HELENA DEANE, business consultant and volunteer, explains the resurrection of the 1990s concept of Open Fair Days and gives some valuable information on how to set one up:
The Open Fairs idea from 20 years ago is being revitalised and broadened as a counterbalance to the current recession. This year, fairs were held in Clare and Mayo. Further Fairs are planned for 2012 in counties Roscommon, Kerry, Kilkenny, Dublin and Donegal.
‘Open’ is shorthand for One Person Enterprise and the aim is for the fairs to evolve into a national movement of free, community-based talent exchanges, organised by volunteers.
|Haggling in 2011 at an Open Fair Day. The concept is spreading.
They give communities a chance to discover what services and products originate locally while offering enterprising individuals a showcase for their talents. They’re for everyone from graphic designers to biscuit bakers, musicians to tax advisers, landscape gardeners to surfing instructors – you name it!
The fairs are designed for people on a tight budget, possibly without a website, working from home, and not normally able to participate in a fair. The aim is to help you to make a living from your own skills, ideas and initiative.
The Open Fairs idea builds on a concept developed in the early 1990s by Rural Resettlement Ireland in partnership with Clare VEC. The project then was grant-aided by the EU. The current project is part-funded by anonymous Irish-American donors via the Ireland Fund.
The fairs are not open to retailers: you must be promoting a product or service of your own. Participation is free for exhibitors and visitors. To read more, visit our blog where we’ve published Helena’s article in full, including tips on (a) Promoting your Open Fair Day for free, and (b) the four steps from start to finish involved in organising a fair in your town, village or city.
Open Fairs are organised in collaboration with the VEC and community groups and held in venues such as schools, community halls and hotels. This year, two fairs were hosted by the West County Hotel in Ennis, Co. Clare while another was held in Feakle Community Hall. An open fair held in early December in Castlebar was hosted by the Royal Theatre.
We found that commercial venues were very welcoming, in fact hotels asked me to organise follow up fairs on their premises: they get positive publicity by association, and generate income from food and drink purchased by those attending. Everything is achieved with zero budget. There is no charge for the tickets. Everything is based on goodwill and voluntary effort. Support for brochures and posters is provided by the Open Fair office.
If you’d like to exhibit at an Open Fair in any of the counties listed earlier, download an application form from Openfair.ie.
T: 065 905 8034. E: firstname.lastname@example.org. Address: Open Fair, Kilbaha, Kilrush, Co Clare.
* Helena Deane is a business consultant and regular volunteer who is heavily involved in Open Fairs.
PROMOTION and ADVERTISING
There is no budget for promotion and advertising, so it is all about advertising on social media, through networking and posters.
The local press and radio are asked to publicise the event, for free. Fairs in Mayo received free publicity from local press and community radio stations. I have also approached local development companies, chambers of commerce, business innovation centres who have advertised our events via facebook, twitter and e-mail.
|Open Fair Days began 20 years ago.
HOW TO RUN A FAIR
Step 1: Contact the Open Fair office for help, advice and promotional materials.
Step 2. Set up local organising committee, and secure a venue. Community groups, sporting bodies, local voluntary organisations, business and retail networks or church groups may agree to share the responsibility of running an Open Fair.
Step 3: Once you’ve set a date, the Open Fair will provide an application form containing those details.
Step 4: Offer local enterprise development agencies, local development companies, etc an opportunity to promote their services at the Open Fair.