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