INTERNATIONAL Antiques and Collectors’ Fairs (IACF), the owners of the Newark showground fair, have announced controversial plans to revive the fair at RAF Swinderby just days after the site was vacated by Arthur Swallow Fairs in favour of the Lincoln Showground.
IACF say they have an agreement with the site owners to run an antiques fair at Swinderby for at least two years without fear that the disused airfield will be redeveloped.
Keith Harris and Robert Thomas, veteran exhibition organisers who acquired the Newark, Ardingly, Shepton Mallet and Detling fairs from DMG under the revived IACF brand in May, announced their plans in an email to customers on August 20.
They are proposing a fair with set up on Monday, October 5 and a single buying day on Tuesday, October 6. Newark then follows on October 8-9.
Mr Harris, chairman, pulled few punches in the statement: “There will now be a symbiotic relationship between Swinderby and Newark rather than the parasitic one that existed in the past. Having one organiser for these two events will bring huge benefits for both exhibitors and buyers”.
The long-term future of the 3000-dealer Swinderby Antiques & Home Show has been uncertain since Cemex, the owners of the disused airfield, received permission to extract gravel and erect a ready-mixed concrete plant on the site.
It was in anticipation of Cemex’s plans that Arthur Swallow Fairs took the decision to move to the smaller but much-improved Lincoln Showground ten miles away on the outskirts of Lincoln city, for all future events.
Richard Burgoin, director of Arthur Swallow Fairs, told ATG he understood they could have continued at the disused airfield for perhaps another year.
But following a recent meeting with Cemex, IACF executives were told that, given the slowdown in the construction industry, ground would not be broken on the site for over two years and probably not until 2013. Cemex were happy to receive rental income from IACF until at least 2011.
Alan Yourston, senior fairs manager at IACF, expressed his surprise at Swallow’s decision to vacate the site, “Why did they move? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The rumour that gravel extraction was about to start is not true. The owners have told us that because of the downturn it is likely to be four years away and when it does start it will be on another area of the site”.
The rebirth of Swinderby begins another chapter in the long rivalry between the organisers of the two events, one that dates back to 1995 when Peter Burgoin of Arthur Swallow Fairs launched an ancillary fair that would ultimately blossom on the back of its neighbour’s success.
The new initiative promises to rekindle the animosity felt in 2005 when previous owners DMG sought to put clear air between the two events by moving Newark from its traditional Monday-to-Tuesday slot to a Thursday-to-Saturday format. Ultimately this initiative failed. There was little stallholder support for the third day and, when Swallow changed their dates too, the two Nottinghamshire giants again ran back-to-back.
This time, with both IACF and Swallow events effectively held on the same days (the event at the Lincoln Showground runs from October 6-7 with set up on October 5), exhibitors are now being asked to choose between a new event at the familiar RAF Swinderby site and an established event that has moved to a new location.
IACF, who are promising a “massive publicity campaign” for the fair, are also offering incentives to standholders who might be tempted by the resurrected event. For the first two stagings in October and December a standard outside pitch at Swinderby will be £75 while considerable price breaks are promised to exhibitors who choose to stand at both the new Swinderby fair and Newark. Outside pitches at Swinderby will only cost £30 if pre-paid along with an outside pitch at Newark for the October and December fairs.
Following a survey of customers conducted in June, IACF believe as many as 50 per cent do both fairs.
Trade buyers who pay the £15 entrance fee at Swinderby on October 6 can present their ‘toggle’ at the Newark and Nottingham Showground on October 8 and will be charged £10. The full price is £20.
This is being pitched as a considerable saving to buyers – although many who make the journey to the East Midlands will also want to attend the Lincolnshire Showground too at a further cost of £15.
Swallow Fairs are disappointed by what they believe is an attempt to confuse a hitherto simple message that ‘the Swinderby show has relocated to Lincoln’.
“We are absolutely disgusted at the levels IACF have stooped to under the new management” said Richard Burgoin.
“When DMG Antique Fairs were sold we actually contacted IACF and asked if we could put all past animosity behind us and work together to promote both shows. The reply was they had no interest in ever working with Arthur Swallow Fairs.
“Gravel extraction will begin at RAF Swinderby in autumn next year with a five-year plan for completion of the grounds. We couldn’t plan a show with a layout that would change from fair to fair. The time for us to move is now and we have a 10-year contract with Lincoln Showground to secure the future of our shows.
“We will never sink to the depths to which IACF have sunk.”
By Roland Arkell