At first glance, it might seem an anathema, that the Fairground Heritage Trust is commissioning a new piece of fairground art, to cover a whole ride. Surely conservation is what we all about? The reason becomes clear when identifying the ride in question… The mini Waltzer, purchased last spring from Charles Manning, who used it at the permanent seaside park in Felixstowe. It was a blank canvas: the ride was painted purple and mauve, but with little decoration.
Our choice of artist was Chris Thomas. Chris’s work is legendary on the fairgrounds of the west, spanning a period of over 30 years. David Rowland, Anderton & Rowland, Tommy Rowland and T Whitelegg & Sons have all been clients of Chris.
The Shooter operated by Chris parents Freddie and Rose Thomas was decorated several times over the years; this was generously donated to the Fairground Heritage Centre last year.
Classic works include the last incarnation of the Anderton & Rowland Ark (traveled by the late Nelson and his son Colin DeVey), Tommy Rowland’s (ex-Whiteleggs) ‘Atlanta’ Dodgems, Arthur Whitelegg’s Ark, and David and Ann Rowlands Groove Rider Waltzer. From lorries, side joints,and hooplas, to full rides and even a Night Club (Jesters), on Plymouth’s Union Street; Chris’s output has been prolific.
Chris’s work is influenced by master fairground artist, Fred Fowle. Lighting flash motifs, flamboyant colours and subtle shading mark out Chris’s trademark designs.
The Mini Waltzer was fitted with unusual cut out shields. Initially these were to be discarded, but as they cover the gaps between the rounding boards, they had to be retained. These have been worked into the design well. The uprights have also been picked out in with flamboyant gold.
The Mini Waltzer is a scaled down version of the platform machine that has been a staple on British fairs since 1933, with cars that spin through 360 degrees. We are delighted with the work, Chris has breathed new life into our classic children’s ride.