Celebrating traditional skills in a digital age – our first signwriting festival

5 December, 2019

Celebrating traditional skills in a digital age – our first signwriting festival

We live in a world where we are surrounded by content that is competing for our attention: videos, memes, images and messages fill our digital screens with bold colours competing for our attention. Technology has made it incredibly easy to be creative – whether it’s using a computer with full-blown design programmes or using an app on our phone, we can create colourful graphics in an instant to share online or send to be printed on paper, vinyl or other materials.

Keeping traditional signwriting skills alive

As much as we love taking advantage of this new technology to keep in touch with all of our Carters fans around the world, we feel very strongly about using traditional techniques to restore our rides and we are proud to share the traditional skills of signwriting with others whenever we can. These traditional signwriting skills would originally have been passed down through the generations via apprenticeships which aren’t so easy to come by these days. In the age of instant downloads and online training at the touch of a button, it would be easy for these skills to be forgotten and left obsolete.

traditional signwriting techniques

A new way to showcase traditional skills – a signwriting festival

Visitors to the fair at any of our locations can see examples of traditional signwriting all around the fair and at some of our locations, fairground owner and artist Joby Carter offers guided tours to talk about the fairground art and history of the rides. But we know that the real ‘wow’ moments come when people see signwriting in action. It’s not until you’ve seen a plain piece of wood be transformed by someone with a paintbrush and mahl that you start to appreciate the level of skill and detail that goes into it. So, we decided to invite a group of our signwriter friends from the Letterheads collective to come along to our fair in September to give the public a chance to see them in action – our first-ever signwriting festival was born!

Over 100 signwriters from around the world gathered together on the Friday before the event was open to the public and started getting creative in the Grand Palace of Entertainment, a fantastic old-school freak show tent we set up for them to paint in. On Saturday the public were invited to watch the signwriters as they painted and to try their hand at using a brush and mahl.

Children were encouraged to colour-in some fancy lettering and they also had the chance to get creative with gold and aluminium leaf.

Visitors to the fair could also pick up a ‘fancy lettering’ treasure hunt sheet which talked through the different lettering styles that are used on our rides and attractions and shows how the lettering styles differ throughout the decades.

Unique hand-painted signs raising money for charity

On the Sunday morning, we held a charity auction of the items that had been painted throughout the weekend. The auction was lots of fun and is open to the public and all of the signwriters that attended the weekend. The auction gave our visitors a chance to buy one-of-a-kind hand-painted pieces of art featuring famous sayings, phrases and song lyrics, all beautifully hand-lettered.

The signs sold in the charity auction on Sunday ranged from £30-£650 and the most expensive sign sold was the Red Hand Gin sign which is a prototype for a series of 10 that are being created for the series ‘Peaky Blinders’ painted by Ashley Bishop from Brilliant Signs.

We were delighted to have shared the traditional skills of signwriting to a wider audience, but also to have raised over £14,000 for the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice! Thank you to everyone that supported the event – we are looking forward to holding another in 2020 when the fair returns to West Wycombe in July 2020.

Follow us on Facebook or sign up to our signwriting email list to stay in the loop and if you’re inspired to have a go at signwriting yourself, check out our new one-day course which encourages creatives to ‘ditch the digital’ and have a go at these traditional signwriting techniques. The first one sold out in record time so we have now added another one-day signwriting course in March 2020.

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Following the latest advice from the UK government and Public Health England, we are reviewing our upcoming 2020 tour dates. We’re very disappointed that we can’t bring the fun of the fair to you all but we hope to see you soon in 2020 when things settle down.

We will be monitoring the situation and we will update you weekly on our social media, or as soon as the situation changes. You can also find the latest information about our 2020 tour in our blog post which we will keep updated.

Thanks for all your patience while we work through these unpredictable times.

Joby, Georgina and the Carters Team.