The first Packhorse Fair was held in 1999, borne of an idea in 1998 at a meeting in the then Royal Oak public house, between John Howard Greaves, Honey Pegg, Andrew Pickering and Martyn Trevelleyan to form The Bruton Festival of Arts. From here the first year of the Arts Festival programming began.
The Packhorse Fair originated as a mediaeval fair (I was volunteered in my absence to organise it!), with all stallholders and visitors encouraged to dress in costume. The Fair was really well supported, but we soon realised a mediaeval fair was limiting. We really wanted to focus on all that Bruton has to offer and to create a fun, community event to launch our festival week. We wanted to provide opportunity for charities, voluntary organisations and local businesses, as well as promote our huge array of local musicians, artists and artisans.
In a very short time The Packhorse Fair established itself as a huge event in the community that people assumed had been a tradition over centuries not just a few years!
After its two first successful years the Fair had out grown the space in Lower Backway and we were given kind permission by Mr Smyth, the then Head Teacher, to use some of the King’s School grounds.
This gave us a wide grassy area and the space to put up a stage.
The Packhorse Fair ran for ten consecutive years, although the last Fair was rather hindered by sixty mile per hour winds and we had to cancel the music due to potentially unsafe structures in extreme conditions. But the community spirit remained and a few stalls braved the weather for as long as they could, the bar marquee was filled to capacity with smiling faces and a few musical acts playing acoustically, and Mike, the landlord of The Sun Inn kindly allowed bands to set up in his skittle alley.
There was then a break from the Packhorse Fair for a number of reasons, one being due to the increased costs of laying on an ever-expanding event, with new licensing regulation and rising insurance costs to contend with.
But the great news is that the Fair is back! We know how much it has been missed, so we urge you all to come and support it and spread the word to put this event firmly back on Bruton’s calendar.
Vice Chair, Bruton
See gallery for more pictures of past Packhorse Fairs