The 9th Shipston Wool Fair was part of the Shipston Wooly weekend, held in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire held over the bank holiday weekend.
The weekend kicked off with the Totally Locally Shipston Arts & Craft Street Market, held in Sheep Street and The Bury, with 20 stalls showing a wide variety of products from local talented artists and craftspeople. Totally Locally is a community initiative that celebrates, and promotes, the benefits of keeping it local.
Saturday night saw an evening of Smooth Weave Jazz at St. Edmund’s church in Shipston featuring the Shipston High School Jazz Ensemble and Montparnasse, who offered a little bit of Paris in Shipston.
On Sunday afternoon, the Shipston Rotary held a Community Songs of Praise, hosted at St. Edmunds church, with songs, hymns and poems chosen by local community groups. The Music was provided both by talented local musicians and pupils from Shipston High School.
New for 2017 was “Yarn Bombing” with the town decorated with knitting. This included pom-poms made by Shipston Primary School pupils and Shipston
Scouts. There were great examples of a knitted bicycle, ladybirds and of course sheep!. After the weekend, most of these knitted examples will be transformed into blankets, which would be sent to help support a children’s charity in Africa.
The Monday of the Wool Fair dawned on a misty day with the threat of rain, but the townsfolk of Shipston had been hard at work preparing the square ready for the day. A great selection of rare breed sheep had been brought to the square including Leicester Longwool, Portland, Black Welsh Mountain, Bleack Wensleydale, Wensleydale, Blue Faced Leicester and Cotswold.
The wide array of stalls included the Shipston-on-Stour Young Farmers, Statford Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, Totally Locally Shipston, Shipston Proms along with craft stalls from companies such as Baavet, Little Bird Soap and Shipston Carpets.
The event was introduced by MC for the day Robin Payne, besplendant in his sheep outfit!, by Shipston Brass conducted by David Birch. It was formally opened by outgoing Mayor Ronnie Murphy, who introduced new Mayor Dan Scobie. We then had a minute’s silence in memory of those affected by the Manchester bombing.
The Shipston-on-Stour Young Farmers were offering the public opportunities to put one of their members in the stocks to get pelted by a watery sponge. This included Karl Slatter and Will Headington. With the Warwickshire Fire Brigade in attendance. Along with a fire tender, one of their number Adam Townsend decided to dispense with the sponge and chucked the full bucket at poor Will!.
In the sheep shearing pen Alan Scorer and James Tuffen were demonstrating how to shear a Mules variety of sheep, for the first time (for the sheep). This was using the Bowen method which came over in the 50s/60s from New Zealand and is used to finish off with a complete fleece.
In the Meet the Sheep arena Ed Noble introduced the crowds to different rare breed sheep including Blue Face Leicester, Cotswold, Portland and Leicester Longwool. This included the Cotswold sheep from Event Patron Rob Harvey-Long, who has attended all 9 events to date.
On the music stage, which was kindly supplied by Hacklings Storage and Distribution, we were entertained by The Pavillionaires (a U3A Jazz band),
Clarksville (a local acoustic band), the Shipston High School Jazz band (led by Head of Music David Hunt), The Porter Family (led by long-time Shipston Proms organiser Tim Porter), Keep Me Posted and finally the Silver Bough Band.
After the rain holding off it did finally start raining heavily around 1:30pm, but the band played on (in this case Shipston High Jazz Band)!.
Shepherd Andy Tuffen and his dog Fire explained to the audience about how long it takes to train his dog and how many hours each week a shepherd typically works (50 hours in all weathers).
MC Robin Payne also introduced some of the key Patrons of the event, without whose hard work the event wouldn’t have happened. These included Debra Williams who explained how a teddy created with her Portland wool ended up in space!. Also introduced were Sonia & Alan Glover who raise Leicester Longwool sheep and Rob Harvey-Long who has raised Cotswold sheep for over 21 years.
A good day was had by lots of Shipston locals as well as visitors who ignored the weather and enjoyed the day.
The 10th Shipston Wool Fair will take place on the Bank Holiday at the end of May 2018, under the leadership of Bob Armstrong and his team.
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