Every art and antiques fair needs a touch of stardust, so shopping trip appearances from interior designer and TV presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and actors Richard E Grant, Daisy May and Charlie Cooper certainly helped boost Arthur Swallow Fairs’ newest event in the heart of the Cotswolds.
A celebrity visit may be the cherry on top, but the key ingredient for success is strong sales for the hardworking traders and Cirencester Park Decorative Home & Salvage Show delivered.
Michael and Emma Gorton of Chapellane Antiques from nearby Burford said: “We had a good fair and will be looking to take a stand at the next fair to be held at the venue. AS Fairs were very well organised and it was a well-attended event.”
Among Chapellane’s top sales was a pair of Llanelly cockerel plates which went for just below their £1100 asking price.
The three-day event at the Bathurst Estate near Cirencester on June 9-11 attracted 3000 visitors for the 75 traders. It replaced AS Fairs’ event in Beale Park, Berkshire, which ran for three years.
AS Fairs’ director of events Richard Burgoin said Cirencester was larger and better attended than they had expected for the first time at a new location.
Lord and Lady Bathurst have welcomed the event back for next year and Burgoin and the team are deciding if they will extend it to a biannual fair. The Bathursts liked the experience so much they even became shoppers, buying a few things from traders as well as sharing a drink or two in the evening.
Whether traders were selling to celebrities, lords and ladies of the manor, or the general public, many reported a successful weekend and are keen to return.
The Vintage Forager, run by Wendy and Darren Coleman in Crewkerne, Somerset, said the event was a “gorgeous location in beautiful parkland, really good footfall for a new event, with buyers eager to see what was on offer and looking to source items for their homes, clients or business. We had a great fair and look forward to returning in 2024.”
Among its highlight sales was a painting dated 1970 which Wendy described as having a “dreamlike and ethereal atmosphere” with the subject “wearing a cape of feathers!” At an asking price of £400-500, it caught the eye of a young woman at the fair.
Smith & Moon (run by husband and wife team Mat and Rachel in Bridport) is awaiting its own 15 minutes of fame on TV show Salvage Hunters which is due to broadcast later this year. In the meantime it was business as usual and among the sales at Cirencester was a 19th century French marriage quilt featuring 18th century appliqué in gold thread which sold to a dealer for around £400.
AS Fairs prides itself on attracting trade buyers at its one-day weekday events such as Lincoln, but its weekend decorative fairs are more focused on attracting the general buying public.
However, trade sales were coming thick and fast on the Friday, the ‘trade day’ where dealers could apply for free tickets.
For example, Neil, a dealer from Frome, Somerset, bought an album of prints for £35 from a brocante dealer. He hopes he will make a good return when he sells on some of them individually.
Burgoin said: “Although this event is aimed at public buyers the trade have come and bought really well here.”
The Cotswolds address attracted plenty of south-west locals – both exhibitors and visitors – but there were also many from further afield.
Exhibitor Antique Bottles Galore, run by father and daughter Stephen and Lindsay Williams, came from Barnsley while Foraging Frog Brocante is from France.
Rag & Bone Bros from north London made its second appearance at an AS Fairs event and was really pleased with sales both to trade buyers and the general public who took a keen interest in the mix of vintage and industrial wares.
Among its top sales was a group of lights that sold at £245 each, all to different buyers, including one to the events company that was hosting weddings in a nearby converted barn on the Barthurst Estate.
Emma and Bob Dove of The Gilded Dove in Farnham, Surrey, are keen fair goers and have stood at a number of AS Fairs’ events as well as others such as in Shepton and Ardingly.
The Doves have been dealing for five years (they were previously a chef and a butcher respectively) and sales highlights in Cirencester included a Japanese-inspired set of Liberty carved wooden tables. With an asking price in the region of £250, these were bought by a dealer.
Emma added: “Recently people have been cautious due to the cost of living and so on but it does seem to have picked up a little bit.”
Like many other dealers, she notes the increasing success of Instagram for sales, alongside in-person events. She said: “If I do a reel on Instagram I get interest straight away and can often sell quickly that way.”
AS Fairs also continues to reap the benefits of investing time on Instagram.
Alice Roberton, head of PR for AS Fairs, said the organiser has gained 40,000 followers on Instagram since lockdown by encouraging traders to create independent accounts to keep their businesses visible.
She added: “By hosting a virtual version of the AS Fairs’ Decorative Home & Salvage Show over lockdown it introduced a new demographic of incoming dealers and collectors.”
AS Fairs, which now has more than 46,000 followers on Instagram, employs Roberton to run its social media accounts.
Burgoin added: “Nowadays its vital to have a good following on Instagram. It shows they like what we do. In turn you can use that to attract people to real life events. Instagram is like a modern magazine. It is a very powerful and essential tool.”
When actor Richard E Grant live streamed his visit to the fair to his 470,000 followers, he said it was the perfect place to “snuffle out gubbins” and bought a few items for his home.
Whether it is gubbins, art or antiques, Cirencester Park Decorative Home & Salvage Show was the place to go.