Showmen’s Guild (SGGB)

Age 1889
Seasonal No
Fixture Permanent
Physical Scale Small
Experiential Scale Small
Geographical Scale National

The SGGB is an organization established to protect the interests of its members, those travelling showmen who gain their livelihoods by attending funfairs. It is the most powerful, although not the only, organization within the communities of travelling showpeople, with over 4000 families listed as members. The SGGB imposes strict rules of conduct on its own members, and is an accepted negotiating body for travelling showmen at regional and national (parliamentary) level.

The SGGB grew out of a mass movement against George Smith MP attempt to legislate the movements of all travelling people in his proposed Moveable Dwellings Bill (between 1884 and 1891). In response to this threat, showpeople joined together to form the United Kingdom Van Dwellers Association in 1889. The establishment or emergence of the SGGB is not fully clear, as in the last decade of the C19 and early years of the C20th, various organisations, or various names for the same organization, were in circulation, including the United Kingdom Showmen and Van Dwellers’ Protection Association (Showmen’s Guild) and The British Roundabout Proprietors’ and Showmen’s Union. The terms of reference and ‘rules’ of the Showmen’s Guild were first drafted in 1902–03, and have continued to evolve.

The SGGB is organized and administered democratically, with a system of ten regional sections covering the whole of Great Britain. Each section is run by a committee of members. Four members from each section committee are appointed every year to serve on the Central Council, 
the national governing body of the Guild. In addition to the section delegates, the Central Council includes the six officials of the Guild, all past presidents and the Guild's legal consultant. Some of the Central Council’s powers have been delegated to three main committees; Management, Appeals and Safety.

Further Reading:

T. Murphy (Thomas). History of the Showmen’s Guild / Pt.1, 1889-1939. London: Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain and Ireland, 1940.

and T. Murphy (Thomas). Continuation of the History of the Showmen’s Guild. UK, 1950.