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11/12/2016 Pics (C) Huw John, Cardiff. MANDATORY BYLINE - Huw John, Cardiff Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Fair (C) HUW JOHN, CARDIFF e-mail: Web: Twitter: @huwjohnpics



Yes, it’s that time of year again. Enduring endless Chrimbo songs over the airwaves, fighting over parking spaces and bargains and dealing with stores that bombard you with holiday displays the second Halloween is over. Want a more down-to-earth, unique, handmade experience? Visit Christmas markets and fairs to find that extra special gift, indulge in scrumptious food and more. Jane Hall, Operations Manager for Craft*folk (in connection with Cardiff Christmas Market [below]) and Aine Morris, who is the chief executive of Abergavenny Food Festival [above], which also presents the Abergavenny Christmas Fair, give us the lively lowdown.


Can you tell me what year the Christmas market/fair started?

Aine Morris: This is the seventh Christmas Fair.

Jane Hall: Craftfolk, as a small independent company, have been running art and craft events, including the Cardiff Christmas Market, for over 20 years. We are committed to ensuring, through our events, that genuine arts and crafts are kept alive. Especially when faced with so many mass-produced products available in the market place today.


Besides food and drink, you also have crafts?

JH: Although we do have a selection of food and drink stalls at the Christmas Market as this adds to the atmosphere, our core exhibitors are made up of talented artists and crafts people offering artwork, woodwork, jewellers representing different facets of jewellery from silversmiths, cloisonné enamel work to glasswork and semi-precious stones, Welsh slate work, handmade/thrown ceramics, recycled glass, candles, soaps, creams, chocolates, fudge, pewter work, textiles and leatherwork to name just a few. A full list of our categories can be found on the Market page of our website where you can also see details of all the exhibitors taking part this year.


Can you mention some producers and/or products?

AM: We’re always excited to welcome innovative, young food producers to the Abergavenny markets. We’re a huge fan of Charcutier, who have also recently set up a farm shop vending machine in Cardiff, and it’s great to see Eccentric Gin representing Wales in the recent explosion in British gin. Even though they’re not Welsh, we’re also excited to be joined by Hodmedod’s who recently won a BBC Food And Farming award for their innovative work in bringing back British pulses. We need more food producers like these.


Are there any specific qualifications, ex. a percentage have to be from/made in Wales?

AM: Abergavenny Food Festival is all about bringing the best craft or artisan food producers together from across the country. For Christmas, around 50% of all traders are Welsh with the majority of traders coming from the regional borders of Bristol and Herefordshire.

JH: No specific qualifications are needed although we do have crafts people who have trained in their specific craft trading alongside people who have decided on a change in direction in their careers and are self-taught. We do have a selection process to ensure that all work is as professional as possible and that there is also a good balance of all the various crafts. We try to support as many local artists and crafts people as possible although we also welcome applications from exhibitors outside Wales.


Are there any new stalls/products this year or that are from Abergavenny/Cardiff?

AM: Chesters Wine Merchants (Abergavenny), Angel Bakery (Abergavenny), Untapped Brewing Company (Raglan), Baked By Mel (Llantwit Major), Afan Vale Chocolates (Glyncorrwg).

JH: We introduced a Taster Stall Scheme over 10 years ago to encourage new artists and craftspeople an opportunity to take part in the Christmas Market – not only at a reduced cost but also for shorter trading slots, as taking part for the duration of the market can be very daunting if you are a new business just starting out. This ensures that we always have a great selection of new exhibitors, thus keeping the market always looking fresh. Each year we have approximately 100 new artists and crafts people taking part throughout the duration of the market under our Taster Stall Scheme. These stalls are based in Trinity Street, one of the locations of the market. Our remaining locations of St John Street, Working Street, the Hayes, and Hills Street are made up of exhibitors who support us at all our events throughout the year and new, but established, exhibitors who are taking part with us for the first time.


What makes your market unique or one of the best?

AM: Abergavenny Food Festival wouldn’t be what it is without the town of Abergavenny! The event has grown up across the town and while Christmas is smaller and newer than September, we’re unique in terms of the quantity and quality of producers that come together. We’re incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a fantastic range of producers, from both Wales and just across the border.

JH: I think that our market is unique because of the artists and crafts people that take part as they are genuine makers. Their work is not mass produced, is totally original, and is not available to buy anywhere else other than from the makers themselves. Our event has grown over the years and with over 80 beautifully decorated wooden stalls and is now an integral part of Christmas in Cardiff City Centre, attracting footfall that not only benefits us but also benefits the permanent retailers. This year, during the 45 days of the market, will see a rolling programme of over 200 exhibitors taking part.


words RHONDA LEE REALI photos HUW JOHN (Abergavenny Christmas Fair)

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