Excited chatter, scents of mulled wine and delicious pastries, and colourful displays of gifts and decorations filled Hornsey Vale Community Centre on 27 November 2022. It was another successful annual Green Christmas Fair, aimed at providing a space for creative entrepreneurs to share their work with their community, and an opportunity for the centre to offer sustainable, affordable Christmas shopping in support of its mission.
“It is all about celebrating Christmas, yes, but also being aware of the local and global issues around the environment and reducing waste – so thinking about where our Christmas gifts, decorations, and cards come from, for example”, explained one of the organisers, Tilly, ahead of the event. “We also want to support local makers and creative people and those who are starting out on that journey of setting themselves up as a small business. We invite them to participate in the fair as a way of keeping the business in our local community.”
At the fair, attendees had the opportunity to browse and buy articles from 30 stalls, ranging from ceramics and clothing to knitted toys and hand-drawn prints. It was a great space to find that creative, unique, special Christmas gift without having to spend too much money—not to mention the opportunity to meet familiar faces and neighbours.
Clapham-based jeweller Sophia Denford was born and raised in Hornsey, and still feels at home in the neighbourhood. She said the fair was a great opportunity for her and her sister to reconnect with people they’d known since they were children, as they sold handmade earrings built from plastic scraps at their stall.
Sophia shapes her earrings from plastic pieces of broken objects using a laser cutter. “I take a lot of joy out of producing earrings out of things that otherwise would just be waste,” she said.
It was the third or fourth year that knitter Elizabeth Burling had brought her unique hand-made British bears and other animals to sell at the Green Christmas Fair. “Knitting is my passion,” she said while working on another creation. “I love the fair. It’s vibrant and I meet people. It’s a way of creating a community.”
Sustainability is the motto of the fair and is ingrained in Elizabeth’s work. Her little creatures are plastic-free, and made of wool purchased directly from farmers. Whenever possible she uses undyed wool. “Everyone needs to think about sustainability,” she said.
It was Nur Polat Kantar’s first time at the community centre. She first began creating ceramics in 2016. “My pieces are made to be used for a long time. They represent what it means to be sustainable,” she said.
She said she enjoyed meeting people at the fair. “They are curious about my work, about the process, and it’s a nice experience to talk about the creation process of my pieces.”
“It’s a great chance for me to show some of my work to people from the neighbourhood,” agreed Aurélie Meriel, also a first-time stall holder at the fair. She is French and moved to Muswell Hill five years ago. Not long after moving, she began painting a series of postcards inspired by her son’s drawings. He is now six and still the main source of inspiration for her work. She is passionate about creating fun and cute art for little ones using mixed media, printmaking collage, and painting techniques.
She is very self-conscious about the use of plastic and was very intentional about preparing for the fair, including trying to avoid plastic in her packaging.
This year, the community centre also featured its own fundraising stall selling plants for home or garden. In addition, our chosen charity this year was the local food bank, with volunteers raising funds from a bumper range of second hand books.
“Community centres are vital because they are spaces where people can meet, share ideas and they aren’t about spending money, but finding a sense of community,” says Nigel Kellaway, who has volunteered with the Hornsey Vale Community Association for many years.
Nigel has also worked since 2010 with Eren Basharan, creator of Leo Stropic, a character based on his experience being bullied at school. They first met at a youth centre, and in the past few years, Eren has attended Nigel’s animation classes on animation one day a week.
“In London, we don’t have many of these spaces where you have a sense of belonging, where you can go and feel like this is your place. That’s why investing in community centres is so important.”
In addition to the many craftspeople and makers, local not-for-profit and community organisations had a presence at the Fair. These included Friends of the Earth Muswell Hill, Hornsey Food Bank, our chosen charity this year, which benefited from the proceeds of a very popular second-hand book stall, and Growing Communities, which distributes fruit and veg bags from the centre.
Mary Hogan, HVCA volunteer and Growing Communities customer said on the day, “I buy my fruit and vegetables from Growing Communities because I love and appreciate the small-scale and ecological farmers who are transforming our broken food system from the ground-up.”