Hi Crafty Friends!
Last Friday I went to the NEC for the first time. My mum bought me tickets to The Creative Crafting Show for my birthday. We had admission into the VIP area and we were booked into two workshops! We have been to craft shows before, but never at the NEC.
There is so much to tell you about so I am going break the blog post down into sections. We will talk about the workshops, the trade stands, the goody bag and the organisation of the event. So if there is a particular section you want to see, scroll down and stop at the headings that jump out at you!
Before we begin I will give you a brief outline of our day. We arrived early enough, had an interesting time parking the car and getting into the actual show. We visited the VIP area, got our goody bags, we had a pastry before heading to the first workshop.
Workshop number one was utterly bizarre, slightly underwhelming but at least mum and I could have a laugh about it for the rest of the day. Then we did the all-important shopping, paused for the second workshop which was much better and then a little more shopping before driving home.
I think I behaved myself very well, considering that Mr Crafts had told me to “go crazy”. I would like to point out that Mr Crafts has seen me shop at craft shows before, so he knows all too well what “go crazy” would mean! I decided before I went that I would mostly be looking to buy yarn and beads. The yarn would only be bought if it was a good price and if it was something that I hadn’t seen before. Similarly, when looking for beads I was looking for reasonably priced gemstone beads or any other beads that were unusual and I couldn’t get out on the high street. The plan was only to deviate from these purchases if there was something really special, for example if there was something great that I could use for the South Africa and USA scrapbooks.
There were so many workshops going on over several days it is impossible for me to tell you what they all were. We were booked on to a Powertex gnome workshop in the morning and a wirework Christmas tree decoration in the afternoon.
The gnome workshop did not go well. There was a main teacher and about three other helpers. The lead teacher would tell us to do something; we would then follow the instructions. Shortly after one of the helpers in particular would come along; act very annoyed and tell us we shouldn’t have done what we just did. She would then interfere (I’m sorry I have no other word for what she actually did) and we would have to redo everything. It was quite annoying and mum and I both felt like we were at school. Mum and I were not the only ones who felt this way, everyone was doing as they were told and everyone was being interfered with (or rather their gnomes were). Not one single person had a gnome that turned out the way it was supposed to. My gnome is currently wondering when he will be taking a one way trip to Kettering Borough Council’s finest refuse pile.
The second workshop was much better. The lady teaching the workshop did not have any additional helpers and was friendly and approachable. She made sure everyone was happy with what they had to do throughout the workshop. Everyone finished their Christmas tree decoration and everyone was pleased with the results!
The Trade Stands
Our tickets allowed us into The Creative Craft Show and into Simply Christmas – The Crafty Christmas Show. I don’t know what everyone else expected from the Simply Christmas but I know I did not expect it to be a large indoor market selling coats, cardigans and gloves. I think I was expecting some Christmas crafts being demonstrated, or even people selling their handmade Christmas goods. However there were so many stands in The Creative Craft Show that we didn’t have time to look round all the stands in both shows anyway, so it didn’t really matter that Simply Christmas was slightly underwhelming.
The trade stands in The Creative Craft Show were more what I had expected. The trade stands in The Creative Craft Show were varied, there were jewellery making stores, yarn stores, fabric stores, paper crafting stores, art stands and a lot more besides. There were however some stands that I didn’t really think were necessary in a craft show, for example there was a guitar player selling his CDs and some other strange things going on that didn’t really seem to fit. I’m not saying that these stands should have been given over to more crafting – although I would have preferred this! I just don’t think that these odd stands added anything extra!
Anyway, I managed to get all of the items on my hit list; some nice sock yarn, some gemstone beads and even some scrapbooking papers.
The Goody Bag
Now, I don’t know about you, but I love a freebie. I love it even more if it comes in a bag and I can’t see what’s inside. I love the surprise of the goody bag even more than the actual goody bag itself. This goody bag was reserved only for people with VIP tickets, giving it an added layer of exclusivity to make it even more exciting.
Are you dying to know what was inside the goody bag? Well, I am going to tell you!
1) Mollie Makes, branded tote bag
2) Mollie Makes Magazine (issue 109)
3) Two craft kits, one amigurumi avocado keychain and one felt lion.
4) One ball of yarn (varies). My ball of yarn was 50g of Rowan brushed fleece (65% wool, 30% alpaca and 5%polyamide)
5) Discount voucher for an online craft store.
(Also included with the VIP package but not necessarily in the goody bag)
6) Morning drink and pastry
7) Afternoon drink and cake
8) Shopping drop off
9) Free cloakroom (different to the NEC cloakroom which cost £1 per item)
Getting to the NEC was relatively easy. The journey took less than an hour from my house. The parking was slightly less easy. There were signs in the car park indicating where you can purchase your car parking tickets (for the bargain price of only £16.00). Over we go to the sign only to find we could not buy parking tickets. Instead we were directed to a website where we could buy tickets. It seemed that everyone and their dogs were trying to access this website all at once, so unsurprisingly, the website was not coping so well. Never mind, there were more signs! We could buy parking tickets from the exhibition halls.
There were shuttle buses laid on by the NEC to take you from the car park to the events. There was an absolutely enormous queue for the bus so we decided to take the ten minute walk to the show. After a few minutes we came to something of a crossroads. Actually it was more of a T junction. Depending on which hall your exhibition was in would depend which way you went. We checked our tickets, naively thinking that the hall number would be printed on the tickets. We were wrong. Again we were not the only people having this issue. Our decision on whether to go left or right was based entirely on what everyone else was doing; we followed the crowd and eventually found the show. We also bought our car parking tickets and wanted to pick up our VIP packages.
We got ourselves into the queue which was clearly marked “VIP Check In”, a window became free we stepped up and asked for our VIP passes. The delightfully helpful lady behind the glass looked at us like we were incredibly stupid and told us we didn’t need any additional passes. Literally everyone else around us had been provided with VIP wristbands and complementary show guides.
Employee of the year then looked at us like we were stupid and told us we wouldn’t claim our wristbands from this particular window and sent us back to the queue to visit literally any of the other windows. I think at this point I muttered something about the NEC being the national exhibition centre, which to me meant these were the people who were the best in the UK at organising exhibitions.
Wristbands donned, we went to the cloakroom to drop off our jackets (least said about this the better) and finally made it into the show and headed straight to the VIP area where we picked up our goody bags, drinks and morning pastries. This area of the event was extremely well organised, there was plenty of seating, staff serving drinks and pastries were polite and efficient and it was nice to have somewhere calm and spacious to sit.
We had a great day at the show. We bought everything we wanted to get. Everything organised by the exhibitors was great (with the exception of the gnome workshop), everything organised by the NEC was hard work and a little frustrating but it didn’t stop us from having a great day.