What makes this fair, held on the Monday and Tuesday after September 1st, so unusual, and so much fun, is that it is occurs in the centre of town, at the intersection of the two important arteries, Banbury and Woodstock Roads.
The roads are closed; traffic is diverted; workers are inconvenienced; the normally genteel city is transformed into a rowdy, pulsating, loud, kitsch, busy crossroads of heaving crowds and flashing lights and blaring speakers. Over-sized stuffed animals wait to be won, gravity-defying and fast hydraulic rides, after which medical attention might be needed, throw thrill-seekers higher into the night sky, nightmare-inducing ghost trains and other contraptions shake, roll, rattle, spin and invert.
St John’s College hates it; the people of Oxford and beyond love it. Dating back to the 1600s, it became an established, much loved annual event in the 1800s. Over the centuries, however, a few critics have called for its abolition, citing drunkenness, lewd behaviour and criminal types.
But it’s this eclectic gathering of all kinds of colourful people which makes the fair so enduring and the best in Europe.
For two heady days, candyfloss, walzters and flashing lights rule this city.