Showmen’s hope for a permanent home

PUBLISHED: 11:05 05 August 2009 | UPDATED: 23:55 15 June 2010

SHOWMEN: Robert Kefford (right) and Michael De Vey have found their families a permanent home in Clyst St Mary.

SHOWMEN: Robert Kefford (right) and Michael De Vey have found their families a permanent home in Clyst St Mary.

GENERATIONS of showmanship will not be consigned to the history books if East Devon District Council supports plans for a permanent amusement depot. The De Vey and Kefford families, who have been entertaining West Country residents for 150 years with fairground attractions

GENERATIONS of showmanship will not be consigned to the history books if East Devon District Council supports plans for a permanent amusement depot.

The De Vey and Kefford families, who have been entertaining West Country residents for 150 years with fairground attractions, hope to have ended a three-year search for a new base.

Their way of life has been threatened by vast swathes of housing development, which have swallowed up land formerly used by travelling showmen.

Now, through a planning consultant, they have submitted an application for a base at Clyst St Mary.

Businessmen Michael De Vey, 61, and his brother-in-law, Robert Kefford, 55, have spoken to the Midweek Herald about Green Acre Farm and why they bought it.

The men, who are members of the Showmen's Guild, said: "Teignbridge District Council was marvellous to us.

"They let us stay at the former council depot at Kennford for six years. Right from the beginning, they said it was a temporary arrangement - until work started on a new primary school and parish hall.

"They even let us stay during the initial construction; we couldn't fault them."

For more than a century, the fair families used a network of established bases. But, because of housing developments, those sites have disappeared. The families' search for a new base, both to live and carry out essential health and safety checks on their fair equipment, started in 2005.

East Devon District Council was approached in a bid to identify a site. The families have long been part of traditional events in East Devon and were victims of the freak weather that devastated Ottery St Mary in October last year.

Their site was one of the worst affected and they are thankful there was no loss of life.

Mr Kefford said: "East Devon District Council couldn't help us, so we ended up writing to 62 parishes.

"We had nice letters back."

The families would like to thank Honiton Town Council for making a public appeal for landowners to come forward.

"That appeal generated two offers," said Mr Kefford.

"Unfortunately, they were not suitable due to access."

Green Acre Farm was purchased by the families two years ago.

Now they have "ticked all the boxes" with planners, they are playing a waiting game until the final decision is made.

"We need somewhere to live with our families," said Mr De Vey.

"Our children have been accepted at the local school in Clyst St Mary ; our roots are in the Westcountry.

"We want to thank all the people who have helped us.


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