My final interview from Oxford this year was with Pat Marrin of Marrin’s bookshop Folkestone. Another second generation bookseller, Pat is well known (I hesitate to say infamous) on the fair circuit.
The title of this blog post comes from his father’s comment to him on his entering the trade. It certainly aligns with my views on book-selling as a career, and is Pat’s comment to anyone coming into the trade now.
For this weeks offering, i have a video interview with Tony Cox of Claude Cox. Tony is a second generation Suffolk bookseller, indeed, it took me several years to realise that he wasn’t Claude (apparently i am not the only one). I caught up with Tony at Oxford PBFA fair, and he regaled me with tales of book hunting in Oxford in his youth.
Tony has now returned to Kelsale, where he operates a catalogue and book fair business from White House Farm.
Next week I shall be catching up with Pat Marrin from Folkestone.
Marcia and I were very pleased with how this year’s fair went. Of course, there were issues and irritants, but on the whole, the event went smoothly and successfully despite the Bank Holiday weekend.
We were particularly happy to welcome a number of new exhibitors to the fair. From the world’s oldest book company (Henry Sotherans) to the world’s youngest (Bibliomaniacs), our exhibitors filled the room with beautiful books and paper objects. From overseas, it was wonderful to welcome Martin Stone again from Versailles, and great to see Baumans back on the circuit. As ever, it was a joy to welcome B&B, D&D and other overseas acronymic dealers.
Within the UK, it was good to welcome back old friends, and see some new ones. Our glass cabinets once more filled with fabulous objects. If only someone would donate me a few hundred thousand, I could have taken home a lot more than I did, and increased the fair take somewhat.
Ah yes – I appreciate that you are tolerating all this text to get to the take figures:
This year a couple of late cancellations resulted in 102 exhibitors. (Down a couple from last year)
The total take for the fair was £627,543 (so the total was down 3% on last years). The average per exhibitor was £6,152 (up 1% on last year). The adjusted average (removing top and bottom 4 to get a better picture) was £5526 which is up 2% on last year. (mainly because last year there were a couple of very high takes).
The spread of takes does seem to be steadily rising – with that “middle rump” where 70% of the dealers sit, rising up the scale slowly.
The number of visitors was up this year. On the Friday at opening, the queue spread around the café, across the welcome desk, out into the lobby and eventually out of the hotel. The number on Friday was between 1600-1700, (our security lady had counted for us and had over 2000 but some were “re-entries”). On the Saturday it was somewhat quieter, but still over 500.
I sent out a request for feedback about the fair – and amazingly, i had replies from lots of the exhibitors. The majority (by a long way) would like to move the fair to still earlier on the Friday (12 noon) and finish at 6pm or 6.30pm on the Friday. On the whole, dealers want Saturday to be left alone. I have yet to properly sort through the replies and come up with some proposals – but the response has been encouraging.
Many people need thanking for their assistance at the fair. I can’t name everyone, but I would particularly like to embarrass the “Peter Hill Mob*” who come in and lay out the tables with a precision I could never match, Veronica – who from set up, to portering, to keeping me in check, helps throughout the fair. Uncle Phil Salin does a fine job of bringing everything up from Royston, getting it to the right stand and taking it all away again afterwards. This year, it was lovely to see Pritida helping Marcia on the front desk. The pair of them were a wonderful public face as the first people our visitors met (and did remarkably well in collecting rents – even from those who try to avoid paying!)
Finally – I was particularly pleased to welcome the Bibliomaniacs to the fair. Most of you will have heard of them by now. All aged 10-13, they are a book club from Papplewick school in Ascot, who sell old books, create catalogues, and put me to shame with their descriptions. One of my fair highlights was the look on the faces of the lads as I showed them around the two fairs and pointed out beautiful objects. I believe the children are our future, teach them well, and let them lead the way. (Sorry). Thank you to everyone for making the boys feel welcome, and it was fabulous to see that several of the dealers have donated them items to sell on, and help develop them into the next generation of book sellers.