Maidenhead MUm

Friday, 17 October 2014

Perfect Friday Wine, perfect on Saturdays too.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited along to a wine tasting event organised by Jo from Perfect Friday Wine.

One of the things I’ve come to love about blogging is the way it helps you network with other people, and especially other Mums who have a passion for things above and beyond working the usual 9-5 in the office or being a stay at home Mum. Quite often blogging is a way that we can start to build the dream of the life we want to have. I think this is very true of Jo and I! 

I first met Jo when I was dropping off my daughter at nursery, her little girl is in the class above mine and she asked me if I was ‘Maidenhead Mum’! It was quite a moment for me -my first real life bit of recognition! Not used to being recognised in the street!

Jo used to juggle an office job and being a Mum, but knew that she had a passion for wine and wanted to learn more to see if her passion could lead to a career change. After studying for a qualification in wines (WSET) she set up a blog and started writing a column for 'Life etc' magazine (amazing to learn, you can study on this subject, although its not an A-Level for sixth formers!).

Although Jo has established herself as a regular highlight on the high street at the weekends on a ‘pop-up’ stall, this was the first wine tasting event that she had organised herself and she asked me to come along and to take some photos.

Seemed like the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon to me - wine, beautiful scenery and photography. Skippety-dee!

The location for the wine tasting was the rather beautiful Stanlake Park. Arriving there was a bit humbling for me. It's less than 20 minutes from home, but as an ex-Londoner, I just hadn’t explored this part of the county. And it's beautiful. Admittedly the weather was perfect - glorious sunshine, crisp shadows and lots of vibrant colours. I can’t wait to go back again.

I arrived a little bit before the start of the event and had the chance to explore the grounds. It was clear that this would make a great wedding location - not only is it beautiful but there's some great wine available in the cellar shop, too. They even make their own Stanlake Cider, I’ll be back to sample that! (And no doubt the hubby will be will be along to try out their local beers from the Rebellion and Binghams brewery!)

The location for the tasting was the Events Barn, which is actually a converted coaching house - beautiful exposed bricks and high gables and the look and feel seemed to tie in really well with the 'Perfect Friday Wine' branding.

Jo had arranged the room with three separate tables, and the guests could try any of the wines on any of the tables. All of them if they wanted!

To help them remember what they liked there was a tasting notes sheet: wine tasting homework! 

Whether it was the pull of the wine, the chance to chat to Jo and enjoy her expertise, or the lovely weather and beautiful surroundings, it was certainly a busy afternoon. Jo had a great turn out - I loved being there to see it being such a success and was happy to muck in as the queues began to form!

Some guests were very organised and were stocking up for Christmas. They placed large orders which Jo then delivers to their house for free. It was great to see how many of them wanted to stop and chat to Jo and it's clear that she has a great relationship with her customers.  

A fantastic afternoon, and in between taking photos and helping out I sampled a few wines myself, although, silly me, I put down my notes and couldn't remember which ones I liked. Guess I'll just have to pop along to another wine tasting event to remind myself. Oh dear, the chores of life, eh?

Have you tried any wine from Perfect Friday Wine? I would love to hear your favourites too. Feel free to add a comment below so I know what to put on my Christmas Wishlist!

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Sunday, 20 July 2014

Saturday Night Fever? The Night Market comes to town.

There’s a quiet revolution happening in Maidenhead. 

Although on the surface you might only see small uprisings of activity on the High Street and in the Nicholson’s Centre, behind that there is a bubbling undercurrent of….

Town pride.

I kid you not.

This week I’ve been overwhelmed by the outbursts of passion from all kinds of Maidonians about last Saturday’s Night Market.

In case you weren’t aware, the Night Market was an idea that was suggested by local resident Jeff Lloyd for a competition run by the Maidenhead Advertiser for ideas to help invigorate and boost the town. Jeff’s idea was to create a night market, similar to ones that you see in Strasbourg and Barcelona, and invite people down to the High Street to shop, mingle, eat, drink and be merry.

Newspaper articles in the run up to the event said that:

“Residents can expect live music from local band Money on the Drum, stilt walkers and street entertainers, funfair rides from Traylens at either end of the High Street and a wide variety of food stalls featuring local traders and those from further afield.”

The coverage in the paper was accompanied by a quote from our local councillor:

“Cllr Natasha Airey, who is acting as Jeff's mentor and sat on last year's judging panel, said: "This is great example of the Big Society in action - giving residents the chance to come up with innovative ideas to help improve the communities where they live.”

It’s fair to say that there was a lot of anticipation for the event.

Having been at the successful fireworks night back in November which saw the high street and the town centre packed with people, it definitely seemed worth checking out. So together with our little lady and friends who have a little lady of a similar age, we headed down at around 7pm.

I’ll let the photos do some of the talking…

At 7pm the High street was already really busy
Face painting was very popular
There was a bar outside the Nicholson centre, and a stage with a band.

The stalls were grouped together in the centre of the High Street
You could be sketched...
And you could be painted.

But the kids were left with little else to do apart from window shop!
And run around, but this was actually great for tiring them about before bed!
But there weren't any rides... and no balloons! 
The Peruvian street food stand was very popular... but that meant big queues.

Looked and smelt great - all freshly cooked, but I didn't have time to queue!
The King of Churros was a very popular stand

I bumped into Rachel Cook who won second prize in the competition for her Wildflower garden at Oaken Grove
Well earned Churros. Possibly the longest queue of all!

A local stilt walker at the Market

So what did I think?

There’s no denying that it was great to bump into neighbours and familiar faces and actually talk to them, as opposed to just rushing past in town. And there was a sort of relaxed, kids pottering around freely like they would on holiday kind of feeling. But as I walked home chatting to our friends, I couldn’t help but think that we’d been a little short changed. Where was the fair? Where were the varied stalls and stands? We'd even double checked around the corner by the Town Hall before we left, just in case we'd missed something! 

After putting the little one to bed I then found myself on the internet, and on Facebook (I know, I know, I’m addicted, I can’t help it!). But what was amazing to see is that whilst the Night Market itself hadn’t quite hit the mark, it had united a large part of Maidenhead on social media as they came forward to share their views and offer suggestions. Town-pride-tastic (new word!).

By 9pm on Saturday night, a comment posted by a local mum in the popular Facebook group ‘Maidenhead Gossip Girls’ saying she had felt let down by the market, had over 70 people replying with a comment within a few hours. That’s the kind of social media engagement rates that Marketers dream of! But unfortunately that’s representing a lot of disgruntled local ladies.

People felt that the market fell short of the vision that had been painted with such a small variety of food stalls, no local craft stands, and nothing to do for the kids apart from a rather lovely volunteer lady who was doing face painting. Although McDonalds were doing a roaring trade!

Maidenhead isn’t a big place, so I’m sure that a lot of this feedback has already found its way back to the organisers and to Jeff Lloyd. But I decided to go one step further and asked the ladies of Maidenhead for any other feedback about the event so that I could share it with this blog post and hopefully it could be used proactively for future events.

I was overwhelmed by the responses.

Here’s what everyone seems to agree on:

  • We like the idea of a night market and we’d like to see it become a regular fixture, perhaps quarterly, but definitely in the run up to Christmas and in summer.
  • We would expect to see local crafts, trades and although culinary delights from all over the world are great, it would be great if the local restaurants could represent themselves with a stall.
  • Perhaps the Night Market could be combined with some of the other great local events and activities that have been organized like Art on the Street and the Craft Co-op activity.
  • There needs to be something for the kids to enjoy early doors. Carter's Steam Fair are based locally and have some great rides. Once Upon a Bus is another great local initiative that would help entertain the kids too. 
  • We’d like to see it spaced out a bit better, with varied stalls spread across the high street instead of being bunched up into one section of the street.
  • We’d like the event to be marketed a lot better, both physically around town and virtually on social media. There were a few people saying they would have loved to have a stall, but just didn’t know about it.
  • But the biggest piece of feedback…. Talk to us! Tap into the talent. Maidenhead has a whole lot of talented and skilled people that would like to help and support the town and events like these. So if there are plans to do another event, just ask for volunteers or support! Start a facebook group for the next event and let people come forward and contribute. Now that really would be the ‘Big Society’ at its best.
I hope this post has been a fair summary of the event and the passions it seemed to ignite.

Here’s hoping that we’ll see another (new and improved) night market in time for Christmas with the words ‘back by popular demand’ on the posters!

Over to you… What did you think? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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