The first EastSide Urban Village community Christmas Craft Fair took place on Saturday at the Skainos Centre, Newtownards Road, and has been hailed a success by the wide range community groups that have spent the last few months working together to create handcrafted gifts, decorations, treats and crafts to sell at the unique event.

Funded by the NI Executive through the Urban Villages Initiative, the Christmas Craft Fair encouraged collaborative partnerships, bringing together local community groups and arts organisations from across the Urban Village area to sell their products under one roof in the heart of East Belfast.

Speaking about the event Junior Minister, Megan Fearon said: “The Craft Fair in Eastside Urban Village showcased the fantastic Christmas products created by the joint effort of groups and organisations from across the area.  This Christmas event is a fantastic example of a community working together to deliver a fun filled programme for all the community to enjoy, improve good relations and help build a more peaceful society.”

Junior Minister, Alastair Ross said:  “Events like this Christmas Fair, which have been shaped and delivered by local communities working together, reflect the community desire to realise the full potential of the people and places where they live. This event is a prime example of communities working together as part of the Urban Villages programme and creating opportunities to bring groups, local residents and visitors together to support creativity and enterprise.”

The event included Santa’s Grotto and the hundreds of local people who attended the one day event were treated to performances by Dee Street Hip Hop Dance, East Belfast Mission Choir, EastSide Choir, Hosford House Drama, Short Strand Dance Group and Urban Village Drama, while they enjoyed a glass of mulled wine.

Children had fun creating their own crafts while their parents shopped the range of locally designed art, handcrafted stocking fillers, Christmas decorations, tableware, toys and accessories.

“The planning of the Community Craft Fair has been a great example of a collaborative effort between the groups across the Urban Village area.  The workshops and the event has been a really positive experience for the groups involved, and it’s been really encouraging to see the groups in our own community centre so enthusiastic about participating in the craft and marketing their products.  The effort and interest of the local community in this project shows potential to further grow arts and creativity opportunities in this area” – Roz Small – Ballymac Friendship Trust.

“We learned a lot participating in the workshops, from various craft ideas and techniques to presentation and marketing.  It was exciting making products that we knew we could sell as part of the fair.  We are really proud of what we have produced and hope everyone who comes can see the time and effort that all the groups have put into making all the crafts and gifts”   - Short Strand Pensioners Group.