Where’s Father Harry now?

Trading at Birmingham Sunday Carboot, Wholesale Market

It has been said that Father Harry Clarke, a Catholic priest from Stockport, introduced the car boot sale to the UK as a charity fundraiser, after seeing a similar event or trunk fair in Canada while on holiday there in the early 1970s.

The legend of Father Harry has grown, despite the lack of any real sources, rather like Car boot Sales themselves. Some have speculated Father Harry would be looking on with some satisfaction as our love of cars and consumerism merge in a small, local and very amateur way to recycle and raise funds.  Some carboots have grown far beyond to include fair rides, professional dealers and food vans, but I’ve never been to a carboot which hasn’t retained the fundamentals of what has become a ‘Great British institution’
Defined by Birmimgham City Council – A car boot sale is an outdoor sale where people sell unwanted possessions, usually from the boots of their cars.  That much is obvious.  What is less obvious is what that mix of amateur and professional traders means – Car boot sales are the fertile ground of our Great British entrepreneurs – it’s where it all begins.  You need the cost of your pitch and the rest is up to you.
It is not just Father Harry missing from the car boot scene.  It is easy to see the entrepreneurial roots in Car boot sales, but where are the champions for car boot sales?  When a car boot sale is under threat, who is prepared to stand up for it?  There is no national body.  This might not be surprising given the nature of business, the casual uncertainty of traders and punters coming or going, the locations on fields, car parks, areas of mixed use.
It;s history is likewise dubious and undocumented.  When looking into the history of the Sunday Car Boot Sale on Birmingham Wholesale Market – a huge Carboot of over 300 pitches – we’re reliant on hearsay and anecdotal stories – we can’t even be certain when the carboot started.
Despite it’s rich heritage and value to the economy, with no history, champion, or voice, what hope does a car boot sale like Birmingham’s Sunday Car boot sale have to remain in our city centre when it is threatened by bigger businesses and property developers?

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