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Posted on Nov 30 2022 by Fiona Bailey

Community care at Christmas is being celebrated at a two-day arts and craft festive fair which is being held on one of Northampton’s most “best kept secret sites”.

The Workbridge Christmas Craft Fair, which is part of St Andrew’s Healthcare, is throwing its door open on Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10 for members of the public to come and start their Christmas shopping.

Visitors will be treated to stalls offering up handmade items such as jewellery and cakes. Many of the products available to buy, such as the ceramics and wood items, have been made on the Workbridge site by service users or members of the community.

Parking and entrance is free for the event, which takes place between 10am and 4pm. 

The garden centre, café and charity shop will also be joining forces and selling their own festive wares. Father Christmas will also be taking time out of his busy list-writing and wrapping present schedule to receive small visitors at his grotto.

Ben White, the Workbridge Retail Operations Manager, said: “There’s been a real buzz onsite for the last few weeks as we prepare for the Christmas fair. I’ve never been to the North Pole before, but the excited atmosphere and festive focus everyone has, as we get closer to the event is how I imagine Santa’s workshop is like at this time of year.

“We have a fabulous team here, who are working round the clock to ensure our event is going to be really special for families, couples and those coming alone. We’re an inclusive bunch here and absolutely everyone is welcome.

Workbridge was set up to offer a vocational pathway for people with mental illness, learning disabilities or brain injuries. The site provides people with opportunities to gain skills and build confidence.

The philosophy behind Workbridge is to provide people with an opportunity to work as part of a team in a genuine work environment, including the coffee shop, kitchens, workshops and office. The community users gain both technical skills and life skills, helping them to realise their true potential.

Ben added: “Workbridge has been in place for more than 40 years but our unique location means not many people know about us. I believe that makes us one of Northampton’s best kept secret sites. Our pond and woods make it picture perfect in the summer and at this time of year it’s like we work in a winter wonderland.

“There’ll be something for everyone at the fair and is shaping up to offer visitors some positive retail relief from the Amazons and Asos’ of the shopping world. Here, you’re going to find small, handmade keepsakes, beautifully made cakes and strong, healthy plants which have not been kept in a supermarket environment.”

Learners are mentored by the skilled staff across a variety of work activities to encourage independence, respect, teamwork and trust; building skills, knowledge and self-esteem in a supportive environment.

As they progress, the team supports them when they are looking for jobs, completing applications and preparing for and attending interviews.

All of the activities carried out by the service users at Workbridge are meaningful and essential to the running of a fully functional work environment. The funds raised through the retail enterprises help Workbridge to develop and enrich services for the people there and customers.