It’s that time of year again! Ally Pally is looming on the horizon and knitters, crocheters and stitchers everywhere are in training for the annual trek up the hill to Alexandra Palace and the London Knitting & Stitching Show which this year runs from Wednesday 8th – Sunday 12th October.Like so many others, I have a love/hate relationship with Ally Pally. It’s a great opportunity to see what’s going on in the yarn and needlework world, provides a multitude of shopping opportunities and it’s lovely to see and meet friends and those who you have been buying products from online. It can however seem very overwhelming and the crowds are quite daunting.
Having both worked on a stand and attended the show as a visitor I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years which might make your day a little easier and less stressful.
If you’re taking public transport to Ally Pally the closest tube station is Wood Green on the Piccadilly line. From there you can then either take the free shuttle bus which leaves just across the road from the station or jump on London bus number W3 but you will have to pay unless you have a one-day travelcard. For those taking the overground train straight to Alexandra Palace station you can hop on the London bus outside the station however it does tend to be very busy and can drive straight by if full. The 15 minute walk from the station is a straight line but uphill so do bear this in mind. The return journey is all downhill, so much easier! If you are leaving around rush hour the traffic can be very heavy and it can take a while to actually get back down the hill so leave yourself plenty of time if you’ve got a train to catch. Check the TFL website for more route planning information. Onsite parking is available with shuttle buses to the main venue, but the car parks get full early in the day so arrive with plenty of time to spare.
The food at the Knitting & Stitching Show is notoriously inedible and overpriced, but there are plenty of places to sit and eat a picnic so take your own lunch and don’t forget a bottle of water! If you would rather get food there then the pub located inside on the corner of the main entrance to Alexandra Palace is the best of a bad bunch, but can be very busy so try and time lunch when others aren’t!
I would love to know the actual figures for how many women vs how many men attend Ally Pally but suspect it’s somewhere in the region of 99 women for every man! This makes the ladies loo situation desperately awful, however in the past some of the Gents toilets have been in use for Ladies only. The ones I have found are situated on the first floor above the Textile Gallery (the room containing exhibitions and stalls) and you can take the lift or stairs from the top left-hand corner of the room just by the entrance into the main hall…it will make sense once you are in there! Don’t do what I saw a lady do one year and try to wash your hands in a urinal…sinks are provided!
Whilst the urge to show off your latest creation to a captive audience is completely natural, Ally Pally does get incredibly hot so that chunky aran sweater fresh off the blocking board sadly isn’t going to be a sensible choice! Go for light layers that you can take off and scrunch up in your bag thus leaving your hands free for rummaging and wear sensible shoes as it’s a long day on your feet. Take a strong shopping bag to put your purchases in and keep an eye on your purse and other personal possessions. I haven’t heard of anyone ever having had trouble but that’s not to say it won’t ever happen…better safe than sorry.
The views across London from Ally Pally are fabulous and your ticket allows you to wander in and out of the show as you please, so do pop outside to eat your lunch, take in the view and even wander around the grounds. It’s good to clear your head, get some fresh air and take a breather from all the hubbub, and on a sunny day is a lovely place to be.
It gets exceptionally busy inside the show particularly on Thursday until 3pm, all day Saturday and Sunday. There are times when you will undoubtedly find yourself in the Ally Pally shuffle conga so if you’re not fond of crowds, or are planning on taking babies or small children, I advise visiting for the late night opening on Thursday between 3 and 7pm which was much calmer last year. The entry price for the Thursday evening is also cheaper at £8.00 on the door after 3pm rather than £16.00 at 10am. Additionally, the show is opening on Wednesday this year and I suspect it will be fairly quiet so might be a good time to visit. Also note that pre-booked tickets for the show are now date specific, so if you book for Thursday you won’t be able to use your ticket on Saturday.
Last, but by no means least, there can be a distinct lack of manners at Ally Pally as people get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget themselves. Keep your cool and let them get on with their rudeness, it’s not worth spoiling your day over it. Show respect for visitors in wheelchairs and give them space to manoeuvre freely. Be aware of bumping people with bags and rucksacks, particularly those with walking aids and small children. Keep an eye out for those wheeled shopping trolley’s…my ankle has been nibbled one too many times by them! Treat others how you wish to be treated yourself, take a deep breath and smile…ah, that’s better!
Most of all have a good look round, chat to people, take time to chill out, and enjoy yourself! The Knitting and Stitch Show website has lots more information and a full list of exhibitors so you can plan your day and ensure you don’t miss anything. A suggestion by Anna last year was to do a circuit and make note of stands you would like to return to as it can get very disorientating finding them again.
If you have any tips for visiting Ally Pally it would be great to hear them so please do leave a comment. I have updated this post from last years and incorporated new information and tips left by other visitors.