Ipswich Christmas Market Friday 21-Sunday 23 November.
New lights!! I bought new lights!! We had to beg and borrow some last year (after 6 hours I was still waiting for the festoon lights I’d bought to “warm up”!) so after a lot of research (with telephone conversations usually taking the form of, me: “Are you sure I can’t get it wrong? I’m rubbish with stuff like this.” LED salesman: “YOU CAN’T GET IT WRONG!!) I bought an LED plug-in-and-play set up this year along with two mini flood lights that clamp to the gazebo frame. Just had to buy some clamps that’s all and luckily I found myself setting up next to a hardware stall. Happy days. Planning ahead? Waste of time!
Last year this market went from Thursday through to Sunday so we thought we’d get ahead of the game and do the Thursday as well on Ipswich Borough Council Market. Beautiful day it was Thursday, sun was shining, not too cold. The day started exceptionally well, which for some reason always seems to transpire to being a bad thing. Today was no exception… After last year’s market however, hopes were high for the rest of the weekend. We were in the same position and confidence was good. However, whilst last year there were a lot of continental stalls giving an eclectic and Christmassy feel to things, this year none of them had turned up and the vibrant mix of stalls was replaced with a homogenous line of council-owned gazebos and a couple of rides for the kids tagged on to the end of the market like an afterthought. It wasn’t visually appealing and it didn’t seem to catch the public’s imagination. For the second Sunday in a row the heavens opened and packing up on the Sunday evening wasn’t an experience I savoured. Not as good as last year and our target looked further away than ever.
Bury Christmas Market, 27-30 November.
We’d heard A LOT of good things about this and for the cost of the pitch it HAD to be good! We’d been told it would be the best event we’d ever done. Based on our experience of the Essex Food and Drink festival back in July where we literally didn’t stop for 5 hours from the opening bell we felt a bit nervous about it really. Had we got enough stock? Would it live up to expectations? It felt a bit like our first ever show, like a child going to a new school.
Set-up was a bit chaotic, thanks largely to a one-way system being blocked by not one but two broken down vans and another that was trying to squeeze under an archway that was way too low! Ho ho ho!
We needn’t have worried. Yes, it did get very busy at times but nothing we couldn’t manage between us and the trading days being 10 hours long meant that traffic was steady but never manic. Part of the deal for this event was that we had to dress in Victorian/Dickensian costumes. I enjoyed wearing my Jack the Ripper Costume (complete with 1918 hallmarked silver-headed cane fresh from Ebay) although bearing in mind they never caught him, how they knew what Jack the Ripper wore is beyond me! Leanne hated wearing her costume so subsequently, for much of the time, didn’t. It was a pleasure working opposite Allard’s Farm Butchery – lovely people and entertaining with it. (How many packs for £12 again?) Late nights and early starts to ensure a parking spot meant that beer was out of the question for the weekend (most unwelcome!) but we had a ball and I’m already looking forward to next year.
Stock-take on Monday morning broke the unwelcome(?) news that I needed to get back into the kitchen but thankfully not before the next two events at least! Thankfully the internet orders were more spaced out this year so that we didn’t need to spend too much time on any one day bubble-wrapping, cardboard box making and posting.
Ipswich Council Christmas Show, lunchtime, Wed 3 Dec, Endeavour House, Ipswich
Only 2 hours this one, but with setting up and take down it probably takes most of the day. Last year, hour hourly take for this one was right up there but I guess with the same employees buying for the same people as last year, they can’t all buy chilli sauce gift sets again. The people selling bags and scarves however couldn’t go wrong; everybody could do with a new bag, right? We did OK though.
Ladies’ Night, Thurs 4 Dec, 6.30 to 10, Ipswich College
By all accounts this was a roaring success last year and we were very pleased to be invited along for our first time. Extensive, targeted and clever advertising and a ladies night too; I was looking forward to this one! Once I managed to get across town (40 minutes for a mile’s drive, I ask you!) set-up was dead easy although the look and smell of the place reminded me too much of being back at school. A trickle of people came through the doors and then the rush…just didn’t happen. Apparently prices on the door had increased from £3 last year to £7 this year, which is something we’ve learned always to ask about but of course didn’t on this occasion. I guess money’s tight at the moment (especially at this time of year) and people just don’t see the increase as value for money. I can’t blame them. There was a food show we did last summer, beautiful surroundings, lovely weather, cleverly considered lay out, well advertised, £7.50 for adults, £3.50 for children, £4 a pint, £3 a Coke for the kids, burgers at a fiver; you’ve done over £50 before you even think about buying any produce. No wonder people come up and say “I love these events! Beer, a band, and all this free food!!”
Jimmy’s Farm Christmas Fayre, 6-7 December, Jimmy’s Farm/Woodbridge Christmas Market 7 December
One of our better ones last year and so it proved again this year. In fact we did even better than last year. Free entry for the public you see! With our stall facing south and not a cloud in the sky Saturday we should have brought our sunglasses. Not something you think about in December is it? Well, I don’t. Damn though, it gets windy up on that hill! One of our flags blew down at one point. Luckily no eyes were taken out. And as for the person who thought camping out was a good idea this time of the year… You could barely see the tent for the frost covering it.
Woodbridge, sadly, wasn’t such a great success but the weather was pretty rotten on the Sunday when the market was on, which didn’t help. Can’t complain about it though.
Ipswich Borough Council Market, last two weekends before Christmas
I’ll not lie, Ipswich has it’s detractors, but our home town has always been pretty good to us and my goodness is the pitch rent reasonable! Taking that into account, four average days elsewhere turn into four very good ones here, helping us to hit our target for the festive period and retire for the year knackered but happy.
I find it hard to just switch off though. When I used to “work” for a living if I took a week off I’d just about stop thinking about work by the end of the Tuesday and start thinking about it again on the Thursday. Leanne and I had our “Works Christmas Meal” down at Ipswich Waterfront (I even paid!) put our plans for 2015 in place and I eventually got round to wrapping the presents on Christmas eve. Typical bloke.