Kempton antiques fair
Sunbury Antiques Market's Kempton Park Racecourse event last week. Mask wearing at future events will be left to peoples’ discretion although many other events and auctions are planning to keep such restrictions in place.

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The UK government last week confirmed that many rules in England were to be lifted from Monday, July 19.

Fair organiser IACF will hold its next event as planned at Ardingly on July 27-28, increasing the number of indoor stands. Will Thomas, managing director, said: “It is great for our industry to see the restrictions being eased. It has been an extremely challenging year for everyone but hopefully we can all move forward from here.

“Although restrictions are being eased, IACF will still prioritise the safety of stallholders and visitors to our fairs.”

‘Getting back inside’

Sunbury Antiques Market, organiser of the Wimbledon Homes & Antiques Fair on August 1 and the Sandown fair on August 15, will begin to introduce changes from September. Its Kempton event on September 14 will have more indoor stands, returning to its established format with around 500 dealers inside and out.

Sunbury Antiques joint owner Edward Cruttenden said: “We are very excited to be getting back inside. We have worked so hard to keep this going through everything. The industry needed the handbrake released. We are still missing the European and international trade but it will be great to get back to a larger event and we have August to prepare.

“We will open all the doors up inside and people can flow through. In terms of face coverings, we will leave it to peoples’ discretion. It’s etiquette really. If you are in close proximity to someone then it is advisable to wear one.”

Cruttenden said the team is also reviewing its pay-for-entry policy which came in during the pandemic, with an update ahead of the September event.

Safety first

A number of auction houses are planning to retain many of the restrictions.

Guy Schooling, chairman at Sworders, said that, because the firm is still being impacted by the pandemic in terms of staff absences, restrictions will remain after July 19.

He said: “We will continue as we are now and keep all our regulations: masks, sanitising, social distancing and all visits by appointment.”

Helen Carless, managing director at Lawrences of Crewkerne, concurred: “While we are delighted that normality is beginning to return, we shall continue to insist that masks are worn in our salerooms even after ‘Freedom Day’.”

Other auction houses have taken slightly different approaches. David Elstob at North Yorkshire auction house Elstob & Elstob, said: “For us it’s about a common sense approach. While we won’t be enforcing mask wearing and social distancing we will be asking clients to be mindful of those who are vulnerable and avoid crowding around certain areas of the saleroom.”

Latest regulations

Scotland will move down to level zero on July 19 (some restrictions remain at this level) with all major restrictions now due to be lifted on August 9.

In Wales many of the regulations, including limits on how many people can meet, will be relaxed from August 7 (with some changes on July 17). However, face masks will still be required in many indoor public places.

In Northern Ireland an update on restrictions will be discussed on August 12 while in the Republic of Ireland, from August 5, there will be a further increase in the number of people allowed to attend both indoor and outdoor events.

For the latest advice visit government websites.