Located in the quintessentially English South Downs, Firle Vintage Fair is a celebration of the beauty, antiquities and all-things wonderful from the past. Firle Place, where it has been located for four years, is a Manor House in East Sussex, and is the family home of Lord Gage, 8th Viscount Gage who have owned the land since acquiring it from the Levett family in the 15th century. The very grand manor is the back-drop for the shiny bonnets of the Firle Vintage Motor Show, over 150 traders, vintage fair rides and festive outdoor activities.
There are a host of cherry-picked vintage and antique stalls selected by its Artistic Director Katrina Palsagar. Ranging from French Brocante, haberdashery, country interiors and fashion. It is a treasure trove for vintage obsessives and anyone interested in the revival of artisan crafts and decorative trades.
A regular at the fair is Nutley Antiques, a mother-and-daughter-run store which has been established for more than 28 years. The shop is based on the beautiful historic Ashdown Forest, with two floors made up of eight late departments full of original and painted furniture for home and garden.
One of this year’s new traders is The Old Haberdashery. The main shop is located in the Wealden village of textiles, and stocks home-wares and haberdashery. Sonia, the founder, opened the business four years ago and says she’s never looked back, yet its nostalgia and her love of her Slovenian roots are at the heart of her inspiration. Her collections include deep coloured threads, patchwork, vintage paper patterns, embroidery and buttons. She refers to it as “a shop of ideas” and an important part of her philosophy is “taking it on tour”, but this will be her first time dipping her toe in at Firle.
Like Sonia’s Slovenian inspiration, there is continental flavour which runs throughout this fair. Katrina, who is herself Danish and comes from Copenhagen, says she has always had a passion for vintage and French brocante.
A French term for a market which sells pre-loved furniture, sprawling brocantes can be found all over France. The word comes from the verb brocanter “to deal in second-hand goods” of obscure origin. The style is traditionally white, crème and grey themed interiors, accented with re-purposed objects, such as bird-cages, old bicycles and wicker baskets to be used as containers or unusual storage systems in the home.
As well as spending hours browsing the wares on offer, there’s a smorgasbord of live entertainment on-site, from Charleston and Lindy Hop troupes and the Vintastic DJ. Returning this year is solo singer Noelle and The Spitfire Sisters. The Sisters are a three-part vocal harmony group hailing from the home of the Supermarine Spitfire on the sunny South Coast. The trio emerged onto the vintage music scene in 2011 and have been steadily building a reputation by recreating the vintage sounds of the ‘30s and ‘40s through nostalgic Andrews Sisters-style harmonies. Band members created a live act which includes numerous swinging classics and some old takes on some new tunes. Original 1880 Victoriana fair-rides and Chap croquet is all served up with plenty of decadent refreshments, including a Champagne bar on the lawns and iced sloe gins from Gin and Bear It.
Fashion is a key element of the weekend. The work of artist Mo Welch sets the tone. Mo’s painting of 1920s ladies in deco hats is the headline image for the festival’s poster campaign. Mo comes from a fashion design background and the main content of her work is figurative. She says “the styles of different eras and cultures fascinate me and are the focus of most of my work.”
Also in the fashion area, the Lost Bohemia Catwalk returns curated by Brighton’s Snoopers Attic in Kensington Garden and features models from the MK modelling agency and luxury hair and make-up from the Brighton Make-Up School. The Lost Bohemia team have two shows daily and create a glamorous atmosphere with bohemian tunes and boho-inspired ensembles, including gypsy-style skirts, contemporary kimonos and sheepskin bolero jackets and fringes, topped off with fairy-like flower crowns. The audience also gets a chance to turn their own hands to floral weaving by making head garments in Flower Crown workshops. Other popular outdoor and country activities available include talks on Sussex Beekeeping and Wild Food Workshops.
So, this August dust off your tea dresses, braces and brogues, hop on your bicycle or onto the vintage double-decker Routemaster bus to step back in time in style at Firle Vintage Fair.
At Firle Vintage Fair - A beautiful brocante fair in the Sussex countryside Sat 13 & 14 August 2016 10am - 5pm