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Saturday, June 16, 2018

World Textiles Day

Went up to Bridge of Allan for the World Textiles Day, Scotland.  I seem to remember going to such an event in Norfolk, not long after we moved down.  It was a civilised event, relaxed and friendly, not overly crowded, and that's pretty much what I was expecting today.  The world, however, has moved on, and I'm sure the traders involved are delighted.  Reader, it was a feeding frenzy.  We arrived fairly early, but the room was very busy, and people continued to pile in behind us.

There was a small exhibition, which looked quite interesting, but though we could get into the room, the combination of three or four people and lots of chairs, set up for the first of two lectures, meant that the wheelchair couldn't get down the side of the room without causing a major inconvenience for everyone else, so we left that one alone. It's a long time since I went to an event like this as a participant; I've worked FOQ and KSS, but working comes with its own little oasis of clear space.  I'd spoken to people in wheelchairs at events, and they told me how difficult it was.  This was my first event in a wheelchair, and they were very, very right.  Wheelchairs have a cloak of invisibility fitted in, I suspect, or maybe people were just so focused on the fabric, and each other, that they missed the small woman in the wheelchair.  Even waving fabric and money in the air wasn't a guarantee of attention at one stall; in the end, Robin took it from me, and that seemed to work.  I can see why so many people in wheelchairs get a serious chip on their shoulders.  People didn't notice us until they walked into the chair....and then they apologised profusely, but without making eye contact.  Okay, rant over.  You want to know about the fabric, right?  Well... I couldn't see all that much of it, couldn't get close enough.  Someone had some fabulous clothing, but if they were on or near the stall, they didn't make themselves known, so I have no idea who it was.  There was some indigo dyed fabric; not my thing, really, but nicely done and presented.

What did I buy?  (Yes, of course I did). 

Some fabric from Magie Relph at The African Fabric Shop, (the package at the top), and a couple of Javanese fabric selections from Textile Traders. The selection at the bottom of the image is wedding cloth, and glitters.; it's gorgeous.  And Sashiko needles from Susan Briscoe; her stall was so busy that all I managed to get were the needles; browsing was an impossibility.  Which was a pity, because she had a great selection, and I had hoped to get some.  Never mind.

So... won't be doing that again, methinks.  It was a frustrating and mildly upsetting experience. Nice fabric, though.


Digitalgran said...

I'm sorry it was an upsetting experience for you. It must be so difficult to browse from a wheelchair it's difficult enough when standing. Would it be possible for these organizers to arrange a wheelchairs only few hours firs thing in the morning or something I wonder?

Bossymamma said...

I was thinking the same as Margaret, about organisers allowing time for wheelchair users to have priority. The trouble is, it would likely still be difficult. If it was first thing in the morning, there is the issue of the time it takes to get up and out when one is disabled, and, if it was at the end of the day, stalls would have sold out of lots of the best stuff. However, there are so many people who are artists or creators that organisers really should be trying to make visiting much easier for people in wheelchairs.

artmixter said...

That's a lovely idea, Margaret. Given how many people I've talked to over the years who are disabled and passionate textile people, you would think it would pay them to organise something like this. I suspect nobody would actually do it, though. About 95% (at least) of the local shops are not accessible, and that's unlawful, but nobody wants to do anything about that, either, other than mouth platitudes, get very defensive and make excuses. Sigh.

Helen from Hobart said...

Why not suggest a wheelchair hour to the organisers ? Tell them if might not work too well the first time, but word of mouth will make the second year a great success.

Or else you must resolve to make Stephen Hawking live again by running over people's toes !!! then they'll see you.

Susan Briscoe said...

We had a very, very busy event this year. While we do our best in using accessible venues and trying to set out our displays so everyone can reach and see as many things as possible, it is a free entry event (apart from the lectures) and we don't know in advance exactly how many people will be attending. Visitors' experiences at events is also partly down to other visitors' behaviour, which is difficult for us to control. Due to other booking at the hall, we have very little time to set everything up (from approx. 3p.m. on the Friday until 6p.m., as the hall used for the lectures is also used for Brownies and Boys Brigade on the Friday evening), and for some of our traders, that set up comes after a long drive (we have traders from London and Cambridge who come to the Scottish show). When we do World Textile Day Central (near Banbury), we drive down half way the night before (arriving after midnight), finish the drive on the Friday morning, set up the stall all day on Friday, then arrive before 9 on the Saturday trading day, work all day without a break, pack up and drive half way home on the Saturday evening. Without us starting to charge entry for the main event itself, it is hard to see how we could afford to book the halls for longer than this and have longer opening hours, plus as some of the halls (like at Bridge of Allan) are church halls, we absolutely have to be out of the venue for Sunday use.

On the day itself, as well as running our stands, the traders set out all the chairs in the lecture room, do all the organisers' running around, everything from putting up all the exhibitions, decorations and signage ourside the event, to sweeping the floors after putting away all the furniture again at the end of the day. So unfortunately I can't see how we could open at 9 a.m. for a preview - it would actually be more difficult to get around in a wheelchair while we are still setting up, as furniture and goods are still being moved around at that point. For shopping, the last hour in the afternoon was definitely quieter and we still had plenty of nice things to buy.

It would help if other visitors were more wheelchair aware, but it is very difficult for us to make that happen. We can only ask people to be more considerate and hope they are.

artmixter said...

I'd just like to stress that at no point in this post do I criticise or blame the organisers. This was a factual description of what happened to me at an event, and an explanation of why I won't be attending any more. I have, in fact, set up small events, so I absolutely realise how difficult it is to do. That said, accessibility is about far more than being able to get a wheelchair into a venue.