On Sunday 13th December 2009 we returned to Delapre Abbey in Northampton for their annual Christmas craft fair… after our success at the 2008 event we were full of enthusiasm, Christmas spirit and I’m sure our expectations were quite high, after all last year we almost sold out of cards and candles and our little gifts went well too.
This year we made sure we had plenty of stock, more than last year and a wider range too, ready for the fantastic day we were expecting… unfortunately things weren’t looking quite as great from the outset.
We decided to drive down on Saturday evening and stay at the Premier Inn so we didn’t need such an early start on Sunday morning… we spoke to several staff both at the hotel and the adjoining restaurant none of which were aware of any event at the Abbey, bearing in mind the hotel was less than three miles away from the venue. Not to worry, we were sure there would be plenty of signs in the surrounding area and local advertising so we enjoyed a nice meal in the restaurant before returning to our room to relax watching X-Factor and an early night.
Sunday morning came round rather quickly and we were able to sort all emails in our room before a nice hot shower, breakfast and a drive to Delapre Abbey for the day ahead… thankfully we knew where the venue was as the only sign we saw was at the end of their driveway!! Not really a good start. Anyways, we got there and found someone with a clipboard (an organiser? who knows really!) and he told us to “choose a table and set up” as they had decided NOT to allocate tables and to just let everyone decide for themselves.
We set up our table in what seemed like a relatively good location with plenty of space for potential customers and visitors to have a look around without feeling claustrophobic but as we were setting up we noticed that the lack of organisation was becoming very apparent… there were seven stallholders who just “turned up” and they were given tables!! Bearing in mind there were apparently nine stallholders who didn’t turn up, who knows where they would have been put!! Other stallholders were using several tables when only one had been booked and as a result they were bringing in extra tables to accomodate the stallholders as they arrived. As you can imagine it ended up very cramped, everyone very close together with very restricted space for walking around the marquee and a lot of people complaining.
The number of visitors who attended the craft fair this year was definitely less than last year and those who we were chatting to had found out about the event purely by chance or seeing the sign at the end of the drive on the day, from what we heard there was no local advertising. While people were happy to browse there weren’t many people who were buying on the day, though lots were taking business cards and contact details for possible future purchases. We did cover stall costs with this event but our takings were about 75% down on the same event in 2008… very disappointing.
Customers and stallholders alike were commenting on the freezing temperatures within the marquee and also the poor lighting. When we booked for this event we were promised heating and lighting within the marquee… did we get it? No, don’t be silly… when someone asked about it, they were told that the lighting outside the marquee was sufficient and they had no facility to provide heating, bearing in mind last years venue had both heating and lighting provided.
The highlight of the day was being surrounded by some lovely crafters and meeting new people as well as being able to catch up with crafters from last year including the lovely Ren and her beautiful daughter Lauren of Urban Angel Jewellery, as well as Alison of Frute Juce, Mary and lots more lovely people.
Sadly, the change in organiser of this event was clear to see as there were several areas which were very disappointing in comparison to the previous year, including several stalls selling mass produced and bought-in goods, and a few of the crafters we spoke to did say that they would not return for future events at this venue which is a shame but as crafters we cannot afford to spend time and money on venues where the organisation and advertising is so poor.
I sincerely hope that if the craft fairs at Delapre Abbey are to continue then then people who are responsible for the organisation look at this years advertising, layout and variety of stallholders and take these things into account for future events as it is a lovely venue and seems a shame for such an awful turnaround in the space of twelve months.