Monday, 23 November 2015

Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Christmas Fair Manchester

I've been on a little adventure in the last few days, driving up to Manchester to visit Kirstie's Handmade Christmas Fair held at Manchester Central.  I've missed both of her summer fairs held at London's Hampton Court Palace over the past 2 years, so when discovering this show was going to be Christmas themed, there was nothing that was going to keep me from going. 

I've actually found today's post really hard to write.  I always try to look for the positives when writing for my blog and although there were definite positives to the show, on the whole I was bitterly disappointed by the experience.  I hope what I've managed to come up with explains this fairly without sounding too negative.

I booked my ticket early at a reduced rate and paid £17.  This ticket included entrance to the shopping village plus 3 workshops which I booked at the time of ordering my ticket.    

I arrived at the venue shortly after 9:30 wanting to make the most of my day.  My first workshop wasn't until 10am so it gave me  little time to try and get my bearings.  The place was practically empty so stepping into the shopping village I was free to look at the first few stands without having to peer across peoples shoulders which is usually the case at these type of events.  

Heading over to the super theatre for my first workshop, the Giant Gingerbread House with Richard Hunt & Kirstie, I was surprised to see that the amount of people about were still very few, although it did mean a seat right near the front and a much cosier session.  It was a really good giggle to watch and I did enjoy it.  Anyone who has watched any of Kirstie's handmade TV programmes will know when it comes to the foodie crafts she can't help but have the occasional taste as they are cooking, well let's just say that this was no different.

What you see of Kirstie on the TV is exactly how she is in person, or certainly how she came across during the show.  She was really friendly and was happy to have a little chat with me and pose for an obligatory selfie after the session.

Selfies completed I headed back into the shopping village.  It was still feeling rather empty, which wasn't so much a bad thing as it wasn't all that big.  The majority of the stands were selling items they had made, which don't get me wrong were all lovely.  However I think for a creative fair the majority of people visiting would be creative people looking for inspiration and crafty materials as opposed to buying ready made products.  I did make a couple of purchases though, some beautiful heart shaped wax melts from Lubylu, a delicious chocolate orange cupcake from One Sweet Day and a gorgeous vintage hanky from Miss Clementine.

After strolling around for a while it was time for my second workshop, my grand make.  I'd opted for the papercut cards with Sian Williams-Clarke (making a name place card).  The session only lasted 25 minutes which was plenty of time to complete the task at hand but in all honesty I kind of wish I'd never bothered with it.  Sian was lovely and did the best she could with what time she had but I really don't feel as though I learnt anything from it and wasn't able to take anything away from the workshop.  No skills or techniques were learnt in terms of the best way to hold the knife and there was a little hiccup in the set-up of the workshop in that we were supposed to have a template on our card to cut out so instead some freehand drawing was needed before we could begin which meant if your drawing skills weren't up to much you were already off to a bad start.   

Feeling quite deflated by this point I took the opportunity to visit the Press stand while waiting for my next workshop and had a chat with the lovely pocketfulofdreams where she talked through some Instagram tips.  Their stand looked beautiful, it was a real feast for the eye with so much detail.  Just what I needed to lift my spirits.

Walking away from here I spotted some familiar faces and had a wonderful chat with the lovely Suzie Johnson from The Wool Sanctuary and Dolly McGrath, it's always nice meeting people in the flesh that you've been conversing with on Instagram wouldn't you agree?  A big highlight for me, I do like meeting with you lovely lot.

It also helped pass the time to my last workshop for the day, Book Folding with Kate Bufton.  This was by far my favourite workshop during the day, I guess I really did save the best till last.  We were making a tree from a book (kind of ironic really when you think about it) and I loved it.  I actually learnt something and have already bought myself a couple of hardback books so that I can make some more.  This session lasted an hour which seemed perfect time to achieve a finished tree.

So it wasn't all bad, but I feel there is lots of room for improvement.  I just felt as though it were lacking in atmosphere, there was no music being played and no real Christmas feel if I'm being honest.  Perhaps there not being many people about had an impact on the feel for it all, it may well have been different on Saturday and Sunday but from where I was standing I wasn't all that impressed I'm afraid.  If you visited the show I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, or the London shows for that matter.  It has made me dubious as to whether to bother with the Hampton Court Palace Show if it comes back again in the summer, then again I have plenty of time to think about that.

~ Gem x 


  1. Hi Gemma,
    Just came across you via your guest post at Mrs Crafty B and love your blog, esp this post, as it totally sums up my day too! I went on the Friday and it seemed empty, except when I wanted some water or a sandwich or a coffee, in which case every person in the place was in the queue at the one and only food stall! I ended up booking two more craft sessions because I'd seen the entire shopping village and was bored! Not good. At the summer event it took me two days to see all the stalls, and there was definitely more in the way of materials there. I did enjoy it, but there's definitely room for improvement. Since it was the first year, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt! And if next year you decide to come again, would love to say hi - went on my own too but found there was always someone nice to talk to! x

    1. Hello, Thank you so much for stopping by and for your comment. I'm so pleased to hear that I wasn't the only disappointed visitor, although sad to hear you didn't have a great time. It is such a shame as I really think it could have been so much better with just a few minor alterations. Hopefully they will learn from it and next year will be an improvement x x