Downton Cuckoo Fair
DOWNTON CUCKOO FAIR CANCELLED FOR 2024
It is with great sadness and disappointment that the Cuckoo Fair Board of Directors announces that the Downton Cuckoo Fair 2024 will not be held.
Whilst we appreciate that this may come as a surprise to many, given the success of the 2023 Fair, having undertaken a review of this year’s Fair, a number of issues have become clear.
- The Team
The size and increasing popularity of the Fair means that it cannot continue to operate in the same way or with the same small team of existing volunteers. We work tirelessly to make it happen but are a group, like many other volunteer groups, who are getting older. We are sincerely grateful to all those individuals who have stepped forward to help as a result of our recent recruitment drive. However, subsequently things have changed with the departure of some key experienced members of the core team, including our health and safety lead, for reasons of health, work or family commitments.
Similarly, the popular Dorset Knob Throwing festival, which was also a huge event run entirely by volunteers, was cancelled in January 2022 https://www.facebook.com/DorsetKnobThrowing
- The Work
To put this in context, we work with a lead in time of at least 7 months, so would be starting to plan now for 2024. To understand what is involved behind the scenes, the Team have to produce and update a 70+ page Event Management Plan and a 150+ page Build Plan which is a huge undertaking to plan and then implement. We also have significant and complex logistics and contract work required across a large community of stall holders and various entertainment groups. All of these processes and documents are necessary for us to demonstrate how we meet the increasing regulatory and statutory requirements with the safety of our visitors of paramount concern.
- The Increased Risks
As organisers of what has become a large-scale major event, we are also acutely aware of the
increasing risks, including terrorist threats nationally and the potential impact of those on such an un-ticketed event where we cannot easily control the number of visitors.
- The Finances
The draft company accounts from the 2022/23 financial year show that we are around the break-
even point. As it is un-ticketed event our income does not increase with growing visitor numbers who also have rising expectations. It looks like the ongoing difficult economic situation, the rise in inflation and the cost of living crisis may only get worse for 2024 onwards. With the known significant additional costs for 2024 and additional requests and requirements from those we needed to work with to hold the Fair this year, the Board has concluded that all of these factors combine to make it untenable for 2024.
We are not the only event in this financial situation and you may be aware that the Great Dorset Steam Fair have also been forced to cancel their event for 2024 https://www.gdsf.co.uk/great-dorset-steam-fair-2024-update/
- The Decision
We have considered a variety of options to run the Fair next year but sadly the reality is that it would be financially and organisationally challenging for us to run the event in 2024 and cancellation is our only viable option.
This has been an extremely difficult decision to make and we recognise that it will no doubt come as a big blow to those local organisations, groups and societies for whom the Fair is the single biggest fundraising opportunity of the year and would like to send our sincere apologies to them. We are also mindful that there will inevitably be financial implications for the Fair’s contractors, traders, local landowners and our village community. We therefore wanted to give the wider community sufficient notice so that they could plan for their 2024 season without the uncertainty that a later decision would entail.
- The Way Forward
Going forward we really need more positive support from all parts of the community, including a
willingness to engage with or be a part of the event team as well as active involvement in running the Fair or contributions from some of those larger village-based businesses operating within the bounds of the Fair, who benefit financially from a well-organised and well-attended Cuckoo Fair. We are grateful for the financial contributions and donations we received in 2023 from St Laurence church, Downton Motor Club, Downton Primary School, Millenium Green, Trafalgar School and Downton Football Club.
We have run the Fair for and with the village for over 40 years and will be taking some time to look at how we can continue to run it as a high-quality, sustainable Fair with strong and positive village involvement for the next 40 years. As a part of this, we will be creating opportunities for people to have their say on the future of the Fair. Downton wouldn’t be Downton without the Cuckoo Fair!
Village Christmas Tree 2023
It’s that time of year again with Christmas nearly upon us and we’d normally be turning our attention to the village Christmas tree.
For more information about what’s happening this year see the information below.
Christmas Tree 2023
Historically, the villagers of Downton have been gifted a Christmas tree by the Cuckoo Fair Committee by way of thanks for their forbearance of the disruption which the Fair necessarily causes but which in turn benefits village groups and organisations.
The Downton Cuckoo Fair started providing a tree around 2008. Christmas trees were provided from then, all the way through COVID despite the Fair being cancelled twice until 2022. From around 2009 through to 2017 the Downton Cuckoo Fair also supported to the Partridge Fair by providing funding, equipment and gazebos. In 2018 and 2019 the Partridge Fair was run independently of the Cuckoo Fair. It has not been run since 2019. In 2023 the Downton Parish Council decided it would provide a tree.
Sadly, the Cuckoo Fair Committee have had to take the decision that for financial and logistical reasons it is not possible to erect a tree this year.
The Fair’s accounts for the last period show that the finances are at break-even point. With the wet Spring this year, the Fair incurred last minute additional costs to mitigate the waterlogged grounds on which it relies to host the Fair.
Given the excessive rainfall this Autumn, the Borough Greens are once again waterlogged. Our assessment, reflecting our experiences with previous Fairs and Christmas trees, is that the positioning and erecting of the tree would cause significant damage to the Green. Damage which we would expect the Parish Council to ask us to rectify, thereby adding even further costs.
It is commonly accepted that the majority of village and town Christmas trees are provided by county, town and parish local authorities as a benefit to their communities. For example, most of the neighbouring parish councils provide their Christmas trees for their parishioners to enjoy.
The village Christmas tree requires a lot of work to deliver.
- Contractually, permission is required from the Parish Council.
- The electricity supply contract has to be agreed.
- Insurance for tree lighting, erection, display and taking down has to be secured and conditions complied with.
- The Risk Assessment and Method Statement has to be reviewed and updated.
- The lights have to be checked and replacements ordered.
- A team of volunteers needs to be assembled.
- The tree has to be sourced and delivered.
- The lights have to be attached and the tree erected (using plant machinery and a qualified driver).
Note this list does not include any work associated with switch on events eg bands, choirs, risk assessments or insurance.
The Cuckoo Fair Committee have assessed the likely stability of the Christmas Tree once erected.
The location of the tree in the Borough coincides with where there is a marked wind funnelling effect due to properties being immediately on both sides of the Borough. This funnelling effect increases the wind speed dramatically.
Given the state of the ground and the strength of recent storms, our view is that the tree could be at greater risk of being dislodged possibly damaging underground services, eg the 11,000V SSE supply and/or nearby parked cars.
This would then incur additional costs to correct; and any insurance claim would significantly increase the insurance premium for many future Fairs.
As anyone who has submitted an insurance claim will know, even if it’s not your fault, your premiums will go up in future years.
As the Cuckoo Fair Committee would have erected and insured the Christmas tree, any claim resulting from the period when it was in place, would have to be declared to the insurers of the Fair which followed.
It cost just over £2,700 to insure the Fair in 2023 and so even a small percentage increase is significant.
As noted above, the Fair’s finances are at break-even point, any increase in costs would impact the viability of holding the Fair
Last year it cost ~£1,130 to provide the Christmas tree. This covered only the purchase and delivery of the tree, electricity charges, purchase of replacement lights and the insurance for the tree and its lights. It does not include any costs associated with ‘events’ for turning the lights on.
Whoever organises that ‘light switch on’ event would have to arrange their own insurance, at an average cost of ~£200 and obtain permissions from the Parish Council to do so.
Over the past ten years, it has cost the Downton Cuckoo Fair over £7,000 to provide, insure and light the tree.
If another organisation is willing to take the lead and responsibility, arrange the insurance etc they could erect the Christmas tree.
If required the Cuckoo Fair Board could provide any advice based on our extensive experience.
There would need to be discussion and agreement with the Cuckoo Fair Board on topics such as payment for electricity, appropriate insurance cover for any Cuckoo Fair items used.
We are currently in discussions with another village organisation for them to provide the tree however they have yet to formally decide if they will.
In 2022 the Fair returned after a 3 year break. In 2019 was our fortieth anniversary with a cavalcade of Downton minis and opening by the mayor of Salisbury. In 2018 we welcomed an over 20,000 visitors to our fair, with more than 250 craft, gift, homeware and food and drink stalls on the greens and in marquees along The Borough. The Downton Cuckoo Fair offers fun for all the family including rural craft demonstrations, Punch and Judy, clowns, fairground attractions (no inflatables) in the Memorial Gardens and a produce market in the car park behind the Co-op. The perfect day out in Wiltshire!
We have a wide range of entertainment during the fair including Maypole, Morris & traditional dancers, street entertainers, Downton Brass Band, and a host of live music being performed at key venues throughout the Fair. Click for more information
There is also a wide selection of food and refreshments, along with facilities for the disabled – see our On Site Facilities
Some other events are held over the weekend – see the Weekend Programme NB most of these are held by other organisations so please direct all questions and queries directly to them
There are ample car parks available, run by voluntary organisations and charities, with mini-buses running a Park and Ride service from the Barford Lane car park. To make the most of the your visit to the fair see the ‘Visiting Us’ menu options above.
If you want to add our event to your Listing/What’s On website then please see the ‘‘Fair Use’ Policy by Third Parties eg Listing Websites’ on https://cuckoofair.co.uk/web-site-usage
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are a fair visitor you can still contact your favourite exhibitors and help them with their custom during this difficult time by having a look at the stall holder A-Z directory https://cuckoofair.co.uk/details-of-stallholders-produce-market
General Stall Holder Queries
There is NO wi-fi provided at the Fair. If you are bringing card readers then you’ll need to use your mobile phone to connect to a data network.
As a reminder although the Cuckoo Fair is large it is an un-ticketed event and hence is FREE for visitors at the point of entry. As such we cannot afford to provide wifi for all stalls across the Fair. If we could it be a chargeable extra.
Stall Holder Refunds
We understand that it is not easy to secure a stall at the Cuckoo Fair, which is why we would like to offer all stallholders who had carried over their booking fee from 2020 the chance to roll their booking over again to secure a stall in 2022.
As stated in our Terms and Conditions, we wouldn’t normally offer a refund if the Fair is cancelled, but given such likely difficult times ahead we would like to offer a refund to those who would prefer it, minus a £10 admin fee which will contribute to covering the costs we have incurred already this year.
To request a refund please follow the instructions in the email you have received.
This option will remain available until the end of April 2021
Having cancelled the 2020 fair we unfortunately also had to cancel the 2021 fair. In terms of our funding situation the 2020 financial year incurred costs of £7,400 and the 2021 financial year will incur (fixed) costs of around £3,000. Taken together these have a large impact on the reserves we hold – reserves we need to pay our suppliers in the event of a last minute or emergency cancellation (eg Southampton Boat Show).
The £10 admin fee for each stall holder booking refund is noted in our terms and conditions and will help to cover some of the annual costs like insurance, rental and legal fees, that we have to pay regardless of whether the fair happens.
Our current understanding of government guidance is that unlike other businesses we have no employees (we are entirely volunteer supported), pay no rates, trade only once a year and so don’t qualify for any of the existing support schemes under COVID-19. Like other business who provide outdoor events we are working with trade organisations, eg the Events Industry Forum, to redress that but at the moment it appears we don’t qualify for any grants.
This admin fee money will therefore go towards ensuring that the Fair can happen in 2022 and we thank you for your understanding.
We aim to process refunds within a week of receiving them. Typically refunds are delayed if your bank details are incorrect so please check them especially the name of the account. These checks are being introduced by UK banks to help reduce online payment frauds. There is a phased introduction throughout 2020 – for details see this article from the UK Finance and this article from Which?
The payments have a reference DCF xxx RFND with xxx being your stall holder reference (not location of the your pitch) as printed on the letter from us.