CENTRE Exhibitions, the organising arm of Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre, are launching a new Antiques For Everyone fair at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in West London next August.
But they also look set to abandon Antiques For Everyone-Manchester after just two stagings. Centre Exhibitions’ Fran Foster announced plans for the London fair on the opening day of her Birmingham Antiques For Everyone last week. It will be held at Earls Court Two from August 21 to 24, 2003 and Mrs Foster is expecting some 300 exhibitors. Standards will be similar to those at Birmingham with two sections with different datelines and comprehensive vetting.
Mrs Foster explained: “London is well served by high-end art and antiques fairs but collectors enjoy the busy atmosphere created by Antiques For Everyone fairs. Earls Court Two has been chosen as the launch venue since the dimensions offer ideal scope to replicate a suitable layout, although the fair will have its own identity within the Antiques For Everyone series.”
Both exhibitors and observers at the NEC were stunned by the news. It is not a surprise that Mrs Foster wants a London fair, but the choice of venue and dates have frankly been met with incredulity by most in the trade.
In the past Earls Court has proved a graveyard for any sort of antiques fair and August is widely considered to be a dead month for antiques business in the capital.
The most recent attempt at an antiques fair at Earls Court was The Great Antiques Fair, launched by the Olympia team in 1997 and scrapped by chief executive Andrew Morris in 2000 when it patently was not working.
The initial argument that in August the fair had the field to itself was disproved and after two attempts the fair was moved to an autumn slot. Still it failed.
With its two sections, number of exhibitors and targeting of the lower to middle range The Great Antiques Fair sounds uncannily like Mrs Foster’s planned event. She believes that tourists in town in August will provide useful custom, although this has not been borne out in the past. Mrs Foster’s market research shows that the London fair is powered by her dealers’ aspirations. However, there was nothing but scepticism among the Section One dealers the Gazette spoke to at the NEC.
There were murmurs that Centre Exhibitions might well be relying on the many Section Two dealers to fill Earls Court, which would take the new venture far from the £10 to £100,000 price range the organisers are talking about.
As she announced the Earls Court fair, Fran Foster revealed she would not be staging Antiques For Everyone-Manchester next year, and is seriously reconsidering its future.
She admitted that despite an appealing venue, efforts to attract the right sort of buying customer into the city centre has not worked.