Antiques News & Fairs
all about antiques design & fairs since 1998
ANTIQUES NEWS & FAIRS - a one stop resource from the world of antiques, art and design, with a top ranked antiques fairs calendar and previews of upcoming antiques and art fairs.

ANF Blog

FAIR LADIES - CAROLINE PENMAN

THE WOMEN WHO RUN THE SHOWS!
ANF: Penman Antique Fairs is one of the longest standing and respected fair organising companies in the antiques trade – where and how did it all begin for Penman Antique Fairs?

CP Moving house with my parents, from a modern house to a Georgian one, we viewed sales and visited Great Houses – and at the age of nine, I was able to remember dates and styles better than my parents (very competitive, always!) So when my peers at school were going to be nurses and secretaries, I was going to be an antiques dealer

ANF: What did you do before you started in this business?

CP: Went to school. I was given my shop for an 18th birthday present, and did ten years as a general shop dealer, till VAT loomed into sight!

ANF: What are the best, and worst aspect of running antiques fairs?

CP: Best, when it all comes together and all the exhibitors have done well. Worst: having to “sell” stands

ANF: You have just announced two new venues for 2016 – Firle Place in Sussex and Burford School in the Cotswolds. What do you look for when deciding on a venue for Penman Fairs?


CP: I spent three months looking for suitable venues this spring… we need an area where discriminating middle-classes want to visit, ground floor, no steps, 500 sq meters, 200 space car park, and affordability! Weddings make some ideal venues unaffordable. And there are some wonderful venues in terrible places, which is very frustrating. But Firle and Burford tick most of the boxes. Ironic that both had fairs before… all those new venues (now in my head for future ref) proved relatively unappealing compared with tried and tested venues!

ANF: You currently organise the Chelsea Antiques Fair and the Chelsea Art Fair, at Chelsea Old Town Hall, as well as your calendar of regional fairs. Do you find a central London venue presents more challenges than those in the country?

CP: Absolutely! It is harder to publicise an event in London, and MUCH more expensive for everything. It frustrates me that some exhibitors spend more on their hotel than on the stand! But London still has that international allure….

ANF: You made some significant structural changes to the way you run your business last year with a second office base in Malvern. What were the reasons for these changes?

CP: Basically I’m getting too old! So “succession planning” took place. Barbara Bell (my right hand since 1989, has now moved to Malvern to be close to Ben Cooper (my left hand for nigh on ten years), and together they run the official office there. Meanwhile I tap away at the computer back in Sussex, doing website, artwork, print etc and a share in selling stands. Thus I can gradually fade away when I’m ready – which is certainly Not Yet!

ANF: With such a heavy workload, how do you manage to relax away from the business?

CP: I don’t really, I enjoy my work so much! (well, most of it!) So I relax doing it! Otherwise I love going to restaurants (as my girth shows) and I love short holidays. Santorini is my favourite, then I go to Malta this autumn… the Italian lakes are calling me next year…..

ANF: You must have had a few unexpected disasters at fairs over the years and a few major successes – which ones stand out in your mind?

CP: Perhaps one stands out… Chelsea Art Fair had a preview reception, with 500+ visitors, all drinking loads of our wine! It opened at 6pm, and at 7.30, just when all the visitors were wearing rose tinted glasses and about to say “Yes” to a painting, the fire alarm went off! … evacuation… Hundreds of wine glasses landed up in the Kings Road gutter, and no-one bought anything. Apparently someone burned a grilling aubergine in the Fire Officer’s flat upstairs! I was NOT AMUSED.

Then a success – nay, joy – the third fair I ever started was Ardingly, and after 3 or 4 years, I realised I could sell outside pitches… so the first time, we had nine, at £1 each… things moved on…. Two years later I stood at the gate at 5am, taking £5 notes from the cars as they came in. Hundreds. It was raining, and the screwed up wet notes were shoved into a soggy cardboard box in the car beside me. We had six hundred and seventy-two outside pitches that day. It took 2 hours and a bottle of red wine (or was it two?) in front of the fire to flatten and count the notes. Oh joy!

ANF: What do you consider to be the most significant changes in the antiques fairs industry today compared with when you started your long standing business?

CP: 1962 to now – absolutely a different world! I used to love buying in the morning and selling it in the afternoon, and learning about the object from the knowledgeable trade buyer. Gone! Ten years ago I used to say “sadly the cost of everything means the young can’t afford to deal in good things” Now it's cheap enough, but no-one wants the 18th century classics. Fashion… that’s what has spoiled the trade!

ANF: You must have met many interesting characters in your career in the antiques trade – who stands out and why?
 
CP: Gordon Savage… wonderful source of trade anecdotes and endless knowledge. I had a display case in his room in the Antiques building opposite Harrods, with LAPADA’s Phillip Broadbridge & Heather Collingwood on the top floor. I went there once or twice a week, and listened agog to Gordon’s tales!

 



Antiques News Blog

FAIR LADIES - CAROLINE PENMAN

THE WOMEN WHO RUN THE SHOWS!
ANF: Penman Antique Fairs is one of the longest standing and respected fair organising companies in the antiques trade – where and how did it all begin for Penman Antique Fairs?

CP Moving house with my parents, from a modern house to a Georgian one, we viewed sales and visited Great Houses – and at the age of nine, I was able to remember dates and styles better than my parents (very competitive, always!) So when my peers at school were going to be nurses and secretaries, I was going to be an antiques dealer

ANF: What did you do before you started in this business?

CP: Went to school. I was given my shop for an 18th birthday present, and did ten years as a general shop dealer, till VAT loomed into sight!

ANF: What are the best, and worst aspect of running antiques fairs?

CP: Best, when it all comes together and all the exhibitors have done well. Worst: having to “sell” stands

ANF: You have just announced two new venues for 2016 – Firle Place in Sussex and Burford School in the Cotswolds. What do you look for when deciding on a venue for Penman Fairs?


CP: I spent three months looking for suitable venues this spring… we need an area where discriminating middle-classes want to visit, ground floor, no steps, 500 sq meters, 200 space car park, and affordability! Weddings make some ideal venues unaffordable. And there are some wonderful venues in terrible places, which is very frustrating. But Firle and Burford tick most of the boxes. Ironic that both had fairs before… all those new venues (now in my head for future ref) proved relatively unappealing compared with tried and tested venues!

ANF: You currently organise the Chelsea Antiques Fair and the Chelsea Art Fair, at Chelsea Old Town Hall, as well as your calendar of regional fairs. Do you find a central London venue presents more challenges than those in the country?

CP: Absolutely! It is harder to publicise an event in London, and MUCH more expensive for everything. It frustrates me that some exhibitors spend more on their hotel than on the stand! But London still has that international allure….

ANF: You made some significant structural changes to the way you run your business last year with a second office base in Malvern. What were the reasons for these changes?

CP: Basically I’m getting too old! So “succession planning” took place. Barbara Bell (my right hand since 1989, has now moved to Malvern to be close to Ben Cooper (my left hand for nigh on ten years), and together they run the official office there. Meanwhile I tap away at the computer back in Sussex, doing website, artwork, print etc and a share in selling stands. Thus I can gradually fade away when I’m ready – which is certainly Not Yet!

ANF: With such a heavy workload, how do you manage to relax away from the business?

CP: I don’t really, I enjoy my work so much! (well, most of it!) So I relax doing it! Otherwise I love going to restaurants (as my girth shows) and I love short holidays. Santorini is my favourite, then I go to Malta this autumn… the Italian lakes are calling me next year…..

ANF: You must have had a few unexpected disasters at fairs over the years and a few major successes – which ones stand out in your mind?

CP: Perhaps one stands out… Chelsea Art Fair had a preview reception, with 500+ visitors, all drinking loads of our wine! It opened at 6pm, and at 7.30, just when all the visitors were wearing rose tinted glasses and about to say “Yes” to a painting, the fire alarm went off! … evacuation… Hundreds of wine glasses landed up in the Kings Road gutter, and no-one bought anything. Apparently someone burned a grilling aubergine in the Fire Officer’s flat upstairs! I was NOT AMUSED.

Then a success – nay, joy – the third fair I ever started was Ardingly, and after 3 or 4 years, I realised I could sell outside pitches… so the first time, we had nine, at £1 each… things moved on…. Two years later I stood at the gate at 5am, taking £5 notes from the cars as they came in. Hundreds. It was raining, and the screwed up wet notes were shoved into a soggy cardboard box in the car beside me. We had six hundred and seventy-two outside pitches that day. It took 2 hours and a bottle of red wine (or was it two?) in front of the fire to flatten and count the notes. Oh joy!

ANF: What do you consider to be the most significant changes in the antiques fairs industry today compared with when you started your long standing business?

CP: 1962 to now – absolutely a different world! I used to love buying in the morning and selling it in the afternoon, and learning about the object from the knowledgeable trade buyer. Gone! Ten years ago I used to say “sadly the cost of everything means the young can’t afford to deal in good things” Now it's cheap enough, but no-one wants the 18th century classics. Fashion… that’s what has spoiled the trade!

ANF: You must have met many interesting characters in your career in the antiques trade – who stands out and why?
 
CP: Gordon Savage… wonderful source of trade anecdotes and endless knowledge. I had a display case in his room in the Antiques building opposite Harrods, with LAPADA’s Phillip Broadbridge & Heather Collingwood on the top floor. I went there once or twice a week, and listened agog to Gordon’s tales!