Moving a successful antiques fair by two months is not a decision any organiser takes lightly.
For those running the annual CADA Art & Antiques Fair, the move from April to February 21-24 for its eighth edition was risky but unavoidable, if they wanted to retain use of Blenheim Palace in Woodstock and its light-infused Orangery.
“We had no choice but to move because of a Palace schedule clash,” said Maggie Robinson, CADA secretary and fair co-ordinator.
“We were dreading it, as we thought the weather would be ghastly. But the glorious sun came out and footfall is way up on last year.”
ATG visited on the final day, a Sunday, wondering whether a setting as alluring as Blenheim Palace, combined with that great weather, would distract the buying mindset.
In fact, these factors, together with the diversity of goods on offer made for happy dealers and buyers. “I sold every day and found lots of new clients,” said fine art dealer Sarah Colegrave. “It was my best Blenheim fair ever.”
The success of the switch presents CADA with a quandary about next year. Exhibitors told ATG the good weather, the timing around school half-term and free admission to Blenheim's glorious grounds as part of the CADA entry ticket, proved a winning combination.
CADA says it is in talks with Blenheim Palace about next year's dates, aware that the venue is in demand for corporate and private events.
For a small fair – about 30 stands this year – CADA covers a lot of ground.
Furniture and flat art dominate, but stands with glass, ceramics and jewellery rub shoulders with objets d’art and silver.
Trinity House and Freshfords Fine Antiques had rooms to themselves, while non-CADA members stood in a downstairs section. One non-CADA dealer there said the journey had been “worth it” but asked not to be named, keen to preserve his exclusive slot at the fair.
The Freshfords family business, stocking predominantly 18th to 19th century furniture, is now run by Simon Powell, who 18 months ago opened up a high street shop in Bradford-upon-Avon, "bucking the trend," he told ATG.
Powell declared himself happy with the CADA fair date change. "I did this fair last April, and for me it was too soon after standing at the BADA fair in March. This slot is just right, ahead of this year's BADA event," he said.
Ceramics dealer John Howard had travelled the shortest of distances, as his Antiques at Heritage centre is a stone’s throw from the palace. ATG asked a mischievous question: could his shop not have piggybacked on CADA fair traffic, avoiding the need for him to exhibit?
“Goodness, no!” he said, laughing. “In our centre you can buy things for £50, but the level here at CADA is so much higher and exclusive. You have to do both.”