QUICKTEST AT THE ANTIQUES FAIRS
The links, on this page, to organisers' websites were last checked at the end of 2010.
The latest amendments to fairs details were in March 2012.
This page is no longer maintained, but should still have lots of useful information.

 

From the late 1970s to the mid 2000s I exhibited at antiques fairs throughout Britain, mostly midweek 'trade' fairs. At their peak I exhibited 6 or 7 times per month, from Exeter to Brighton to Edinburgh. For the Newark fair, for instance, I would close the office and take a block of five stalls (and two helpers) (and two vehicles) and we would all work frantically for two days. In addition, I visited every fair of significance, and for six years I wrote a column in the Antiques Dealer Newspaper.

Those heady days are over. From the mid 2000s, the fairs went into decline. As regards exhibiting, nowadays it's just myself on a single stall at Kempton once a month. And one of my original helpers, Bob, runs the QUICKTEST stall at Shepton Mallet. As regards visiting fairs, I do like to go to Newark in the Spring and Summer - and that's about it.

The links to organisers' websites, below, were last checked at the end of 2010.

There is also an interesting archive of photographs, some taken by myself, some by my son when he was eleven, click here to see them.

DETAILS AND DIRECTIONS

The following directions are written from my own experience, telling you what I see as I drive and giving you what I consider to be the best route.  These are NOT computer-generated directions! The numbers on the left are mileages, set your trip meter to zero where it reads 00.0. I have also included the size of the fair, as counted by me, often quite different from the size advertised by the organisers.  

 

KEMPTON 
Organiser's web site, click here

PHOTOGRAPHS


These details last amended: March 2012

Fair: Kempton (organiser's website)
Venue: Kempton Park Racecourse 
Times: 6.30am prompt for everyone, packing starts midday (earlier outside if the weather is bad), most have gone by 1pm. (Note: we go at midday).

Location: Sunbury, Surrey  by J1 of M3, less than 10mns from J12 of M25.
Size: between 600 and 700 (there are more outside stallholders when the weather is fine). Don't forget to visit all the stalls, including those in the main hall (under the main Grandstand).

I am here (in the main hall) on the last Tuesday of each month (excluding December).

A true trade fair, there really is no trading before 6.30am when the buyers come in (a new system of passes, introduced March 2012, ensures this). The timing is such that buyers arrive just before the London rush, leave just after the morning rush, and are back in their offices and shops by lunchtime; stallholders pack up at lunchtime; entrance is free!

Directions to Kempton from M25

M25 J12 onto M3 / Sunbury 

M3 J1 / Sunbury

At the traffic lights at the end of the sliproad be in the middle lane, careful, difficult roundabout, stay in the lane marked A308 KGSTON 
You will pass under the motorway,
then take the exit signed Hampton Court Palace  and  Kempton Racecourse.  

Now look at your mileometer, entrance is on left after 0.3mile, (it appears very suddenly, your cue is: keep looking ahead to your left and you will see the struts that hold up the Grandstand - floodlit if it's dark).

Directions from Kempton to Sandown Park

The Kempton fair often clashes with the Sandown fair, Kempton starts at 6.30am, Sandown starts at 1pm, the two are very close, here are directions, 15mns in light traffic, 30mns in heavy traffic.

0.0  Turn left out of the main gate (Grandstand entrance)   [you are on the A308 towards Hampton]

3.3  at roundabout 2nd exit (= turn right) A307, Esher, Sandown Park

5.2  at big junction (a squiggle followed by roundabout)  turn right A307 Esher, Sandown Park

5.9  entrance on right

 

 

SHEPTON MALLET

Organiser's web site

Site plan

PHOTOGRAPHS

These details last amended: September 2008
(and I visited the fair in May 2011 and counted the number of exhibitors: 355)

Fair: Shepton
Venue: Bath & West Showground
Times: 
Location: on A371 in Somerset between Shepton Mallet and Castle Carey. Nearest town on A303 is Wincanton.
Size: Inside (four halls) 351 exhibitors; outside (there are outside stalls only in September) 156.
Comment (end of 2010): we exhibit here in the Showerings Pavilion, though not in January and not in November 2010.

M25 Junction 12 onto M3 towards Southampton

M3 Junction 8 onto A303 (a long exit slip)

00.0    At the end of this long sliproad, at the END OF MOTORWAY sign (and not before) set your trip meter to zero

58.7    Exit. Signs read   WINCANTON A371 and Royal Bath & West Showground and SHEPTON MALLET [etc] A371

At the roundabout at the end of the exit sliproad, 1st exit (or if you want to pop into the supermarket, 3rd exit)
then ahead at roundabout (no choice)
then right (= 2nd exit) at roundabout.
Now it's easy, just stay on this road, the A371

70.3    Entrance on left (known as Yellow Gate)
70.6    Main entrance on left - NOT IN USE! (if you get to this gate, turn round and go back).

If you have a better suggestion for a route or wish to tell me about roadworks, diversions etc that I don't yet know about, email me on raffi@quicktest.co.uk

 

 

CLOCK & WATCH FAIR (Was 'Brunel') 

Organiser's web site

More details + an article on this website

PHOTOGRAPHS

These details last amended: June 2006

Fair: Brunel 
Venue: Brunel University
Location:
[see details] 
Size:
  Clock and Watch Fair by Horological Fairs, 132 exhibitors on 153 tables (counted June 2003) - we exhibit here on a very occasional basis

2008 DATES (Sundays):
December 7

M40 Eastbound towards London. 
First exit after the motorway has run out and has become A40
At roundabout at end of sliproad take 3rd Exit signposted Uxbridge
[click on DETAILS above for directions and map to new venue]

An alternative route is the local cut-through from Ruislip, Pinner and Harrow via Ickenham to the M40, like this:  

Traveling south you pass through the centre of Ickenham on Ickenham Road / B466.
The landmark at which to set your trip meter to zero is the junction of Swakeleys Road (you would turn right here for M40) with the 'funny hut' opposite on the left (looks like a mini-bandstand, it's actually a pump).  
0.00 DO NOT turn right here but continue ahead. Ickenham Road changes name to Long Lane then B466 changes number to A437 - all same road.
2.40 you run out of road, turn right onto Uxbridge Road / A4020 towards Uxbridge
[click on DETAILS above for directions and map to new venue]

 

 

SANDOWN PARK

Organiser's web site 

PHOTOGRAPHS

I visit this fair only, we no longer exhibit, orders delivered, binoculars bought, contacts sought, telephone the office before the fair on 01923 220206 or telephone me directly on the day: mobile number is 07976 [] 831953.


These details last amended: November 2004
Fair: Sandown
Venue: Sandown Park Exhibition Centre at Sandown Park Racecourse
Times: Trade Preview 11am,  public from midday, ends 4pm - note, these are new times as from October 2005.
Location: Esher, Surrey
Size: 370 tables [will be less by now, 2008]

The racecourse and Exhibition Centre is well signposted from Junction 10 of M25, but just for the record, here is the stretch from the M25:

0.0    M25 Junction 10: at traffic lights at end of sliproad and 1st exit  A3 LONDON4.1    at the roundabout, left lane and first exit A244 ESHER

5.9    at the traffic lights turn right A307 LONDON
        (the No Entry sign is just to stop you turning right onto the wrong side of the road, you can turn right, please believe me)

6.2   entrance on left

If you have a better suggestion for a route or wish to tell me about roadworks, diversions etc that I don't yet know about, email me on raffi@quicktest.co.uk

 It is important before traveling any distance to check with the fair organiser to confirm dates and times, QUICKTEST cannot accept liability for any errors and/or omissions or any loss, damage or costs incurred by anyone acting on the information in this web site.

 

BIRMINGHAM, ST MARTIN'S ("THE RAG")

PHOTOGRAPHS

Organiser's web site 

Here is a useful link for real-time travel information: Latest Incidents or Map with Roadworks etc. (you can also choose Rail, Car Parks, Bus & Metro, or Cycle Routes). Unfortunately, this site only covers the West Midlands area of England, it would be useful if it covered all of the U.K.

I visit this fair a couple of times per year (we no longer exhibit), orders delivered, binoculars bought, contacts sought, telephone the office before the fair on 01923 220206 or telephone me directly on the day: mobile number is 07976 [] 831953.

These details last amended:  October 2008

Fair: Birmingham
Venue: St Martin's Market, B5 5BN
Times: Visiting 7.30am to about 10am 
Location: Edgbaston Street, St Martins
Size:  110 exhibitors inside, about 20 outside.

BY CAR:    Program your Sat-Nav to take you to B5 5BN or follow these written-by-a-human directions:

M1 - M6
M6 Junction 6 - A38M towards central Birmingham
As you go down the sliproad get into the second lane and stay there
Keep your eye on the overhead gantries, exit after you have seen 'End of Motorway' sign and get into far left lane, to the red doors of the fire station to the Give Way lines.

At the Give Way lines by the red doors of the fire station set your trip meter to zero

Turn left, stay in left lane,  then:

0.6   Moor Street car park (market straight ahead, not far to walk)
0.7   follow left at lights then get into RIGHT lane
0.85 fork right at lights
0.9   Moat Lane car park (easiest for visitors)
0.95 fork left at light, market on right (stallholders unload and move vehicle)

ON FOOT: the market entrances are opposite Debenhams and Borders

If you have a better suggestion for a route or wish to tell me about roadworks, diversions etc that I don't yet know about, email me on raffi@quicktest.co.uk  When you email please tell me your first name and the place (nearest town) you start your journey.

 

NEWARK

Organiser's web site

Plan of fair (.pdf download)

PHOTOGRAPHS
There are a few dozen, please be patient, it may take a minute or two before they all display

These details last amended: December 2007

Fair: Newark
Venue: Newark & Notts. Showground
Times:  Trade from 9am on the Thursday (note new time for 2008) , £20.00 entrance fee includes entry on the Friday.
Location: Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire.
Size:  (as counted by me in December 2007) 535 booked tables*, 75 pitches in the Sir John Eastwood building, 200 tented units, 20 furniture marquees and 120 outside pitches = total size 950.
* there are fewer 'exhibitors' because many hire more than one table...and more actual tables because stallholders spread their stock onto empty tables.

From A1(M) Northbound from London

The landmark I use is the Hatfield Tunnel at Junction 3, because it is difficult to miss, a tunnel  0.7 mile long that takes you underneath the town of Hatfield, just North of London / M25.

As you enter the tunnel set your trip meter to zero.

108.0 exit, signposted NEWARK / A46 (Note this is the second exit to Newark)
108.7  second exit A17 towards Lincoln 
108.8  turn left (careful if dark very sudden turning)
Entrance on left 

If you have a better suggestion for a route or wish to tell me about roadworks, diversions etc that I don't yet know about, email me on raffi@quicktest.co.uk    
Could anyone give me a similar landmark / mileage from Edinburgh or Newcastle?

ALTERNATIVE ROUTE:
John from Chesham writes:  if you live West of the M1 and North of Hemel, go M1 instead.  
Route is M1 J22  onto  A46 and it's A46 all the way to the showground, distance 120 miles (2.5 hours fast) 



ARDINLGY

Organiser's web site

Plan of fair (.pdf download)

PHOTOGRAPHS

I visit this fair only, we no longer exhibit, orders delivered, binoculars bought, contacts sought, telephone the office before the fair on 01923 220206 or telephone me directly on the day: mobile number is 07976 [] 831953.

These details last amended: April 2007

Fair: Ardingly
Venue: South of England Showground, West Sussex
Location: B2028 by the village of Ardingly, close to the Brighton end of the M23 
Times: I'm there on the Tuesday from 10am to 1pm.
Size: I counted 670 exhibitors. I may have missed some, I may have counted some twice, we can certainly say: more than 650 and less than 700.

MOTORWAYS:
M25 Junction 8 onto M23 towards Gatwick
M23 Junction 10 

SUMMARY: from J10 of M23 follow signs to Wakehurst Place and S. of Eng. Showground (A264 towards E Grinstead then B2029 towards Ardingly),  the showground is next to Wakehurst Place.  

DETAIL:

0.00      At roundabout at J10 of M23 follow A264  E GRINSTEAD - also signed WAKEHURST PLACE 
0.6        Ahead at roundabout (still A264 towards E Grinstead) - also signed WAKEHURST PLACE
2.1        3rd exit at roundabout = B2028 ARDINGLY - signed WAKEHURST PLACE and S OF E SHOWGROUND
7.5        (You will pass Wakehurst Place on right)
8.2        Buyers' entrance on right
8.7        Sellers' entrance on right

NOTE:  if you approach from the other direction, along the B2028 from Crawley, the sellers' entrance will be on your left shortly after leaving the village of Ardingly and the buyers' entrance after another 0.5 mile 

If you have a better suggestion for a route or wish to tell me about roadworks, diversions etc that I don't yet know about, email me on raffi@quicktest.co.uk  When you email please tell me your first name and the place (nearest town) you start your journey.


ALEXANDRA PALACE

PHOTOGRAPHS
These photographs are of the fair under the previous organiser.
Large file, may take a couple of minutes to load, please be patient, when it's loaded click the PLAY button

These details last amended: September 2008

Fair: Alexandra Palace
Venue: Alexandra Palace, London
Location: Alexandra Park, North London (by Muswell Hill)

The fair was re-launched in April 2008 and we exhibited. The second fair took place in September 2008, I visited as a buyer. I have no plans to be back in 2009.

SEPTEMBER 2008

THE NUMBERS

At 8am there were 339 exhibitors including 26 furniture pitches. There is a possibility that a handful arrived later and there is possibility that I counted a handful twice. I did not miss any. So my count of 339 is accurate to within a handful.

The number of stalls (tables) booked was higher since many exhibitors booked more than one table, and because each furniture pitch includes several tables.

The total number of tables in the hall was 639 (excluding the 26 furniture pitches). By 9am exhibitors had spread their stock onto empty tables and the fair looked nearly full.

HOW WAS IT FOR ME?

I visited as a buyer, having decided that it is no longer worthwhile hiring a stall (I had been selling at this fair, under previous organisers, since 1979). 

I remembered that the 'feature' of this fair was that visitors parked near the hall at the top of the hill, so I made my way to the top of the hill. This was painful in itself, at each checkpoint (where exhibitors go in to unload) there were queues of cars as people argued with the stewards (I've no idea what it was all about) and when I got to the very top of the hill I was turned back and told to park at the bottom of the hill.

I walked up the hill and was pleasantly surprised to find that if I took the footpath (as opposed to road) it was only an eight minute walk, a most invigorating climb.  I was also pleased to find that we were let in at the advertised time of 7am (last time the buyers were kept waiting for ages) - some things had definitely improved since the last fair. 

Some of the other visitors complained that a huge queue was building up in the visitors' car park as dozens of trade buyers waited for the minibus to take them up the hill. I noticed, when I left at 10am, that the minibus had been replaced with a full-size coach.

FEEDBACK

Chatting to stallholders I got the 'feel' of what unloading and parking had been like.

There was obviously some confusion about the arrival procedure. One stallholder said, "I arrived at 5am which was when we were supposed to go in, the gates were shut and they didn't let us in until 5.20am". Another said, "It was amazing, very smooth, we were meant to arrive at 6am but people were already unloaded and inside the fair at 5.30am"

Everyone I spoke to said that the actual unloading went smoothly, and the organiser must be compIimented for inventing a 'flow system' that worked so well. However, many complained that car parking was chaotic and that they had to move their cars to the car parks at the bottom of the hill even though the car parks at the top were empty.

CONCLUSION

I saw only five items of interest to me and every one was selling for 3 to 5 times more than the retail price of identical items on this web site (see the secondhand section). I was therefore unable to buy anything and for me the.£10.00 entry fee was a complete waste of money.

APRIL 2008

SUMMARY

Size: quite respectable though noticeably smaller than past years. Buyers: lack of support from local trade buyers, though I don't know if this was because they didn't know about the fair (publicity was lacking) or because they had better things to do on that particular day. Moderate support from private buyers later in the day. Logistics / Parking: bad. Conclusion: we shan't be exhibiting here again, at least not in 2008.

DETAIL

For me (as a seller) the actual unloading went well (new system) but apart from that it was the most chaotic fair I have ever experienced: queuing, parking, check-in - a logistical nightmare, a complete shambles.  Getting the sellers to park at the bottom of the hill half a mile away was an interesting idea, not over-popular.

Frustration, too, for the early trade buyers. The idea was that everyone started trading at the same time - but the sellers went in half an hour early and the trade buyers over half an hour late (one told me 7.50am, the organiser says 7.20am). This left buyers frustrated at spending £10.00 entry then missing the first hour of trading. There was some good news for the buyers - parking was at the top of the hill near the hall. For later buyers it was easier still - no queues, little competition.

The fair was moderately busy between 10.30am and 1.30pm, the rest of the time it was 'peaceful'. 

All this is, however, irrelevant if the buyers are able to buy and the sellers are able to sell. Some buyers were buying and some sellers did take money - on this basis the fair was not 'bad', though by no stretch of the imagination could it be described as a resounding success.

This is a prime venue, the fair has potential, it depends on whether publicity can be improved and the great many teething problems sorted out.

As for me, I set a 'target' I had to reach for the fair to be worthwhile and I did not reach that target. Although I have attended every fair at Alexandra Palace since 1979, professional traders must make commercial decisions and for me this fair simply is not commercially viable, not even to give it a second chance.

I will follow the progress of the fair keenly, I would like this fair to succeed and I would like to be able to report a dramatic improvement I would like to be back in 2009 - watch this space, I will have a better idea after the September fair.

THE NUMBERS

All organisers of large fairs (without exception) play The Numbers Game.

The organiser told me 685 stands were booked; in his booking form for the September 2008 fair he claimed over 700. Or if you take the figures from the Antiques Trade Gazette of 10 May, "...the final tally for the number of stands booked at Ally Pally was 648 manned by 500-plus dealers"

At 7.30am I counted 302 exhibitors in the main hall and Palm Court, but I forgot to count the furniture pitches (about 30). I always like to be 'generous' in my counting, in favour of the organiser, so I shall say that there were 350 exhibitors. This is the number of EXHIBITORS not stalls (tables), this is the number of people who would have sent in booking forms to the organiser, this is the number of payments for rent the organiser would have received.

On the one hand, buyers arriving from mid-morning were pleasantly surprised to see the large number of stalls, few were empty, the fair WAS very nearly full; on the other hand the early trade buyers were dismayed to see a large number of empty stalls.

There is an explanation (this applies to every large fair, not just Alexandra Palace).

The number of stalls (tables) is higher than the number of exhibitors because many exhibitors hire more than one table; because some exhibitors (me included) were given extra stalls for free [thank you Mr Organiser - no complaints!]; and because stallholders spread their stock onto empty tables (which is, of course, beneficial to themselves, the organiser and the buyers).  I count 'Exhibitors' because it is a measure of the support for a fair, if you are merely concerned with the number of stalls covered with stock, please ignore my figures.

HISTORY

The fair ran for about 30 years (Pig & Whistle Fairs ran it for 25 years). Throughout 2006 the property developer Firoka Group was negotiating to lease the complex from its owner the Charities Commission (the main trustee being Haringey Council who also subsidized the complex). The lease was granted in May 2007. At the same time the Alexandra Palace management (pending the Firoka takeover) and the fairs organiser, Pig & Whistle Fairs, were unable to agree a new contract to run the fair...and so the fair folded. It was noticeable, from the official Alexandra Palace web site, that there were virtually no exhibitions (antiques or otherwise) planned for 2008.

Then, two dramatic developments. In October 2007 the High Court blocked the Frioka sale (transcript of ruling). There followed a reorganization of the management at Alexandra Palace (Alexandra Palace Trading Ltd) who were keen to start running exhibitions again.The fair was re-launched in April 2008 under a new fairs organiser.

 

 

QUICKTEST, Watford, WD18 8PH, Tel. 01923 220206, email info(at)quicktest.co.uk