Scottish Showmen and women have played a significant role in the cultural history of Scotland and its people. For hundreds of years showpeople have travelled the country, providing entertainment with their rides and attractions. Their history is unique.
A Fair Life, co-curated with a small group of Scottish Showpeople, charts the unique traditions and histories of this tight-knit community. While this group have had a tangible influence on Scottish culture the majority of Scottish people know very little about them and the part they have played in shaping our city.
Scotland has between 3 to 5,000 ‘Travelling Showpeople’, distinct from ‘Travellers’, who operate rides, games and food stalls in its funfairs, markets and more recently even in shopping centres. An estimated 80% of Scottish Showpeople are Glaswegian, living in around 50 privately owned ‘yards’ located across the city. This is the largest concentration of Showpeople in Europe. The reasons for this date back to the 8 week winter carnival that ran at Kelvin Hall from the 1930s to the 1980s, enabling showpeople to continue working throughout the winter.
Starting with horse-drawn homes and equipment, then traction engines and lorries A Fair Life considers how the travelling lifestyle of showmen has evolved with technology. Showpeople have historically been early adopters of entertainment technologies, introducing electricity and moving cinemas as part of their shows. Today, the travelling fairs that have entertained generations of Scottish families are under increasing pressure as new technologies offer alternative diversions.
A Fair Life seeks to capture this rich hidden history, while addressing many of the misconceptions that have resulted in Showpeople experiencing many different forms of discrimination. The display contains objects on loan from the showpeople community, including a waltzer car, alongside items from Glasgow Museums collection relating to Fairground History, such as funhouse mirrors and bespoke objects made specifically for the display, including two carousel horses. Moving image archive footage and oral history commentary complete A Fair Life, on display in Riverside Museum’s North Window from 23 January 2017.
While we take every opportunity to ensure the details for A Fair Life are accurate, we always advise that you contact the event organiser before setting out for the event to avoid disapointment.
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