Forget Camden and Brighton – Milton Keynes is carving out a reputation for itself as the new UK home of handmade and vintage items.
And it’s all thanks to a fabulous quarterly event that has put our beloved city firmly on the map as the go-to place for unique bargains, the gorgeous, the quirky and the cool.
The MK Handmade and Vintage Weekend Extravaganza, which takes place four weekends a year beside John Lewis in the centre:mk, transforms Middleton Hall into a huge treasure trove of market stalls.
It’s a paradise for lovers of the unusual, crammed with an eclectic mix of thousands of high-quality handcrafted and vintage/retro bargains.
Every item is a one-off, with no retail items permitted, making it the ideal alternative to high-street shopping.
And the great news is that the next one is just around the corner – on Saturday March 4 and Sunday March 5.
Organiser Jacqui Lewis (pictured below) explained how the extravaganza has grown from humble beginnings in 2010 to a huge event that attracts visitors from across the UK.
“I’ve always loved bargain-hunting for unusual items I could re-use or restore,” she said.
“I’d sell pieces at local events and markets, and over the years I occasionally came across fellow traders who stood out from the crowd – exceptional craftspeople and traders in the weird and wonderful.
“So In 2010 I decided to gather all these special exhibitors together for a new event with free public entry, and MK Handmade and Vintage was born.
“Our first few events in Stony Stratford, with 24 exhibitors, proved an instant hit and it was quickly apparent we needed a much larger venue.
“And so the move was made to Middleton Hall in 2011. Nowadays, we fill the hall to capacity with 128 stalls.”
The event is unique in its support of its sellers, many of whom do it as a hobby and do not (yet) make a full-time living, providing them with an affordable stall in the most prestigious selling place in the region.
Great public support and visitor numbers mean the event proves its worth to the centre:mk, which happily supports the initiative.
Quality control and researching each applicant sets this event apart and is key to its popularity.
“I always look for originality, quality and affordability, together with a friendly character,” explained Jacqui.
“I’m passionate about the event and the community of people it represents and I’m as excited as our customers and exhibitors when we open for a weekend. It’s a friendly and exciting place to shop – it’s my idea of heaven!
“We’re always grateful for the fantastic support of our customers, who often spend hours at the event and visit both days.
“These days our reputation has spread far beyond our region and, crazily, I heard recently a customer had even come especially from the Shetlands!”
To whet your appetite for March, there will be weird and wonderful interior design pieces fresh from the brocantes of Europe, restored jukeboxes and record players, unusual jewellers, dressmakers, a tailor, original art, handmade bears, quirky upcycled lamps and natural luxury skincare.
There will also be music and car memorabilia, unusual tiles, personalised gifts embroidered while you wait, vintage fabrics, collectables, furniture, glass, china and much more.
Customers are very welcome to commission something bespoke too. There will even be an optician fitting authentic vintage specs from any decade for that individual style.
And don’t forget that with Mothers’ Day in March, you’ll be spoilt for choice for a gift.
After the March event, the next two MK Handmade and Vintage Extravaganzas will be held on June 10 to 11, and September 9 to 10, so put the dates in your diary. Visit http://www.mk-handmade-and-vintage.co.uk for more information.
This article was first published in the February issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Click here to read the full digital edition of the magazine.