After the Midlands, onward to Milton Keynes

ByDave Hall

After the Midlands, onward to Milton Keynes

‘CRE Midlands reminded me of the giddy days when it first began – the venue was packed with exhibitors and visitors and there was a busy atmosphere. The whole thing looked great.’

Not our words but those of journalist and communications consultant Clive Price who was around in the days when CRE was first launched on an unsuspecting public in the mid-1980s.

Exhibitors and visitors at CRE Midlands 23

Echoing Clive’s words, Gareth Cottrell, of exhibitors Konnect Radio, said: ‘I just wanted to congratulate you on a wonderful event. We’ve always enjoyed coming to CRE but this year it felt as if you upped your game. It’s been one of our highlights of the year.’ 

Heather Ford, of exhibitors Ecclesiastical, tweeted: ‘Tired feet, completely wildflower bombed out, but great conversations along the way. Looking forward to CRE in 2024.’

The Clergy Support Trust tweeted: ‘It was wonderful to have insightful conversations with clergy, their partners, families, members of their congregations and other Christian organisations.’

Abbi Leverton of Hope Fuelled Design said: ‘I had a fantastic time chatting to people about our work and making new friends along the way! Looking forward to next year already!’

Over the years, and to quote singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, we have tried to ‘get ourselves back to the garden’ – to be what the founders set out to create: a professionally-run trade show for local church leaders and officers to discover niche products and services. At this, our first-ever exhibition at Cranmore Park in Solihull, we think we succeeded.

In all 1,442 visitors came through the door over the two days, plus 469 exhibitor staff. While the numbers didn’t match the ‘giddy days’ described above, the intentional nature of the visitors has never been stronger. Most of them made a beeline to the stands they had earmarked before the exhibition opened – probably because we sent out the 60-page exhibition handbook to some 8,000 potential visitors several weeks before the exhibition – making our visitors much more business-like.

Juliet Hemingray, Rick Wakeman and Steve Goddard at CRE Midlands 23

Self-styled grumpy old rock star Rick Wakeman opened the event and, to his surprise, was presented with a bespoke richly-coloured cape created on the theme ‘Morning Has Broken,’ a traditional hymn made famous worldwide by Cat Stevens. Wakeman played piano on the recording more than 50 years ago.

The cape was made by long-standing CRE exhibitor Juliet Hemingray. Over the years, the Derby-based textile designer has been commissioned to produce thousands of stoles, frontal, banners, copes, mitres and chasubles and other religious regalia – including the enthronement robes for the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, and current Archbishop, Justin Welby.

Rick Wakeman plays at CRE Midlands 23

‘It is the first time I have ever made something for a rock star, though,’ she admitted. ‘I hope he will perform in it.’

He already has – on the night following at a packed-out concert hall in Lytham St Anne’s!

With a successful exhibition disappearing in the rear-view mirror, we now ask for your prayers as we look ahead to 2024.

Talking in depth to dozens of the 170 organisations represented, it is clear the current economic climate is still tough for many of them, post-pandemic. Consequently, many have wanted to come to both our exhibitions in 2024 but have had to make a choice between CRE North in Manchester (scheduled for May 2024) and CRE South at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes (9-10 Oct).

Because of this we have decided it makes sense to cancel CRE North 24 and put all our resources into making CRE South 24 a similar success to CRE Midlands 23.

It is disappointing to be unable to take the exhibition north again (where it is based!) but we feel this is the best option. We are in the process of informing all the organisations booked for Manchester and hope they will join us in Milton Keynes in October next year.

If you are interested in taking a stand at the Marshall Arena please contact James Batterbee on 0161 250 2306 (E:

Steve and Allison Goddard

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