Friday, 19 September 2014

Bristol Wool Fair 2014

(All photos taken by Mark)

You may have heard of the first Bristol Wool Fair that took place early in September. When I first heard about it, I was very excited because we do need another good wool fair over here in the Southwest. I like going to such events and don't have the chance to do so very often. I don't think I have particularly high expectations of wool fairs, but I do expect good organisation from start to finish. In this repsect, the Bristol Wool Fair was a mixed bag.
My own experience with this particular fair before the event even took place was anything but good. I like to have as much detailed information as possible so I know what to expect and how to get there. After going through their website, social media, and Ravelry group, I was unsure whether to go or not because there was hardly any interaction and too little information - some of it conflicting, some of it wrong. Questions were either answered superficially or not at all and the answers that were given made it seem like the event was not what many had expected it to be. Reactions to constructive criticism was met with hostility by some supporters so that it put off a lot of people, including me.

In the end, I didn't need to make a decision at all because I was ill that weekend and had to stay home. However, Mark and his mother went as planned and supplied me with these photos and feedback about the event. I have to point out that Mark isn't into wool fairs at all and this was actually the first time he went to one. His mother has been to many such events and enjoys them, including her visit to Bristol.
The fair took place on the Clifton Downs, and as you can see from the first photo, there is a lot of space with seemingly very little going on. Mark and his mum were there from 11AM - 3 PM, roughly, and noticed that none of the live music (maybe because the duck herding was late) took place during that time. I am wondering if the knitathon and drop-in lessons took place in the Big Tipi that Saturday, but since I wasn't there myself, I have to rely on what has been relayed to me. Also, there were no owl demos as announced. There were three marquees with vendors, some food stalls (sadly, just one offering savoury food), animal pens and a stage for the sheep shearing demo.
It looks very much like a pleasant event, a nice day out for the family. In my opinion, the entry fee is too high compared to other similar events that have much more to offer. There was a programme with all the details about the fair, vendor list, site maps and 3 or 4 free patterns designed by vendors themselves. The full £1 goes to charity. Visitors were encouraged to bring with them or make on site some knitted, crocheted or felted flowers to decorate a sheep made of willow branches. Sadly, I have no photos of it. However, the picture of the yarn bombed spinning wheel/sheep looks fun as well!
Mark was very interested in the Sheer Sheep Experience. It was a half-hour talk and demo giving information about sheep and shearing. This reminds me a lot of my favourite wool fair and was a nice touch to the event, I think.
The duck herding must have been fun to watch in person as well. I had expected sheep herding, so this was something quite unusual. I would have loved to see that!
It looks like the audience is having a good time watching the spectacle, too, despite the lack of wool involved.
I would like to visit next time, if there is a next time, because some aspects of the fair remind me of my first ever wool fair. I know that a lot of vendors I follow on Twitter had a really good experience throughout the weekend as well. I hope the organisers take to heart the criticism that was voiced elsewhere, particularly since most of the necessary changes, especially to the website and general offering of information, would have been easy to implement on the spot. With more experience in all aspects of event organisation and online presence, I am sure things will get much better. The arguments and accusations that arose amongst potential visitors due to the lack of response became very uncomfortable and put some people off going altogether. I am sure the day itself is great if you know what to expect and what not to expect.

Did you go? What did you get up to? Let me know.


  1. That duck herding looks adorable! I've never seen anything like that, but I guess if you think about it ducks need herding too.

  2. I hate it when bad communication comes in-between and puts people off. It looks like a good day though. Let's hope they really took things to heart and make it a lot better next year.