- PhD Candidate
Room 303, East Quadrangle
‘Our true intent is all for your delight’: mobility, artistry, craft and technology at work in Scotland’s travelling funfair.
'Our true intent is all for your delight': mobility, artistry, craft and technology at work in Scotland's travelling funfairs.
Summary of Research
Travelling funfairs have toured Scotland since the late-eighteenth century. Today, the arrival of the funfair remains a staple feature of annual civic festivities in towns across the country, all the way from Ayr to Elgin. The traditional array of amusement rides, stalls and food concessions that go to make 'all the fun of the fair', are owned and transported by family firms. Several have a long history in the trade spanning multiple generations. These 'Showpeople' have multiple geographies of their own, combining resident year-round communities and seasonal journeys according to a recognized calendar of fairs. The much-loved funfair experience is dependent on the manufacture and design of movable machinery that magically transforms into spinning, looping, whirling and flashing objects. Articulated Lorries transport amusement rides and fairground stalls between different sites. Before the shows can begin, Lorries and caravans need to be pitched, and rides need to be rigged up, and checked for safety. When the shows are over, the same process happens in reverse. Everything has to be collapsible, folding away and fitting together perfectly. Function and utility in design is essential, but funfairs are also places of aesthetic allure and decorative art. Amusement rides have always been admired for their looks as well as their thrills. Style and affect are produced through a combination of visual imagery, lighting and sound systems, and fast moving mechanisms. Historically, innovation and creativity have been a big part of the show scene. Originally hand-turned or pony-pulled, roundabouts were first revolutionized by the introduction of steam engines. After the 1930s, electrical power supplies fed the fairgoers’ need for speed. Until the 1980s hand-painted signage, lettering and imagery adorned the amusement ride. Since then airbrush imagery has been the dominant decorative form of the funfair, resulting in a distinctive genre of fantastical or themed figurative art.
Comprising an archival and ethnographic methodology, my research addresses the material culture of travelling funfairs in terms of design, mobility, and artistry; engages with the production of funfairs as spaces of affect and ad-hocism; pre-theorizes contemporary pop-up culture through the travelling fair; and critically considers the social constraints placed on travellers in contemporary Scotland. Inspired by the First Minister’s sentiment that “travelling people are an important part of Scotland’s culture, history and economy” (2009), my research aims to challenge the commonplace prejudice associated with the material and immaterial heritage of showculture and Showpeople. Marrying ethnographic prose with archival histories, this writing will serve to discover a true representation of Scotland’s Showpeople and showcultures.
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Studentship via the "Human Geography" Pathway, 2015-2018
- School of Geographical and Earth Sciences Tuition Fees-paid Scholarship for the MRes in Human Geography, 2014-2015, £4000
- C E Strachan Will Trust Scholarship, 2013, £215
- Geography Level 1 Lab Demonstrator, 2015-2016