The Detling Antiques and Collectors' Fair on February 27-28 will be the last held at the Kent County Showground by the current organisers. A new organiser is taking on the fair after International Antiques & Collectors' Fairs failed to agree new terms with the venue.
In a press statement issued on Wednesday, February 10, IACF said they were forced to drop the event after Kent Event Centre, who are responsible for bookings at the Kent County Showground, imposed a rent hike.
“Unfortunately the showground wanted to increase the rent by an alarming 50 per cent and refused to negotiate. Such a large increase would have resulted in an inevitable rise in pitch prices that would be prohibitive for stallholders.” They added that, despite efforts to promote the event, visitor numbers to Detling had declined over a number of years and “many stallholders have commented that it was becoming a marginal show for them”.
It seemed a logical enough decision but it was a tale of events strongly refuted by the showground.
Alison Wallington, events manager at the Kent Event Centre, told ATG that IACF had been offered the venue with no increase in rent when the two parties had met in October to discuss the renewal of the contract (it expired in June 2009). She said IACF had made a lower offer but this had been refused.
Ms Wallington added that the event had subsequently been put out to tender and a new deal agreed with an unnamed organiser to hold forthcoming antiques and collectors’ events. The first fair under new ownership (the name to be announced after IACF’s February fair) is scheduled for April 17-18.
Detling, a 500-stand event held six (and latterly five) times a year at the Kent County Showground, was established by Aztec Fairs and bought by DMG Antiques Fairs during a fevered period of acquisition in the mid 1990s.
The fair survived the controversial Kent Act – the 2001 legislation designed to regulate the trade in all forms of second-hand goods in the county – to remain a popular local event. However, while only 30 minutes from the Channel Tunnel, it has never quite fulfilled its declared aim to become a meeting place between British and Continental dealers.
Robert Thomas, IACF director, said the decision to cut ties with Detling had no bearing on the group’s other events. “Our increased promotional activity has resulted in larger attendances at all our other fairs – Newark, Ardingly, Shepton Mallet and Swinderby – but this just wasn’t the case with Detling, where visitor numbers kept on declining.”