First Person - with Debbie Clarke

Debbie Clarke, Fife Free Press
Debbie Clarke, Fife Free Press

WELL it’s that time of year once again...the Links Market is once again rolling into the Lang Toun.

It is well known as Europe’s longest streetfair and attracts crowds from near and far when it comes to Kirkcaldy every Spring.

How I would have liked to have been around when the Links Market first started. Back then, the entertainment on offer was a lot different ...

The Links Market is officially recorded as having begun in 1304 as a weekly market for traders, craftsmen and farmers.

In 1305 Edward the First granted the burgh of Kirkcaldy the right to host an annual fair at the Easter Octave and this grew into the Links Market.

I would have enjoyed going to funfairs in the 1300s. They were well known for attracting traders and traditional performers such as acrobats, jugglers and musicians who would move from town to town visiting the fairs. You just don’t get these types of acts at funfairs anymore.

Freak shows

They developed as time passed, so by the time the 18th century arrived, strolling players, freak shows and exhibitions, performing animals and masters of various skills were commonplace.

It was at this time that simple fairground rides also became popular such as roundabouts which were moved by ponies and helter-skelters.

But while I am a fan of more traditional entertainment, I don’t think I would be very happy going along to see freak shows and performing animals. I don’t see what is entertaining about paying to look at so-called ‘freaks’ and it certainly would not be tolerated in today’s society. Performing animals is another spectacle I am not comfortable with. In these type of shows you never know how well the creatures are being treated - if they are being fed properly and if their living conditions are cramped. I remember seeing old films where they would show fairs and circuses which would include lions and other wild animals, which they just aren’t allowed to do anymore. Plus there is the health and safety aspect of it. Trying to whip a lion until it jumps through a colourful hoop is just asking for trouble!

However, I would love to see tightrope walkers and trapeze artists - I think the skill and talent they demonstrate is fantastic.

Flame-throwers are also enjoyable to watch as well as magicians who can turn a few tricks. But these days, fairs are all about high-flying rides and high-tech equipment because these are the types of things people are now looking for.

Teenagers now don’t want to go and see tightrope walkers and magicians, they would probably find them dull and boring. They want thrills and spills and fancy electrical lighting with loud music!

Simpler life

Mind you, I suppose that is what I wanted when I was 16 years old. It’s only when you get older that you start yearning for the past and a more simpler way of life, to a time when people were easily amused.

But because technology has advanced so quickly at such a fast pace, we have come to expect entertainment to advance as well. We live in a world of iPods, Kindles, iPads, Blackberrys and laptops, so teenagers probably wouldn’t be entertained by someone balancing on a long rope as it seems too simplistic.

But today’s Links Market is still good fun and Kirkcaldy wouldn’t be the same each April without it. The market is full of thrilling rides, yet there are still some traditional features which have remained over the years including the sideshow stalls, the carousel and the tea-cups.

And I for one am looking forward to heading down to the Esplanade this weekend, so I can jump on a carousel horse with my digital camera in one hand ... and a toffee apple in the other.