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Dagenham Town Show

Articles > Barking & Dagenham


John Blake

In the days when most Dagenham families had precious little money to spare and holidays non-existent or few and far between, the  Town Show, carnival and funfair was THE highlight of the year. On the Saturday of the show our family, parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, etc. gathered at our "own" opposite the Travellers pub on Beacontree Heath to watch the  carnival pass by on its way into Central Park. We always stood in the same spot so there was no need to worry about where the family and friends would be. The colourful floats, decorated and marching bands were very exciting to us kids.

We then visited the show in the park - so much to see in those days - huge marquees covering various aspects of life in Dagenham - handicrafts was a big area where local people submitted competition One year we had great cause for celebration  when a piece of crochet work by my grandmother won a prize. The horticulture marquee was especially popular it displays of giant marrows, onions, potatoes and vegetables. There were also areas devoted to caged birds, beekeeping, rabbits,  arranging, photography and numerous other hobbies.

My mother loved the horse show which took place over the whole weekend and attracted top showjumpers - Alan Oliver was popular then and I had the temerity to ask him if I could have his competition entry number he was wearing on his back - to my amazement  he agreed (and I still haveit!). Alan's wife Alison taught Princess Anne to ride!

There was also the main arena where dare-devil stunts took place, bands marched, Scouts paraded and, on the Sunday, a church service was held.

The final treat of the day would be the funfair and we kids looked forward to it all day and made sure we did not misbehave otherwise we would be taken home and deprived of the opportunity to go on a couple of the rides. Every child in Dagenham would  be given be given free ride tickets at school and we pleaded with friends not attending the show to let us benefit from them. If we were really good and not too much money had been spent at the show, we were allowed one or two extra rides - my personal  favourite was the waltzer, which hurled you round at break-neck speed and literally took your breath away. I also loved the sideshow where you tried to win a goldfish by throwing a table tennis ball into a goldfish bowl - my father was never happy when  I won because it meant taking home a new addition to our family in a small plastic bag. Hooking a plastic duck was also another firm favourite and I still have some of the small ornaments I won. Those were the days.

John Blake

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