Gill swaps fashion for country fayre

Gill Singleton, of Green Hammerton, North Yorkshire,
Gill Singleton, of Green Hammerton, North Yorkshire,
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A small Yorkshire village will be transformed when it holds its first Country Fayre . Catherine Scott meets the women behind it.

Gill Singleton is more used to big business than organising a village event, but she seems to have everything under control when it comes to Green Hammerton Country Fayre.

Gill at home in Green Hammerton

Gill at home in Green Hammerton

Gill, who lives in the picturesque North Yorkshire village, has spent her life in the fashion industry. She was the youngest ever buyer for Manchester’s Kendal Milne and youngest ever member of the Central Buying Committee for the North for House of Fraser.

During her years in London she joined Moss Bros., buying initially for the ladies division’s 25 stores then moved to menswear, a lone woman in a male industry with 100 stores as part of her remit.

Other roles included sourcing and buying for Grattan’s direct mail division when it was starting up, ditto for Freemans.

She has travelled all over the world with her work including the Far East, especially China, in the early days of it opening its borders.

The Yorkshire Air Ambulance is one of three charities to benefit from Green Hammerton Country Fayre

The Yorkshire Air Ambulance is one of three charities to benefit from Green Hammerton Country Fayre

It was during this time that she and her husband decided to adopt a Chinese baby.

“We were told we were too old to adopt in this country and I was doing an awful lot of travelling to China where there was still very much the ‘one child’ policy,” explains Gill.

“I suppose I was a bit naive but I thought the process would be easy. It as at the Chinese end but the British side of things was terrible.”

In the end it took the couple two years to bring home their daughter Lizzie, now 20.

“Lizzie was found under a bridge when she was eight months old in a very poor and rural part of China,” says Gill. “There was a note with her with her date of birth but very little details. We did take her back to the orphanage when she was 14, but she said she didn’t want to trace her birth parents just yet as we were her parents in her eyes.”

Gill’s husband Richard gave up his job as a teacher to look after Lizzie and become a house husband which was pretty rare 18 years ago, while Gill pursued her fashion career.

“We were living in the Cotswolds at the time and we were probably old enough to be Lizzie’s grandparents and so I think people did find it a bit strange to see this man walking around with a Chinese child.”

Lizzie is now at university but is clearly the apple in her mother’s eye.

“She means the world to us,” says Gill, who has also worked with a global brief including spearheading Pierre Cardin’s relaunch and latterly has been a director with Leeds menswear company Baird.

Last year she decided it might be time to go into semi-retirement and get involved with village life while still working as a consultant for Baird in Leeds.

“We have lived in Green Hammerton for the last eight years but because of the nature of my job and all the travel I have to do I really hadn’t had much of a social life,” says Gill. She decided to get involved with plans to hold a Country Fayre in the village. And with Gill’s background she was determined to make the event much more than just a few stalls and a bouncy castle.

“I have to say I didn’t realise just how much of the last nine months organising this event would take up,” she admits.

But on July 10 all her hard work and that of a network of volunteers will come to fruition.

She is hoping that between 5,000 and 6,000 people will descend on the historic Green in Green Hammerton for a fun-filled day.

Gill hopes the event will raise £30,000 for three charities: the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Open Country, a charity which helps people with disabilities gain access to the countryside and Green Hammerton Recreational Charity.

“The Air Ambulance costs £12,000 a day to keep it in the air and if we can fund just one day of this life-saving service then it will be worth it.”

Gill has taken on the project as she would any other project she has during her high flying career.

“The skills are pretty much transferable. You have to set yourself a budget and make sure you stick to it,” she says. “That is where many village events can fall down or not make as much money as they could.

“We have already broken even with many of the attractions agreeing to come for free.”

Branding has been key to her success and a distinctive graphic of a stripy marquee and hot air balloon has been popping up around North Yorkshire.

“I really wanted the event to have an identity and a brand that people would recognise. We are selling aprons with the logo on and I think it really give a professional feel to the event.

She has managed to get a sponsor to cover the cost of the Yorkshire Ambulance attending which will be a star attraction on the day, incidents permitting.

“It is the way you ask,” says Gill.

With 23 acres of parking, dog scurries, clay pigeon shooting, pony rides, hot air balloons as well as 100 stalls Gill says there is something for everyone.

“We are also having traditional children’s games such as a helter-skelter and a Punch and Judy show as well as a giant inflatable Noah’s Arch. There is also live music throughout the day, beer and Pimms tents and much more.”

It has a taken a mammoth amount of organising and has united the different parts of this North Yorkshire village, now they just need the crowds.

So will it become an annual event?

“It depends how much we make, possibly every two years,” says Gill.