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New Year Catch Up

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Hello and happy new year to all Near & Fair blog readers!

We hope you are all well and had a wonderful time over the festive period. Here at Near & Fair we were “proper busy” as they say round here. We were not only proud to greet a great number of walk-in customers, we also had our busiest Christmas yet in our online store. Somehow, we also managed to carve out some time to attend a few events in the run-up to the season, and were delighted to have our goods taken out as part of our Sale or Return facility. Then there’s the coffee – but more about that in our next post.

Cottingham Green Fair

Hosted by the Hull Friends of the Earth, the annual Cottingham Green Fair is always a popular event and is held in the Civic Hall in early November. It is in the village where I grew up, so every visit provides me with a large dose of nostalgia. In fact, back in the late 1970s I went to my very first disco in the very same hall that the Green Fair is now held. Reputed to be the largest village in England (based on population), Cottingham is only a stone’s throw from Hull, and many of our walk-in customers live in that area. It was wonderful to see so many of them at the Green Fair, and it always makes me do a little jig when I see people wearing clothes they have bought from our shop!

Julie, sitting behind Near & Fair's stall at the Green Fair, Cottingham, 5 Nov 2023, hosted by Hull Friends of the Earth. The table is filled with ethically produced goods
Photo courtesy of Hull Friends of the Earth

With all stall holders having a passion for protecting the environment, it was fascinating to see the many ways in which people “do their bit”. The stall next to me was Hull Food Partnership whose goal is to connect local businesses, organisations, and individuals to promote healthy and sustainable food, tackle food poverty and diet-related ill health, reduce waste and much, much more. Along with lots of leaflets and information, Hull Food Partnership were also giving away free vegetable seeds (I bagged a packet of white cabbage seeds for my veg plot), and they had an apple press where they were making the freshest possible apple juice for thirsty event-goers.

Other stalls included sales of plants, preloved items, vegan goods, and some of the most beautiful hand-crafted items I have seen. With its joyful vibes, fantastic wares, and an abundance of information on how to better manage our environmental impact, the Cottingham Green Fair is a must-visit event and we hope to be able to attend again in 2024.

Hull University Students’ Union Events

I’ve been to many events at the Hull University Students’ Union and I hope to go to many more. The students and staff are incredibly welcoming and have an abundance of enthusiasm. Many already know what Fair Trade is, and those who don’t yet know are very eager to learn.

In the last two months of 2023 I attended two events at the University, the first being for Women’s Health, and the second a very merry Winter Festival.

Near & Fair's stall at the Women's Health event in the Hull University Students' Union, 27 Nov 2023. The table is filled with goods carefully selected to help women feel good

In a newly refurbished room on the second floor of the Students’ Union building, the Women’s Health event hosted a variety of stalls staffed by incredibly knowledgeable people who were able to talk with great passion about their subject, as well as being great listeners. With information available regarding women’s issues such as endometriosis, how to become a doula, and breastfeeding support, the atmosphere was one of caring support.

My personal interest in mental health allows me to appreciate the art of self-care, and with this in mind, I filled my space on the day with items I thought would help women with the all important feel-good factor. From salt tealight holders (believed to help cleanse the air), to fragranced candles and incense, mallah beads, notebooks (writing is an excellent way to help organise an overwhelming mish-mash of thoughts and emotions), to small bars of scrumptious chocolate and boxes of herbal teas, our stall was warmly embraced by all who visited.

Just 16 days later I was back, this time on a different floor in a huge room divided by big wooden troughs and multiple shelf units all filled with a variety of healthy looking house plants. I could have happily lived in that room.

The table filled with budget-friendly ideas for gifts at the Winter Festival event on the 13 December 2023 at the Hull University Students' Union

Located in close proximity to a group of tables stacked high with preloved fiction books available on a “pay what you want” basis, not far from a gift-wrapping tutorial stall, and within sight of a festive knitting get-together, I set up my winter wares. I filled my space with budget-friendly ideas for gifts to give or keep, and was once again greeted with enthusiasm from students and staff alike. Of the many reasons I enjoy the events in the Students’ Union, the people I meet are at the top of my list and are why I keep going back time and time again.

Sale or Return Events

We meet many people in our line of work. Some visit our shop or website primarily because they like our things, not realizing that we are a fair trade shop. Other people are passionate about fair trade and find us by searching, being part of a network, or by good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Pam and Alan are some of fair trade’s most avid supporters, consistently advocating for ethical trade practices and championing the principles of fairness and sustainability. At the end of 2023, they made remarkable contributions by setting up tables at two significant events. One was during the Christmas Lights Switch On event in the neighbouring town of Hedon, and the other took place at an event hosted by Pam’s yoga group. Through their active participation, they not only supported our business but also played a vital role in promoting fair trade awareness in diverse community settings. We offer our heart-felt thanks to Pam and Alan for their unfaltering support and for being true champions of fairness and sustainability.

Pam, a dedicated fair trade supporter, stands proudly behind the stall at the Sale or Return event. The table is adorned with ethically sourced goods, promoting sustainability and ethical trade practices.
Pam and Alan’s own photo, used with permission

As we bid farewell to the past year and step into a new one, we reflect on the wonderful experiences and connections made throughout our journey. From the vibrant atmosphere of the Cottingham Green Fair to the heart-warming interactions at Hull University Students’ Union events, each moment has been a celebration of community and shared values. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Pam and Alan, whose passionate support has not only elevated our business but has also fuelled the flames of fair trade awareness in every community they touch. As we eagerly anticipate the adventures that the new year holds, we express our gratitude to you, our readers and supporters. Thank you for being part of our journey, and here’s to another year of fostering fairness, sustainability, and joy in all that we do.