Following the success of last year’s event, the High Street Heritage Action Zone is hosting Blackpool Creative Christmas Market on December 2, bringing 50 local independent traders under one roof.
Christmas is a time for giving, but that shouldn’t mean we’re forced into spending a fortune on mass-produced tat that lines the pockets of corporations. One or two thoughtful gifts can mean so much more to our loved ones than a sackful of stuff, but choosing them can take up valuable time in what’s often the busiest time of the year.
This Christmas season, Blackpool’s High Street Heritage Action Zone is taking the stress out of buying gifts with Blackpool’s biggest Christmas market. And with family entertainment and crafty workshops to take part in too, it promises to bring joy and gladness back into the Christmas shopping experience.
On December 2, the Winter Gardens Pavilion will be transformed into a festive marketplace with stalls selling, among other things, handmade crafts, original artwork, artisan jewellery, and homeware. This is the second annual Blackpool Christmas Creative Market which aims to use Blackpool’s high street heritage as a catalyst for bringing new and diverse uses to the town centre. The markets are also hosted outside of the Christmas period and this year’s Christmas market comes just over a month after the first Creative Market Print Fair, which was held in recognition of the volume and quality of print artists living and working locally.
Many of those artists are returning for the Christmas Creative Market, including screen printer Robin Ross who works for his Old Rock Factory studios in the town centre, and St Anne’s-based graphic illustrator Darren Elwell. There’s also Sarah Pugsley’s prints, made under the moniker Coxyart and inspired by Fylde Coast landmark, Josh Ford – aka The Bearded Sewist – selling his handmade plushies, Ewa Ziewiec – aka New Star – selling all things manga, and Lucy Williams – Gitana Emporium – whose crystals, minerals and fossils will inspire curious minds.
Meanwhile, designer Monica Wardle runs a small business called Crafty Cloth making clothing and accessories with a distinctive vibrant aesthetic. On December 2, she’ll be offering workshop participants the opportunity to create their own Crafty Cloth tote bag. Joseph Booth is a seamster and costume designer who has a wealth of experience teaching sewing and currently runs a sewing school from Aunty Social on Topping Street. He’ll be inviting shoppers on the day to take a break and craft a Blackpool-inspired Christmas decoration.
“In this workshop we’ll be using hand sewing and appliqué techniques to embellish fabric – referencing the bright lights and architecture of Blackpool,” he says. “You’ll leave with a hand-stitched, freestanding Christmas decoration for your home. In one of the busiest times of the year, handcrafting a decoration allows the time to stop and be creative. It’s an opportunity to create something that nobody else has, unique to you and your home. Craft is a great opportunity to have a get together, to chat, make memories and take the time to be present. And the outcomes can be enjoyed year on year.”
There’ll also be plenty to distract the children while you shop for them at Blackpool Creative Christmas Market. Street theatre performers will be providing entertainment and you can be part of a quintessential Christmas scene and step into a giant snow globe.
“It’s so easy to get swept up in the Christmas frenzy on the high street and end up buying things that we don’t really want or need,” organisers say. “More and more we’re avoiding the stress of that completely and spending endless amounts of cash that many of us don’t have by sticking stuff in our Amazon baskets. We know shoppers are feeling increasingly uneasy about handing their money over for unethically-produced goods for the sake of it and our Creative Christmas Market is really an opportunity to avoid that.
“We’re bringing Christmas shopping back to the high street but putting sustainability at the heart of it while supporting 50 independent local traders. There’s the added bonus of being able to do all your shopping in one place on one day while having the opportunity to feel part of our town’s vibrant creative community and entertain the family at the same time with some really fun activities.”
Four independent Blackpool traders who are making this year’s Creative Christmas Market stylish tell us about the work that goes into their small business and why they feel it’s important to shop locally this festive season.
Name: Caprice Minto
Stall: Capri Club/Grumpy Club
An independent designer, Caprice Minto will be hosting a stall selling her fashion lines – Capri Club, festival and swimwear, and Grumpy Club, up-cycled smock dresses and tote bags.
“I taught myself how to sew less than six years ago using YouTube videos and donated fabrics and have been running my own brand for nearly four years now,” says the 30-year-old who’s currently studying for a degree in fashion at Blackpool School of Arts. “Everything is handmade in my home studio by myself and so much goes into each creation, from fabric sourcing to pattern cutting, sewing and much more but it’s always a pleasure putting my creations out there into the world.”
Finding her calling has introduced Minto into a creative community in Blackpool, and coming together with other makers at markets like this, she says, is massively encouraging.
“I truly never knew how many talented artists our little home town holds. Your local independent makers put so much of themselves into their products and we should all be supporting one another in the community to create further opportunities for everyone in the creative fields.”
Name: Helen Rodger
Stall: Handcrafted jewellery
“I make the kind of jewellery that I like to wear myself, elegant and understated but bold,” says Helen Rodger. “In my St Anne’s workshop I work in recycled silver, setting stones and glass. Right now I’m working on ways of mounting glass and semi-precious stones into tactile spinning jewellery.”
Rodger feels that gifting loved ones a unique, handcrafted product is incredibly rewarding. “You’re giving something where the piece has been considered and cared about by the maker. It’s a piece of their talent and maybe it gives some inspiration. It’s something that will be treasured for many years and that hopefully the owner will identify with. As a jeweller, I put a part of myself into everything I make and I think about how a piece will be worn as well as its balance and proportion.”
Name: Jessie Crooke
Stall: That Scrunchie Brand
Jessie Crooke launched her business, That Scrunchie Brand, with her mum, Kirsty, during lockdown.
“We keep our hair accessories as sustainable as possible by sourcing fabric from charity shops and using end of line,” she says. “In the past year we have expanded and now offer jersey, high quality headbands as well. Every Christmas I gift my family and friends handmade items. I love the idea of them being one of a kind and unique.”
Name: Sameera Al-Hilley
Stall: The Vintage Wardrobe
For Sameera Al-Hilley, running her independent business is less about making and more about curating. She sells hand-picked women’s vintage clothing from the 1960s to the 1990s, taking the hard work out of shopping for anyone who likes the items in their wardrobe to be sustainable and one of a kind.
“Each item is carefully picked based on wearability, condition and how it can be loved in a new wardrobe,” she says. “I firmly believe that there’s vintage out there for everyone, so I always aim to have something for every size and style. You can’t beat the feeling of finding an incredible vintage piece, whether that’s for a loved one or yourself. Vintage is so versatile, it can be worn in many different ways and you know you won’t see anyone else in the same thing.
She adds: “There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes of running a small business, especially for those who are creating their own products by hand. By supporting local makers and small business owners, you’re helping us continue to do what we love doing.”
By Antonia Charlesworth
Main image by Claire Griffiths
For more information about Blackpool Creative Christmas Market on December 2, 2023, follow this link.
Information about the market is also on Facebook here.