Scarborough Fair set to return after 235-year absence

David Edmunds. Credit: Scarborough Borough Council.

Scarborough Fair, which was last held in the 18th century, is to be revived.

The effort to re-establish this festival – which is intended to attract investment, enhance Scarborough’s profile and draw audiences from across the region and beyond – has gathered pace with the appointment of a festival director.

David Edmunds, a festivals director, artistic director and producer with more than 20 years’ experience working within cultural industries worldwide, has been appointed to the role.

He will lead on the delivery of a creative programme for Scarborough Fair, which will span three years from 2023 to 2026.

He will work with local artists, communities, businesses and visiting companies to co-design and produce the festival.

Established under Royal Charter in 1253, the original Scarborough Fair drew merchants from as far away as the Ottoman Empire to ‘sell goods of true worth’ to hundreds of visitors each August and September.

The fair survived for 430 years, taking place for the last time in 1788.

After a 235 year absence The Scarborough Fair is set to return under David’s stewardship – “less mercantile and more magical” – reimagined as a year-round programme of distinctive arts, heritage, culinary and sporting events at venues throughout the town.

Edmunds is currently festivals director for The Arches Festivals in Worcester but will be based in Scarborough when he takes up his new role from March 2023.

Paul Robinson, chairman of The Scarborough Fair Advisory Group and The Scarborough Fair founder, said: “The Scarborough Fair will celebrate all our beautiful region has to offer – the people, food, sport, music, art and so much more – in all its exciting and vibrant colours.

“The appointment of the hugely lauded David Edmunds to the role of festival director is the next step in realising the cultural regeneration of our area. The Scarborough Fair is the ‘big moment’ that we have long been waiting for.”

Edmunds said: “I’m thrilled to be taking on the role of festival director for The Scarborough Fair. I’m excited for the amazing things we will bring to life, with and for, the communities of the town and further afield, over the next few years.

“This feels like a really exciting time for Scarborough and I’m looking forward to immersing myself in it and contributing to the already diverse and vibrant cultural community that already exists in the town.”

Development of the festival programme is being guided by Janet Deacon, head of tourism and culture at Scarborough Borough Council. Deacon said: “I am confident that the rebirth of The Scarborough Fair will be spectacular in David’s hands.

“I look forward to working with him, the rest of the team and our partners on an ambitious programme of live events, which will build on Scarborough’s unique cultural offer and create year round opportunities for residents, local businesses and visitors.”