A particular group of English ladies know that it's time to start gathering and organising for Christmas when their Mary Howard Christmas Fair invitation drops through the letter-box....
I attended this event for the first time last year and was completely overwhelmed! It's a miraculous feat of organisation, finely tuned over many years, whereby you park your car on an aircraft runway and are ferried to the venue by a fleet of extremely cheerful and helpful drivers....
Just to give a little background information, I am quoting from the website directly: (http://www.maryhoward.co.uk/)
"The Mary Howard Christmas Fairs started twenty-six years ago with a small selection of stalls selling presents in her home in aid of the NSPCC, her favourite charity. The sales proved such a success that a bigger venue was needed and provided in the shape of an aircraft hangar just off the M4 at Hullavington which at that time belonged to the Royal Air Force and was taken over by the Royal Logistic Corps, both of whom have been a wonderful help in raising money. Inside there is an array of 150 stalls, all of which have been carefully selected, out of the thousands of applications for stalls received each year and they are as varied as possible. On the day of the fair, the shoppers are provided with a restaurant, creche and customer collection service. It just has to be the most hassle-free way of shopping for both the vendors and the shoppers in an atmosphere that is both fun and vibrant."
I can tell you that it IS both fun and vibrant if somewhat exhausting (not to mention stressful for the bank account)! There is a huge array of goodies for sale from mink coats to personalised tiny Christmas decorations for the tree and everything in between:
If a mink coat isn't on your shopping list, there are plenty of other options:
Decorative items for the home....
Gorgeous original art....(http://www.redhenoriginals.com/)
Beautiful silk & cashmere jackets which are really exquisite and can be tailor made to your size and choice of colour/design...
Total girlie shopping heaven under one roof!
And on a more serious note (and again quoting from their website):
"Mary Howard's support for the NSPCC and the children we seek to help has been an inspiration over the last 25 years. Her commitment, enthusiasm and energy, ably backed up by her husband Paddy, have not only resulted in funds to support the Society's work but her sales have also helped to raise awareness of the scale of child abuse."
Dame Mary Marsh, NSPCC Director and Chief Executive
Tragically, Mary Howard was killed in a motor accident at the Hullavington venue at this time last year.....the Fairs will hopefully continue to give pleasure to so many, as well as providing much needed funds for the charities she was so passionate about.......s