The Country Living Magazine Spring Fair is a regular fixture on the London events calendar, returning to Islington’s Business Design Centre from 18-22 March this year. Country Living Magazine editor Susy Smith offers us a behind the scenes insight into the event
The Country Living Magazine Spring Fair has been a regular fixture on the London diary calendar. When was the first and how would you say it has evolved?
The first Spring Fair was back in 1992. There were queues around the block, we had a village green with a wooden building outside the Business Design Centre and herded pigs across the zebra crossing on Upper Street. The hotel has since been built and the forecourt paved over, but that hasn’t stopped us having ducks and sheep with a shepherds hut in recent years. Some of the exhibitors who were with us all those years ago are still real favourites with visitors to the fair and then there are many new ones each year too. The aim has always been to bring all aspects of the magazine to life from creating the Country Living decorating look to celebrating the British countryside, so that hasn’t changed – we just do it slightly differently each year.
When do you start planning it?
The planning of the show is a year-round task. From the moment we close the doors this year, we’ll start planning for next. We survey our visitors to find out what they liked and what they want to see more of. We will also be planning our Christmas Fairs (we hold them in Harrogate and Glasgow too). The Christmas Fairs are all about buying presents for friends and family, whereas our visitors view the Spring Fair as a chance for a day out with their friends and shopping to treat themselves. They like to plan ahead so we start selling Spring Fair tickets in November!
Why is the Business Design Centre ideal for the fair?
The BDC is steeped in history. It’s a beautiful, listed building – an old Agricultural Hall that was used for shows and selling livestock as far back as the 1860s – so it’s a very fitting venue for Country Living. Our visitors come from all over Britain – and abroad – so it’s important that Islington is a central location with good travel links and plenty of restaurants for our visitors to enjoy.
Who are the exhibitors at the fair?
Our exhibitors are independent designers and makers from across the UK. There are around 400 of them producing everything from furniture to food, jewellery to toys, pottery to paintings, and a whole range of decorative and practical items for the home and garden. Some are long-standing favourites at the fair, others will be new: we aim to introduce around 40% new exhibitors every year. Visitors can discover these new stall-holders in the Newcomers Market and for foodies we have The Producers Village with traditional farmers, bakers, artisan chocolatiers and organic wine makers, who all offer the chance to sample their delicious offerings
The garden is always a popular feature, so what’s the plan for 2015?
The garden is the first feature visitors see as soon as they enter the hall so it’s always full of spring colour and scent to provide inspiration and herald the fact that winter is behind us. This year’s designer, Lucy Summers will be dispensing wise words of horticultural advice especially for those trying to make the most of a small garden in the city, from a very sweet VW camper at the heart of the garden,
What can we expect from the 2015 event?
All sorts of exciting new events! There’s an organic chocolate tasting with Green and Black’s, the Spring Lifestyle theatre with talks on keeping chickens, growing your own veg and cooking with garden produce. There are Crafting Workshops, a spring garden with horticultural advice from its designer Lucy Summers and CL Garden Editor Stephanie Donaldson plus a great plant sell-off on the last day!
We are holding a special pop-up market to introduce more than 30 talented makers for the first time and our ‘Kitchen Table Talent Business Zone’ offering inspirational talks and practical advice for those who want to set up their own small businesses.
We are also thrilled to announce that, as it’s our 30th birthday year, we shall be launching the brand new Country Living Paint Collection with Marston and Langinger with experts using the paints to up-cycle items of furniture for visitors to win in a prize draw.
On the Country Living stand in the centre of the hall visitors will find a whole new look with displays showing all aspects of the Country Living brand from our furniture range with dfs to a great selection of items from our online shop The Country Living General Store. As part of the celebrations for our 30th birthday we shall also be selling the beautiful mug exclusively designed for us by celebrated artist and printmaker Angie Lewin and our gorgeous, limited edition Country Living bike designed and made for us in the UK by Pashley.
There will a selection of our bookazines including the immensely popular style bible, Modern Rustic and, brand new for the show to coincide with our Kitchen Table Business Zone, Turn Your Hobby Into A Business. There will, of course, be subscriptions to the magazine for sale with a very special birthday offer of a gift from Emma Bridgewater.
In the unlikely event that all of this becomes too much and visitors need a breather we can offer fizz in the Champagne Bar, lunch in our Fine Dining Restaurant or an indulgent afternoon tea in the Birchall Tea Room.
Finally Susy, is the fair a signal that winter is finally over?
Of course! Not only does it fall over the spring equinox, but is the perfect way to shake off those winter blues. When visitors walk into the BDC, they are greeted with cheerful colours, the scented of spring flowers and lots of noise and bustle. Even after all these years, it still brings a smile to my face.
Find out more by calling 0844 848 0160 or visiting countrylivingfair.com