To improve accessibility and in pursuit of a new audience, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ABA) will move its flagship summer event south of the river to the Battersea Evolution exhibition hall for 2018.
The venerable ABA fair has been held at Olympia, in advance of the art and antiques show, for 20 years. However, a change has been under consideration for a number of years.
The fair committee’s decision reflects the desire to encourage a broader attendance.
“We have to think about where we can reach out to private collectors – not just those who will travel to an event regardless but those who are looking for a rewarding day out,” said ABA spokesman Tim Bryars of Bryars & Bryars in London’s Cecil Court. “If we are looking to encourage wealthy people to go shopping for rare books we will have more success in this part of London.”
The fair committee is understood to have considered a number of different possibilities – including the creation of a new boutique fair. But the desire to maintain a 150-dealer central London event limited the number of real options.
As the cost of the Evolution is much the same, the move will prove ‘revenue neutral’ for most standholders.
The space also allows for both the retention of some of the fair’s most popular elements – including the so-called ‘live area’ reserved for binders, engravers and other arts and crafts associated with the book trade – and the possibility for a growing fair. The fair will run a week earlier next year, from May 24-26.
“We are confident that visitors and exhibitors alike will appreciate the ease of access, and beautiful parkland surroundings, of the new location.” said Bryars. “We will be a stone’s throw from Chelsea (a shuttle bus will run from Sloane Square tube, taking just five minutes) and the venue is already well known for art, antique and photography fairs.”
The move will have a knock-on effect to satellite events in the calendar.
The Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association holds its own 150-dealer event across the same weekend at the ILEC Conference Centre in SW6.
This year, for the second time, the two major ‘competing’ events are promoted together as Rare Books London.
The move to Battersea was made without consultation with the PBFA. It was, said the ABA, a decision taken as “the best solution for our members and the book-buying public”.
Marc Harrison of PBFA said: “We will consult with our members. The first year we are likely to stay where we are and see what happens and then decide to move in the future. However there is not another suitable location in Battersea so it is up for discussion.”
The first London Book Fair brought together 28 ABA members for a 10-day show at the National Book League in Albermarle Street in 1958. The fair moved to the Olympia National Hall in 1998.