Handmade and Homegrown Festival at Hever Castle

So, I survived the festival at Hever Castle. Three whole days of selling (not my favourite activity). I’ve never done a big festival before, so was unsure of what to expect. Mostly it was good.

I did of course have help. Mum came, and did a brilliant job enticing people to buy. She had her new phone with her, and took lots of photos. Son 2 had shown her how to use it (it’s a smart phone – too smart for me.) Unfortunately he didn’t also teach her what to do should it fall out of her pocket and into the next cubicle when using public loos! Luckily the nice person next to her slid it back under the partition, and she didn’t get accused of trying to take dodgy photos.

Husband came too, and turned out to be an excellent salesperson – even if some of his methods were somewhat unethical. When someone is clearly having trouble controlling a very strong dog, is it okay to whistle, so the dog runs to your stall pulling the owner behind them? Not sure (but we did sell her a book). And if a coach-load of ladies from Holland arrive, to look at the quilting show, is it okay to sell one a book, even though she doesn’t actually speak much English? And I’m also not sure about the : “Would you like an apple? If you bring your Mum here to buy a book, you can have one,” technique, used on small children – but again, it made a sale.

I’m not quite sure what my mum’s selling technique was. But she would disappear with a book (perhaps to have lunch, or to use the loo) and after a while, someone would approach my stall, saying they had bought the book from an elderly lady, who had told them I would sign it for them…..Exactly how you manage to sell a book whilst in the loo is beyond me!

I was sent the instructions for when to arrive, the code for the back entrance to the castle (very exciting!) and a plan showing where my pitch was. It was a big area. We arrived fairly early, to find several people were there already. We were in a marquee, and because the day before had been wet (when they put it up) there were constant drips of water from the ceiling. People who do this event every year (which seemed to be most people) had come prepared with towels and mops and sheets of plastic to cover their stock. I had not. It was all a bit stressful, as a book that has been dripped on would be ruined. We set up the tables, and left all the books and bookmarks in plastic crates, hoping the drips would eventually stop. They did.

Most stall holders were very nice, and they all seemed to know each other. A few were a bit territorial (we had all been allocated a 3m square, and some used the whole width for their own stall, and then expected to walk through their neighbour’s space when they wanted to walk around, meaning their neighbour had to have a smaller stall.) I guess everyone had spent hours making their products, and were keen that it should be shown at its best. I overheard a few tense conversations about the positioning of stands.

However, the absolutely best thing of all was being at Hever Castle. We arrived early each morning, when the grounds were empty. The grass was damp, the sun was not too hot, and the swans were wandering along the bank. All I needed was a swooshy skirt and a horse. It is a beautiful place. Anne Boleyn grew up there, and you can’t help but think that she’d have been so much happier if she’d just stayed there and married a farmer. That’s what I would’ve done.

If you’ve never visited, put it on your list, it’s lovely.

Thank you for reading.
Take care,
Anne x


Handmade and Homegrown

I have been busy preparing for the Handmade and Homegrown Festival at Hever Castle (1st, 2nd and 3rd of September). This is all very scary – but to be honest, everything about selling books is very scary.

I happened to see an advert for the festival, and remembered that when I had been giving a talk at a local bookclub, a man had suggested it would be a good place to sell my books. I wrote to the organiser, asking if writing and publishing my own books qualified as “handmade” and was told that yes, I was welcome to apply for a stand. I then had to send a photograph, which thankfully I had because nice Mr East Grinstead Bookshop had taken some when I did a book signing there. (The photo was of the stall – not me – you don’t have to pass some beauty level before they give you a stand!) I also had to send £40, which added to the scariness, as unless I sell lots of books, it will increase my Cobweb Press debt even more. But I have learned that you don’t get anywhere in starting a business unless you take a few risks.

I received my “you have been allocated a space” email, put the dates in the diary and forgot about it – after I had booked my Mother – she is by far the best salesperson in the family. I didn’t think about it again (because that’s how I cope with scary things which aren’t happening today) until Husband (who copes with scary things by planning well in advance) suggested we needed to do some preparation. So, off we went into the garden, to make a ‘mock’ stall.

I have been allocated a 3m square space. We measured this out and marked it with lumps of wood. It wasn’t terribly accurate because the dog kept running off with the lumps of wood. We then set up garden tables in a variety of positions. I was, to be honest, a bit shocked by how big 3m is – I had envisioned one small table with 10 books on it. Probably just as well that Husband insisted I had a trial run. I then tried balancing several books in different formation on said tables. Mandy (my ‘special needs’ cat) found this very entertaining, and joined it. Which wasn’t very helpful. I realised I needed some book stands like Mr East Grinstead Bookshop has – so checked out Amazon and found some that were cheap. (Though it all adds to my ever-growing debt.)

I have one poster, but I need more as it’s such a big space, so we ordered those (more debt). We also put out some chairs. As the space is big, there’ll be room for a few people (ie bored husbands and tired mothers) to have a little sit down. While they’re there, grateful for a chance to rest, my Mum can chat to them (she is very good at chatting to people – not a skill I inherited) and they will have the opportunity to buy a book. Or at least to look at them. I think I’m sorted now. If you are in the area at the beginning of September, please pop in and say hello. I will be the scared looking author with the chatty mother. Possibly the blind one – I am wondering if I can pretend to be blind, and then I will be allowed to take my dog, for moral support. And I might get some ‘sympathy sales’. Yep, am liking the idea, will practise ‘being blind’ for the next week and see how I get on.

Other news in brief:
We went to Cambridge to visit Son 1. His flat is disturbingly tidy (disturbing because I had not realised ‘tidy’ was within his skill set, and I feel rather cheated by the previous 23 years of organisation levels.) Cambridge is very nice. It has barges, and a lock, which we had to pry Husband away from. It also has incredibly pretty buildings, lots of Mandarin speakers (good opportunities to eavesdrop) and way too many homeless people. Why? Why are there so many people begging for money? Have they gravitated to Cambridge because it’s a tourist town, are they victims of the ever-increasing rents, or are they students who flunked their exams? Very strange and rather sad.

On the journey home, heard Son 2 chuckling in the back of the car. Asked why he was laughing, and discovered he had picked up a copy of Invisible Jane. Rather gratifying. (So, it’s a ‘girly book’ with funny bits – that also makes 21 year old blokes laugh!)

Yesterday, we went to Bluewater. Shopping (not my favourite thing). We needed new curtains for the bathrooms. They were all hideously expensive, so I felt drawn to the ‘bargain bucket’. Am now regretting this, as I instead have hideous curtains, which I will have to alter. Sewing is not something I enjoy (whole family leaves house when I sew due to bad temper.)

Hope you have a lovely week. Thanks for reading.

Take care,
Anne x

If you enjoyed this, why not sign up to follow my blog?

Invisible Jane – A love story with funny bits!
All profit sent to Tearfund, so please buy several copies and give them to your friends.