Location, Location, Location

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Ever since I expressed my intention to become a craft-related agony aunt, I’ve been inundated with literally several questions from people with a burning desire for knowledge. The first one came from a would-be craft fair organiser who wishes to remain anonymous, but here is the question:

I’m thinking of starting a craft fair in the West End and wondered if you had any tips on picking a venue?

Well, my first tip is don’t. You probably didn’t want to hear that but there are already myriad craft fairs in the West End of Glasgow and frankly, I do not think that you need to add to that list of poorly-attended events. Not to say that your organisation wouldn’t be top notch, but I believe the public is tired of the oversaturated market and unreceptive to newcomers at the moment, so you really need to come up with something really special and different to capture their imaginations.

Generally speaking, though, it’s all down to location, so you are right to put a lot of thought into that. You want somewhere on the beaten track, or very near to it. No one wants to try and navigate their way to you with  a detailed map and compass, even if that map is as beautifully illustrated as that one up there by Alice Dansey Wright.

You should give thought to the venue’s location in relation to public transport links, too – is it near an Underground station? Bus stops? If it’s only reachable by car, that’s already cutting back on your potential footfall, The exception to that is if your venue is very much a destination in its own right, e.g. a really popular country pub, or restaurant, with a guaranteed Sunday afternoon crowd. One place that I have exhibited at previously that really strikes that Sunday destination market right is The Cluny, in Byker, Newcastle Upon Tyne. I don’t think I’ve ever done a bad market there, it has good food, good music, is a bit out the way, but has other destination venues round about it and is pretty much always packed on weekends. I miss The Cluny market.

You also want to think about what other events have gone before you at that venue – I’ve discounted venues before because I know someone has run a shoddy craft fair there before within the last couple of years. People remember and not everyone is as savvy as you and I, to check if it’s a different organiser. So bear in mind that you could end up being tainted by the reputation of those who have gone before you.

Cost is another big factor – you pay for a good location and you’ll have to pass that on to your stallholders in their fees. Don’t price yourself out the market – there is a ceiling price for each level of event, and you have to bear that in mind when deciding on your venue. Stallholders won’t pay £200 a day for a pokey hall in the arse end of nowhere, but neither will they be confident in the success of the event if they’re paying a tenner for a city centre location in the middle of shopping central.

In short – location plays a massive part in the success of your event, so you need to make sure you get it right. Go there, have a recce, speak to people, canvas opinion. Just don’t sign on the dotted line until you’re sure you’ve got a winner.

Have you got a question about organising an event? Or maybe you want to know how to track down a supplier for a certain item? Or maybe you have another burning question – drop me a line at hello@thebellwether.co.uk.

2 thoughts on “Location, Location, Location

  1. as well as location and transport, I think policing content is very important. there are too many so-called craft fairs where you walk in and can tell at a glance that 90% of whats on sale is bought in from te far east, someone making thier own stock can’t compete in that environment against hard-nosed markets traders who just dont giive a shit. Most of the public can’t tell the difference so its up to the organiser to police it properly – and there are a lot of organisers who charge quite high rents for events marketed as craft fairs and then fill them with market traders cos its a good way to make a quick buck.

    Another important aspect of policing content is to make sure there isn’t too much of one thing. jewelry is the worst culprit, I;ve been to so many where three quarters of the stnads were jewelery – jewelery is also the worst culprit for being bought in. I grew up with a mother who did craft fairs proffesionally, and I do silversmithing, I;ve had people say to may face, “oh, well, I don’t actauly make it myself, but I design it” when what theyre selling is obviously the same gap-year rubbish everyone brings back from india (which btw, is not well made, a freidn brought a piece from her gap year into jewelry class because a stone had fallen out – instead of supporting it with a silver collet withing the seting, rolled up newspaper had been used) Last year I walked round a supposedly vetted craft fair where everyone “made” thier own stuff, and walked up to one lady’s stand to congratulate her on being the only jewelery seller who made her own stock – she looked quite grateful for the sympathy

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