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White-knuckle spectacular to thrill St Giles fair crowd
EXCITED screams and laughter will rise above Oxford’s Dreaming Spires as St Giles Fair takes place in the heart of the city.
Up to 100,000 revellers are expected the attend the annual festivities on Monday and Tuesday next week.
As well as the usual candy floss, dodgems and carousel there will also be white-knuckle rides.
The biggest thriller of the bunch is Air, a huge mechanical octopus that swings and spins 30 riders 100ft overhead.
The fair – which will see St Giles closed to traffic for three days from midnight on Saturday – will be opened by Dee Sinclair, Lord Mayor of Oxford, at 10.30am on Monday in front of Air.
Mike Newman, fair co-ordinator for Oxford City Council, said: “People can expect the usual mixture of traditional rides and big attractions that we term white-knuckle rides.
“We have tried to maintain that balance between the old and the new, something for the children and something for teenagers and slightly older people.”
Last year’s fair saw more than 60,000 people attend on the Monday alone, which Mr Newman said was the busiest in memory, due to fine weather and the fact that youngsters were still on their summer holidays.
Mr Newman added: “St Giles Fair is important for Oxford.
“It is very popular with people in Oxford and the immediate area and, of course, in fairground terms, it is extremely prestigious.
“It is one of the three main fairs in the country in terms of prestige, along with events in Nottingham and Newcastle.
“St Giles is so prestigious because it is actually in a big, wide street, and of course Oxford is a famous city.
“Having it in St Giles does add to the problems. We have to take care of the buildings and the trees but the streetscape adds to how it looks and operates and makes it so special.”
Asked if he would be going on any of the rides, Mr Newman said: “I usually walk around with the Lord Mayor and we tend to go on one or two, which is normally the carousel and dodgems and maybe having a go at the coconuts, but not too much. You certainly won’t see me on any of the big rides.”
The event dates back to 1625, when a parish festival to mark the feast of St Giles was created.
It has been a funfair since the late Victorian period when technological advances brought in modern fairground rides.
In 1930, Wantage poet John Betjeman described it as “about the biggest fair in England,” saying: “The whole of St Giles, right up to and beyond the War Memorial, is thick with freak shows, roundabouts, cakewalks, the whip, and the witching waves.”
St Giles, Magdalen Street East and Magdalen Street West will be closed from midnight on Saturday until 8am on Wednesday.
Oxford Bus Company will be diverting services via Parks Road and Broad Street, and Broad Street will become the terminus for buses serving north Oxford.
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