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Carters Steam Fair raises £11,700 for children's hospice despite COVID challenges

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

Carters Steam Fair has managed to raise more than £11,700 for charity in 2020 – despite great challenges caused by COVID-19.

Under ordinary circumstances, Carters raises at least £10,000 for Alexander Devine’s children’s hospice through events like art tours and signwriting festivals.

Fundraising was difficult last year because Carters was unable to travel with its fairground due to the pandemic.

Despite the challenges, the team still managed to beat its goal of £10,000 for the local hospice.

Starting in the first lockdown, Carters adapted by changing its business to sell more merchandise and offer online traditional sign-writing classes.

Joby Carter leads the sessions, having learned the craft when he was 17 years old.

“These days if people want a sign they print something or get a sticker. Sign-writing is a skill that takes a five-year apprenticeship,” he said.

He said the art was ‘nearly dying’ but since moving online, has found a new, growing, worldwide audience willing to learn the practice.

“People all around the world have fallen in love with something I’m passionate about,” he said.

The money raised for the hospice was made by holding a short auction at the beginning of his Thursday sessions for a custom sign painted by Joby or Anna Carter or Gerald Whittaker.

“It was an off-the-cuff decision – something positive and creative I could do in such a tough time,” said Joby. “People have been good sports about it, paying over the odds because it’s for charity.”

A Captain Tom sign raised £500 and a sign commemorating the Showman’s Guild’s Second World War efforts raised £800.

Joby and Scarlett Rickard also brought out a book called ‘Signwriting: Tips, Tricks and Inspiration’ complete with around 370 full-colour photographs of brush-painted signwriting and fairground art.

The book sales come with the option of a signed copy for an extra £2.50 that goes straight to charity.

The team raised £1,335 from these signatures alone, selling thousands of copies of the book in more than 30 countries.

Joby went to the hospice at the end of December and gifted them a hand-painted rocking horse and some giant teddies from the set of Paddington 2 for the children. The event was live-streamed on Facebook.

Carters Steam Fair intends to try its best to raise at least another £10,000 in 2021.

To order a copy of the book, book places on a signwriting course or read more about the team’s projects, visit

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