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Mr Morris, whose family concern bought the exhibition halls from P&O late in 1999, later faxed a statement to members of the fairs’ advisory board saying: “Following Clarion Events’ (the organising arm of the halls) recent acquisition of The House & Garden & Destinations shows, I have decided to merge the Fine Art and Antiques Fairs into the Consumer Section, headed up by Mark Saunders.

“As a result of this, there is no longer a need for a Group Exhibitions Director for the Fine Art and Antiques sector, so Victoria Borwick is being made redundant.”

Mrs Borwick has been with the company for 25 years and for the past 11 has organised the successful Fine Art and Antiques Fairs, now mounted three times a year. Next year is the 30th anniversary of the Olympia fairs but Victoria Borwick is internationally recognised as the driving force that raised them to their present status in the 1990s.

Mrs Borwick begged to be allowed to stay until after next year’s June fair, but was only given leave to remain until the end of the Winter fair, which will be held from November 12 to 18.
Clearly shocked, Mrs Borwick told the Antiques Trade Gazette: “I would love to stay on, the shows are so important to everyone and I want so much to make them a success. I really really enjoyed my time here and do not want to go.”

Mrs Borwick also stated that for her and her team it would be business as usual until she leaves. However, the sense of unease within Olympia was not helped when the Borwick team was told last week that their jobs are safe “in the short term.”

The abrupt departure of the organiser is directly related to Andrew Morris’s vision for the future of the fairs, especially the June fair, which next year will be bigger and, Mr Morris, hopes better.

He outlined this vision to exhibitors at the last Spring fair and it involves some radical changes. He wants to attract more young buyers wirth new money and to facilitate this envisages a visual approach to reflect modern tastes and lifestyle. But he insisted this was a long term plan and the change would be gradual, the fairs would evolve and take the dealers with them.

Since that Spring announcement there have been hints of strained relations betweeen the chief executive and the organiser, and clearly as far as Mr Morris was concerned change would not be rapid enough under Mrs Borwick.
Mr Morris told the Gazette that the redundancy was a result of his vision for the future of the Olympia fairs: “While Victoria was superb over the last decade we are now at a watershed. We want to broaden, modernise and market the fairs to a wider audience and need fresh blood to deliver. Victoria is unable to deliver those plans,” he said.
He felt Mrs Borwick had done nothing wrong, but after 10 years was not the person to deliver the vision to which he is committed.

Under Mark Saunders’ Consumer section, he is convinced the fairs will flourish with new markets. But he emphasised “there will be no diminution of quality, the consumer sector is not a mass market.”
Last week exhibitors were dismayed to hear of Mrs Borwick’s departure and expressed grave doubts about the future of the fairs when she leaves.

Victoria Borwick has built up a close rapport with exhibitors who are vociferous in their faith in her ability to put together a large and profitable quality fair.

Mr Morris is now searching for a new fairs organiser and told the Gazette he would be looking within “the art and antiques community.” An announcement will be made either at the November fair or shortly after.