The best of British craft and artisan designs are available under one festive roof at the Country Living Christmas fair this weekend, which marks its 11th year. Starting yesterday, various artisans are exhibiting their unique range of products – from Christmas fixtures and delicious food, to home decor and unique gifting items – with a particular focus on handmade products.
Harrogate is very much a Christmas destination, with the fair attracting shoppers from across the country, not just from Yorkshire and our neighbours. With the expected Christmas classics playing in the background, the live demonstrations, talks and crafting workshops make this a special annual experience. Event director Fay Rayner said, “We’re proud to once more champion independent producers, artisans, and creatives, and can’t wait to welcome everyone to Harrogate”.
Country Living Christmas fair
Lesley Spencer has been coming to this fair every year with her daughter Lizzie from Doncaster. Lesley told Yorkshire Bylines, “This has been our mother-daughter ritual since the fair started. It’s not just Christmas decorations but a lot of things you don’t see on high streets”.
Since 1991 the fairs have extended their support to various small businesses, helping them grow into iconic brands such as Emma Bridgewater and Sophie Allport. There are Country Living fairs in London and Glasgow too, attracting over 40,000 dedicated shoppers each year across the three locations. The event also has various ticketed sessions such as candle painting, bauble painting and Christmas crafting, with prices ranging from £5 to £15. Visitors can learn tips for making delicious cocktails and canapes as well as how to make your own chocolate and how to build a Christmas cheese board.
Rebecca Binnington from Hull is hosting a stall here for the first time. With the first snows of the season having arrived this week, she told us she was particularly glad to be at an inside market: “I’m excited about the fair as this is the first time I’ve had a stall here. Also, unlike usual markets, I’m glad it’s inside the convention as it’s so much warmer here!”
For the first time ever, the fair includes ‘The Christmas Table’, hosted by renowned TV chef Marcus Bean, a regular face on ITV’s This Morning. Bean is accompanied by private chef and home economist Victoria Onions. Together they’re hosting six sessions per day on all the four days of the fair.
Onions, who was trained in Paris, said: “While Marcus has done this before in Glasgow and London, this is the first time we’re doing it here. We’re extremely excited with the way things are turning out here at Harrogate. All six sessions are interactive and we’ll be helping our participants prep for Christmas without feeling the additional pressure.”
Fun and frolic at the food hall
Wandering through the fair on Thursday, it was easy to see how the shoppers were so easily drawn to the food hall, with the aromatic smell of coffee, hot chocolate and cakes enticing us in. Understandably, there was good footfall, with guests enjoying the copious hot drinks, artisan food and drink, expert advice and free samples. There was a varied range of festive treats on offer, including sustainable vegetarian and vegan products as well. And not just for humans – pets too!
Rayner explained: “Our curated foodhall is an inviting, fun, warm and festive place to experience unique food and drink products. It’s a chance to talk to the experts and pick up some fabulous recipe ideas to help make your Christmas extra special. This year, we’ll also feature a comfortable Festive Bar as a place to relax, soak in the atmosphere, and enjoy a festive menu of champagnes, classic cocktails, mulled wine, hot toddies, and tasty nibbles.”
Christine Melia and her husband have been coming to the fair for the last decade, all the way from Warrington. “Every year we discover something new and interesting to give. We will be staying in Harrogate for a couple of days Christmas shopping”, she told us. This year’s discovery was the Isle of Barra Distillers!
The dusting of snow outside made Fraser Anderson, who moved from Canada to Harrogate only a few months back, quite nostalgic. He grinned: “I’m extremely happy to be at the fair and a bit homesick due to the small amount of snow as it’s so much warmer here. I’m used to -30 degree Celsius!”