A deal is on the cards to keep one of Ireland’s last surviving traditional family funfairs in the Cork town where it has been based for almost a century.
Funfair showman Brendan Piper confirmed he now hopes to stage his family’s much-loved funfair in its traditional quayside location in the heart of Kinsale again next summer under the terms of a new deal on offer from Cork County Council. However, he accepts he will have to find a new home for the funfair's landmark showman's wagon.
“I appreciate that the council has had a change of heart. This was never about fighting with the council. We wanted to negotiate with the council.
“We have to meet council halfway. We can’t have it every way. In negotiations, you don’t always get 100% of what you want. But from what I’ve been told, we’re getting about 80%.
“I am still waiting to get the details in writing but it looks as if the funfair can continue and the showman’s wagon can stay in Kinsale, for the people of Kinsale," Mr Piper said.
The Piper family funfair has been a part of the social fabric of Kinsale since the 1930s.
Mr Piper’s grandfather, Old Bill, built the showman’s wagon in 1932. He, and his son, Bill Senior, who is now 82, lived in it for many years. It has always been parked in the town’s Short Quay, relocating to the funfair’s quayside site from May to September annually.
But it emerged in May that Cork County Council had threatened to impound the wagon unless it was removed from Short Quay, and had also proposed rent hikes for the funfair’s carpark site, which Piper’s said rendered the funfair unviable.
People were outraged and organised a petition and a protest to save the funfair.
The council defended its stance describing the rents as “exceptionally modest” and as “significantly below market levels”.
It said Piper’s funfair was exempt from commercial rates and the rent proposed for 2022 was a nominal charge in the context of commercial rents incurred by ratepayers in the town, and insisted the proposed increase in rental charges reflected a contribution to council services provided in the town and which would be enjoyed by visitors to the funfair.
Fine Gael councillor John O’Sullivan, chair of the Bandon-Kinsale Municipal District, set out to find a compromise and said following several meetings, a package to keep Piper’s in Kinsale is now on the table.
“This situation arose out of people talking at one another, rather than talking to one another,” he said.
The council is still seeking a small rent increase for the use of its quayside car park but he said officials have indicated there will be flexibility and support for the funfair. The council has also insisted that Piper’s make arrangements to protect the car park’s new surface.
Marc Ó Riain, the local Green Party representative, who along with former Piper's worker, Helen Hickey, mounted the public campaign to save the funfair, praised local public representatives for their support and the estimated 2,700 people who signed their petition and who "stood up for their own local intangible culture".
Mr Ó Riain, who described the funfair as much a part of Kinsale as Charlesfort or the sea, said: “It’s a great win, a win for the Pipers family and for Brendan and Bill who I’m delighted for, for all of Kinsale, for all the kids who will be able to enjoy the merries and for common sense.
"It really shows you that when we stand together we can achieve something - together. I would like to thank Helen Hickey, Cllr Sean O’Donovan, Christopher O’Sullivan TD and all those who signed petitions, wrote letters and generally supported the campaign."
However, the council is still insisting that the wagon be removed from Short Quay to one of two alternative but central locations.
Mr Piper said one of those locations is definitely acceptable to him but he said he did not want to take up the council’s offer of a commemorative plaque at Short Quay.
“This was not about plaques or fighting over land. The people of Kinsale have spoken, they want the funfair and wagon kept in Kinsale and I think we can do that. The council has been good enough to let us back on to the quay.
“I can’t thank people enough for what they have done us, organising the petition and the rally. This is a seasonal business and an asset to the town. We won’t become millionaires doing it. We just want to give families those treasured childhood memories, and do that with the help of the council.”