One thing you do always know in advance about the Chelsea Book Fair is that it falls on the weekend nearest to Bonfire Night. The ride home on the Saturday evening will be always punctuated by the crack of rockets and the fizz of flares lighting up the suburban skies.
Predictable, warming and dependable – much like the Chelsea fair itself. We don’t quite expect a full-on firework display – nothing that spectacular – this is more of a Roman Candle of a fair, just effortlessly repeating what it does well, year in, year out. “You buy some books, you sell some books, it’s easy to exhibit, it works – it’s great”, was how one long-term exhibitor summed it all up. And so it was again this year. Figures are still being counted and double-checked, but the first indications are that the bodies through the door were at least as plentiful as last year, and that overall sales were comfortably up – especially and importantly to private customers. Given the economic meltdown which appears to be engulfing us – or at least engulfing the writers of
headlines – that is a truly remarkable thing. Very well done Leo Cadogan, Marianne Harwood and all involved (and forgive me the “effortlessly” – I know it’s not, you just make it feel that way).
Numerous individual conversations bear out the figures. Two first-time exhibitors both very happy. Older hands by and large pleased, some extremely pleased and some downright jolly. And certainly the pleased appeared heavily to outnumber the disappointed. We bill it as the friendliest fair of the year. So it is – and so it was once more.
From a visitor’s point of view, it’s just about the perfect fair. Enough exhibitors and enough books to be sure you will find something – but not so many that you can’t get round to see everything. Good books wherever you look and the bulk of them almost universally affordable. And as much variety as anyone might wish for.
Another year, another Chelsea, and home happy with purchases to an excellent supper, some fireworks, family and friends.