One of Winslow’s best-kept secrets, the monthly Handmade and Vintage Fair at Winslow Public Hall is loved by customers and stallholders alike and boasts a waiting list of 100 people wanting a stall .
Small but perfectly formed, the fair holds from 20 to a maximum of 28 stalls and regularly attracts from 200 to 500 visitors.
“That’s a decent amount of people to come through the door,” said organiser Lisa Wright, the former owner of Polkadot, on Winslow’s Market Square.
Loyal customers come for one-off handmade and vintage items they won’t find on the high street.
On the vintage side these include clothes and household items, while handmade goods range from jewellery to glass, ceramics, stitched items such as handbags and cushions.
Mrs Wright, aged 40, who creates hand-painted items from her Littlecote home, said: “We have our regular stallholders, and then I try to have at least two new stalls every month, to keep it interesting for the regular visitors.
“This time we had vintage furniture lady Jan Brown and Urban Driftwood, from Northampton.
“They scavenge for driftwood and make it into products, including picture frames, herb planters and mirrors.
“It’s always nice when the new ones have a good day.”
Five new stalls at next month’s fair, on May 25, will include Felter Skelter hand-felted soaps, a return visit from Ceylonica with their authentic Sri Lankan curry sauces, and silver jewellery from Northampton-based Scruffy Dog Silver.
Mrs Wright said: “I vet everybody who applies so there’s quite a big waiting list of people.
“The felt soap people have been on the waiting list for eight months, I’d say, and this is the first opportunity to get them on.
“Because it’s only a small event, I only have a maximum of two people who do similar products.
“And because a lot of people on the waiting list all do similar things, I can’t offer them all a stall.
“You want to keep the regulars happy, and the customers like the regulars, so it’s a balancing act introducing new stalls where appropriate.”
The secret of the fair’s success seems to be its commitment to one-off, handcrafted and personalised items in an age of mass production – with everything from ceramic coasters from Blue Butterfly to hand-painted pianos from Rock of the Raven.
Mrs Wright said: “Almost everybody on the handmade side will take commissions and normally all the products they have on the stall on the day are one-offs.
“Quite often people, if they’re selling knitted ware or felted ware on the day, they’ll be sitting there actually doing it.
“I have my paints with me so I can do bits.
“You’ll have items there waiting to be personalised. The customers come kind of expecting it now.
“A lot of the handmade stalls take orders at the fair.”
And she added: “You do have a lot of vintage followers who go to all the local events. They seem to do a circuit on the hunt for items for their home.
“I think it’s nostalgia and perhaps a bit of a talking point for their home, something with a bit of history.
“There was a lady this month who brought a load of old wooden oars with her. They were lovely. You can imagine them up on a wall somewhere.”
Another attraction is the regular pop-up teashop, with fresh, home-baked cakes and light lunches by Helen Knight of Winslow’s Delicatessen Estrella.
Mrs Wright said: “Lots of customers come just for the food.
“They come because the food’s nice, and then they have a mosey round.
“The tables are always full of people eating. It’s all home-made and there’s always nice smells.”
Now in its third year, the fair has successfully made the transition from quarterly to monthly and survived the move from Winslow Market Square to the Public Hall.
Mrs Wright said: “I wasn’t sure whether it would be able to sustain a monthly event but I am happy with it.
“It is still only a little event but it’s a good little event.
“I’m always pleased when I can invite someone else to have a go.”