In this film, traditional fairground artist Pete Tei talks about his life with fairground art.
Over the last five decades, Pete has become one of the most sought after traditional fairground artist in Britain and has developed his own signature style, a modern take on traditional scrollwork, widely known as the Tate Worm.
The video is one of a series of films created for the National Fairground and Circus Archive exhibition Engineering Fun: The Story of Orton and Spooner.
More about Pete Tei
From a very young age Pete started to collect Dinky toys and transport related items. His interest in transport evolved into an interest in fairgrounds after observing the seasonal arrival of the showmen’s trucks and lorries in his hometown. By the time he was seven, Pete started to visit fairgrounds with his best friend Ken Mellors. Initially, they both focused on fairground transport, but gradually their interest expanded to fairground rides.
Pete and Ken joined other enthusiasts building fairground models, which they started to exhibit in the mid-1960s. Their models attracted the attention of the showmen, who saw potential in Pete’s artwork and advised him to visit veteran fairground artist Fred Fowle (1914-1983). In 1970, Fred became Pete’s mentor and taught him everything he knew about fairground art and the business. At the time Pete was working in a cabinet making factory but was made redundant in 1975. In October 1976, after going through a difficult period in both his professional and personal life, Pete met showman Albert Holland while visiting Belper Fair. After seeing his fairground models, Albert offered Pete his first commission to paint his Cyclone Twist ride. Although translating his miniature painting into a full size ride posed many challenges, Pete thoroughly enjoyed the experience and on 23rd November, he set himself up in business as Tate Décor. Pete learnt a lot about the fairground community and the business from his first job, including mass production techniques that he had never used before. Holland’s Cyclone ride, became his advertising board to other showmen, who were soon commissioning his work.
- Film produced by the University of Sheffield Library
- Featuring artist Pete Tei