In his regular column for the Hereford Times, the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Richard Jackson, looks forward to the return of Hereford's May Fair... even if it means waiting a little longer

MY first introduction to the Diocese of Hereford was a caption competition in the Church Times.

The photograph was taken at the May Fair. Every year there is a compulsory picture of the bishop and cathedral dean on the big wheel.

In the picture, I saw the Rt Rev Richard Frith, my predecessor, and the former Dean of Hereford, the Very Rev Michael Tavinor sitting in a carriage on the big wheel – both looked rather ‘green’.

I was highly amused by the caption: “Mick and Rick being sick!”

Sadly, once again there will be no May fair, at least not in May this year. We are going to have a stab at holding it in August, when hopefully most people will have received their vaccinations and normal service can (hopefully) resume.

As Bishop of Hereford, I have yet to experience the May Fair and I am really looking forward to it.

It dates back to the 12th century and has been going continually since 1121. It is the oldest in the country.

I understand there were times when it was a bit raunchier than the good clean fun it is now. These days that it does not even have to be fattening to attend, as long as you stay away from the deep-fried doughnuts!

I am sure that by August a bit of fun will do us all good. These last 14 months have taken their toll, not just in the tragic losses of life and livelihoods, but also in the mental health issues that will continue with us for quite some time.

I am glad the fair began at the initiative of a former Bishop of Hereford. We Christians have an unfortunate reputation as a bunch of killjoys. Therefore, it is rather helpful to be able to point to an enlightened predecessor as the originator of it.

Although faith is about relationship before it is about rules, there is no doubt that you do find rules in the Bible. Some of them everyone would agree to; some seem a bit countercultural.

The rules are there for the same reason you have rules in football or any other sport. Football rules are set so everyone knows where they are with the game. There is an enormous amount of freedom and creativity within the boundaries of Christianity and football, which would not be possible if there were none.

Christians believe in a God who loves us more than we can imagine and who knows us better than we know ourselves. He is the one who sets the boundaries and who has our best interests at heart.

The rules are there to create a level playing field and protect the powerless.

Anecdotally, Native Americans used to have a game that went on for days across the prairies and was often fatal for the participants – personally, I prefer football, even with VAR!