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

I thought readers would appreciate a factual and transparent review of our event from the point of view of both an exhibitor and an event co-organiser. This review may also answer some of the questions you have for us. If you have heard about us 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 to everyone who was part of our first Sussex Art Fairs event at Goodwood Racecourse. I would also like to thank everyone who has called, texted and emailed such wonderful comments of positivity as well as suggestions on how we can improve going forward. I have been very touched by how many exhibitors want our event to be an ongoing success as much as we do, so thank you!

Having lived in West Sussex since 2015, I wondered why there were no major art events in the area, (apart from the smaller craft shows which can be found in local villages dotted around our county). Having never organised an event like this before, I needed to join forces with someone who had an extensive knowledge of event organisation as well as the right personalities to work together with. It was a no-brainer for me to approach Oliver and Leah, both of whom I had met after having exhibited at The New Artist Fair and Talented Art Fair. Loving the idea, a deal was struck and The Sussex Art Fairs Team was born! I would like to take this opportunity in saying a huge thank you to both Oliver and Leah, without whom none of this would have been possible.

With months of discussions and planning, it was agreed that Goodwood Racecourse would be a super location for our inaugural event and the home of Sussex Art Fairs going forward. Sussex Art Fairs at Brighton Racecourse in October, was a natural progression for the second Sussex Art Fairs event, also within a racecourse and so our two locations were confirmed!

Being a fresh audience in West Sussex it was imperative we needed to make an impression as all of our visitors would be first timers. With a curated event offering a diverse range of works from Galleries, Collectives and Independent Artists from Sussex, nationally and internationally we wanted to make this a truly international art fair. Ever since inception, we have been dedicated to making Sussex Art Fairs a success and hope it will become a fixture in the art calendar yearly events of places to go to and be seen at.

When initially researching Goodwood Racecourse we realised it would be a 10 minute drive from Chichester, the nearest big city. I am not afraid to admit that I had a few sleepless nights worrying whether or not people would drive to our first event, nevertheless 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 flyer runs, adverts, editorials, cover pages and radio mentions and online inclusions 3 months prior to our opening, we covered the majority of West Sussex up to South West London, (some of which can be seen in our websites Articles and Editorials section).

It was evident from the start that our inaugural event was not going to be a fair similar to others that were either in make shift tents or set up in a large rectangular spaces with grids and avenues for visitors to walk up and down. We really loved the idea of having an event where people could explore the venue and all the different areas The March Stand had to offer. From the beginning, our favourite areas were the two atriums with the natural light shining in through the glass roofs, areas that a number of our visitors have already requested rebooking.

We were always aware that being in a new venue there could be teething problems, but we were confident that we could put on an event within The March Stand that our exhibitors would enjoy, make sales at and meet art lovers and buyers from all over West Sussex. 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 from our visitors, some of which can be seen in our Testimonials section.

From the positive comments we have been receiving since the event from both our visitors and exhibitors, as well as requests from exhibitors to rebook their same stands in 2020, we are thrilled that the event was enjoyed as much as it was by us. To hear that exhibitors are already receiving after-sales and commissions along with the sales they made over the weekend is completely heart warming.

Because of our love for wildlife, we really wanted to bring in a charity that promoted the wellbeing of wildlife in Sussex and so our partnership with Sussex Wildlife Trust was a ’natural’ choice. We were completely overwhelmed and touched by the generosity of our exhibitors and their donations for the charity stand and we are pleased to announce that 30 of your donations were purchased raising an amazing £1,500 of which all proceeds go to the charity! Thank you to everyone who made a purchase!

We also really loved the idea of joining forces with artPAKK who generously offered each exhibitor a free bag for their own use as well as giving free bags to every sale that left the building on the evening of The Private Viewing. The rest of the weekend every bag that left with an artwork in it was on us! 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 a service at no extra cost to our exhibitors or visitors.

We were also lucky to partner up with CassArt who generously donated materials to our exhibitors including discount codes and are very happy at the number of which have been used. Our own paint supply has been fully re-stocked so thank you CassArt! We look forward to working together with you again for Sussex Art Fairs (East) in October.

Now for the figures:
Over the weekend we are pleased to announce that just over 3,000 visitors came to our event. These numbers were confirmed each evening by the team at the West Entrance who used visitor clickers. For a first event we are thrilled with this figure!

Based on the proof of purchase receipts that were handed in to us over the weekend, 73% of The Galleries Halls made sales and 76% of the Independent Artists made sales. We know a number of exhibitors didn’t use these receipts and 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! Sunday was the best day for sales in general … Saturday was slightly quieter which we think was due to the FA Cup Final being on. Nevertheless, our top Gallery has confirmed they sold over £20,000 worth of work and our top artist made sales of over £7,000!

For our 2020 event and because Goodwood Racecourse have invited us back, we are planning on implementing some changes to Sussex Art Fairs (West). Our 2020 event will stay within the two halls of The March Stand but we will be updating the 2019 floorplan, making the fair flow better and less susceptible to the weather, (if it’s cold). It was so disappointing that the weather turned on setup day after having been such fantastic weather for a solid two weeks prior to our event. Even the day before our event, whilst setting up the exhibition walls, we were all in t-shirts! Nevertheless we can’t control the weather but we can change things around to accommodate! This will definitely be an improvement!

The next change we plan on implementing is allowing Independent Artists to exhibit within the The Galleries Hall. We had many requests about this before our event, so for 2020, we are going to offer this to Independent artists. Each stall will also include new flooring and the price of exhibition stands will be equal throughout both halls. There will also be an increase in the height of panels in areas that can accommodate. A number of Galleries and Independent Artists have already requested the same stands which of course will be honoured but dependant on the new layout. Applications for our 2020 event will open late summer 2019 as we are now concentrating on Sussex Art Fairs at Brighton Racecourse in October.

As you may have heard, for our first event their were issues regarding the licensing and alcohol over the weekend but for our 2020 event there will be at least one fully stocked bar for the duration of our event. Also, because Goodwood were so happy with our first event there might be an opportunity to open the fully licensed bar and restaurant upstairs which offers 180 degree views over the South Downs. This of course will be dependant on prices, but we think both our visitors and exhibitors would love having this facility as an option available … so watch this space!

Speaking of food and the Café, we originally wanted to bring in our own catering team but unfortunately we had to use caterers from Goodwood at their request. For our 2020 event, we will be in talks for better food choices and prices as well as ensuring that staffing will be more hasty and professional with their service.

A month prior to our event, 40 signs went up within and around a 30 mile radius of Chichester. Because we wanted to keep the design of these signs similar to our branding it seems many of these signs were missed so for next year there will be double the amount, double the size and coloured in a way that they will really stand out! Unfortunately we were refused AA Signs by the council who deemed there were enough signs pointing to Goodwood Racecourse and therefore could not justify additional directional signs for our Art Fair. That was disappointing for us but out of our control. Instead, however, the council granted us an 8 metre banner above Chichester High Street which went up two weeks prior to the event.

We are now concentrating on Sussex Art Fairs at Brighton Racecourse on the 11th, 12th and 13th October. This is a very different venue with lower ceilings, carpets throughout, heating, and both a full bar and café open all weekend. It will be a much more intimate event in a more traditional style of venue within rectangular halls and a grid of exhibition stands.

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