Christian Retailing

Brits brave bad weather for Christian Resources Exhibition Print Email
Written by Clive Price   
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 05:11 PM America/New_York


HolySocksDespite challenging climates—financial and meteorological—for churches and charities across Britain, many turned up “willing to buy” at the recent Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE) North in Manchester, England.

Nearly 2,500 exhibitors, buyers and guests—including no fewer than three Anglican bishops—converged on Event City, the second-largest exhibition space outside of London, for the show Oct. 8-9.

“The Christian marketplace had had its tough times,” event organizer Bill Allen told Christian Retailing. “But here were serious people coming to buy.”

Allen added that attendance was “totally on a par with what we would’ve expected.”

People were determined to sample “the ideal church show”—as CRE is affectionately known—even as rainstorms lashed parts of the country and a main route, the M6 motorway, was closed in both directions for a time.

Undeterred, visitors attended CRE’s three major art displays, took in seminars and walked around the 210 stands occupied by almost 190 exhibitors. On show was everything from biblically themed “holy” socks to the highly unusual bicycle hearse.

Among those attending CRE for the first time was singer-songwriter Lara Martin. She led morning devotions for exhibitors and lunchtime worship concerts for visitors.

“I was really blessed to see CRE was coming up north,” said Martin, who lives in neighboring Yorkshire. “It was great to see so many familiar faces. There were people running organizations in the Christian world—and they were on my doorstep.”

She pointed out what seems to be a north-south divide in England.

“Especially with music tours or preaching tours, the south is quite saturated with events,” Martin explained.

But CRE appears to be helping to bridge that gap with its regional shows.

Martin is known for such worship songs as “The Voice Of Hope” and “Divine Exchange.” A number of her compositions have been recorded by other artists, including Sonicflood, Michelle Tumes, Christine Dente and Susan Ashton.

In between sessions at CRE, the singer met delegates who were armed with shopping lists for their churches. They’d planned which stands to visit and found exactly what they wanted—including children’s ministry resources.

Martin believes CRE is “a real gift to the church,” bringing “a personal touch” to a market that’s increasingly found online.

Another first-timer at CRE North was comedian Tony Vino, who helped keep visitors entertained.

“I’m not exactly an exhibit,” Vino said with a laugh. “I was just performing!”

Lancashire-born, the comedian did a showcase set and emceed from the Spotlight stage. He previewed the seminar program, which tackled issues from reaching fathers to “web evangelism.”

Vino tours the comedy circuit as well as churches. He is a favorite at festivals like Greenbelt, New Wine and Spring Harvest and says he has a “special heart for men’s ministry.” He is also chaplain at Strangeways Prison and at the YMCA gym in Manchester.

He thought that holding CRE in Manchester offered a display of church life in the region.

“The church is strong in the north,” he said. “There are lots of exciting projects.”

Vino observed that Manchester is home to The Message and Redeeming Our Communities—just two Christian initiatives that have been transforming parts of the U.K.

“CRE is more effective when it becomes regional,” he added.

As the CRE organizer, Allen doesn’t believe CRE is more effective in the regions, but he does think it is reaching new audiences in places like Manchester, Birmingham and Exeter.

After three decades of steady growth, CRE will hold its international show at London’s Excel for the first time next year, May 19-22. Previously the event was at Sandown Park, south of the capital.

“We felt it was time to bring the international show into the center of London,” Allen said. —Clive Price