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Bill Rowland interview: Events on the Common

Can you tell us about the Open Day and all the other events that take place throughout the year?

The Stables Open day started 18 years ago when we developed our yard and built new stables. I mentioned to the Clerk and Ranger then that wouldn’t it be nice to show our new stables off. The gates to the stable-yard had never been open before. People use to just peer through the gap. So we decided to have this open day for the yard and we had little stalls, demonstrations and saddlery. It all happened in the yard. I was very worried that the Conservators wouldn’t agree to it but there was such a nice crowd there that the Conservators gave us a day off in thanks for it and said we must do it next year. The following year it grew and grew and now in our 18th year we have quite a big event with a big arena on the Common. We have many charity stalls and a piped band. We are very much linked with the Army and lucky to get a couple of Household Cavalrymen who turn up, the local Reservists. It has become quite a popular event in SW19.

We are not quite as big as the Village Fair which I have seen grow over the years. I can remember 20 years ago when people used to walk across to Rushmere with a suitcase as we wouldn’t even allow them park their cars on the Common. They would walk across with a trestle table and suitcase and start their Fair there. But now we are looking at a pretty major event.

Another event beside Rushmere each year, an unofficial event, is the Ball Boys’ Party and that happens on the last Sunday of the tennis [fortnight], Men’s Final day. What it started off as was the Wimbledon Tennis giving all the crates of soft drinks to the Ball Boys and Ball Girls for a party on the Common. But it escalated from that to a mini rave.  The Ball Boys and Ball Girls all go off at about 10pm but then it turns into quite a big event. We have to have the police there. At least three or four keepers stay up all night manning it, just to stop them lighting fires, that’s our main problem.  But we can get up to 3000 people there and it is nothing to do with the tennis any more.  I can’t see the point of it. All they do is sit round in circles in the dark but the rubbish is absolutely terrible in the morning. We have to have a complete team out but I can assure people that by 8am you wouldn’t think that anything had ever happened there.   

Another event over the last few years is Bookfest which is very popular now. It has grown each year and the people of Wimbledon really enjoy it.