The first 20 years of The Independent State of Cuckfield

By Claire Cooper

2016 is an important year for Cuckfield as the village celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Independent State and the Annual Mayoral Elections. Still at the heart of village life, today’s Independent State of Cuckfield, or ISOC, remains the village’s main fundraising organisation, and has provided a lifeline for many local groups and charities. Over the next few issues of Cuckfield Life we will look at how the organisation has evolved, including significant stories from the past 50 years and recollections from some of the former Mayors. We will also tell you how you can get involved in this year’s celebrations and elections.

With its corrupt election process and blatant vote rigging, the annual elections for the Mayor of the Independent State of Cuckfield are a light-hearted and somewhat frivolous affair. But when the organisation was formed back in 1966 it was no laughing matter as the village was locked in a serious dispute with the local council.

The dispute centred around the Cuckfield Donkey Racing club, set up in 1951 by Peter and Phyl Bowring and George Hall, which had traditionally held Donkey races on Easter Monday, first at Park Barn Farm (where Warden Park now stands) and later at Mill Hall Farm at Whitemans Green.

However, in 1966, the land at Mill Hall was compulsorily purchased by the local authority as recreation land and permission to stage the event was refused as it was thought that the donkey’s hoofs would damage the newly laid out rugger pitches.

“We were completely flabbergasted,” Peter Bowring later recalled. “Not only did many local good causes rely on our annual contribution to their funds, the events had already been advertised and expenses had been incurred. We had to think quickly of some other means of raising the money.

Read the rest of the article on page 14 of the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Cuckfield Life.