Meet George, 81, the helter skelter fan who still loves the fairground

George Tovell loves everything about Great Yarmouth's Easter Fair

George Tovell, 81, enjoying a ride on the helter skelter when the Easter Fair was in Great Yarmouth - as he has done for more than 70 years. - Credit: Margaret Tovell

At the age of 81 George Tovell is very much young at heart with a zest for life that eclipses that of someone half his age.

He has visited Great Yarmouth's Easter Fair every year for at least 70 years and still enjoys getting giddy on the gallopers and hurling himself down the helter skelter.

Mr Tovell, of Sandringham Avenue, Great Yarmouth, and who despite his age and various ailments still works as a skipper on commercial fishing boats, said after a Covid-enforced break of two years he was delighted to be back among the thrills and spills of the Market Place attraction he has always loved and rates as the best.

Opening of the Easter Fair at Great Yarmouth Market Place. Great Yarmouth Mayor Adrian Thompson. Pic

Great Yarmouth mayor Adrian Thompson enjoys a ride at the Easter Fair - Credit: Brittany Woodman

And adding to his joy was the reception he received from one of the ride operators.

For the last four decades he had shared a laugh and a joke with the same man on the helter skelter, although they had never properly spoken.

"We usually go up on a Friday," he said.

"But this year we went on the Saturday and I was surprised by his reaction.

Opening of the Easter Fair at Great Yarmouth Market Place. Edith and Martha Woolston enjoying the ri

Edith and Martha Woolston enjoy a ride - Credit: Brittany Woodman

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"He looked so happy to see me and he came out of his cabin. First of all he wouldn't take the money.

"When I didn't turn up on the Friday night he thought I had gone with the Covid.

"I had a couple of rides and he said he went all over the country and I was the oldest to go on it. We wondered if I had got some sort of world record."

Mr Tovell, a father of three, has been visiting the Easter fair all his life - first hand-in-hand with his mother as a young child after the Second World War, and now with his wife of 57 years Margaret.

Lights on rides at the Easter Fair illuminate Great Yarmouth town centre.

Lights on rides at the Easter Fair illuminate Great Yarmouth town centre. - Credit: Luke Martin

For all those years he has been enjoying revolutions on the same carousel - which he reckons is among the best in the world and still with its original organ.

"I was so glad to see it back again," he said. "It is something I have always loved."

Opening of the Easter Fair at Great Yarmouth Market Place. Pictures: Brittany Woodman

The fair runs until Sunday - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Of his zest for life he said: "It's all about your attitude.

"I have heart problem, bad arthritis and COPD but apart from that I do not take too much notice.

"When I discovered I had a heart problem 17 years ago it was like being hit with a big hammer. You think your life is going to change - and it did for about a fortnight - but then I just carried on.

"The thing is if you can do it, then why not?"

The art of sliding

After more than 70 years of navigating the helter skelter Mr Tovell knows all the insider tips.

There are a few things you can do to make it go faster like tilting up a bit of the coconut mat and leaning backwards to reduce air resistance.

But overall it is pretty much down to the conditions, he said.

"If it's a bit damp you do not go so quick," he said.

"Two or three years ago it was a really slippy one and when my mat hit the bottom I did a whole forward roll.

"Over the  years I must have tried every way, I just do silly things."

A keen adventurer who has been chased by grizzly bears in Alaska, he said he could never resist the lure of a fairground and reckons Yarmouth beats them all when it comes to atmosphere.