'World's oldest showman' brings attraction to Newcastle's Hoppings for 77th time

Gilbert Chadwick
Gilbert Chadwick, 90, says he is pleased to be back at the Hoppings, 77 years after first working there. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A 90-year-old showman who has been working at a huge funfair for 77 years says he's "pleased to be here once again".

The Hoppings, on Newcastle's Town Moor, is billed as Europe's largest travelling funfair and has been running for 141 years. And for more than half of that time, Gilbert Chadwick has been bringing his fairground attractions to the annual event.

He first came to the fair with his father in 1945, aged just 13. Since then, the fair has seen big changes.

This photo from the Tyne and Wear Archives shows Gilbert on his first visit to The Hoppings, aged 13, in 1945 Credit: Tyne and Wear Archives

"When I was 13, we had traction engines and there was steam on here," he said. "Now there's no steam. The Wall of Death has gone, the boxing show has gone. There was a circus that's gone. Now we have fun houses, ghost trains, reverse bungees and food stalls in their place."

According to Mr Chadwick, improvements in technology have allowed him to keep on working, despite the fact he's been drawing his pension for 25 years. His Fun House, he said, does a lot of the heavy lifting for him.

"That little Fun House has got 11 hydraulic rams in it which makes life very easy for me. But they're doing the work. Things has moved on. The lorries are better, the rides are better."

Gilbert parks his Fun House on the same plot his father was using 75 years ago. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Every year he parks his Fun House on the exact same plot where his father had an animal freak-show.

Pointing to his up-to-date ride, Mr Chadwick said: "That's where the freak carnival show was. The sheep with six legs. The horse so tiny it's smaller than a dog." Although, he added: "The dog was a Great Dane! You had 15 live freaks in the one show at one time and it was very, very successful."

So why does he keep coming back, after all these years?

"Sociably it's the best fair in the country. There's people you haven't seen for 12 months, and they're here. And everybody's happy. Everybody's got a smile on their face. And everybody gets a few bob while they're here, if the weather is right.

"There's some times we come here and we lose money because it rains and rains and rains. But but we still leave here laughing."

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