occasion.
Organising a brand new event is always a challenge as there aren’t any precedents. We had a clear vision of what we wanted the event be and worked towards achieving that – plenty of bunting involved! Unfortunately the fairground ride company let us down at short notice and we had to look for another provider. We eventually found a company who came all the way from Glasgow and saved the day. The Festival of Museum’s weekend also falls on the weekend before our biggest event of the year here. We recognised this at the time we applied for the grant, but as the days ticked by to the event, having two events so close together meant a huge workload for everyone. But, we are lucky to have a team that always pulls together so bunting went up, games went out and we were ready for the fun to commence…
The day of the event was lovely and despite the weather being cool and drizzly. Despite our reservations as to whether anyone would turn up, almost 800 people turned out and our locals did us proud and came out to support us too. Families were enjoying the games, including hook a duck, drop the penny in the bath, coconut shy (it’s harder than you think to source large amounts of coconuts in the Highlands!), darts, hoopla (with lovely old bottles especially sourced), roll a ball and two guessing games (Name the Chicken and how many sweeties in the jar).
The under-tens were also able to have a go on the fairground rides and everyone enjoyed meeting Bubbles the Clown. He was with us all day and alternated between doing short shows and walk-rounds with balloon modelling. He was great with the kids and adults alike, and I don’t think he even managed to get a break as he was like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn with all the children queuing for his balloons!
The event gave us an opportunity to test out different ways of creating income for the museum; through the tickets for the games and rides; as well as through the face-painting and our very popular barbecue. The day finished around 4pm, with visitors able to explore the rest of the museum which remained open. Feedback was positive and lots of visitors left lovely comments on the feedback forms provided.
We will obviously keep all the learning and infrastructure from the event and look to repeat it another time: we may have a fairground day in August 2018. We are very grateful to Museums Galleries Scotland for our grant and the opportunity to try something new – we are proud of our first fairground event and look forward to more in the future.