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It will be replaced by an inhouse event titled The National Fine Art & Antique Fair, from January 28-February 1 next year, that will move back to the popular Forum space, offering dealers cheaper stand rates.

The NEC’s organising arm, Centrex, will continue to run LAPADA’s autumn fair at the Commonwealth Institute where they expect to boost numbers by offering a large discount on stand costs at next January’s Birmingham event for dealers who exhibit at the London show.

NEC spokesman Duncan Phillips explained that commercial considerations persuaded Centrex to make the move over the Birmingham event.

LAPADA chief executive John Newgas told the Antiques Trade Gazette that in many ways he was sad to see the end of the fair, but he felt that with the changing economic climate it was not necessarily entirely a bad thing for his members. “LAPADA need to be flexible and to meet our members’ needs,” he said. “We need to reinvent and rethink what we are doing.” He also praised Centrex, saying they were excellent organisers and he was delighted to be continuing their relationship at the London event.

For the NEC, it will mean that Centrex themselves can decide which hall to use, can cut stand rates by seven per cent – or up to 25 per cent for those who book for the LAPADA event at the Commonwealth Institute in London – and will allow them to attract dealers who did not want to exhibit under an association banner.

The LAPADA fair has been at the NEC since 1991. In recent years the event outgrew the smaller Forum hall, which can accommodate about 100 stands, moving to a larger space as exhibitor numbers grew to about 110.

Now Centrex aim to move the event back to the popular Forum and restrict numbers to about 100. Although LAPADA’s code of conduct will not be in force, the organisers promise strict vetting and told the Antiques Trade Gazette that a number of dealers who usually show in January have already booked to exhibit at the new fair.

Centrex fair director Fran Foster explained: “In the 1980s the British International Antiques Fair at the NEC enjoyed a strong reputation but was overtaken by the expansion of the fairs market in London. Now the situation is changing and the NEC is perfectly placed to provide a new all-encompassing event that is intended to become the UK’s leading winter antiques fair.”

Meanwhile, LAPADA are concentrating on boosting their other events. Chairman Earl Howe has revealed that the rules will be relaxed to allow selected dealers who are not members of the association to show at their London fair under the title Guest Exhibitor. They will have to abide by LAPADA’s code of conduct while at the fair and will be vetted in line with member dealers. The hope is that at least some of these guests will sign up as association members.

LAPADA’s summer 2002 fair had to be cancelled owing to lack of support and last autumn’s event suffered along with many other fairs because of general market conditions and the international political scene. Matters have not been helped by the uncertainty over the fate of the Commonwealth Institute, which is currently up for sale, but the LAPADA management have continued to look forward, with Mr Newgas developing a series of incentive programmes to help develop new business.

“It’s not LAPADA’s job to run fairs but to support our members. But a large number of our members want us to run fairs, especially distinctive LAPADA events, and while they want us to, we shall do so,” said Mr Newgas. “What we want to be, though, is a leader in design and look, not a follower.”

He confirmed that the contracts were signed for this autumn’s fair at the Common-wealth Institute and said that even if the venue’s sale meant that future fairs could not be held there, the London fixture would continue in some form.

While LAPADA may no longer be showing at Birmingham, the association have spread their wings further afield, with members invited to stand at the biennial Classic IX Fair in Kortrijk in Belgium from November 1 until November 9 alongside VNAG, the Dutch dealer association with which they have been building close links since last year. Billed as a “lifestyle” fair, the Classic mixes antiques with design and furnishing and even on a bad year can expect 60,000 visitors.