Return of The Scarborough Fair could see light and arts trails - and a cool new surf and BMX festival
Now the words Scarborough Fair aim to capture creative intent, with an established director to oversee new merrymaking ambitions.
Under a three year plan there might be cool surf-style festivals, with live music bands. Or culture trails, reinterpreting the idea of what street art is.
There will almost certainly be a light festival, with lanterns or illuminations bringing a hazy glow to Scarborough's starlit streets. To David Edmunds, anything is possible.
Culture isn't bound by art, but brings dividends, the newly appointed director for The Scarborough Fair insists. First and foremost in experience, and the sharing of ideas, then maybe later with tourists and economic spend.
"All events shouldn't be for everybody - that would end up bland," he said. "But everything is on the table. There should be something for everybody.
"We have redefined, in the last 10 years, what culture means. It's everything from food to tattooing to theatre - it's everything we consume as humans that enrich our lives.
"There is a nod to the history," he added. "But we're not going to lean too much on what was but what is. For me, that's in the conversations and the character and the clifftops and Scarborough's heart - that is Scarborough Fair. There is a character you don't find anywhere else."
The phrase Scarborough Fair may be best known from a folk song made famous by Simon & Garfunkle. In fact it is first recorded in history under Royal Charter in 1253, as a fair drawing merchants from as far away as the Ottoman Empire to "sell goods of true worth".
The fair survived for some 430 years, seen for the last time in 1788. Then, it meant a market place for the sale of spices or goats, reflected Mr Edmunds.Now, he is looking to make that a market hall "full of ideas and knowledge and moments".
"That, post Covid, is a strong narrative," he said. "We have found the value of art and culture. People crave it. We are seeing that appetite for large scale, outdoor festivals and events."
The idea has been years in the making, to bring people to the region and attract investment while boosting the district's profile.
Funded by the Government's Towns Fund and delivered by Scarborough Council, it has been driven by an advisory panel, with chairman Paul Robinson of the Stephen Joseph Theatre hailing this as the "big moment" Scarborough has been waiting for.
Mr Edmunds, a festivals director and artistic director and producer, has more than 20 years' experience including with The Arches Festivals in Worcester and delivering large-scale outdoor commissions under Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture.
With the council's head of tourism and culture Janet Deacon he is to help draw up a creative programme to span three years until 2026, featuring local artists, businesses, and visiting companies. Mr Edmunds starts in March, with a blank drawing board.
The first ambition is towards a light festival this autumn or winter, building on the success of similar in Durham and Leeds. Then next year an arts trails, interpreting street art perhaps, or international street theatre the following summer.
One radical idea that could reshape perceptions could be a surf-style festival, with live music and BMX sports in the style of Cornwall's Boardmasters.
After a 250 year absence there is a "little bit of pressure", admitted Mr Edmunds. The hope is to add, not replace, he insists, filling in gaps and cracks to enhance the district's offering.
"Nobody knows, even me, what Scarborough Fair is going to look like," he said. "What we hope is for Scarborough Fair to be an umbrella - a thing we can hang lots of things off.
"Are we going to have Simon & Garfunkle tribute acts? Definitely not. Two hundred years ago the fair was selling clothes from Eastern Europe - the currency now is in paddleboards.
"It's a meeting place, that is what Scarborough is," he added. "A global meeting place of minds and the sharing of stories. And we need more connections, there is enough division.
"For a long time arts and culture was seen as a luxury item. We now understand that culture, at the heart of regeneration or redevelopment, the economic impact is huge. Scarborough has some unique characteristics that mean its chances of success are far greater.”