A Puzzling Festival in East Cowes

A Puzzling Festival in East Cowes

Puzzles galore will fill the pews of St James Church in East Cowes during the second week of August (Monday August 8th to Saturday August 13th 2011), for the annual Jigsaw Festival that is now in its 17th year.

All carefully made up and laid out upon boards, the jigsaws fill the church and as fast as one is sold another is put out for sale. Last year 1,471 puzzles were sold and this year the organisers expect to top that figure.

“It’s gone from strength to strength. Last year we raised just over £9,000,” said church warden Rose Mitchell who organises the festival with Nora Wray, relying on a team of people who make up all of the jigsaws throughout the year.

“We wouldn’t be able to do this if we didn’t have all the people making the puzzles and helping during the week. We have over 50 volunteers who very kindly come and help, and we also do refreshments in the hall and a second hand book stall,” added Rose.

In the run up to the festival cupboards around the church are full of boxes of puzzles and corners of the church are curtained off hiding stacks of jigsaws on boards. Then MDF boards are laid across the pews for the jigsaws.

“We can display up to 350 at one go and once one is sold another one is put out – the display changes by the minute,” explained Rose. “Last year we sold 400 on the first day!

“When you pick the puzzle you want, a team of dissemblers break it up, bag it and then put it in its box and then they’re all bagged in a special yellow puzzle bag. Over the years we have tried to make it more professional. I don’t think there’s anything more we could do unless we got a bigger building,” she said.

Former vicar Stuart Cleever was the inspiration for the festival. A keen puzzle collector, his idea was to show his jigsaws and it snowballed from there. It is now purely jigsaws for sale. People donate their puzzles and the money from their sale goes towards the church. Rose and Nora took over when he left in 2001.

“Each puzzle is given a pig rating on its amount of difficulty, but it’s really just a conversation piece,” explained Rose.

“A Ravensburger can fetch between £6 and £8 but we also have a bargain basement of cheap puzzles at about 50p,” she added. “We sell out of children’s puzzles which are priced between 30p and £2. Adult puzzles are from £1 to £8 and a 2000 piece one would be £10, but we don’t get many bigger ones. We also get 3D ones but we don’t make them up.

“Some are brand new in their cellophane packaging. Some we sell and some are put into a tombola. In the last two or three years we’ve had a lot of the shaped puzzles that are very eye catching and one year there were loads of 3D ones. They go in fads like everything else.

“Some people collect royal jigsaws, others collect trains or aircraft and some an actual make, others collect the old puzzles that weren’t shiny. These old puzzles do keep their colour.

“We get people from all over the country. One year we had some people who had come all the way from Norway and one of the women was a reporter and she went back and wrote a whole page on us in their local paper.

“The whole church has to be cleared on Saturday evening for the Sunday service and it’s surprising how quickly they do it. Those on card are left out and stacked ready for next year. We have a system with the price tickets so that anything that is more than two years old we dissemble and give them to the prisons.”

The Jigsaw Festival is open daily (Monday Aug 8th – Saturday August 13th) from 10am till 4pm and on Wednesday and Thursday evening from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.