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Under starter’s orders for a fabulous festive market


Helen Rollason Charity fair gets the Christmas market season off to a flyer

For obvious reasons, this has been a tough year, a turbulent 12 months which needs a bright and cheerful festive season to banish the blues and usher in a fresh and optimistic new year. Christmas markets are the stepping stone into the social frenzy and excitement of the Yuletide rush, and here in Essex we have lots from which to choose.

Not only do they help ramp up the atmosphere, but they also help local businesses and traders, giving visitors the chance to find charming and quirky homemade gifts for family and friends … as well as indulging in a few winter warmers to keep the chill at bay.

And there’s no better place to start than this weekend (November 27th and 28th) with the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity Christmas Gift and Food Fair at Chelmsford City Racecourse. Recognised as one of the region’s biggest and best shopping events, it is expected to showcase around 100 local businesses, featuring bespoke crafts and unique gifts as well as a wide range of food and drink stalls.

The organisers say they limit the number of stalls selling similar items, “ensuring happy shoppers and successful sellers”, and that also makes for a busy event. To such an extent that pre-booking has now closed, although tickets are available on the day.

For a fair with a little bit extra, try the Billericay High Street Charity Market (December 5th) which kicks off with a Christmas parade at 11am. There are the usual gift and food stalls, plus street performers, but where this fair scores highly is with its grassroots, community feel – hardly a surprise as it is hosted by the Billericay Mayflower Rotary Club, who raised thousands of pounds for charity when it was last staged in 2019.

A little bit further afield, and probably more for the trendy, is the Local Makers Market at Wanstead (December 4th). It is staged by a collective who also have events in Stoke Newington and Walthamstow, and features scores of talented artisans specialising in jewellery, ceramics and textiles. And there’s also a pop-up vegan café.

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