When the Cambridge Glass Fair was launched in 2003 by Dr Graham Cooley and husband-and-wife team Paul Bishop and Christina Glover, few opportunities existed for selling glass at a specialist event.
ATG readers with long memories will remember Pat Hier, who started the National Glass Fair in 1991 and who had run a glass collectors’ fair since the 1980s.
When Hier retired in 2008, the three Cambridge fair organisers also took over the National Glass Fair and returned it to the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull.
The next of these biannual events is on Sunday, May 6.
Back in 2003, Cooley, a well-known glass collector, and Bishop and Glover, collectors and dealers in 20th century glass, had decided that East Anglia was the ideal spot for their new glass fair.
Initially the plan was to hold a small fair at a village hall or similar but the interest from glass dealers changed the organisers’ thinking and they kicked off with their first event in February 2003 in the far more ambitious setting of the Guildhall in Cambridge.
As fair organisers know only too well, setting-up problems at venues can be testing.
Among problems on launch day with electrics and tables, the door of the goods lift also jammed, so all the cables, lights and other essential fair paraphernalia was going nowhere. On these occasions lateral thinking is required – so Dr Cooley took a hammer to the door, which closed immediately.
The fairs always host an exhibition of glass, plus demonstrations of glassblowing, lampworkings and book signings
After two fairs at the Guildhall, the decision was made later in 2003 to relocate outside the city centre, which was being redeveloped.
So, the Chilford Hall Vineyard, seven miles outside Cambridge, was the fair’s happy home for nine years until a disastrous fire at that venue in 2012 forced another move to a temporary location and then to Knebworth Park in 2015, where this annual fair remains. Held in February this year, the 2019 date is yet to be confirmed.
Bishop, who when not busy organising the fairs under the banner Specialist Glass Fairs, is a trade union official with Unison. He is an enthusiastic collector of Whitefriars Glass by Peter Wheeler, who designed the Peacock Studio Range in 1969.
Talking about the 90-plus dealer fairs, Bishop said: “These offer real variety and showcase all types and ages of antique and contemporary glass. These range from 18th century drinking glasses to Art Deco and Art Nouveau through to 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s studio glass as well as the work of contemporary artists.
“The fairs always host an exhibition of glass, plus demonstrations of glassblowing, lampworkings and book signings, which all add to the glass experience.”