AFTER June in London, the first major fair on the calendar is the long-established summer version of Antiques For Everyone at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham. It will be held this year in Halls 17-19 from July 29 to August 1.
It will follow its customary formula of a relaxed, market-like Section Two and a smarter Section One, and, once again, the fair is large. But at around 550 exhibitors the total is down on the April and November NEC fairs. Blame it on the summer lull.
Fran Foster, who initiated the Antiques For Everyone format and still organises the three fairs a year, feels the secret of their continuing popularity with exhibitors and visitors (she is expecting around 25,000 this summer) is the vetting.
She insists every item of stock is checked for quality and authenticity by an army of vetters now topping 200, with the chair of every committee being a non-exhibitor.
I still feel it is an impossible task to examine every single item at this large fair (and then police the stands to ensure items removed do not creep back) but the effort is definitely made and does instil confidence.
Mrs Foster says: "This attention to quality continues to set our fairs apart from so many others."
Considering the size of the fair, there is a relatively low turnover of exhibitors, but five make their Section One debut and six arrive in Section Two.
Among those joining Section One are Nicholson Jewellery from Oxfordshire; Roy Precious from North Yorkshire with paintings and Ed Pascoe from Miami. The latter is a Royal Doulton and studio pottery specialist who will be among the speakers at the daily seminars, which centre on later ceramics and also feature Richard Dennis, the guru of studio pottery dealing.
Those appearing for the first time in Section Two include Geoffrey Breeze, the well-known dealer in antique walking sticks who after years in Bath is now based in Tetbury; Alston & Ashton from Somerset with period furniture and The Waterloo Trading Co. from London, also with furniture.
In tandem with the seminars, studio and art pottery is the subject of the loan exhibition, largely drawn from Somerset-based Richard Dennis.
Admission is £10.