Nearly three weeks ago we hosted our first ever ‘reader event’. I came up with the concept for a day event last summer, and decided 2019 was when we would launch them. (I was fully aware of how much planning goes it to running events!) It’s always nerve-wracking launching something new. Good old self-doubt tends to creep in, and initially I found myself fretting over whether the tickets would sell. Was my idea of a dream day out going to appeal to anyone else?!
Thankfully, it turned out it was, and tickets were sold out about a month before the event. Phew! For me, curating a day out for 91 readers was done in the same way I curate the content for the magazine. The idea was to bring the magazine to life and literally base it around things that I love - independent business, beautiful shops and spaces, inspiring people, great food and creativity.
The structure of the day is led by the hashtag I came up with a couple of years ago #seekinspirecreate (also the name of our popular e-zine), with the day being split into three parts - Seek, Inspire and Create. I’m so thrilled that our very first event which happened in Lewes, East Sussex in February went so well! We had a lovely mix of creative women come along (although men are very welcome too!), some who lived quite locally, but some who had travelled the whole way from Manchester to join us! Here is a little insight into the day, with some lovely images taken by SarahLou Francis.
For the first part of the day, I wanted to take everyone to a few of my favourite independent shops in the town. Whenever I visit anywhere new, I am always seeking out beautiful stores to browse, and Lewes is certainly packed with lots of them! We of course couldn’t get round all of them, so I selected three very different, but equally dreamy shops.
First up was Marchand Son, the most unique paint shop you are ever likely to come across. Owner Simon previously ran a shop in London called 'Colour Makes Me Happy’, but moved himself and his business to Lewes around 6 months ago, bringing his quirky style to the town. Simon chatted to our group about the many myths surrounding paint, explained how he taught himself to make paint and shared the stories behind his brilliant paint names. He is a true creative who has built something entirely unique and it was wonderful to learn more about his business. He even mixed us little pots of ‘91 Magazine pink’ paint for our goodie bags!
Next, we walked around the corner and onto the high street to visit Freight HHG. This beautiful store is run by Adele and her mother, and is a mix of homeware, clothing and lifestyle items. What makes this shop different is that the two women design or commission most of the items they sell. Adele chatted to us about how they avoid the usual trade fairs and prefer to seek out talented makers to craft their wares, with everything being made within the UK. Designs and materials are carefully considered to make products that last. It was lovely to hear the story behind how they have created their unique brand and everyone had the chance to ask lots of questions as well as to shop with our exclusive discount!
Our final stop for the Seek part of the day was From Victoria in The Needlemakers. This gorgeous shop is an absolute treasure trove of homeware, gifts and plants. I could spend hours poring over the pretty things in every corner of this space run by the lovely Victoria. Surrounded by unusual hanging plants, cacti and tropical beauties, Victoria gave lots of sound houseplant advice to the group during our plant Q&A. Then we all eagerly browsed the goodies with many of us leaving with little brown paper bags filled with treats to ourselves!
We were extremely lucky with the weather with the event falling during that really warm spell we had at the end of February. As we walked to the lunch venue where the INSPIRE part of the day would take place, we were shedding our jackets and talking of how spring-like it felt. The group were giving me slightly strange looks as I led them along the road to an industrial estate, I’m sure all wondering exactly where we would be eating! But, stepping through an unassuming door and passing by a noisy workshop area, all was revealed as we entered kitchen makers Inglis Hall’s beautiful showroom. The space is a working kitchen, so was perfect for out caterers Caccia and Tails to come and prepare the delicious lunch while we all mingled and chatted.
The table looked beautiful, decorated with plants from From Victoria and gorgeous flowers by Bulb Floristry. Jam-packed goodie bags awaited our guests on their seats too. The food was truly delicious, with meat, vegetarian and vegan versions of mac ‘n’ cheese along with an amazing salad and focaccia bread.
After eating and chatting, we then had two excellent talks to listen to. Firstly, Dorte and Georgie of Curly Carrot talked us through using Pinterest for business. So much useful information was shared and I have a renewed love of Pinterest ever since! Next, Jade Golding, a creative business coach (and owner of two other businesses!) talked about how to inspire your customers online. She explained the difficulties faced with selling product online and then provided useful ideas on how to overcome these and create an inspiring online shopping experience.
With tummies filled, brains inspired and goodie bags in hand, we set off to our final destination for the CREATE part of the day. Inside the fragrant AS Apothecary store, we were warmly greeted by owner Amanda who quickly made us feel at home in her beautiful space. Her small-batch natural skincare products line the walls, styled to perfection with plants and other natural objects. Amanda chatted to us in depth about natural skincare and how she creates her range from flowers and herbs that they grow and harvest in Sussex, Scotland and Greece. She has a wealth of knowledge on the subject and I’m pretty sure most of us were converted by the end of the chat. (Many of us were purchasing her products before we left!) We then got the chance to mix our very own beauty balm, which we worked together to make under Amanda’s careful supervision. We all got to take away a little pot of what we made, and I have not stopped using it since that day!
The day was rounded off the only way it could be; with a cup of tea and some delicious (and beautiful!) cakes supplied by Flint Owl Bakery! yum!
As I said during my introduction at the start of the day, I basically wanted to create my ‘ideal day out’ and as the event drew to a close, I was happy to confirm that it had delivered exactly that! It was so lovely to be able to share it with a wonderful group of like-minded women and it reminded me how good it is to step out of your usual day-to-day and just enjoy some time doing things you love, meeting new people and discovering new things.
We are already starting to plan the next of these events. It will follow the same format but in a different town with different businesses and people. I honestly can’t wait! if you’d like to hear about when tickets go on sale for it, make sure you sign up to our mailing list for updates.
A HUGE thank you to everyone involved in our day down in Lewes. It was truly magical!
All photography: SarahLou Francis