Despite all the odds, contemporary crafts returned to Hever Castle for a Covid-safe, sell-out event.
Joining only a handful of public events that went ahead this year, Craft in Focus’ contemporary craft fair at Hever Castle sold all pre-booked tickets and turned a profit over the weekend of 10-13 September. We talk to marketing and event co-ordinator, Sally Thomas.
Describe your event and how many people it attracts?
The Craft and Design Fair at Hever Castle is a craft show with a refreshing contemporary twist and is part of a series of events run by Craft in Focus.
Placed above all other shows of its kind in the UK (50 of the Best, The Independent) the best professional British designers, artists and craftsmakers are selected for Craft in Focus’ events for their individuality and innovation in contemporary textiles, painting, furniture, metal, leather, ceramics, jewellery, glass, fashion and more.
There were 160 exhibitors at the 2020 Hever Castle event which had previously attracted 4,000 people each day. This year, due to Covid-19, all tickets had to be booked in advance and capped at 3,000, but all tickets were sold.
What is the event’s history?
Craft in Focus was launched in 2000 by Rob Chapman, a woodturner at the time, wanting to improve the standard of design-led craft fairs. As a craftmaker himself, he became disillusioned by fairs being run by organisers allowing bought in and imported work. Craft In Focus events have a strict selection policy and only allow craftmakers that design and make their own work.
This is the second year that Craft In Focus has staged an event at Hever Castle. We decided to launch here to expand our portfolio and build on our reputation of staging the UK’s leading contemporary designer craft fairs, such as our event at RHS Wisley, which regularly attracts upwards of 35,000 visitors.
How does the relationship work with Hever Castle?
It works very well. We stage the event within the castle’s gardens which is a great addition to the visit. The venue manages the ticket sales.
How did you plan the layout of the event and what structures do you use?
We used semi open sided marquees from Castle Marquees and Claremont. We also hired in additional toilets, fire extinguishers, shell scheme etc. A one way system was in place within the garden and within the marquees themselves, which worked well. Each marquee had an entrance point which was monitored for numbers.
As we have worked within the industry for 20 years we know who to use (and who not to). We have used our contractors at several of our previous events and know and work with them well.
What entertainment did you offer and how did you choose and source it?
We had various musicians who played on a stage. Our reputation means they contact us now, rather than us track them down.
How did you manage admissions and Covid safety?
Tickets to this event were limited and were all sold in advance in 15 minute timed intervals. This meant that daily visitor numbers complied with government guidelines to enable social distancing. It also reduced contact for visitors and venue staff.
The venue had a one way system throughout the gardens. Visitors were asked to respect the rules and guidelines that the venue and Craft In Focus put in place. We had a one way system within the marquees and monitored numbers going into each. Visitors were reminded to maintain social distance and asked to wear face coverings within the marquees. There were hand sanitising stations around the venue and each exhibitor had hand sanitiser on their stands.
The event was fully ‘Covid Compliant’ and Craft in Focus has been awarded the ‘Good to Go’ Covid-safe mark by VisitBritain. All regulations were of course complied with and exceeded.
We appointed many additional event stewards/security staff to ensure visitors complied with social distancing and wore face coverings. There was a one way system in the event, managed queuing systems and hand sanitiser stations at each entry point. We provided signage throughout to remind visitors about social distancing, cleaning hands, avoiding touching items unnecessarily, following the one way system, wearing face coverings, staying within their social groups etc.
What ground protection did you use for cars and footfall?
Grass protection rolls were purchased in readiness, but not used this year as we had good weather.
How did you publicise the event?
The event was publicised widely. We advertised in local and national media and online and ran a social media campaign. We had a large radio campaign over three weeks and also used a Royal Mail door to door drop. In addition, we have a large mailing list (postal and email) that we send to.
How did you finance the event?
25 years of experience puts us in a good position to fund the event however profits were low this year due to the extra measures we had to put in place.
What are your plans for next year?
We plan to stage 10 events at various beautiful venues next year but have no plans to expand as we feel it is safer to look after what we have.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Believe in what you do. Put the people first – exhibitors and visitors. So many organisers don’t know who is exhibiting at their events and it shows. Do not set out to make money or you will lose it. Grow steadily and do not be greedy. Save hard in the good years, as you never know when you may need the surplus to see you through a pandemic! And obviously, attention to detail is key.
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Craft and Design Fair, Hever Castle
Kent TN8 7NG