First aid at Europes biggest fair

St John Ambulance volunteers on duty at just one of our local events

The Hoppings, Europe's biggest travelling funfair is on Newcastle Town Moor from June 20-28 and is world famous for its big rides and traditional fairground attractions and come rain or shine thousands of people go along each day.

Amongst those crowds keeping a reassuring eye on everyone's wellbeing are the dedicated team of volunteers from St John Ambulance Northumbria, who turn out year after year to keep fair goers safe with their first aid expertise.

It's one of the biggest first aid duties undertaken by Northumbria each year, and in 2008 there will be a constant presence of 12 first aiders on duty for the whole time that the fair is open, working on a rota system to cover the 30-acre site.

The operations co-ordinator and assistant commissioner for St John Northumbria, John Purvis, has worked closely with the police and fair organisers to organise the coverage, in a partnership that goes back many years.

He said: 'We've had everything you would expect and plenty of things you wouldn't at the Hoppings over the years – not least the weather which has brought sunburn or, like last year, bumps, sprains and bruises from falling over in the mud and rain.

'Safety is the main consideration of everyone involved with the event and we all want it to go smoothly, ensuring each person attending has a great time and enjoys the atmosphere. But when you get that number of people gathered in one place it's sheer probability that someone will hurt themselves or be taken ill, and that's why we are there, trained to deal with the first stages of any emergency.'

A St John Ambulance volunteer will be in the Hoppings control room the whole time, working alongside the police and stewards. St John first aiders will also man a high visibility medical post on site close to the main entrance, while even more volunteers cover the site on foot to make sure nothing is missed.

Mr Purvis said the training undergone by all St John volunteers was rigorous and detailed, adding: 'All of our volunteers are highly experienced first aiders and this is vital because you never know what to expect with crowds of this size.

'The weather could give us either a dustbowl or a mudbath and the casualties we deal with vary just as much – from cuts and grazes to heart attacks and broken bones.'

The Hoppings is one of Newcastle's most popular annual events and has been held in the last week of June since 1882.