Egremont’s Crab Fair Re-Gurns for another year

Egremont’s Crab Fair is one of the UK’s most historic events and makes a welcome return for the 752nd time on Friday the 20th – Saturday 21st of September. 

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The Crab Fair dates back to 1267 and has been held almost continuously, except for unavoidable interruptions during the War years. It is believed the fair began after the Lord of Egremont started a tradition of giving away crab apples to the residents of the town. This tradition continues even in modern times with the Parade of the Apple Cart, where apples are thrown to crowds which gather along the main street.

Events Of The Crab Fair

The fair is home to many traditional events, some of which have their origins in the nineteenth century, while others have been mainstays for the best part of a millennium.  The Greasy Pole in the market is one such tradition, although it’s now made from Carbon Fibre.  The objective is to climb to the top and retrieve the prize. Originally the prize was a hat and the winner would parade around the town in their new headwear.  It continues to this day, and in addition to the main prize, ribbons are now attached to the pole which can be grabbed from lower levels and exchanged for gifts around town.

Cumberland Wrestling remains a mainstay on the current list of attractions. The objective for Cumberland wrestlers is to lift up their opponent before dropping them face-up on the floor. Wrestlers costumes are often richly embroidered and this event is always popular with visitors to the Crab Fair field.

While the dangers of tobacco smoke are well-known, the annual pipe-smoking competition is still a favourite among adult attendees to Egremont Crab Fair. Whoever is capable of smoking a clay pipe filled with tobacco in the shortest time is declared the winner.

However, perhaps the most well-loved, and an instantly recognisable staple of the Crab Fair is the World Gurning Championships. While the origins of gurning are obscure – and some might say questionable – the annual competition attracts interest from national and international media, and involves competitors thrusting their heads through a leather horse collar while pulling a ridiculous, snarling and distorted face. Naturally, the ugliest contestant is declared the winner.


The Gurning competition has also gained a stamp of approval from Royal Mail.  It’s one of eight Curious Customs to make up a colourful collectable set of stamps.  The first-class stamp features what looks like the late Ron Looney and highlights the quirky sense of humour that is part of British life.

Egremont's Crab Fair Stamp (Royal Mail)

Egremont’s Crab Fair Stamp (Royal Mail)

A Modern Twist

Many of the Crab Fair’s events are steeped in a long tradition but there’s also plenty of modern activities for families to enjoy.  The fair coincides with Dancing In The Street, which is a family-oriented festival-style event on Egremont Main Street.

Dancing In The Street has grown to become one of West Cumbria’s biggest free events and the crowds will gather from 6 pm on Friday evening.  This years headline act is Shayne Ward, who was the winner of the second series of X-Factor and has recently played Aidan Connor in Coronation Street.

Also taking to the stage are Katy Ellis, who is a Katy Perry tribute act. I love the 80’s will also perform and we can expect a high energy set from Drums n Roses.  Local favourites Bernie and Jack Dublin will open the night.

While the acts will have you dancing in the street the entertainment also includes a fairground, kids entertainers, street traders, outdoor bar and more.

Festival Atmosphere

The main street comes to life again on Saturday morning with the Apple Cart a highlight at 12.30 pm.

Then follow the crowds up to the Crab Fair Field where there will be a full day of entertainment that includes traditional Cumberland wrestling, dog and ferret shows and much, much more.

The food and craft marquess will be a real treat with over 30 producers and makers from all over the county. It will be a celebration of all things Cumbrian.   

This is the first-ever food marquee and you’ll find everything from Kin Toffee Vodka to Mr Vicki’s Chutney.  Outside you can try Bockwurst Sausages, Chinese noodles, Crepes and Pancakes in the hot food area.  Chill out in the picnic area while the kids let off some steam – there’s plenty for them with funfairs, magicians, entertainers, donkey rides, alpacas and a mobile zoo amongst the offerings.

“We are also introducing the sports back this year after a long break,” explained organiser Daniel Shutt.  “That includes Grass Track cycling and athletics.  We are delighted to bring back something that has long been part of the traditional aspect of the event.”

If you want tradition, then head back to town for the famous The World Gurning Championships which is now taking place at The Falcon Club at 6 pm.

Celebrations will continue in the field and the night rounds off with Crab Fest. Kazabian will top the bill with support from the likes of the Coutbetweeners, Reggie, The Northern Threads, The Mustangz, Rogues, and Holborn Hillbillies amongst the headliners.

“It’s going to be bigger and better,” said Daniel. “Crab Fest is going to top off a fantastic family day of activities.  There’s the beer tent, a gin and fizz bar and with some fantastic music we will have everyone dancing the night away.”

With over 750 years of experience to draw on, organisers promise a great day out for the whole family.

Egremont Crab Fair takes place from 20 -21 September. Tickets to the Crab Fair Field cost £6 for adults and £3 for children/concessions, there is a 10% discount for tickets bought online. Entertainment on the Main Street is free.




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