There was less cannon fire and fewer casualties at Norfolk Park on this occasion. The American Civil War did not break out on Sheffield’s hillsides, and there was no tank battle against the Axis powers.
“We were about a third down on the re-enactments,” said Erica Fidment, of the Friends of Norfolk Park. “We’ve had people from re-enactment societies all over the country and even other parts of the world in the past, but raising money has been difficult this year.”
Up to £17,000 has been spent on re-enactments at previous Sheffield Fayres, she added.
This year’s show featured the Romans, medieval England and a series of battles from the Napoleonic era, with Scots and English troops routing the French at every opportunity.
Erica and colleague Marge Allen estimated 20,000 people had visited Norfolk Park over the two days of the 2013 Shefield Fayre.
“The fayre has the local community at its heart,” said Marge. “We want to keep entrance free because we want families coming who may not have a lot of money.” After previous incarnations as the Sheffield Show in Hillsborough, the Fayre has been running for over ten years in Norfolk Park.
Sheffield City Council supports the event with staffing and infrastructure, but reductions in public grants mean that virtually all the funding for the event now comes from charges for traders. The University of Sheffield also helped by providing exhibits, volunteers and demonstrations from the National Fairground Archive and the science outreach programme.
This year’s fayre was organised and promoted by a team of about half a dozen Friends of Norfolk Park, often delivering flyers by hand. More volunteers and company sponsors are desperately needed, said Marge. “There are still some people in Sheffield who don’t know that it’s happening or even where Norfolk Park is.”
Despite financial challenges, Erica said there would ‘hopefully’ be a Sheffield Fayre in 2014. Organisers are considering alternatives to expensive re-enactment society battles, perhaps focussing more on the rich local history surrounding the old medieval Sheffield Park and the Victorian tree lined carriage ride created by the Duke of Norfolk. But nothing has been decided yet, they stress. Marge hopes the horticultural, craft and art shows can be extended. “I’d like to see more people entering the art and craft sections from the estate. There are loads of talented people here.”
Norfolk Park was recently upgraded from a grade II heritage listing to grade II*. Marge Allen remembers when the Friends group started nearly 20 years ago. “People would say ‘I’m not going in there‘ because they thought the park was full of cider drinkers, drug takers and burning cars.”
Since 1995 the Friends, the council and other supporters have brought the park back into shape including building new playgrounds and the community Centre in the Park thanks to a Heritage Lottery grant.
“We feel proud we’ve managed to hang on,” said Erica. “We came through the first recession when parks were in decline all over the city, then it was all wonderful for a time and now we hope we can hang on again.”
One of the keys is encouraging people to visit the park and the Centre in the Park in particular.
“I’ve lived in this area all my life, and when I tell people, they think of the estate when it had problems. But I’m really proud of where I live, the park has such a history and it’s so beautiful, I feel so lucky to live here. People should come and see for themselves.”