From Iceland — Fairground in the Family

Fairground in the Family

Published August 1, 2008

Taylor made for your fun

Fairground in the Family
Photo by

Taylor made for your fun

Taylors Funfairs are run by the sixth generation of British Fairground folk. Now in their 18th year in Iceland, their Tivoli in Hafnarfjörður is currently in full swing. David Taylor has been running the fair for 33 years and it has been passed down from generation to generation for over a century.  Members of The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, the new blood of the fair is David Taylors’ brood, 23 year old Cumbrian, Elleray Taylor, and her little brother Kane along with 10-15 other fairground staff.

“It’s good fun and different”, Elleray smiles. “At school kids would say, ‘we’ve been skiing on holiday’ and I’d say, ‘We’ve been to the Caribbean!’ It’s never boring.”

The nomadic lifestyle creates many opportunities and Elleray travels with Taylors all around the world; she recounts that she’s been with the Tivoli to Africa, The Caribbean, Dubai, Norway and Gibraltar. Obviously, it’s not all fun and games; people don’t always know their limits, and whoever is working on the rides has to clean up any mess that is made by the Tivoli’s queasy visitors. Despite these less glamorous chores, working the fairground is like joining the circus, and most are family run, and well managed. Based on morals of freedom and hard work, it is obvious these fairground workers take pride in their craft.

I asked if Elleray was given a choice of joining the family business. “We had a choice, but we were also told this is what the family does, and we enjoy doing it, so there it is.” I then asked if she would consider going corporate and working for The Disney Franchise. “I would, but just to learn what they do. They’re the best in the world, but me and Dad work quite closely together.” It’s clear she is where she wants to be, and that Taylors constantly strives to improve itself.

It seems these more humble fairs can be run far better than their more grotesquely sized competitors. For the customer, less time is spent trying to navigate vast, themed terrains with cartoon-style maps, and instead is focused on enjoying the rides and being together. Also, the local fair is generally less than a bus ride away, making the hardest part of the day deciding what to go on and how much food you can stomach.

Defying the conventional stereotypes of faded and dangerous carnivals and their grizzly staff, Taylors Funfair is a wonderful example of the opportunities available to good people working very hard in Iceland. “People think we’re from Mars, but we’re normal people, here to work. The year the Beer Prohibition (1989) ended was the first year we came and there was nothing here – a cinema and a bowling alley”. They are a part of Iceland’s history and continue to be an entertaining and out-of-the-ordinary diversion.

Taylors is with the times. Their new ride the “Star Flier” is the hottest thing in Europe, and it arrives later in the year (the details of which involve a 45 meter pole and twelve chairs). They themselves are the nicest bunch of people you could hope to meet, honest and friendly.

As for the Tivoli itself, it’s an awesome experience and the rides are tremendous. I highly recommend The Ghosthouse, which had two Grapevine reporters paralyzed with fear, as well as the Waltzers, where we were truly given our money’s worth. It is a brilliant, family run enterprise that should be received with welcoming, open arms and as a treat for Reykjavík when it arrives at Áltavegur in a few weeks’ time.

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