by Lt Colonel Ray Kirby, Salvation Army
There is nothing unusual about an Anglican Parish finding it difficult to pay its Diocesan quota. What can be different is the method chosen to deal with the difficulty. When the answer to the problem creates what is described by some as “the event of the year” it’s time for others to take note. They might well discover that fundraising can be fun, at least for those who come, even though it’s continuous hard work for those who put “the show on the road”. They will also find that such an event goes well beyond the confines of the church and involves the whole community and beyond.
In 1982, the Parish of All Saints, Cawood, under the late Father Ralph Messer, was facing such a dilemma when Ron Woodhouse, a local parishioner, came up with the idea of a Rural Arts and Crafts Fair. Ron’s idea was that such an event would not only raise funds but also create work for people in an area of high unemployment. A revival of country crafts in the setting of a public event would provide people with the opportunity to sell what they had made with the cost of the sales pitch going to help the local church and the sale of goods becoming income for the craft makers.
A local committee was formed and the Parish made a loan of £500 to launch the project. The late August Bank Holiday weekend was chosen as the time for the fair. At the end of that first event in 1982 the one thousand people who attended over three days had raised enough money, not only to repay the loan but give a further £900 to offset whatever the Diocese of York was asking at that time.
The event is now a hardy perennial and each year over the three days at the end of August wherever you go in Cawood some aspect of the fair will confront you. At the parish Church of All Saints itself set in a most picturesque setting by the River Ouse you will find the craft exhibition. This is in fact a competition with prizes to be gained in the various classes. These include painting, fine needlework, furniture, photography, ceramics, metal and woodwork, corn dollies and lace making. Apart from the children’s section all entrants pay a fee to help the good cause. In the Banqueting Hall, part of the original Cawood Castle and once home to Archbishops of York some details of this historical gem can be gleaned including a reminder of one Archbishop who never made it to his enthronement in York. Sadly Archbishop Wolsey was arrested in Cawood and hauled back to London by order of the king to face execution. In the Methodist chapel pictures of old Cawood can be seen and you can pause for a cuppa whilst there as well. The Old Boys School is the main catering centre for the day though there is usually some portable refreshment tent or truck in the grounds of The Vicarage. In front of The Vicarage there is dancing and music most of the day. In 2002 this included brass, jazz and bagpipes, as well as a group of Irish Dancers. Behind the vicarage a large marquee houses craftspeople from far and wide who come to sell their wares.
The Rector, now Father Ian Ellery, continues to be the President of the Festival and works with a committee of twelve people who meet monthly throughout the year to make the event the success it always is, “come cloud or shine”.
Not too many people have had the stamina to remain on the committee for all of the twenty-one years. One such, the late Dot Hunt, All Saints Lay Reader, told me how the event had changed and developed over the years in order to attract more people from many parts of Yorkshire. Dot was personally responsible for rounding up the fifty or so volunteers who staff the entrance points and marshal the car park. It should be emphasised that those serving as Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer as well as the other committee members are also volunteers. The group includes an Entertainments Manager and Stall Holders Organiser as well as others who focus on printing and publicity, health and safety risk assessments and sponsorships. Sponsors include local shops and pubs as well as Selby District Council.
In 2002 with the quota standing at £16,000 the 6000-plus people who turned up over the three days made a significant and generous contribution both to the quota and general church funds at All Saints. With the cost of staging the event going up every year, some funding is set aside to help with the planning of next year’s event.
Now we enter another summer season and you contemplate what to do with that final Bank Holiday weekend of the year you could do worse than get yourself to Cawood where there will be another bumper package of goodies old and new for you to enjoy.
May 2003 (amended March 2008/April 2009/January 2015)