Let them get crafty and eat cake

Carol Towns has been to the NEC.

Cake International at the NECWith over 200 exhibitors rubbing shoulders at the Crafts for Christmas, Hobbycrafts and Art Materials shows currently running at the NEC, you’d have to try very hard not to find a gift for the most challenging family member, friends and husbands on your list.

From the great brass quartet at the entrance playing a rousing rendition of the Bear Necessities when I arrived, to aisles crammed with unique and unusual items, the whole show had a wonderful buzz designed to put you in the mood for some seriously gifted shopping and which turned even the sterile halls of the NEC into a wonderfully festive bazaar.

From elegant clothing to candles, chocolates, jewellery, Christmas decorations, wooden items, pottery plaques and even some creative rhymes for your nearest and dearest, there are plenty of choices. I made a beeline for the gorgeous chocolates at Linden Lady and the beautiful and original garden gifts at Tinkling Toadstools.

With demonstrations and workshops aplenty, the crafty amongst us could find plenty to treat ourselves or to drop gigantic hints to our nearest and dearest. Special offers on craft trollies helped many visitors carry away their booty.

Next door at Cake International, visitors had travelled from as far as Dubai to visit the show. There were hushed tones of reverence in the shuttle bus queue when some of the great and good of the icing world were observed heading to the hall – imagine Jamie Oliver pushing through the crowds en route to the Good Food Show – and many visitors had come prepared to spend with enormous shopping bags.

Local bakery Frost & Snow has put up cupcakes for visitors to decorate and take away. Frost & Snow is a not for profit business that helps people out of homelessness and into paid employment. Each purchase helps people to get back on their feet, and the bakery is run with the help of trainee volunteers who have experienced homelessness. £1 from every cupcake decorated will be donated to Frost & Snow and the Midland Heart Organisation.

Traders reported a busy day on the first Thursday of the event, and by the time I managed to extricate myself and my many now-bulging bags from the Halls, it was clear that these were very popular shows.

Crafts for Christmas, Hobbycrafts & Art Materials Live (admission cost covers all three shows) and Cake International 2011 run at the NEC until Sunday 6th November.