Featuring 200 hand-picked independent retailers, Midsummer Fair at Hole Park champions beautiful things from local suppliers.
Now in its 13th year, Wealden Times Midsummer Fair is a delight for the senses as shoppers make their way through an avenue of hand-picked retailers set within a 16 acre formal garden. We talk to Vivien Cotterill-Lee about finding last minute suppliers and making things Covid safe.
Describe your event and how many people it attracts
The Midsummer Fair is Kent’s favourite outdoor shopping event. Set in the beautiful gardens of Hole Park, Rolvenden, the fair hosts more than 200 exhibitors selling vintage and contemporary fashion, jewellery, gifts, house and garden ware, all within four main marquees and along four outdoor avenues. For foodies there are culinary treats from local producers, street food from all over the world, as well as local wine makers and the finest freshly brewed coffee.
We attract upwards of 8,000 visitors, over three days.
Explain a bit about your venue and its history
Four generations of the Barham family have created a wonderful 16-acre garden, in a magical parkland setting. Hole Park is one of the best-known and much loved gardens in Kent and was a worthy winner of Visit Kent’s Garden of the Year award in 2016.
What is the event’s history?
Wealden Times magazine launched the Midsummer Fair 13 years ago. We wanted to offer a great day out that championed local designers, producers and stall-holders, together with hand-picked independent retailers from outside the region.
How does the relationship work with the venue?
It couldn’t be better! Edward Barham is a joy to work with and we are now in our fifth year on the site.
Hole Park house is the perfect backdrop for our event. It really is stunning. The land that we use is remarkably flat and we have unlimited fields for parking so there is never an issue with space. Access to and from the site is also excellent.
How did you find applying for permission to run the event?
As the Fair is hosted on private land, we didn’t have to get any particular permission. We did, however, have to plan the event assuming Phase 3 Covid-19 regulations which include social distancing, the wearing of masks in marquees and ensuring that they don’t become crowded. With these measures in place our shoppers, exhibitors and staff can enjoy our event safely.
How have you planned the layout of the event?
We plan the layout to feature two main shopping avenues flanked by large 25m marquees. We also install an inside, water-plumbed toilet block. At the end of the shopping avenues, mid-way around the circuit of stalls, we have our food and drink area, where customers can relax, refuel and rehydrate with a glass of fizz before they enjoy the next raft of retailers.
How did you research and source your infrastructure?
We had used the same company for many years but this year they retired from supplying marquees. We have therefore gone into the market to source new suppliers. Due to Covid this proved extremely difficult but we are delighted that we are able to work with Signature Marquees from Staffordshire who were referred to us by another local marquee company who couldn’t supply on this occasion.
What entertainment do you offer?
Our visitors love to shop! It is after all the number one pastime in the UK. But what we do offer – and it’s included in the ticket price – is entrance to the gardens at Hole Park. Tickets for the gardens normally cost £9.50 and, aside from making our ticket extremely good value, the gardens are an absolute joy and the perfect antidote to a few hours of seriously good shopping.
For foodies, culinary treats await, with fresh local produce and foods from all over the world. You can also enjoy a glass of fizz, a refreshing G&T or freshly brewed coffee.
What provisions do you make for power, lights and sound?
We have a series of generators and a PA system to help guide our visitors around the fair.
How do you manage admissions and visitor safety?
We have a wonderful group of experienced stewards, safety marshals, a cleaning team and of course the Wealden Times event staff, all on hand to make sure the event runs smoothly and safely. Most of the team return year after year, in part because it’s such a lovely event to be a part of.
This year, because of Covid restrictions, we have introduced timed entry tickets, so that we can balance crowd numbers across each day. There will be some socially distanced queueing at the entrance, but we have lots of ticket scanners so we expect the flow of visitors to be quick and safe.
Please detail the measures you have taken specifically for Covid-19
We have timed tickets to manage crowd numbers, hand sanitisers throughout the fair, masks will be worn inside each marquee, extra cleaning of both toilets and the common dining areas, Covid-19 marshals to ensure compliance, and stewards to help control crowd numbers in each marquee. The majority of the fair is outside, and the marquees are well ventilated, with more space between each exhibitor than in previous years.
What ground protection do you use for cars and footfall?
The ground is usually hard in July and the car park well grassed, so we aren’t anticipating the need for extra ground protection, although we of course have made plans just in case. We do hire a small amount of trackway, from Sunbelt rentals, which is mainly used for exhibitor car access around the marquees and the main site.
How do you publicise the event?
We advertise the event in Wealden Times magazine, which has a readership of nearly 54,000 across Kent. We also produce 35,000 show guides that are distributed in Wealden Times and locally in Kent. We promote the event across all our social media channels, run ads on Heart and Smooth FM radio and in other local press including The Wealden Advertiser. You’ll also see banners in fields from Sevenoaks to Rye. But above all else, we have a very loyal following, so we email everyone who has previously attended the event. Not only that but each of the exhibitors promotes their attendance to their customer base via email, social media and word of mouth.
What challenges have you faced?
Covid-19 has challenged us because we’ve never been 100 per cent sure that we’ll be allowed to run the event. To mitigate this risk, we moved the fair back a few weeks to the beginning of July and had provisional back-up dates later in the year, just in case.
Every outdoor event is to some degree or another weather dependent. We have to plan for the unlikely, which might be unseasonal strong winds or heavy rain.
How have you financed the event and how profitable is it?
The event has 200+ exhibitors who pay a fee for their space and then we charge for ticket entry. The fair is profitable.
What are your plans for next year?
This year we will be running Wealden Times Midwinter Fair at The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, in November 2021. In 2022 we will be back to Hole Park in June/July and then again at The Hop Farm in November.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the outdoor event industry?
Have deep pockets, be amazingly organised and prepare for any weather!
It is incredibly rewarding when visitors leave and say how much they have enjoyed their visit.
MARQUEES & FLOORING
Signature Marquees – www.signaturemarquees.com
HEAT & POWER
Event Electrix – www.eventelectrix.co.uk
Sunbelt Rentals – www.sunbeltrentals.co.uk/equipment/trakway
Event Washrooms – www.eventwashrooms.co.uk
Ticket Srv – www.ticketsrv.co.uk
NDSTS – www.ndsts.co.uk
4 Jays – www.fourjays.co.uk
DCRS – www.dcrs.co.uk
Countrystyle – www.countrystylerecycling.co.uk
Hiscox (through Gallaghers) – www.hiscox.co.uk
Wealden Times Midsummer Fair
Kent TN17 4JA