Torrington May Fair
May Fair in Great Torrington dates back to the 16th century and takes place on the first Thursday in May. It's a festival that marks the coming of summer and involves the whole community.
The day is given over to celebrations, with crowds gathering early in the town square to watch a series of events and entertainments, culminating in traditional maypole dancing and the ceremonial crowning of the May Queen, all accompanied by music from the town's own Silver Band.
The funfair visits the town for May Fair week, and on the Saturday following the crowning there's a carnival procession through the town, with prizes for the best floats and walking groups - many of whom have spent the whole year planning their display.
The carnival has its own queen, elected by pupils at Great Torrington School, and carnival queens and marching bands from neighbouring towns are also invited to join the procession.
May Fair week is a time of celebration for Great Torrington; the town is decked in bunting and decorated with gorse sprays for the occasion, and the town centre shops feature special window displays, competing for the coveted 'Best Dressed Window' award. It's a great time to visit the town and soak up the carnival atmosphere.
How Bluecoat is involved
Bluecoat C of E Primary School is instrumental in the May Fair celebrations, with children from across the school playing their part. May Fair fever comes early in the school in January when the Entourage is selected.
The Year 6 children who missed the chance to participate in 2020/2021 due to the pandemic, had positive discussions and felt strongly that the process of selecting the Entourage needed updating to become a fairer system. The film below (A Fairer May Fair) documents the developments. In response to the requests from the children, a new role was introduced to the Entourage - the May Prince (Standard Bearer) - who joins the May Queen, Crowner, Heralds and Attendants.
Alongside this, the voting process was updated and Year 6 girls are now required to write a personal statement explaining why they would like to be be May Queen. The statements are then shared anonymously and voted on across the school, and the one with the most votes becomes May Queen with the runner-up becoming her Crowner. Similarly, the Year 6 boys who wish to be considered for May Prince (Standard Bearer) also write statements which are then voted on. All votes are verified by the Mayor.
The Year 6 boys who wish to be Heralds are paired up by height and then one pair is drawn from a hat by the Mayor. Similarly, the girls in Year 3 that wish to be Attendants are paired up by height and four pairs are drawn by the Mayor.
Children in Reception and Year 1 kick off the May Fair proceedings with a short service in the town square where they sing songs specially rehearsed for the occasion. Children in Year 2 dance the Floral Dance and then form the Guard of Honour for the grand entrance of the Entourage. It is at this point that the specially designed outfits that the Entourage are wearing reveals the theme for the day, having been chosen by the Mayor's Consort earlier in the year.
Children in Years 3 and 4 take part in the country dancing and Years 5 and 6 dance the Maypole.
All of this takes months of rehearsals and meticulous planning. A May Fair committee meets regularly to ensure that the day runs smoothly.
Video: A Fairer May Fair
(Yr 6 2021)
May Fair 2022
We are delighted that following two years of no formal May Fair celebrations due to the pandemic, plans are on track to bring May Fair back to the Great Torrington community! The entourage has been selected and rehearsals of singing, country dancing and may pole dancing are well underway. We are thrilled to announce this year's entourage:
May Queen - Cadie Hewitt
Crowner - Lola Stevens
May Prince (Standard Bearer) - Alex Williams
Heralds - Quinlan Dymond & Regan Beer
Jessica Braund & Bella North
Dynasty Harris & Alanna Clifton
Honey Huxtable & Molly-Mae Coysh
Lola North & Isabelle Vennall
Sadly, due to the pandemic, the community missed out on the full May Fair celebrations for the second year running. Great disappointment was felt across the school and the town. However, the children still had the opportunity to take part in some of the dances and we share the Year 6 Maypole dancing and Year 4 Country Dancing here with you now. We hope you enjoy them.
The children also selected an Entourage using the new system as explained above in 'How Bluecoat is Involved'.
May Queen: Coralie Peacham
Crowner: Lauren Cann
May Prince: Brandon Hickey
Heralds: Freddie Avery & Alfie Hooper