Antiques News & Fairs
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ANF Blog

Fair Ladies - Helen Martin of B2B Events Ltd

Helen Martin has been a fair organiser since she formed Back to Basics Events Ltd (B2B Events) with Roger Sumner (now retired) in 2006, having taken over the Malvern Antiques & Collectors Fair and the Malvern Flea & Collectors Fair.  Prior to that, she had been a dealer and exhibitor for over 30 years. 

The past 11 years have seen the creation, addition and acquisition of many events, including the Kinver Antiques & Collectors Fair, the Edinburgh Antiques & Collectors Fair, the Kent International Antiques & Collectors Fair, the Antiques & Vintage Bazaar, and the Cranmore Park Vintage & Antiques Fair.

We talk to Helen about her background and successful career as a fair organiser...

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Helen Martin in a spitfire at Howarth 2016


ANFHow long have you been a fair organiser?

HM:  For 9 years.

ANF: Did you find this career or did it find you?

HM:  I have been in most walks of the Antiques Industry – I started back in the 1980s working for an auction room in Surrey. I then got involved in adult education, teaching Antiques in the evening at the same time. I started dealing, along with my ex-husband in the 1990s, and we became the leading Carlton Ware dealers in the world. When we split up, I did attempt to keep dealing but by then the bottom had dropped out of the Carlton Ware market, and my heart wasn’t really in it. At that time Roger Sumner, who worked for DMG Antiques Fairs, was going to retire and part of his retirement package was being offered both the Malvern Antiques Fair and the Malvern Flea Fair. He took the plunge but needed someone to sort the admin.  I just happened to be looking for a job at the time and we got together and set up B2B Events. Six years later Alan Yourston joined us and since Roger’s retirement from the business, Alan and I have taken B2B forward.

ANF: Could you imagine doing anything else now?

HM:  This is a difficult one. I am always open to new projects - and it would be interesting to go outside of this business - but my vast experience in the Antiques Industry probably would make me shy away.

ANF: Has anyone in particular influenced your career?

HM:  Not really. I have been very lucky in that all walks of the industry I have come across people who have been really helpful and willing to impart their knowledge along the way.

ANF: What are the high and lows of organising large scale events? What are your happiest memories and how have you dealt with possible disaster in the past?

HM:  One of the highs of organising large events is seeing the crowds come and knowing that you have done something right, and that as a consequence a good number of dealers will take some money.  One of my big things is trying to walk around and talk to my customers at the fairs and find out what’s happening.

The biggest low is if it rains, but we can’t change that.

Another low for me is when we get blamed for dealers not taking any money. It’s our job to organise the venue, get the dealers to stand and then ensure there is sufficient footfall to help them sell. However, it’s not all about us. The dealers have a responsibility to help themselves as well.  Social media is a great form of free advertising and we have some fantastic dealers who do lots of promotion via this to aid their selling. As a dealer I used to make sure that potential customers (and current customers) knew when I was standing at an event in their area. I’d post details out to them, letting them know – social media is the modern equivalent which dealers can use to their advantage.

We have to deal with some very trying situations at times. Very recently we turned up at a venue to find that we didn’t have a gate to let our dealers in. There were building works all over the place which impeded us and the roof leaked overnight. As professional organisers we just got on with the job in hand and made sure that our customers saw as little of the problems as possible.

Happiest memories include the euphoria felt after having organised the very first fair after B2B was formed. Knowing we’d actually achieved a successful fair where dealers had earned money and there were buyers coming through the gate.

I know many dealers now from my years as a dealer, as well as my years as an organiser, and nothing makes me happier then when one of them comes up and tells me about a particular find they have come across, or when they say they have had the best fair ever today.

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Helen with Squadron Leader George Leonard "Johnny" Johnson, DFM (born 25 November 1921), a retired Royal Air Force officer and the last British survivor of the original members of No. 617 Squadron RAF and of Operation Chastise, the "Dambusters" raid of 1943.

ANF: We heard about your exciting collaboration with Bentley Fairs for The Great Southern Flea on Sunday 6 August 2017 – whose idea was this and how did the idea develop?

HM:  Sharon and I have always got on well right from when she came into the antiques side of organising.  We used to chat for long periods about the why’s and wherefores regarding the industry. Sharon is a real bright spark and a motivator. She approached me at the beginning of the year with the Great Southern Flea idea. Alan and I discussed it and decided a site visit was in order. Everything was as Sharon described and the three of us just thought – let's give it a go. The dealers are really positive about the event which is fantastic - we want to produce a great friendly flea for all, just a quick one day event where they can get rid of old stock and perhaps find new whilst they are there. It will appeal to all sorts of dealers and buyers, like Malvern Flea you just don’t know what you may find.  

ANF: Do you have any other new events planned?

HM:  Not at the moment, but there may be some simmering in the background!

ANFHow important is your team in the success of the business – do you find it easy to delegate?

HM:  Our team is very important to the success of the business. Without them we couldn’t run the size of fairs that we do. When Roger and I started B2B it was just the two of us doing the admin and main organisational stuff from our respective homes, with casual staff at the fairs. It wasn’t long before we had to bite the bullet and get office premises for the admin side and now we have two great ladies - Julie and Shelley who look after the office. Those who know me know I am a control freak, therefore it was extremely difficult to delegate but I am learning and now feel confident that everything is in safe hands.

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Helen and Alan Yourston at Howarth 2015.  Helen is dressed in land army uniform with a first aid bag.  Alan is dressed as RAF.


ANF: What do you think are the most significant changes in the fairs industry over the past 10 years?

HM:  The fairs industry is constantly changing and dealers need to keep on top of it, which is quite a task. Although we still have the traditional dealers who sell very good and proper antique stock, we now have an amazing range of vintage, retro, salvage and industrial recycling dealers, which wouldn’t have been around in any quantity 10 years ago. So many industrial buildings have been renovated into amazing accommodation that the latest trend for quirky recycled items made from industrial, retro and vintage mixed with the antiques gives this industry a lot of scope. There are also a great number of revival events and festivals, which weren’t around 10 years ago.  These also give such an outlet for the vintage and retro styles. So many want to authentically dress up and get involved – even Alan and I. So as ever the styles of yesteryear have gone full circle and become the collectables of today.

ANF: We heard that you just got married – congratulations to you and your new husband! Do you find it easy to wind down from work to spend time with him? What do you do in your spare time if you ever have any?

HM:  Thank you, I said yes to a fantastic guy - Alan Yourston. We have been together for some fifteen years. Alan is a well respected member of the organising world having worked for DMG for around 9 years before joining B2B. So we work together with Alan taking on the operational side of the business.

Spare time ha ha!!! When you run your own business it’s pretty much 24/7 and as a woman there is always something that needs doing around the house so down time is rare. However the two of us are very interested in the revival events that now take place. We went to Howarth 40s weekend last year and are aiming to attend the Pickering Vintage Festival this year. We have a real passion for the Lancaster Bombers and other WW2 aircraft as well as the more modern flying machines and we try to get to at least one Air Show a year. We also love to go up to Scotland where Alan’s roots are, just chilling (literally usually!) for a few days.


Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Helen and Alan Yourston at Howarth 2016.  Helen was dressed in original attire as a WASP (The Women Airforce Service Pilots). Called "Women's Army Service Pilots" in some sources, it was a paramilitary aviation organization. The WASP's predecessors, the Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) were organized separately in September 1942. They were the pioneering organizations of civilian female pilots, employed to fly military aircraft under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. The WFTD and WAFS were merged on August 5, 1943, to create the paramilitary WASP organization.

 

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Images from the Edinburgh Antiques, Vintage & Collectors Fair

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Images from the Detling Antiques, Vintage & Collectors Fair

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Images from Cranmore Park Vintage & Antiques Fair

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Images from the Malvern Antiques Fair and Malvern Flea Fair

 

To learn more about Helen and B2B Events, including dates of all future fairs, visit B2B Events.

Save



Antiques News Blog

Fair Ladies - Helen Martin of B2B Events Ltd

Helen Martin has been a fair organiser since she formed Back to Basics Events Ltd (B2B Events) with Roger Sumner (now retired) in 2006, having taken over the Malvern Antiques & Collectors Fair and the Malvern Flea & Collectors Fair.  Prior to that, she had been a dealer and exhibitor for over 30 years. 

The past 11 years have seen the creation, addition and acquisition of many events, including the Kinver Antiques & Collectors Fair, the Edinburgh Antiques & Collectors Fair, the Kent International Antiques & Collectors Fair, the Antiques & Vintage Bazaar, and the Cranmore Park Vintage & Antiques Fair.

We talk to Helen about her background and successful career as a fair organiser...

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Helen Martin in a spitfire at Howarth 2016


ANFHow long have you been a fair organiser?

HM:  For 9 years.

ANF: Did you find this career or did it find you?

HM:  I have been in most walks of the Antiques Industry – I started back in the 1980s working for an auction room in Surrey. I then got involved in adult education, teaching Antiques in the evening at the same time. I started dealing, along with my ex-husband in the 1990s, and we became the leading Carlton Ware dealers in the world. When we split up, I did attempt to keep dealing but by then the bottom had dropped out of the Carlton Ware market, and my heart wasn’t really in it. At that time Roger Sumner, who worked for DMG Antiques Fairs, was going to retire and part of his retirement package was being offered both the Malvern Antiques Fair and the Malvern Flea Fair. He took the plunge but needed someone to sort the admin.  I just happened to be looking for a job at the time and we got together and set up B2B Events. Six years later Alan Yourston joined us and since Roger’s retirement from the business, Alan and I have taken B2B forward.

ANF: Could you imagine doing anything else now?

HM:  This is a difficult one. I am always open to new projects - and it would be interesting to go outside of this business - but my vast experience in the Antiques Industry probably would make me shy away.

ANF: Has anyone in particular influenced your career?

HM:  Not really. I have been very lucky in that all walks of the industry I have come across people who have been really helpful and willing to impart their knowledge along the way.

ANF: What are the high and lows of organising large scale events? What are your happiest memories and how have you dealt with possible disaster in the past?

HM:  One of the highs of organising large events is seeing the crowds come and knowing that you have done something right, and that as a consequence a good number of dealers will take some money.  One of my big things is trying to walk around and talk to my customers at the fairs and find out what’s happening.

The biggest low is if it rains, but we can’t change that.

Another low for me is when we get blamed for dealers not taking any money. It’s our job to organise the venue, get the dealers to stand and then ensure there is sufficient footfall to help them sell. However, it’s not all about us. The dealers have a responsibility to help themselves as well.  Social media is a great form of free advertising and we have some fantastic dealers who do lots of promotion via this to aid their selling. As a dealer I used to make sure that potential customers (and current customers) knew when I was standing at an event in their area. I’d post details out to them, letting them know – social media is the modern equivalent which dealers can use to their advantage.

We have to deal with some very trying situations at times. Very recently we turned up at a venue to find that we didn’t have a gate to let our dealers in. There were building works all over the place which impeded us and the roof leaked overnight. As professional organisers we just got on with the job in hand and made sure that our customers saw as little of the problems as possible.

Happiest memories include the euphoria felt after having organised the very first fair after B2B was formed. Knowing we’d actually achieved a successful fair where dealers had earned money and there were buyers coming through the gate.

I know many dealers now from my years as a dealer, as well as my years as an organiser, and nothing makes me happier then when one of them comes up and tells me about a particular find they have come across, or when they say they have had the best fair ever today.

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Helen with Squadron Leader George Leonard "Johnny" Johnson, DFM (born 25 November 1921), a retired Royal Air Force officer and the last British survivor of the original members of No. 617 Squadron RAF and of Operation Chastise, the "Dambusters" raid of 1943.

ANF: We heard about your exciting collaboration with Bentley Fairs for The Great Southern Flea on Sunday 6 August 2017 – whose idea was this and how did the idea develop?

HM:  Sharon and I have always got on well right from when she came into the antiques side of organising.  We used to chat for long periods about the why’s and wherefores regarding the industry. Sharon is a real bright spark and a motivator. She approached me at the beginning of the year with the Great Southern Flea idea. Alan and I discussed it and decided a site visit was in order. Everything was as Sharon described and the three of us just thought – let's give it a go. The dealers are really positive about the event which is fantastic - we want to produce a great friendly flea for all, just a quick one day event where they can get rid of old stock and perhaps find new whilst they are there. It will appeal to all sorts of dealers and buyers, like Malvern Flea you just don’t know what you may find.  

ANF: Do you have any other new events planned?

HM:  Not at the moment, but there may be some simmering in the background!

ANFHow important is your team in the success of the business – do you find it easy to delegate?

HM:  Our team is very important to the success of the business. Without them we couldn’t run the size of fairs that we do. When Roger and I started B2B it was just the two of us doing the admin and main organisational stuff from our respective homes, with casual staff at the fairs. It wasn’t long before we had to bite the bullet and get office premises for the admin side and now we have two great ladies - Julie and Shelley who look after the office. Those who know me know I am a control freak, therefore it was extremely difficult to delegate but I am learning and now feel confident that everything is in safe hands.

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Helen and Alan Yourston at Howarth 2015.  Helen is dressed in land army uniform with a first aid bag.  Alan is dressed as RAF.


ANF: What do you think are the most significant changes in the fairs industry over the past 10 years?

HM:  The fairs industry is constantly changing and dealers need to keep on top of it, which is quite a task. Although we still have the traditional dealers who sell very good and proper antique stock, we now have an amazing range of vintage, retro, salvage and industrial recycling dealers, which wouldn’t have been around in any quantity 10 years ago. So many industrial buildings have been renovated into amazing accommodation that the latest trend for quirky recycled items made from industrial, retro and vintage mixed with the antiques gives this industry a lot of scope. There are also a great number of revival events and festivals, which weren’t around 10 years ago.  These also give such an outlet for the vintage and retro styles. So many want to authentically dress up and get involved – even Alan and I. So as ever the styles of yesteryear have gone full circle and become the collectables of today.

ANF: We heard that you just got married – congratulations to you and your new husband! Do you find it easy to wind down from work to spend time with him? What do you do in your spare time if you ever have any?

HM:  Thank you, I said yes to a fantastic guy - Alan Yourston. We have been together for some fifteen years. Alan is a well respected member of the organising world having worked for DMG for around 9 years before joining B2B. So we work together with Alan taking on the operational side of the business.

Spare time ha ha!!! When you run your own business it’s pretty much 24/7 and as a woman there is always something that needs doing around the house so down time is rare. However the two of us are very interested in the revival events that now take place. We went to Howarth 40s weekend last year and are aiming to attend the Pickering Vintage Festival this year. We have a real passion for the Lancaster Bombers and other WW2 aircraft as well as the more modern flying machines and we try to get to at least one Air Show a year. We also love to go up to Scotland where Alan’s roots are, just chilling (literally usually!) for a few days.


Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Helen and Alan Yourston at Howarth 2016.  Helen was dressed in original attire as a WASP (The Women Airforce Service Pilots). Called "Women's Army Service Pilots" in some sources, it was a paramilitary aviation organization. The WASP's predecessors, the Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) were organized separately in September 1942. They were the pioneering organizations of civilian female pilots, employed to fly military aircraft under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. The WFTD and WAFS were merged on August 5, 1943, to create the paramilitary WASP organization.

 

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Images from the Edinburgh Antiques, Vintage & Collectors Fair

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Images from the Detling Antiques, Vintage & Collectors Fair

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Images from Cranmore Park Vintage & Antiques Fair

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Antiques News - Blog - Fair Ladies: Helen Martin

Images from the Malvern Antiques Fair and Malvern Flea Fair

 

To learn more about Helen and B2B Events, including dates of all future fairs, visit B2B Events.

Save