What do you call that iconic, circular ride where you sit on a horse and go around and around? A roundabout? A Merry-go-round? The Gallopers? Or the Carousel?
These questions begin to sound like part of the mildly addictive New York times dialect quiz which recently did the rounds, but apparently what you call it depends on more than just regional preference - there are facts to consider. So in all fair-ness (pardon the pun), I didn't gve you enough information to begin with.
Take this image by Derek Evans, for example. We had labelled it as 'Woman rides the Carousel at Hereford May Fair' in our system and online on the Herefordshire History website. However, when we enlisted the help of Fairground Historian Graham Downie*, we learned that there is a difference between a Carousel and this: a Galloper.
See the horses' legs stretched in permanent mid-leap? And how the lady riding side-saddle has to cling on because the horses are rising and falling, up and down? The horses are also pointing left. These are all features of the Galloper. Gallopers, as the name suggest, give the impression of horses racing. The horses will usually be very similar (but with individual names) and will rise and fall as they turn, mimicking the graceful bounding of real racing horses. On a carousel, the animals (usually, although not always, horses) are static, planted on the solid floor of the machine rather than being cranked up and down. Carousels also turn anti-clockwise, meaning the animals face right, rather than left.
Graham gave us some more information about the image above. He said that this lady was riding on Bob Wilson & Sons’ Gallopers, "probably in either 1962 or 1963" and that "this was the only occasion on which this ride attended the May Fair."
These details all form part of the rich heritage of Fairground history and culture. It is fabulous to witness how the sharing of an image can multiply its possible stories. Far from being upset that our original labelling was wrong, we are thrilled to see this project fulfilling one of its purposes - allowing people to engage with the collection and prompting the telling of little-known histories.
Oh, and in case you are worried that these images of 'carousels' were the namesake of our recent film (Carousel: A Herefordshire Life Through a Lens Film), allow me to through another twist into the mix. The type of carousel we are referencing is this:
A slide projector called a carousel. Both the visual and audio qualities of this rotating slide-show are reflected in the film 'Carousel's' aesthetic, and the slide projector's function is also reflected in the film's aim: to share photographs which are normally boxed up and hidden away with people; telling the story of each image as it 'kerchunks' into view. Despite the differences between the Carousel, the Gallopers and the carousel slide projector, they all share in common the qualities of mechanical turning, brightly coloured imagery and nostalgia. They are symbols of another era as well as ways to take a trip there. Why not take a spin?
Click here to browse local screenings for 'Carousel: A Herefordshire Life Through a Lens Film'
*Graham Downie is the Chairman of the Fairground Association of Great Britain and a member of the National Fairground & Circus Advisory Committee at the University of Sheffield.
By Gabrielle Brace Stevenson