Many years ago now the Elsenham Community Association started holding annual Craft Fairs in the Village Hall. I was just starting out in those days and had just got to the point of wondering what to do with all the stuff I was making. My hobby was the making and I had become good enough to have stopped throwing my efforts quietly in the bin! The village and I started in craft fairs together and we succeeded and grew together, eventually I got co-opted onto the committee and now my wife and I share both the Chair and Secretarial duties. Most of the rest of the committee are also exhibiting local craft-people so we have a very strong vested interest not just in making money for our community but in making the show an overall success. To us the show has to be seen as payday for all and good for the public too else they won’t come back next year.
It is not a large show, we can just pack in 27 stalls but we never do preferring to be able to move around easily. This puts a practical limit of 25 pitches on us but once we had 6 pull out at the last moment with a wide range of illnesses, even so an impressive display was put on and feedback from visitors was most favorable.
We are careful with our bookings, only good quality genuine craft goods are allowed in, our reputation around the villages is more important to us than the pitch fees. We have come to respect the acceptance criteria of the Guild of Essex Craftsmen and don’t need to verify the quality of members work. Some other ‘Guilds’ however simply make a charge to use their logo and do no vetting but we know who they are. We are however additionally careful to avoid excessive duplication and on our documentation the point is clearly made that exhibitors must not turn up with goods outside their declared interest. To resolve conflicts local craft-workers get first priority on a first come basis then the remaining pitches are thrown open but we prime the pumps so to speak with a mail shot to all the people who have exhibited with us before. As my wife and I travel around the venues we also keep an eye open for new people with fresh ideas and try to book them too, we need to keep the show developing.
Year on year the numbers of exhibitors from the Guild has been rising, not entirely due to them finding us but our local craftworkers acheiving the standards required to join. For the last few years the Guild has accounted for two thirds of the pitches and this year looks to be around three quarters.
Any craftworker wanting to exhibit can make contact through me. Non-guild members will be asked to provide returnable photos or samples of goods.