Corby town celebration awarded £158,000 for Pole Fair heritage event

Corby Pole Fair has been awarded a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to celebrate local history

Monday, 6th December 2021, 11:55 am
Updated Monday, 6th December 2021, 11:56 am

Corby' s once-every-20-years Pole Fair celebration has been awarded a Heritage Fund grant of £158,000 to stage a major year-long community heritage event for the town.

The Corby Pole Fair steering group has received the funding to mark the Corby Pole Fair which will take place on Friday, June 3, 2022.

Centred on the Old Village the major community celebration is said to have been marked in some form for more than 1,000 years, with the next one planned to coincide with Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

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The priest in charge of St John's Church reads the charter at dawn after being carried through the streets on a chair 1982

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the volunteer steering group, alongside project partners Made With Many, will be able to continue this important tradition through a spectacular day celebrating local heritage.

Denise Westwood, chairman of the Pole Fair steering group, said: “Corby Pole Fair is a very special day for the people of Corby and we are extremely grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund for recognising the uniqueness of our event and supporting us so handsomely. Thanks to National Lottery players we are looking forward to a truly magical day.”

There are lots of historical stories associated with the Pole Fair, from its evolution as a small Viking settlement, to the right to hold fairs granted by Henry III in 1226, and the story of why Elizabeth I granted the Corby Charter after an accident in a bog.

Next June’s event aims to tell these stories through a variety of engaging activities, including a pageant, a living history encampment as well as open days at Corby Heritage Centre for visitors to explore Pole Fair archives dating back to 1902.

In the stocks at the Corby Pole Fair 1982

Additional activities around the event have also been planned following a period of consultation during 2020, when the steering group surveyed and spoke to local residents to find out what they wanted from the fair.

In the months running up to the event there will be workshops with schools and community groups to learn about Corby’s history, and the opportunity to create artwork to be showcased at the fair in June, including the making of large scale puppets of significant figures which will lead a walking parade through the Old Village.

Local groups will also be invited to make decorative archways to adorn the three gateways to the Old Village, where the local vicar will carry on the tradition of reading the Corby town charter at dawn on the day of the fair.

Visitors to the fair will also be expected to pay a small toll to enter the fair on the day, or risk ending up in the village stocks.

The committee also have plans for a wide range of artistic and community activities, including music, street performers, a teddy bears’ picnic and community breakfast, which need to be funding from other sources.

To supplement the generous lottery funding that has made the event possible, an additional crowdfunder and sponsorship opportunities for businesses have been set up.

Following the 2022 Pole Fair in June, video footage of the event will be made into a film to capture this special day in Corby history, which will be shown through local and online screenings.

Permanent heritage boards will also be installed across the Old Village and a digital archive will be stored in the Corby Heritage Centre as a legacy for the enjoyment and education of generations to come.

Anne Jenkins, director, England Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund added: “We are delighted to support Corby in continuing this tradition which dates back to over a thousand years ago. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, this unique part of Corby’s history will continue to be enjoyed by all.”