The busiest weekend of the year

The first full weekend of December is often considered the busiest weekend of the year, packed full of Christmas fairs, fetes and markets. I frequently get asked why I miss this ‘perfect’ weekend. I answer with two simple reasons;

  1. This weekend is saturated with events already
  2. It’s too late to hit Christmas shoppers

The first reason is the main reason. There are just far too many events on this weekend. I have visited six on Saturday alone, that’s not going to all of them in the Plymouth area! There are just far too many and you can really feel that affects the event with visitor numbers.

The second (possibly debateable) reason is that the items purchased from Christmas events have a more difficult time selling in December as many people have already purchased their Christmas gifts, or at least have things in mind that they will be getting. All of the smaller trinkets and quirky items at markets are usually already purchased.

I love the feel of a Christmas event, and sure many of these events have a good footfall, but how many of these people are really buying? I watched as people came, saw, sampled and even sang, but no sales were made.

Over this weekend I visited a number of events, from small to large. The smallest was in Torpoint Band Hut Playschool. I didn’t plan on going to this event, I happened to see it as I was coming out of Sainsbury’s. I like small events, you get a real community feel and there is also very little competition between exhibitors. Not so much here, nobody spoke as I looked at their products, which, out of the ~8 tables, half of them were jewellers. I understand that each piece of jewellery is unique and handmade, honest, I do, but when half of the exhibitors are offering jewellery it doesn’t make for much of an event.

Onto the next event at The Garden Sports & Leisure Club, Torpoint. Again, a small event this time in a bar/pub type venue. Christmas music being blasted out, which, as a fan of Christmas, I don’t personally think is a bad thing! A bit more variety this time, still lots of jewellers, but they were mixed in with card makers, jams, knitted goods and even a Face painter for good measure!

Moving onto the Christmas Market at Royal William Yard. I was looking forward to seeing this event which has been organised by Plymouth Waterfront Manager, as I had met her previously to talk about this event. The advertising for this event boasted 40 stalls, Santa and live entertainment. I turn up and luckily get a free parking space, that’s a good start to any event in my eyes. Then walk down to The Cooperage Building, now this building is actually an indoor car park, but it has real potential as a venue for music, performances or markets due to its unique architecture. The best part of this event was the brass band bellowing Christmas music. I was slightly disappointed to see the venue had nowhere near 40 stalls. They did have a face painter and a Santa though!

Next up, Plymouth Guildhall with an “All Things Vintage and Festive” fair. I like these events, they are generally pretty busy with footfall and always have a range of exhibitors and usually entertainment too. On arrival I pay my entrance fee (which I dislike, that’s money I’d like to spend on exhibitors, but I digress) and in I go. A live band and a packed out venue with a whole load of exhibitors. I expected no less, fantastic. Lots of different things on offer, but once again, a lot of jewellers, it’s beginning to become a pet hate of mine. However, a good event and well organised, I can’t fault the organiser (who is a lovely lady by the way).

Four down, two to go! Mount Edgcumbe Christmas Fayre (it should be called “Fair” unless we are using the archaic spelling, but once again, I digress) was up next. I believe this event was in its 10th year, which is fantastic and you could tell it was a popular event from the queue to get in the car park, onto the shuttle bus and event in the door itself! £1.00 parking and £3.00 entrance. That’s £4.00 taken away from the exhibitors before I’m through the door. It was very pleasant that as I entered the house, there was a large choir singing Christmas songs, it gave the event a real Christmassy atmosphere. Now, there were hundreds of exhibitors at this event and many performances too, which makes me less concerned with the £4.00 entrance as I feel I’m really paying for something. With all of the space and the many exhibitors, why were there a whole bunch of jewellers in the same room? Madness. However, the event as a whole gave a huge selection of different products and lots of free liquor samples to keep everyone happy.

Finally, back on the road and this time the destination is Saltash for their Christmas light switch on and Christmas market. Now this event was mainly oversaw by one organiser, so I respect what she has done with her committee. There was free mulled wine, the streets had a variety of stalls (I say variety, but again a number of jewellery stalls), from food, drink, knitted goods and even some alpaca products on offer! What was really nice about this event was the community and Christmas atmosphere, which was certainly helped by the snow cannon blasting snow out everywhere! It isn’t very often I get to attend smaller town events, like the one in Saltash, but I will make sure I do. Everyone is happy, the lantern parade was fun and at one point the whole town burst into song. However, the best bit, by far, was suddenly being part of a parade. I’ve never been part of a parade, but everyone was smiling and waving whilst I waved a giant lollipop around in support of Truly Scrumptious Sweet Boutique on Lower Fore Street. Quite frankly, I think I’m the best parade there is, or maybe I had one too many mulled wines.

Overall, a very busy weekend with events, small to large. Sure they might have one too many jewellers and maybe one or two might have been advertised slightly wrong, but almost all of them had a great Christmassy feel with some happy, albeit chilly, exhibitors.