Visitor numbers were well up in a record-breaking Christmas Craft and Food Fair weekend at Clickimin Leisure complex.
Craft fair secretary Wendy Inkster hailed a “brilliant weekend” when visitor numbers had soared to 3,700, beating previous tallies by a good margin. Normally, the fair draws 3,000 to 3,500 visitors.
The 59 stands on show filled the main recreation hall while the food fair took over the multi-purpose room. Indeed such was the demand for space, 13 potential exhibitors had to be turned away, and the organisers hope to expand the event next year.
Mrs Inkster said: “It was very disappointing for us not to be able to fit everyone in. For next year we are hoping to hire the bowls hall and the main hall to make the event much bigger.”
She added that the event was “going from strength to strength” and there was a “thriving” craft industry with “more and more folk making their hobby into a successful business”. That and a renewed pre-Christmas “feel good factor” appeared to have boosted interest from both exhibitors and customers.
She was also delighted with the number of new exhibitors including three textile students from Shetland College Robyn Inkster, Connie Flynn and Anne Eunson. Other newcomers included Dave Sjoberg’s ill trickit trows, each with their own Fair Isle gansy, and Sharon McGeady’s ceramic tableware and kitchenware, the Shetland Tannery with its cured sheepskins, goatskins and cowskins, Wan Affs cushions and Bizzy Bows hand-made bows and other hair accessories.
Terry Atkinson’s treadle powered wood turning “always seemed to draw a crowd” and Unst musician Steven Spence told organisers he had his “best weekend ever” with his books and CDs, a view that was echoed by many exhibitors.
Mr Spence added: “It’s good to be home after such a busy but fun weekend. I enjoyed catching up with everybody!” and thanked everyone for their continued support.
Stephen Gordon of Smirk.ink said: “It was heartening to see so many folk turn up and give their support to local crafters and artists. Oh. and sales were wonderful too.”
Mary Fraser of Shetland Bookbinders gave a “huge hearty and heartfelt thank you” to the committee for all its hard work organising the “marvellous” event.
Bob Conroy made so many sales of his hand-made jewellery that he had to start making more over the weekend to keep sales going. Carla Strachan’s Carric Candles were also in strong demand and she was impressed by her “lovely and friendly” customers. Julie Irvine of Hentilagets felt crafts also went home with a bagful of orders.
“What a lot of craft workers find is that they are getting a lot of orders from the fair and getting many repeat orders.
According to Mrs Inkster, the organisation of the craft fair has become almost routine after 16 years of staging the event at Clickimin. But there is still a lot of work to be done for the 12-strong volunteer committee. She was busy herself over the weekend, between organising her Burra Bears stand and trying to make sure “everyone was happy” with the arrangements.
With hopes of increased floor-space for next year, she is continuing to welcome new businesses or individuals to the event and said exhibiting was not as expensive as some people might thing.
That is especially encouraging for small-scale exhibitors who may be making “two or three peerie things” in their spare time or retirement. It also offers a terrific shop window for people who maybe don’t have a permanent exhibition space or retail outlet.
Everyone in the art and craft line gets the chance to see everyone else’s work and this has led to a higher and higher standard of work on display. Clickimin is the ideal venue, having the space and layout to suit that type of event.
Mrs Inkster said that many people came in to browse in the morning and would spend hours at the exhibition. The organisers had also laid on a special, early morning viewing for regular visitor Cheryl Christie, who was wheelchair bound after a car accident and would have found it difficult to manoeuvre in the crowds.
She added: “We couldn’t hold the fair if it wasn’t for the wealth of talented folk that Shetland has, and it makes the whole thing worthwhile when you can wander round on a Sunday afternoon and speak with the exhibitors and hear what a busy weekend they have had and how much they have enjoyed it.”
Ann Johnson of Scoop, who, along with Jay Hawkins of Shetland Cheese, organised the food side of the fair for Shetland Food Producers Group, said that they were also looking to expand next year’s food fair.
“We have been fantastically busy working together with the craft fair, and the cafe in the middle of the food fair was also flat out over the weekend,” she added.
“I am always very encouraged to see so many people buying locally. For every pound spent with a local supplier then £2.74 is generated for the local economy.”
Ms Johnson said that she would like more local producers to join the food fair next year and she was very willing to advise anyone who wanted to become involved. “Shetland Food Producers Group is always keen to welcome new producers at the food fair.”