So we answered a tweet a couple of weeks ago from Northcote Manor offering a free stand to anyone with a gift shop locally….and what a lovely experience.
With my event manager’s hat on I could quite easily not talk about the reason why we’re here and just bang on about the wonderfully helpful staff running the event. Whether we’re talking about the Rovers’ security force here at Blackburn Rovers’ Ewood Park, or Northcote’s own staff, I couldn’t be more complimentary.
I’ve run a few events at football grounds over the years and can say, hand on heart, Rovers trounces any of them….my only negative observation being that for a Premiership team you would think the ground would be signposted around the city…oh no, only from the M65.
Attendees watch Nigel Haworth work his magic over the course of the morning, and then eat the meal he has demonstrated over lunch.
Star struck we are, Nigel Haworth is affable, funny and welcoming, with as much time as you like to stand and have his photo taken. The fact that I managed to grab him with his phenomenal Head Chef, Lisa Allen, was the cherry on the cake.
To their credit, to make the event all the more enjoyable, as attendees leave the kitchen area, the organisers at Northcote invited them to walk through a small, intimate market place:
Womersleys – purveyors of Enthused Vinegars and Jellies. I had a tiny taste of their Orange and Mace, Blackcurrant and Rosemary and Lemon, basil and had to buy all three. Exquisite, I can’t wait to have a salad for my lunch this week!
The Bury Black Pudding Company – they need no introduction but did let slip they are considering a gluten free version!
Ashcrofts Fruit & Veg growers from Tarleton – golden beetroot which was sweet as sugar, delicious.
Reedys Naturally – scrummy, yum, nom nom nom jams and chutneys, salts and flavoured sugars from Oswaldtwistle, great company. Predictably I could not go home without that jar of gooseberry and elderflower jam.
Bling It On – jewellery from Thornton, Cleveleys, super for party evenings, girls!
Leagrams Cheeses from Chipping – Ramshackle one day old curd sheeps cheese TO DIE FOR but watch out for Bob’s knobs!
The Wright Wine Company – who have countless wines and over 1,000 scotch whiskeys
Thermomix – for fast and easy cooking
Chocolate UK based in Blackburn – watch your waistline!
It’s been fab and I’ve loved meeting not only the public (you simply don’t meet your customers when you’re online only) but meeting stall holders too.
The camaraderie, the like-mindedness of retailers and the willingness to share information has been so enriching, enjoyable and a hoot to boot that I hope I’m invited back next year.
I’ve been lucky to have Gina (@GeorginaRand) with me, from days of old, and the businesses we’ve launched in our dreamland chats would knock the socks off the Dragon’s Den – FOR SURE! Of sure the rest of the time I’ve been relentlessly rude to her – God she’s fab….I wish I could win the lottery and employ her full time!
Conversation has included the universal lack of support for small businesses. We have had a unimoan about those organisations who have tried, but in our collective opinion, failed to help us. We all feel the same way about the death of the High Street, how Blackburn, Blackpool and Preston have little to attract folk away from each other as the town centres become faceless, and lacking in any choice of one-off shop.
We’ve bemoaned rents and rates, raged against the recession and how we’d all like a shop again but will not contemplate it for fear of the aforementioned!
The customers have been super too, remarking on what a great selection of something a little different we have at newroomsonline, and ironically one that you never see in the shops…..question to self…would people therefore shop in a physical shop? Or is it just too much of an investment to consider at such an unpredictable time.
It’s been a great way to spend the weekend. I’ve loved the social interaction of it, hearing the customers comments and would dearly love to think that I’d have a shop again one day – I loved my old one…but speaking as a voice of this little group – would any of us dare to venture out there again!?
I just don’t know.