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Jon Teamlaverne Jon Teamlaverne | 10:04 UK time, Thursday, 16 September 2010

Egremont Crab Fair and World Gurning Championships - Sat 18th Sept


The Crab Fair has been happening in the small Cumbrian town of Egremont since 1267, so it's one of the oldest fairs in the world. This isn't like modern day fairs, all the events here are truly authentically traditional and in some cases quite nutty and have been going on for centuries.


The 'Crab' bit of the name comes from crab apples that were thrown from a cart at 'juveniles' in the street. This still goes on today, though they now use slightly tastier apples and even non-juveniles can grab them.


There's a whole day of events including music, wheelbarrow races, 'terrier racing' and also a pipe smoking competition. Each competitor is given a clay pipe filled with tobacco and a lighted taper. The person who smokes his tobacco in the quickest time is the winner. Sounds pretty unhealthy.


And you know that expression 'to climb the greasy pole'? Well, that comes from an event at the fair in olden times when people would climb a 30ft pole smeared in lard to try and retrieve a prize - a side of mutton. This was still going on until 2003 when the pole was removed for 'safety reasons' (what could possibly be unsafe about climbing a very high pole smeared in slippery meat!?) - but now the good news is there's a new and safer pole and, guess what? It's designed by the Turner-Prize winning artist Jermey Deller. Yes, be impressed.


But the best event of all is saved for the evening - the World Gurning Championships. There's Junior Gurning, Ladies Gurning and then the big one - the Men's Gurning - when men contort their faces into very ugly weird grimaces. Apparently it's a huge draw.


So, if all that isn't enough to tempt you, I don't know what is.


Exploring Secret London Places


There's a couple of events coming up that allow you to explore hidden and private places in the capital that you wouldn't normally be allowed into.


Open House London from 18th - 19th September is a now annual event where various buildings or parts of buildings that are normally closed off to the public throw their doors open for one weekend only.


Some of the buildings are private homes that the owners think are interesting enough to share with the public - I quite like the idea of turning up and having a poke around someone's house - others are iconic landmarks.


The BT Tower is always a popular one to explore and other places like Hampton Court Palace and concert venues such as the Wigmore Hall and the Union Chapel will be opening parts that aren't normally open.


You can pick up a guide that gives you a full list of where you can go.


And then, the other event that really caught my eye is Blitz London Underground Tours which is running from Fri 24th - Sun 26th. I've already excitedly booked my tickets for this - it's a tour of a disused tube station - Aldwych - which was used as an air raid shelter during the Blitz.


This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and this is an event to commemorate it. It'll be really interesting to get a glimpse down into an unused tube station and imagine how people would hide out there during the bombing.


You can see Aldwych station if you ever walk down The Strand. It's often used as a location for filming. They filmed for 28 Weeks Later there and V for Vendetta and Atonement. The tours will be lead by actors dressed in 1940s gear and there'll be an old fashioned bus parked outside.


Good chance to catch another little bit of hidden London.


Great British Entertainment


As you may well know, Stephen Fry is in London. Excitingly, he's doing three live shows at The Royal Albert Hall on the 20, 21st and 23rd. He'll be talking about a range of subjects - a lot of it apparently generated by his Twitter followers. The first two nights are sold out but there's still tickets for the 23rd, but book soon, they won't last for long.


And if you can't get in to that, how about checking out...


The Best of British Variety Tour - an evening of classic old school performers from 'back in the day', including Strictly Come Dancing magician Paul Daniels, and other blasts from our childhood past like The Grumbleweeds, The Krankies and one half of Little and Large, Syd Little.


It's touring all over the place in the next couple of weeks... Newcastle, Bradford, Derby, Wolverhampton, Huddersfield.


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