THE MOP has seen plenty of changes during its time in Stratford, and one man has been on hand to witness many of them.
John Hatwell has been working at the Mop for a staggering 75 years.
After starting out as a youngster enjoying the rides, he began working with his dad when he was just nine years-old and has now passed the family business onto his son Bradley.
The 84 year-old still makes the trip from his Oxfordshire home every October to help run the family’s two children’s rides – a Waltzer and a Thomas the Tank Engine ride.
Dad-of-two Mr Hatwell told the Observer: “Things have changed a lot from when I was little.
“My mum used to take me to the town every year to have a go on the rides. They were just 3p a go back then but now they are about £2.
“I still love going to help out at the Mop every year. We get up at 5.30am to make the trip over and then spend a while setting up the rides.
“For years we used to go to BHS for breakfast but since they closed we had to go to Wetherspoons. It’s turned into a bit of a ritual for us.”
But Mr Hatwell says the fair is not the laid-back event it once was. He says people are now in more of a rush to get around, and as a result spend less time enjoying the rides.
And he also says the costs to keep running are much higher now than they used to be, as is the stress of running the fair.
Mr Hatwell said: “It used to cost me a bit each year in public liability insurance, but now the amount of work and cost which goes into running the rides is much higher.
“My son has a mountain of paperwork to fill out and has to have so many people in to inspect the rides for all different things.
“I understand it but things aren’t what they used to be for the people running the rides.
“The Mop isn’t about what it was when I was a child too, it used to be about workers looking for employment. Then if the employers had made a bad choice they could go back the following week for the Runaway Mop.
“We don’t do the Runaway Mop anymore as there is too much competition for space.”
Despite the extra stresses on being a showman, he has no plans of giving up any time soon.
He added: “I’ll keep going to the Mop for as long as I can. It’s something I really look forward to each year. It’s great seeing how excited the children get and it’s always nice to meet the mayor.”