Fairground Attraction – Fairground and Circus Artefacts and Art

The fun starts here! Objects and art once used in traditional seaside attractions, fairgrounds and the circus are now becoming highly collectable, and much loved as ‘alternative’ or ‘outsider’ art to decorate the home.


A piece from Andrew Bewick

Many exhibitors at the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair champion the decorative charms of these works; objects and pictures that appeal to fond childhood memories and make us smile. From carved carousel horses to circus promotional posters and hand-painted traditional signs from fairground rides and stalls. The artistic skills vary from quaintly amateur to high quality craftsmanship. With the advent of plastic machine-printed signage the traditional sign-painting and writing skills are rapidly disappearing.

Julian Hartnoll - Loads of Fun, ewb

A piece from Julian Hartnoll

This art form is now slowly beginning to attract the attention it deserves” says Vivienne Roberts, working with exhibitor Julian Hartnoll (‘The Artmonger’) who has now staged two exhibitions of these types of work. One coincided with the Tate’s British Folk Art Exhibition in summer 2014, and the second was held as the special foyer display at the Autumn 2014 Decorative Fair in Battersea. “Fairground and circus art captures the spirit of fun, and like folk art, appeals to collectors who are investing in the heritage of an essentially ‘at risk’ art form.”  The techniques and styles of these pieces are no longer being passed on down the generations and consequently are under threat of being lost forever.


Steam train from Peter Bunting

Early pieces, often bearing the patina wrought by decades of travelling, are particularly hard to find. Showmen would regularly modernise their rides and stalls by painting over the panels with new colours and imagery, reflecting ever changing tastes and trends in popular culture. Much of the display draws from exhibitors stock and will be for sale.


A piece from Julian Hartnoll.

Regular Fair exhibitor Drew Pritchard (TV’s Salvage Hunter), collects fairground art, and is kindly lending a few pieces from his personal collection to the display. “This is an art form I’ve been interested in for 20 years. My father used to paint signage for fairs, and my brother and I would hang out at the grounds with him. I think it’s a massively under-rated and under-valued form of British folk art.”

Julian Hartnoll - Loads of Fun, ewb