As the date nears to the 35th Chatsworth Country Fair on 2-4 September, we caught up with two of the event organisers to delve behind the scenes of the hugely popular event then and now. 

The organiser behind the very first fair in 1981, Andrew Cuthbert, shares some of his secrets while Sarah Green takes time from her busy schedule preparing for this year’s event to give us a glimpse of what life is like for the organiser today.

The number of visitors to the first fair in 1981 was around 50,000. This figure is now closer to the 90,000 mark with the fair increasing to three days a few years ago to accommodate the swelling crowds.

Sarah said: “The site is roughly the same size now. The mapping is a little like doing a massive jigsaw puzzle – except that when you remove a piece it always seems impossible to squeeze it into another slot, by the time you’ve figured it out you’ve squeezed someone else out!”

Andrew said: “I would arrive a fortnight before the event in the park with my caravan to mark out the ground with white pegs.  I would always allow an extra day and a half to be greeted by all my Chatsworth friends, who would call on my caravan to offer their help if I required it.”

The Red Socks is a team of volunteers that play a vital role in the running of the fair. In 1981 there were 15 Red Socks but now there are 60 Red Socks. Notable members include former fair president and Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent CBE and his late brother Thomas who both volunteered as youngsters. 

Andrew said: “I could not have done it all without the help and cooperation of my wonderful band of voluntary Red Socks. They do not only make the show tick but also take a share of the proceeds for the Red Sock Trust which they in turn give to so many deserving charities. Over the years, the Red Socks must have given well in excess of a million pounds to charity.”

Food has always been a key staple of the fair and has grown hugely in popularity. In 1981 there were approximately 20 food stands, and the most popular snack sold was ice cream. Now sausages top the bill and there are close to 100 stands including the Fine Food Village.

Animals have always been a focal point. Around 300 animals took part in 1981 including falcons, foxhounds, sheepdogs, dressage horses, lurchers, and ferrets. Possibly the most unusual animal was an antelope in 2002, when regimental mascots were invited to come.

Sarah said: “In 2002 we invited as many regimental mascots as we could get to come. Sadly this was the peak of the foot and mouth outbreak so it became a difficult task! The regimental mascots ranged from horse, pony, wolfhound, ram, goat, and even an antelope!”

Nowadays it is very difficult to have visiting farm animals due to the laws regarding movement of animals following The Foot & Mouth outbreak. For the first time last year Animal Encounters brought all sorts of strange and exotic creatures from snakes and scorpions for people to see and handle.

BBC gardening favourite Alan Titchmarsh, England cricketer Michael Vaughan, IAAF President Sebastian Coe, BBC Countryfile presenter Adam Henson, Olympic rower and Red Sock Matthew Pinsent CBE, and just announced, Sheffield Superstar athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill complete the illustrious line up of Fair Presidents.

The Guards Free Fall Parachute Display Team opened the fair in 1981 made up of one person each from the Household Cavalry, Grenadiers, Coldstreams and Scots Guards. In 2016, the Grand Ring will be led by The Household Cavalry Musical Ride, Imps Motorcycle Display Team, and The Red Arrows who first appeared at the fair in 2010.

Trade Stands numbered about 160 in 1981, compared to over 350 in 2016. Brocklehursts of Bakewell is one of a handful of traders believed to have attended every single fair! 

Andrew Cuthbert: “I think my biggest challenge was when, on the eve of a fair, I learnt that our supplier of lavatories had gone bust and could not deliver. After many frantic phone calls I managed to procure another supplier who began delivery at 4am on the morning of the first day with the last being delivered at about 9.30am whilst the public were arriving! 

“Another challenging and bad memory of the fair was the clear-up following the big flood on the weekend of Princess Diana’s death. It rained so heavily that when it was time for the Gurkhas to give their display I offered to cancel it; however, the Pipe Major told me rain and eight inches of standing water was not going to put them off from coming into the Grand Ring and giving their best.  And they did.”

Sarah Green: “My biggest challenge? Always the weather.”

Andrew Cuthbert: “My happiest and most memorable times have always been at the opening ceremony on the first day and the church parade on Sunday afternoons with all the scouts, cadets and Mums and Dads surrounding the military Bands playing.”

Sarah Green: “ My highlight of the fair is having the opportunity to work in one of the most beautiful places in the world with the most super team of people from our Red Socks, Chatsworth Estate and the wonderful and varied others who come to work at events such as ours all over the country - real Countryside characters”.

Tickets for Chatsworth Country Fair are £25 for adults per day and free for children under 14 years old. 

For more information visit:
Chatsworth Country Fair Facebook
Chatsworth Country Fair Twitter

Notes to editors:
The Chatsworth House Trust is dedicated to the preservation of Chatsworth House, the art collection, garden, woodlands and park for the long term benefit of the public. 
The charity promotes the study and appreciation of Chatsworth as a place of historic, architectural and artistic interest and of natural beauty, and encourages the use and enjoyment of Chatsworth by visitors for education and recreation. 
Chatsworth is a member of the Treasure Houses of England, 10 of the most magnificent palaces, stately homes and castles in England.
Chatsworth is only 16 miles from the M1, 10 miles from Chesterfield, and 8 miles north of Matlock, in the heart of Derbyshire’s Peak District National Park and is well served by transport links throughout the UK.

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For further information or images please contact:
Liz Bee or Steve Houghton
Redbrick Communications
0115 910 1500

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