Portsmouth community May Fayre makes triumphant return with huge crowds after Covid-19 cancellations

AFTER two years of cancellations due to Covid-19, a much-loved community fayre has made a triumphant return to the heart of the city, drawing huge crowds to the free event.

Monday, 2nd May 2022, 2:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 10:23 am

The annual event took place at St Mary’s Church in Fratton, running from 10am to 4pm today.

More than fifteen thousand residents and visitors packed out the church yard, with stalls and activities ranging fun fair attractions to a ‘unicorn’ ride on a horn-adorned pony.

This year saw a range of traders and activities visiting the event for the first time, including performances from a Buckland-based musical group DrumNation Tribe and a junior field gun run.

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Morris dancers entertain the crowds at last year's event. Picture: Sarah Standing (060519-8237)

Rev Canon Bob White, vicar of St Mary's Church, said it was wonderful to draw the community together after the event had been cancelled for the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: ‘We have had very good feedback from people about the event.

‘People have been enjoying themselves and its good to see people back.

‘There’s a range of activities – we’ve tried to do some things that are free, there are some things that are a bit more expensive. We are aware that it’s difficult time for a lot of people and we just want to bring a little light to their lives.’

Having a free large-scale community event at a time when a lot of families are facing rising bills was hugely important according to mum Ella Slight, 28, with her children Curt, 11, Oscar, three, and Amelia, who is nine-months old.

The Stamshaw resident said: ‘I use to come here years ago – I would come every year. It’s a lot busier than usual.

‘It’s important that it’s a free event. It gives us a day out with the kids where you don’t have to spend money if you don’t have it.’

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Nicky Perchard, a 67-year-old resident of St Mary’s Road, agreed: ‘It’s bigger than usual – I think everyone has missed it. I have been about four times before – it’s never this big.

‘Not having to pay anything to get in helps – it’s a good day out.’

The cost of living was a recurring concern for residents visiting the Labour Party stall, according to Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan.

He said: ‘We know that people are having to cut back, whether that’s cancelling their Netflix accounts or making difficult decisions about whether to heat or eat.

At the Liberal Democrat stall, an opinion poll saw dozens of people expressing their concern about the cost of living crisis.

Liberal Democrat David Fuller said: ‘So many people have been engaging in politics here at the event. We have lots of questions being asked.’

And the event proved to be a huge help for small traders looking to make a living in the city, according to Hilsea resident Fay Dooley, who was attending for the first time with her dog treat business.

She said: ‘Trade has been really, really good. I have never been to a May Fayre event before – it’s very well organised.’

Fellow first-time trader Lauren Stevens, who runs a wick-less candle business from her home in Fratton, agreed that the fayre was a huge help for new traders across the city.

The 32-year-old said: ‘It helps you get business through word of mouth.

‘Trade has gone very well – I have done better than I expected, I have sold out a few items.

‘It’s good that the money you pay to be here goes to the church, so it’s everyone helping each other.

‘I would 100 per cent come back.’

The event hosted a raffle and a large beer tent to help raise money for St Mary’s Church, with more than £85,000 raised by the event over the last twenty years.

Beer-tent volunteer Chris said: ‘It’s an event we all look forward to every year for the camaraderie. It’s always a good event.

St Mary’s Church is currently running a campaign to save it’s unique 130-year-old pipe, with a fundraising target of £800,000 to finish restoration works on the organ and to carry out community heritage engagement work.