Graham Downie Collection

Scope and Content

This collection contains photographs of ex-service showmen taking park in the 1994 Remembrance Day Parade, trade literature, calendars, posters, a monograph from the Alcester & District Local History Society and Charlie Merrin's paperwork for the 1989 centenary fair in Hyde Park.

Administrative / Biographical History

Graham Downie N.D. formerly the Secretary of the Midland Section of the Showmen's Guild, Editor of the Fairground Mercury, and the Chairman of the Fairground Association of Great Britain, which was founded in 1978.

He was born in Worcestershire in 1941, brought up in the South Warwickshire village of Studley and was educated at Alcester Grammar School. During the late 1950s, he was a student at Birmingham College of Arts & Crafts where he trained as a book illustrator gaining a National Diploma in Design. He spent the next 30 years working in printing and publicity in a variety of sales and management positions. In 1979, when he was the general manager of a trade litho reproduction house in Somerset, he was appointed by the government to a three-year term as a member of the council of management of the Design Council.

His interest in travelling funfairs stems from his childhood days in Warwickshire, when he lived immediately opposite the ground used for the annual Studley Mop Fair, one of the many autumn fairs in this part of the Midlands that were originally held for the purpose of hiring farmworkers and domestic servants. In the early 1970s he became a freelance correspondent for 'The World's Fair', the weekly newspaper for travelling showmen, reporting on fairs along the Welsh Marches. In January 1978 he was a founder member of the Fairground Association of Great Britain. Established to provide a forum for those interested in all aspects of fairs and fairgrounds, and to further serious studies of their history, the FAGB is now the largest such organisation in the country. He was elected to the post of chairman at the foundation meeting and has retained that position ever since. In addition, after the Association's first two years of operation, he became the editor of their quarterly journal 'The Century of Tobers', which was re-designed and renamed 'The Fairground Mercury'.

The concept of a national fairground archive was first raised at a meeting of the Association's national committee. A conversation some weeks later withVanessa Toulmin, then a postgraduate student at Sheffield, led to a joint meeting in 1994 with the then deputy director of the University library to discuss the idea. As a result of that meeting it was decided that the University would establish the National Fairground Archive, with Graham Downie being invited to serve on the management board.

By this time he had left the printing industry to take up the post of Secretary to the Midland Section of the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain. He had for some years assisted the Guild in its promotional efforts, writing and producing its booklet 'All the Fun of the Fair' in 1987 and serving as a member of the team that organised the celebration of the Guild's centenary in 1989. He retired from the Guild in 2006, since when he has devoted his time to writing a book on the history of a Victorian engineering firm that built fairground rides. The book is due for publication in 2008.

He is a trustee of Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings, and has served on the museum's council of management since 1968. He is the current chairman of the Alcester & District Local History Society and, prior to its dissolution, was a member of the Heart of England Tourist Board's tourism council. During the last five years he has illustrated and designed reprints of three books by the Tewkesbury-born writer on country matters, the late John Moore, for the John Moore Society.

Graham Downie is married and has two daughters and one son.


Catalogued according to type.

Conditions Governing Access

The photographs make up part of the image database collection which is available to view by appointment in the NFA reading room. Other items must be requested prior to appointment.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Graham Downie

Other Finding Aids

Digitised items can be searched for on the database. Other items are listed by type. Contact the NFA for more information.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Jane Donaldson.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright: National Fairground Archive


Further accruals expected.


All the Fun of the Fair, 1987. The Showman's Guild of Great Britain.


Personal Names