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Over 5,200 visitors flocked to Cockermouth last weekend (22 and 23 June) – a record for Woolfest - and enjoyed the “biggest and best ever” event in spite of Friday’s rain and storms. Visitors came from as far afield as Russia, Japan, the USA and New Zealand as well as coaches full of wool enthusiasts from Manchester, Newcastle and Scotland and lots of local Cumbrian crafters.
“Each year we think that we must have peaked,” says Marion Woolcott, one of the organisers from the Wool Clip cooperative, “but it just seems to get bigger and more varied and our visitors seemed to thoroughly enjoy it this year, in spite of the deluge outside. We still had a waiting list of businesses wanting to be here in spite of extending to over 160 stalls this year and the visitor numbers continue to grow (at least 5,200 this year) as well as selling more raw fleeces (nearly 600 this year, raising over £5,000 for breeders and wool growers). The event also raised over £1,700 for charity with the
Ravelry network and Wool Creche contributing £822 to the Pride of Cumbria Air Ambulance and the p/hop stand (pennies per hour of pleasure) raising £906 for Médecins Sans Frontières.
Emma Wigginton from Cockermouth was at Woolfest for the first time as a stallholder with her business, Emmie and Emma Make: “I had a fantastic time, did great business and met some wonderful people,” she says, “and it was good to be able to hear the hum of happy shoppers on Saturday rather than the thump of the rain on the roof!”.
For the first time, the organisers from the Wool Clip presented Stallholder Awards to five businesses that were judged to have contributed most to this year’s Woolfest. “It wasn’t just about the look of their stalls,” says Jean Wildish, current Chairman of the Wool Clip, “but also about their support on the administration ahead of Woolfest and their energy and enthusiasm during the event too.”
Overall winner, and recipient of the Herdwick Cup (knitted by Marion Woolcott), was Eta Ingham-Lawrie (pictured) of the Window of Woolly Wonders from Duns in the Borders, who demonstrated her weaving throughout Woolfest and had one of the most colourful stalls in Mitchells.
Runners up, and recipients of Herdwick corsages or pin wheels, were Helen Brotherton of My Fine Weaving Yarn from Leicestershire, Jon Dun-Ballam of
Easyknits.co.uk from London, Ruth Packham from Aberystwyth in Wales and Sue Allan of SewSister who had travelled from Surrey.
But the stars of the show were still the animals and the Main Ring at Mitchells was as packed as ever for the Rare Breed Parade, with commentary by VIP guest, Peter Titley of the Rare Breed Survival Trust.
“One of the strengths of Woolfest,” says Marion, “is that we tell the whole story of wool, from the animal and the fleece through to the yarn and the
crafts. It means that we can also make the most of our local Cumbrian breeds and tell the story of wool in a way that even the youngest visitor can understand and it’s probably the reason that we recently won the Event of the Year Award from Cumbria Tourism. Thank you to everyone in Cockermouth and beyond who helped make Woolfest such a success – it was exhausting but it was worth it!”
The Wool Clip is a Cumbria-based cooperative of 15 smallholders, spinners, dyers, knitters, feltmakers, weavers and other wool workers. It was set up in 2001 to promote the value of local wool and to market members’ skills and products. The Wool Clip established Woolfest in June 2005; Woolfest 2013 will be on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 June at Mitchell’s Lakeland Livestock Centre at Cockermouth.