Sussex Art Fairs Team

SUSSEX ART FAIRS at BRIGHTON RACECOURSE – 2019

A Factual & Transparent Review as both an exhibitor and event co-organiser, by Fraser Renton

I thought readers would once again appreciate a factual and transparent review of our Brighton event from both an exhibitors and event co-organisers point of view that may answer some of the questions you have for us. If you have heard about Sussex Art Fairs and are thinking about visiting or applying to exhibit at one of our future events, please get in touch.

I would like to take this opportunity in saying a massive thank you to everyone who took part in  our first Sussex Art Fairs event at Brighton Racecourse. I would also like to thank everyone who has called, texted, posted on social media and emailed such wonderful comments of positivity as well as suggestions on how we can improve our events going forward. I have been very touched by how many exhibitors want Sussex Art Fairs to be an ongoing success as much as we do, so thank you!

Last year when our Sussex Art Fairs brand was launched it was agreed that we would host two events, one in West Sussex at Goodwood Racecourse which launched last May and one in East Sussex at Brighton Racecourse in October. After researching the requirements that both exhibitors and visitors wanted from an art fair, the two racecourses presented ideal locations to host such events. Exhibitors would be happy knowing that both venues could cater for parking, easy of access, space to set up and facilities including, accessibility, cafe, bar and toilet facilities. Visitors, want the same! Of course the two venues are very different but we have been very careful to secure locations that offered all of these things.

As with Goodwood, our ethos has always been from the outset that our event in Brighton should be a drive-to event, so as to know that visitors attending would be buying customers wanting to ‘go-to’ the event to make a purchase. And they did! Other venues more central in Brighton were also considered but from an exhibitors point of view, access was always an issue and parking a nightmare. We also thought that central venues are always going to attract more of a walk in browsing type of visitor and in our opinion less ratio of sales to customers attending. 

On first impressions when arriving at Brighton Racecourse (from the outside), we were tentative to make this the second home of Sussex Art Fairs but once inside we knew that the location would be perfect for all the facilities it had to offer. With a curated event once again offering a diverse range of works from Galleries, Collectives and Independent Artists from Sussex, nationally and internationally, we wanted to make Brighton a truly international art fair. Ever since inception, we have been dedicated to making Sussex Art Fairs a success and hope it will remain a fixture in the art calendar yearly events of places to go to and be seen at.

A year in the making and with the right advertising campaigns and positive belief, we promoted, promoted and promoted so that we could bring in the demographic that we were so hoping for. With multiple advertising campaigns, editorials, cover pages, radio mentions, digital bus stop campaigns and online inclusions months prior to our opening, we covered the majority of East Sussex up to South West London, (some of which can be seen in our websites Press section). Brighton is very strict with outdoor advertising and which proved a challenge for us, but 50 signs went up within and around a 5 mile radius of Brighton and licenses were purchased for our flyer teams so as to be able to work within Brighton town centre, (and whom unfortunately had to brave the stormy weather). Because we updated our branding so as to make our signage more visible, we really thought the results stood out! Unfortunately, once again we were refused AA Signs by the council who deemed there were enough signs pointing to Brighton Racecourse and therefore could not justify additional directional signs for a three day Art Fair. Disappointing and again out of our control. The council also refused us banner advertising suspended above any of the high streets, that Chichester had approved us for our Goodwood event.

After our first event at Goodwood, we were under no illusions that our Brighton event couldn’t have teething problems, but once again we were confident that we could put on an event that our exhibitors would enjoy, make sales at and meet art lovers and buyers from all over both sides of Sussex and London. Our visitors arrived to see a plethora of different styles and practices with something for everyone and throughout the duration of our event we received many compliments, some of which will be added to our Testimonials section in due course. 

To also hear that exhibitors are already receiving after-sales and commissions along with the sales they made over the weekend is completely heart warming and we would love to be kept updated about news of these.

With thanks to our partners:

Because of our love for wildlife, our partnership with Sussex Wildlife Trust continues. Again, we are completely overwhelmed and touched by the generosity of our exhibitors and their donations for the charity stand and we are pleased to announce that 23 of your donations were purchased raising an amazing £1,150 of which all proceeds go to the charity! The charity have extended their thanks to everyone who donated and thanks everyone who made a purchase! Donations that didn’t sell have been kept for our next event at Goodwood Racecourse to be sold at Sussex Wildlife Trusts charity stand in May 2020.

We also wanted to extend our thanks to artPAKK who not only generously offered each exhibitor a free bag for their own use but also offered every visitor who made a purchase of an original piece of art a free artPAKK bag! Many of our exhibitors have already expressed how much they enjoyed having their artworks secured in artPAKK bags and we are proud to say we are the first art fair to offer this as eco-friendly service at no extra cost to our exhibitors or visitors. The team at artPAKK also would like to thank all artists who purchased artPAKKs for their own works and transitioning to a more eco-friendly way of protecting their artworks.

We also would like to extend our thanks once again to Cass Art who generously donated canvasses, paint and discount codes to our exhibitors and are very happy at the number of which have been used. We look forward to working together with Cass Art again for Sussex Art Fairs at Goodwood Racecourse 2020.

I would also like to send a shout out to the Sussex Art Fairs Team including my business partners Oliver & Leah, and our hard working team, Shaun, Neto and Jack! Also, I would like to thank all the staff at Brighton, including the Brighton team, the cleaners, security and car park attendants who worked tirelessly to make this first event run as smoothly as possible.

Now for the figures:

Over the weekend we are pleased to announce that just over 2,000 visitors came to our event. These numbers have been confirmed each evening from clickers used by Shaun, Jack and myself at the front entrance. Because the weather had been so against us, we are disappointed that more visitors who had paid for tickets in advance decided against coming but because the weather was so bad this definitely impacted on the numbers attending. At one stage on Saturday afternoon the wind and rain was so bad we couldn’t see more than 15 feet in front of us for cloud cover. 

Based on the proof of purchase receipts that were handed in to us over the weekend and out of the 94 exhibitor stands, 70% of our stands made a sale. That matches our event at Goodwood but with a third less visitors! We also understand that a number of exhibitors didn’t use our proof of purchase receipts so this percentage could increase as we are still collating figures. However from what we know, we are happy to announce that over the course of the weekend hundreds of artworks left to their forever homes with sales of over £63,000! Sunday was the best day for sales in general, Saturday was slightly quieter which we put down to the atrocious weather. Nevertheless, our top exhibitor made sales of over £4,000 and the highest priced artwork that sold at the event was £3,000 (one of my personal favourites).

As a result we are pleased to also announce that the racecourse was thrilled to have Sussex Art Fairs host an art fair within the racecourse and have already invited us back for a second event on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th October 2020. We won’t be opening any applications until next year but it is great to know that they are happy with our brand. Some of the changes we are already thinking about for next year will include having the cafe in the Premier Hall open all day Friday, additional outdoor signage and new advertising campaigns for wider reach. Any suggestions on how to improve our event are always taken on board and considered. Next year we expect to be a bigger, better and more attended event so watch this space!

After the complication of our exhibition wall company not being able to fit their juggernaut under the main entrance to our front door, their team had to carry over 500 exhibition wall panels over the road and into the building in the blustery weather. This unfortunately put our set up day behind by five hours and meant that the exhibitors who were invited to set up a day early couldn’t and we can’t apologise enough. As this was an oversight by the walls company and something out of our control on the day, going forward we will continue with a Friday set up day. (We had wanted to offer a Thursday late afternoon set up to help alleviate the numbers on the Friday but as fate had it we couldn’t .. in the end the walls were fully erected by 9.15pm)!

Going forward we will be concentrating on our next event, Sussex Art Fairs at Goodwood Racecourse which will be taking place on the 15th, 16th and 17th May 2020. For exhibitors interested in applying for one of our events, please take a look at our website’s gallery and the video of our event on our homepage. Alternatively, to make an application please click here

Finally, if you have any questions regarding one of our events or would like like to leave a testimonial or some feedback, please get in touch.

Fraser