It wasn’t until recently that I realised how quintessentially English village fêtes are. I recently visited our local village fête alongside my partner, who is non-native English. Upon hearing his questions and confusion about what the event was and looking back on my times living abroad, I realised how traditionally English and cultural this event really is.
Typically found in rural England, village fêtes, also called village fairs, feasts, funfairs and festivals, only date back to the 1920’s. They originated as a marketplace for locals to sell their goods, mostly for charity, but they’ve since evolved into an annual event to get the community together for a fun day out. As soon as the leaves turn green and spring is in full force, local villages and towns start to plan their village fêtes.
A traditional village fête takes place on a village green or a large communal outdoor space. Members of the community put up tents to sell their own local, often handmade, products or make a few pennies from the boot of the car. You’ll also find a tea tent offering tea and other drinks alongside homemade sweet food, such as jam, cakes and biscuits. Some villages offer free products whilst others charge small fees. As these events take place in summer, they’re mostly in the beautiful sunshine meaning locals get their BBQs out too. In villages with more investment, you may have a stage with a band, a small petting zoo and small funfair rides for children.
A village fête is full of events and games, mostly for the children. Typical activities include tug-of-war, a dressing up competition, the guessing game (guess the weight or number) and donkey rides. Competition is often key at village fêtes whether this be a short 20m race for young children or the best grown vegetables or flowers for the adults. You can also find tombolas and raffles to help retrieve some money too.
Some of the slightly stranger yet very traditional activities include maypole dancing, which is dancing in celebration of spring and summer, and Morris dancing, which is wearing traditional costumes and dancing around.
If you’re staying in the UK during the summer months, look out for local village fêtes to get a real sense of community and experience the true way of life of native Brits.