It’s October, which means only one thing in Manchester – the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair is coming! During 22-24 October, a wide range of British designer-makers will descend on Manchester’s Spinningfields to showcase their talents to an incredibly captive audience, me included of course. I’m so pleased that my city is playing host to such a great event, as it really emphasises the growing handmade community outside of London.
The inaugural GNCCF was held at Manchester Grammar School in 2008 and relocated to Spinningfields for the 2009 event. Organisers Ann-Marie Franey and Angela Mann came up with the idea for the event during their visits to London’s annual Chelsea Craft Fair (now Origin). They felt that there should be an event of similar standard in the North, and just a short while later, when their children were older, the idea of GNCCF came into fruition. Ann-Marie and Angela spent more than a year carrying out market research with potential exhibitors and visitors before deciding to go ahead.
Manchester was chosen as the fair’s venue due to its ease of access to visitors from Cheshire, Yorkshire, Merseyside, Derbyshire and Lancashire. Hosting the GNCCF in the city centre also helps to boost the local economy, and moving the fair to Spinningfields proved to be an excellent business decision as it doubled the audience to over 6500 in 2009. 8000 visitors are expected to attend this October.
Applications to exhibit at the fair are invited from designer-makers of ceramics, glass, textiles, furniture, wood, metal, jewellery etc. and exhibitors are chosen by a panel of industry experts. GNCCF has already built up an excellent reputation in the UK and this year’s show was vastly oversubscribed, with 160 exhibitors making the final cut.
Ann-Marie and Angela undertake most aspects of the organising themselves, and with five children between them it’s no mean feat! However, the long hours spent working on the event paid off in 2009 when they saw the queues of visitors excited to get in and received excellent feedback from exhibitors and visitors alike. The ultimate payback for the pair is that they get to share their passion for contemporary craft and hopefully engage new audiences.
I’m certainly looking forward to this year’s fair, as it will be bigger than ever before with two show pavillions. One area will be entirely dedicated to Great Northern Graduates, a showcase of the best graduate students from the region’s craft and design courses. There will also be a jewelry making workshop – I’m off to check that out!
What do you think makes a great craft fair? I’d love to hear about your experiences – post here or send me your tips for making the best of an event via Twitter to @elliethouret. I’ll include the best tips in an upcoming post!