John Mahoney behind his stand of Star Wars memorabilia at a past vintage toy and train fair run at Sandown Park, one of the biggest in the BP Fairs stable. A decision is still to be taken on the event earmarked at this venue on November 14.

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Barry Potter of BP Fairs is surely the king of toy fairs.

He and sons Ellis and Simon run very well supported toy, train and model collectors’ fairs in eight venues across the country. That’s around four-plus fairs to organise every week.

The events at Sandown Park and the NEC in Birmingham are the largest at around 300-plus exhibitors each and Bolton, Buxton, Coventry, Doncaster, Stafford and Rugby follow.

Put on hold

All that activity came to a grinding halt in March when the coronavirus hit and Potter ran his last fair before lockdown at the Stafford Showground on March 15.

The Hornby and Bassett-Lowke 0-gauge trains, the vintage Corgi and Dinky toys, the Star Wars memorabilia, boxes of Lego and smiling teddies were packed away in their boxes, waiting for daylight to return in every sense.

Potter said: “We will need to make a decision about both the Sandown Park fair on November 14 and the NEC event on December 27. Both are very big for us, particularly the fair at the NEC which is our most prestigious.

“These are large indoor shows which will likely need staggered entry times with bookings made online and strict social distancing measures.

“I am very conscious that many of our customers are in the senior citizen bracket so we need to be very cautious. We don’t yet know when the fairs can come back, but from speaking to collectors and dealers, what we do know is that they are all keener than ever to return.”

A veteran in the trade, Potter started his first toy and train fair in Market Harborough in 1979.

He said: “After organising a number of 80 to 150 stall events in places like Rugby, Birmingham, Peterborough and Luton, we knew there was a demand for larger events and in 1987 launched the first toy collectors’ fair at Sandown Park. It was a winner from day one.”