Beverley Bell-Hughes gives her account of the CPA's Autumn Fair, 1999
The selected Craft Potters Fair, for the first time, was held in Oxford at a public school, St Edwards, on the Woodstock Road. As usual, life was chaos - what to take? large pots? small pots? which ones? how many? We only had limited space, 6 x 4 ft, to share. At least we did not have the worry of camping gear as an extra burden.
The last time we went to a potters fair (Rufford) our car broke down, seriously, both ways. Going we got towed, and coming home, we were left in the car park, waving goodbye to all the potters, us, poor lost souls in the empty car park waiting for the AA to rescue us. They ended up towing us all the way to North Wales. Well, at least we saved on the petrol! We got told by the mechanic that the car's problem was the head gasket and it would cost about £300 to fix. Our son, Thomas was without a car, so we said "If you can get the Escort going, you can have it" We went off and bought an old banger for £200 with 6 months MOT and Road Tax. We thought this was a good deal under the circumstances. But guess what?! Never trust mechanics! Tom got the car going for £10, the cost of replacing the thermostat.
Well back to Oxford and the Autumn Fair, Oct. 30 & 31st. I had to turn down two jobs, telling ghost stories for Halloween, in order to get there. It is always stressful going to fairs and getting everything ready only then to bring it all back home again. But one keeps on hoping, keeps on smiling, being enthusiastic and believing in what you are making. The plus side of fairs is seeing other potters, meeting up with old friends, listening to the 'craic'. We met a good friend, Jonathan Spence-Atkinson, who was in Art School with Terry. He and his partner took us for a meal in Oxford and showed us some sights, which was good. We had 30 years talking to catch up with.
The fair at St Edwards was in a hall which was split level. There were about 80 potters' work, all different sorts: figurative, slipware, porcelain, hand-built, thrown. A lot of choice for the public. The fair was well attended and quite busy. The local press had given us coverage and the local radio was busy plugging for us, too.There were demonstrations for the public, a clay clinic for problems, potting tools to buy and the CPA bookstand.
On the Friday night, Terry and I had booked to stay in the back packers hostel in the centre of Oxford. This was run by two Australian girls and you had to say who you were before you were let in the door. The place was very noisy and we got issued with a sheet and pillowcase each. The room we were in had 5 double bunk beds made out of metal, with NO LADDERS. I slept at the bottom. We picked the wrong night to stay. They had a stag night booked. This went on till 6 am! I did get some sleep though and nobody snored too much. Probably because nobody slept too much. In the morning the shower area was closed. It was flooded. They must have had a good night...
Off we went to our stand for the day and the big sell. In the day, John Jelfs' wife, Judy, came over to our stand and asked if we would like to be security guards for the pots as they had heard our accommodation was very basic. We said 'Yes' - a warm quiet school to sleep in. So various people provided us with camp beds and blankets and we slept on the floor by the CPA bookstand. We got a chance to see the pots with no one around which was great and in the morning an extra hours sleep because the clocks went back an hour. So we came home from Oxford, after not selling much, but having an interesting weekend.