The Fairy Tale Fair has been taking the south coast by storm. Since starting in 2012, the whimsical craft fair, originally based in Brighton but has since expanded across Sussex, has been awarded the Best Market & Community Event gong by the 2016 Business Awards. So we couldn’t really resist and decided to get involved with The Fairy Tale Fair!
We spoke with founder Claire Montgomery to find out all the juicy details on the fair as well as why handcrafted goods are on everyone’s Christmas list this year.
Why did you decide to launch The Fairy Tale Fair?
I am a maker and designer myself, and regularly took part in craft fairs across Brighton. Although many of them were great fairs they all felt very art and design led - there was nothing aimed at families or for the community to take part in. So I decided to start my own fair in a little village hall in Patcham, Brighton, where I grew up and still live now. A fairytale theme seemed rather fitting for a family aimed event and the magical journey that the fair was about to take.
How did the fair grow, and why do you think it was so successful?
The first fair in the summer of 2012 was a great success, but we realised quickly we needed a bigger venue, while keeping it in the local village.
The new venue allowed us space to have a craft workshop room, tearoom, entertainment and face painting. Although these sound like little things, we think this is what appeals to customers of our fair. Rather than just stalls with items for sale, visitors can also take part in our craft workshop for themselves and learn something new. They can do this with their children or grandparents and make memories as well as take home their makes. They can stop in our magically themed tearoom for treats and kids (or big kids) can bring the fairy tales to life on their painted faces. They can speak to our makers and get to know the person that made the necklace they are going to buy or the print they are going to hang on their wall. It's these personal and family experiences that all go towards making an enjoyable day out. Oh, and you might even spot a giant snow queen too!
How many events do you hold, and how do they differ?
Last year The Fairy Tale Fair held 14 events across the year. This year we have cut down slightly to focus on our Christmas events and a wedding fair we have planned for Spring 2017 called Happily Ever After Creative Wedding Fair. This Christmas we have four Christmas fairs including one in our well-loved village of Patcham on Saturday 19th November, Brighton. Then we have two at Brighton Open Market (Sunday 13th November and Sunday 11th December) in the centre of Brighton, and finally and one at Worthing Charmandean (Sunday 4th December). Our Worthing fair is the biggest of the year with over 70 stall holders and is in aid of St Barnabas House - a cancer charity that does wonderful work.
Why do you think the south-coast is the right location for the fairs?
There are so many creative people in Brighton and across Sussex. This makes the fairs popular both in terms of stall holders wanting to take part, and of customers visiting. Brighton in particular has a real buzz and everyone likes an excuse for a trip down here. There are also many great venues, such as Brighton Open Market in the centre of town, that are designed exactly for our type of fair. People are also very willing to support local makers.
Who are your typical stallholders and attendees?
Many of our stall holders are local makers but we do also get others from further afield - including London, Devon, Norfolk and more! Lots of our stall holders do their creative ventures part-time or are just moving into pursuing their creative dreams full-time. Many also sell online.
Our customers range hugely - as we aim at bringing the whole family along we literally have everyone from 1-year-old babies to grandparents and everything in between! We get a lot of mums and daughters wanting whimsical creations and also a lot of creative and design students too who leave feeling inspired.
What future plans do you have for the Fairy Tale Fair?
We want to continue to grow and build on our success. In March 2017 we'll hold our first wedding fair with over 100 stalls at Brighton Racecourse which we are very much looking forward to. We are going to hold Easter fairs and want to be back bigger than ever next Christmas as we had to turn so many stall holders down this year. We'd also like to expand to new areas so more people outside of Sussex can be part of the magic!
What recommendations would you give to small businesses wanting to grow themselves?
To work hard, have a strong idea and promote yourself lots. Use free resources such as social media to share, connect and network with as many people as possible, and make sure you stand out and have a unique selling factor. Do what you want to do, be kind to everyone along the way and don't give up!
Do you think homemade presents and crafty gifts are making a comeback, as opposed to high street offerings and generic consumerism?
Yes, certainly. I think customers are getting tired of the high street chains with the same packaged gifts, same 3 for 2's and same adverts every year. Also, when you buy a gift from a big brand or high street chain you often think, 'What if they've already got this?', or, 'Am I just buying this because it’s on offer?'.
At least at a craft fair you can be sure you are getting a truly unique and one-off gift you certainly won't find on the high street. Gifts can also be completely personalised and it’s lovely that you can meet the maker behind the item, and most of them live locally too. Our makers put hours of hard work and love into everything they make, and design and that is something you simply can't buy from a high street chain.
Visit The Fairy Tale Fair and find out more: www.thefairytalefair.co.uk