Christmas 2015: The return of the toy shop

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For the third consecutive year, Just Fair Trade has opened a pop-up toy shop in St Martin’s Square! Designed to showcase the very best in ethically produced children’s toys, the toy shop offers handcrafted wooden and fabric toys and puzzles made by artisans in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh where the income provided by steady, dignified employment has transformed the lives of individuals, families and communities.

Creating a dedicate space for our toys not only allows us to stock a far wider range of products that is practical in our main Silver Street shop, it has also given us the opportunity to create play spaces in which children (and their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends!) can actually have a go playing with building bricks and play scenes!

And it’s been gratifying to hear so many adults talk about the fact that our range of hand-crafted wooden toys in particular remind them of the toys they played with as children; we’re so proud to have created a space that is somehow both contemporary and evocative of what we like to imagine was a simpler time!

Just Fair Trade first opened its doors in 1996 and has been selling a huge range of fair trade products in Leicester city centre ever since. In 2013, frustrated that our established shop didn’t have the space to do justice to the growing quantity of beautifully crafted fair trade products available in the UK, we took advantage of an empty retail unit in St Martin’s Square to open our first pop-up toy shop and were overwhelmed by the response! Working closely with Market Harborough-based fair trade toy importer Lanka Kade we were able to both raise awareness of the availability of ethically produced toys, and respond to a clear gap in the market for wooden ‘heirloom’ toys including giant Noah’s Arks and forts.

Although the toys are popular with children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends, the people at the heart of the Just Fair Trade Toy Shop are the artisans who craft the toys. Sunil is a Sri Lankan screen printer whose life has been transformed by the opportunity to work for one of Lanka Kade’s producers: I have been given a skill. My employer gives me regular work and we always receive our wages on time.” Sunil lived in a 10 foot square government house with his wife, their young daughter and his mother. His regular guaranteed wage and support from his employer has enabled him to extend and improve their home over time.

The Just Fair Trade Toy Shop will be open every day between Saturday 24 October and Christmas Eve 2015, 10am-5pm Mondays-Saturdays and 12noon-4pm on Sundays. It’s located in the heart of St Martin’s Square, a stone’s throw from our Silver Street shop. Come and pay us a visit!