This summer Discovery Museum is hosting an exhibition to celebrate 135 years of the Hoppings, the much-loved funfair held annually on Newcastle’s Town Moor.
The Hoppings was initially promoted as a temperance festival, to provide an antidote to its drunken predecessor, the Newcastle Races which had, up to that point, been held on the Town Moor. Today, its fame extends beyond the reaches of Tyneside, and it is believed to be Europe’s largest travelling funfair, with show people attending from all parts of the country.
Discovery Museum’s exhibition opens on Saturday 3 June with a day of activities and events on a fairground theme including children’s fairground rides on the Plaza outside the museum (there will be a charge for the rides), Carousel Crafts and free balloons and stickers for children.
As well as exploring the origins of the Hoppings the exhibition will also look at the travelling way of life of the generations of showmen and their families who bring the Hoppings to Newcastle, including the language and phrases they use such as: a ‘flattie’ (a member of the general public), a ‘gaff’ (a busy fairground); the ‘gallopers’ (a carousel featuring elaborately carved and painted galloping horses) and a ‘living wagon’ (a showman’s caravan).
Visitors will be able to find out about the history of fairground rides from the Swing Boats – called ‘Shuggy Boats’ in the North East, which were among the earliest of fairground rides, to later steam-operated rides and, of course, the Waltzer.
A major feature of the exhibition will be more than 50 vintage working amusement machines, from What the Butler Saw (early moving pictures) to pinball and fruit machines, which visitors can play using old pennies which can be bought from the museum – five old pennies for £1.
The 1880s and 1890s saw the appearance of an array of coin-operated penny machines. These included test your strength machines, fortune tellers, automatons, skill games, stereo viewers, and two-player competitive games.
These penny machines flourished in regional fairs such as the Hoppings, in emerging seaside arcades and in other environments where entertainment was provided to the public. The final penny machines disappeared in the late 1970s with the introduction of video games.
Carolyn Ball, Museum Manager said:
“The Hoppings is firmly placed in Tyneside’s events calendar and has been loved by people in the area for generations. The exhibition at Discovery Museum will celebrate the history of the famous fair and visitors can step back in time and have a go on lots of rare vintage amusement machines.”
All the Fun of the Fair: 135 years of the Hoppings will be on show at Discovery Museum from 3 June – 1 October 2017. Free entry, donations are welcome.
Discovery Museum is open Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am-4pm.www.discoverymuseum.org.uk