Your ul­ti­mate guide to where to go and what to do in Oc­to­ber

Cotswold Life - - NEWS - LUCY GREAVES

Let’s get this party started!

How do you choose who par­tic­i­pates?

I’ve been do­ing this so long now, with tried and tested sell­ers, that I’m also try­ing to in­tro­duce peo­ple who haven’t had the op­por­tu­nity to sell be­fore. What I’ve found is that, with the sad demise of the High Street and the in­crease in in­ter­net buy­ing, peo­ple need some­where to pro­mote their wares. With a lot of peo­ple who sell at my fair, you wouldn’t or­di­nar­ily know that their prod­ucts ex­ist. And so to see them there – in the flesh, so that you’re able to sam­ple their qual­ity – is a huge ad­van­tage to them. To be able to give them that foot on the lad­der is great. If you, like so very many of us, have en­joyed the an­nual Christ­mas Fair in the Cotswolds, you prob­a­bly don’t even think about how this won­der­ful event comes to­gether; it all seems so ef­fort­less, doesn’t it?

Well, let me tell you that be­hind the glam­orous façade is a pas­sion­ate hard-work­ing woman who started the ball rolling 30 years ago, and to this day in­sists on rolling up her sleeves and get­ting stuck in with the team. Their hard work, ded­i­ca­tion and good hu­mour en­sure it’s the es­sen­tial place to do all your Christ­mas shop­ping in the Cotswolds, while rais­ing money for sick chil­dren – and it comes with a party at­mos­phere to boot!

How has it changed over the years?

It started off in the ball­room of my house at Broad­well Hill. Then, when my sis­ter got mar­ried one Oc­to­ber, we were able to use the mar­quee af­ter her wed­ding – that was when we re­alised it was out­grow­ing the house.

I’ve also held it at Lyne­ham Golf Course, where once it was so muddy I had to get the lo­cal farmer to drop off rolls of hay. I per­son­ally had to un­roll them and tread it down just so that peo­ple could get to the tent. It was so muddy!

We then moved to Riss­ing­ton Busi­ness Park as it had tar­mac which was won­der­ful, but I felt it would work bet­ter at a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion and so I ap­proached Dayles­ford. Luck­ily they said yes! This is our eighth year there and it has just grown fan­tas­ti­cally – the foot­fall last year was about 4,000 and the spend on the stands alone was just un­der half a mil­lion pounds.

What made you start the fair 30 years ago, Lucy?

Well, char­ity fairs these days are on ev­ery­one’s cal­en­dars, but 30 years ago they were only just start­ing off. A lovely girl­friend of mine was do­ing painted silk fab­ric and she said, “I’d love to be able to show this to lots of peo­ple.” So, I sug­gested to her that she brought it to my house where we’d have other peo­ple sell­ing things, say­ing that way she would be able to pub­li­cise what she did, pro­mote it, and sell it. The way we did it then – as we still do – is that peo­ple paid for their stand and gave a per­cent­age of sales to char­ity.

Do you do your own Christ­mas shop­ping at the fair?

It’s so in­grained in me that I don’t do any other Christ­mas shop­ping than at the fair. I make time ev­ery year to walk round and do some shop­ping, be­cause a) they’re things I like be­cause I chose them, and b) it’s a no-brainer as you get to give to char­ity at the same time as buy­ing beau­ti­ful gifts for peo­ple. It’s the same sen­ti­ment as buy­ing char­ity Christ­mas cards, which most peo­ple tend to do.

How do you keep things fresh af­ter so many years?

Ev­ery year I try to change it a lit­tle bit; we do lunch, we do a demo tent, we do an even­ing event, and we now do two days. Last year we did a VIP tent which went down very well, with Six­teen Ridges cham­pagne and Love Bites’ canapés, sup­ply­ing

free in or­der to sup­port the char­ity. This year we have Jeremy Houghton and Hamish Mackie in our own art gallery, so ev­ery year it evolves.

How many peo­ple are be­hind the or­gan­is­ing of the event?

I have a com­mit­tee of about 30, and they’re bril­liant. They all help send out in­vites, put up posters, sell ad­ver­tis­ing space, help with de­sign and the over­all pic­ture. There’s also a fab­u­lous team who help make the teas and canapés… I have a lovely lady – Monique Paice – who alone makes around 99% of brown­ies, flap­jacks and canapés. They’re all amaz­ing and we’re very lucky to have them; many have been with me from the start and I can’t thank them enough.

Why choose Wellchild as the char­ity to sup­port?

I’ve al­ways sup­ported chil­dren’s char­i­ties. In the past I’ve or­gan­ised events for the NSPCC and then for Leukaemia in chil­dren, so when I was ap­proached by Wellchild I was happy to help them. I’m lucky; I’ve had four healthy boys and now have a beau­ti­ful, healthy grand­daugh­ter. I feel I’m so for­tu­nate – they’ve sur­vived child­hood breaks, ac­ci­dents and ill­ness, but other peo­ple aren’t so lucky. When I first started with Wellchild it was called Chil­dren Na­tion­wide and I went to hos­pi­tals to see the wards where we funded re­search so I’ve seen some very ill chil­dren. I think they’re just amaz­ing the way they deal with ill­ness.

Other than the fab­u­lous shop­ping, what can we ex­pect?

The Mon­day night is a won­der­fully so­cial night with cock­tails, canapés and live mu­sic, and also in­cludes a VIP tent. We also have fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as a si­lent auc­tion, tom­bola and Tree of Life – giv­ing peo­ple yet another op­por­tu­nity to do­nate to the char­ity – as well as the cook­ery demos.

What have been some of your most mem­o­rable mo­ments… both good and bad?

Oh, good­ness! When we still had it at home, in Broad­well, we had a sys­tem where there were two plugs go­ing into the house electrics. I put a sign say­ing ‘Please do not re­move ei­ther of these plugs!’ So, some­one de­cided, “Oh, that’s fine I’ll just take it out and put it back in.” Con­se­quently, the whole sys­tem shorted while peo­ple were ar­riv­ing and plunged us into dark­ness. In those days we didn’t have an elec­tri­cian on site, and so I had to call some­one from Chel­tenham to sort. In the mean­time, we had peo­ple with torches and can­dles… it was a night­mare! I now have Chris, my won­der­ful elec­tri­cian, who moves in for the two-and-a-half days of the event.

How do you keep the en­ergy lev­els up when it must be such hard work?

I’ve al­ways loved par­ties and the events have al­ways had that party at­mos­phere; it’s great fun. At the end of the day, I en­joy it. It’s so won­der­ful when you put so much into some­thing that you feel very strongly about and it takes off… it re­ally is my dream come true.

Lucy Greaves

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