PUBLISHED IN VINTAGE LIFE MAGAZINE MAY 2016
Why Keeping It Local Feels So Good
In Australia, local vintage fairs are slowing fading into a thing of the past but there are still a few gems, run by charity organisations that are managing to hold their ground.
My local vintage fair, held once a year by Rotary, is a charity event to raise money for community projects. It's a friendly atmosphere where you can snack on homemade sandwiches, cakes and a coffee all for under ten dollars (or four pounds), while you shop for vintage treasures.
One of the things I love most is the friendliness of the volunteers, stallholders and fair goers. One lovely older lady stopped me to have a conversation about how her mother used to have a siren suit like the one I was wearing. She almost had tears in the corners of her eyes as she reminisced about what seeing the siren suit meant to her. I had a ten minute conversation with a lovely gent about how to use a compass, before buying a bakelite barometer off him and at another stall I had a chat about hat blocks. So many older people seemed genuinely chuffed to see my friends and I dressed in vintage style, our way of doffing the cap to glamour of the past but to some people it also symbolised a remembering and validation.
My friend Eszter was there to help her mother-in-law man a stall of china and handmade cards and my other friends Kathy and Scott were there to bag some bargains. They were over the moon to find authentic vintage home front pins they had grown fond of after a recent V-Day party (apparently a uniquely Australian thing as we did not have austerity measures on metals like they did in the UK).
Out the front the local ukulele group the 'Shire-leles' entertained, as folks checked out the vintage cars on display and the car owners were more than happy for people to pose with their vintage beauties!
Best of all the money from entry, food and stall holder fees was going to a good cause and the atmosphere of the event showed the goodwill behind it. It's very rare these days to find a sales person with time for a chat. Retail has become a grinding experience for workers and shoppers alike, where your dollar never goes far, staff are worked to the bone as stores try to keep up their rent and products are made for a good time, not a long time (often at the expense of the people who make them).
Vintage charity fairs are one of the last bastions of true 'local' shopping as well as being eco-friendly. Where everything is being reused, recycled and passed on. Yes, people are there to buy and sell but it's not just a monetary exchange, it's a batten passing, of information being saved along with the physical goods. Once these people are gone and their goods are scattered to the wind, their knowledge all too often dies with them and our society will be less for letting it go.
Local vintage charity fairs are where we find value in the everyday once again. Yes, there are expensive collectibles but there are also two dollar photos of forgotten lives waiting to be found worthy again, there are useful things that are tired of feeling useless, and people who feel a bit the same as well.
I go along to these smaller events, yes, because of the things I find but much more importantly because of the people I meet. I go to save these things and memories from being lost in a world of fast fashion and over consumption because I don't want to imagine a world where local and friendliness are things of the past. It's never too late to realise that charity begins at home, so why not go along and support your 'local'.