Entering the Vrijhof through the main entrance and passing the service desk, one is confronted by a large plush lamb, wearing a Christmas sweater. The lamb stands on a counter that blocks the entrance to the Foyer, eyes at about shoulder height. The secretary of Apollo waits behind the lamb. After a check of QR code and ID, he opens the way into the foyer proper.
The main events of the day are the arts and crafts workshops, but there are also a few other activities at the Fair. In the Agora YouTube videos are playing and people are dancing to them. In the Amphitheatre Christmas movies are playing throughout the afternoon.
Energetically stabbing small balls of cream wool
In the Audiozaal the arts and crafts workshops have begun. Christmas songs play over a loudspeaker and people chat as they work. Two rings of tables have been set up in the room, at the left people sit crocheting, while those at the righthand ring are engaged in energetically stabbing small balls of cream wool.
Rian Holtrigter, Apollo chairman, is leading a needle felting workshop. ‘It began with a big market outside the Vrijhof to raise money for charity in 2013,’ she explains. ‘I only learned about this one and a half weeks ago, but we’ve done this for several years with different charities, and this year we wanted to do something inside with workshops.’ This year the charity is Jeugdfonds Sport en Cultuur. They raise money for children in poor circumstances to take part in sports and cultural activities, such as swimming or music lessons.
Most people at the Winter Fair are attending the workshops. ‘We’re doing crochet because I used to do that when I was younger,’ Holtrigter continues. ‘And with one arts and crafts workshop we wanted to do another. I also know how to do needle felting so I could give that workshop. We wanted to do something cosy and wintery, so hats and penguins.’
Indeed, at the crochet tables a few finished hats are visible among the ones in progress; one blue hat has been decorated with a bobble. Here on the needle felting table a few tiny felt penguins sit in front of Holtrigter. ‘Last year was online. This is much better, we’re very glad we can do it physical this year – just in time!’ Holtrigter says. ‘I think it’s very cool people can get together outside of their own associations, especially now that not so much is possible.’
It seems as though very little time passes until the two hour workshop is over and the balls of wool have been transformed into a tiny army of felt penguins. To round off the afternoon, everyone groups their penguins together and Holtrigter takes a photo of the tiny flock. The Fair is over, and people break up, heading home, new penguins and hats riding in pockets and bags.