The Bates family have been proudly passing down the knowledge and experience of the fairground industry for seven generations.
During this time many things have changes and many unique stories have been shared. From war time stores of fairs that operated in complete darkness, to my Great Grandfather, (the late George Bates) and his “Pony driven” Carousel, which had no motors.
Just a horse that pulled the Carousel around as it trotted along on the inside of the ride.
My Grandfather, (in the centre of the picture below) the late Walter Bates was one of the first Showmen in the country to introduce “Free Days” at the fair. This was a day when he invited underprivileged and disabled children to the Fair for free rides and Candy Floss.
At The Emily Forty School (for children with special needs) they named a room “The Walter Bates Room” as a thank you for the years of supporting the school and providing this free experience for the children.
My Dad (Billy) and my Uncle Walter (sat either side of my Grandfather) shared and supported this desire to give back to the community and to this day we continue this legacy.
As a kid I always remember my Dad supporting many good causes around Leicestershire, he helped to raise money for countless Lord Mayor’s Appeals and was often dragging me along to help him sell raffle tickets or some form of fundraising.
He also became a governor of The Emily Forty School, which he was very proud of.
Our family have proudly passed down the knowledge and experience of the fairground industry for six generations.
When my Dad recalls his first memorable “job”, it was selling wooden balls for a Coconut Shy at the tender age of 6. “It was 7 balls for a shilling!” (5p today)
This was to be the first of many jobs that he would lend his hand to over the years and one that taught him to be fast on his feet, as he was often the target of the thrower!
My starting point in the business was very similar to my Dad’s, I was just 11 years old when I started selling balloons at the Fair. It wasn’t quite as young as my Dad when he started but it was still a big responsibility for a kid. Looking back now I realise that this was the perfect way for me to learn the ropes in the business and more importantly how to speak to customers and gain confidence.
We are all very proud of our Leicester roots. My brother (James) and I often say how we feel like we grew up in every part of Leicester. We had friends in every estate and we would look forward to seeing them each year when the fair moved back into their area. We are very grateful for the support we receive from the people of Leicester and proud to have been a part of their community for such a long time.
While today’s business has evolved greatly since the days of steam engines and pony driven rides. We feel that the core structure that makes our company successful will stay the same.
Because there is no substitute for experience.
I hope that this small glimpse into our family history will help you to understand the responsibilities that we feel like we have today. Not just from a Health & Safety or customer experience perspective but also because of the hard work and skills of our predecessors.
Thank you for reading,