The New Norwich Art Fair!

July 16, 2012 § 6 Comments

And so it began…
The fantastic @HuwSayer tweeted me last week about an idea to start up an Art Fair in Norwich. (Isn’t Twitter great!!) This came at such a good time, as for a while I have been thinking Norwich needs this! He wrote a blog with thoughts on it too. Check it out –

Some exhibition experience
I do have experience of putting on exhibitions for other artists and myself (I work part time as an artist, renting a studio at Muspole Workshops in Nowich). In 2010, I met an illustrator in Norwich through my  then-housemate and together, we set up a not-for-profit organisation called Making Space. We organised exhibitions for local artists held at ‘non traditional venues’ around Norwich – cafes, pubs, business reception areas. The idea was to create links with local businesses, and for artists to find spaces to exhibit. We had found that before setting up Making Space, there is a lot of competition for exhibition spaces, a waiting list, or the rental rates could be very high. We would also promote and advertise each exhibition, keeping cost as low as possible. We also had a very popular website showcasing each artists’ work.

I really enjoyed being involved, especially organising and marketing each event. It also gave me a better confidence of showing my own artwork and I made some great contacts from it. I am however very aware of how much work is involved in putting on an event, so am under no illusion of how big the workload would be for the Norwich Art Fair!

A Fine City
Norfolk has a wealth of culture, including lots of extremely talented artists, as well as art buyers. Norwich is already on the UK culture scene – NUCA, Body Art Festival, UEA, Norwich Print fair, a thriving music scene, the recent UNESCO City of Literature, Norfolk & Norwich Festival – there is a lot of events that make Norwich the great city that it is.

An art fair is the next step and it now seems the right time to do one! There are many other affordable art fairs in the UK and it would be worth looking at how these are set up, I’m currently speaking to some people about how to go about this.

Some ideas I have for the fair, would be to hold it over a weekend at a big venue. St Andrews Hall for instance is a great venue, as it is city-centre based and has other major events held there with concerts, the body art festival and the CAMRA beer festival. This is also so we can get as many artists showing their work, and also so that lots of lovely art-buying people can attend! I can picture the fair becoming a major annual event. (fingers crossed!). As well as artists showing and selling work, we can also have gallery representatives hiring out a stand. It would be good to have the fair as an ‘affordable’ one so it doesn’t put punters off attending.

However, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. The main issue of course, is money. As I am not aware that any of us are millionaires, we would need sponsership – there are grants and sponsers out there. I have given thought to who we could approach, but don’t want to say who yet until I’ve spoken to Huw.

I would need someone involved who has experience of applying for sponsership, to help with what to say. It would require a lot of marketing and advertising – this can almost be a 24/7 thing – tweeting, website updates, radio interviews and of course articles and interviews in the local and national press. All this needs to be done, and personally, I would do it all the time if I could. I love social networks and anything marketing related. We would need banners, a website, display boards for each artists – the list goes on. When I’ve looked into renting display boards out before, they can be extremely expensive – and if we had 100+ artists exhibiting, the cost would be very high. Each artist could pay for their own space, but to also help keep costs down, we could also charge entry fees – this is standard for most art fairs anyway  – even if it is just £2 a ticket, it all helps. It would also help as we would know how many people would be attending the fair. We can sell through a website, and get local shops to sell tickets too. There is also the matter of sorting public liability insurance – something I don’t know much about

Another idea I have had, is hold talks by artists, critics, agents and curators – some interesting speakers from the art industry, to make the fair as diverse and exciting as possible. I went to the Hay on Wye Festival a few years back with my father and Quentin Blake gave a talk about his work. It has always stuck in my mind, seeing such an incredible artist speaking. He did demonstrations, drawing his wonderful characters onto an overhead projector – he could draw one in a matter of seconds, bringing it to life. The art critic Ian Collins recently gave a fantastic talk at the Forum and of course John Hurt recently spoke at NUCA. We may not be able to get speakers like this (hey, I can dream!!), but you get the idea – a range of art folk would make the event even better!

So where next?
We have the ‘Tweetup’ this week – if you can attend that would be brilliant. Even if you are just interested in exhibiting your own art work at the fair, or if you represent a gallery, or if you have experience in putting on fairs, then pop along. We are meeting upstairs at the Sir Garnet Wolseley Pub, Thursday 19th July at 6pm – the address is 36 Market Place, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1RD. – it is by the side of Norwich Market, opposite W H Smith. If you know anyone who might also be interested in attending, please pass this on – the more the merrier! It’ll be great to meet you all and start the art fair ball rolling!

Thanks for listening !




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§ 6 Responses to The New Norwich Art Fair!

  • Huw Sayer says:

    Brilliant post Rosie – thank you – excellent ideas. Also think we should have speakers – and perhaps a specialist art book shop. Agree a very small entry fee would be good – but yes must be accessible.

    Need a range of art from affordable (but good) to expensive (but highly desirable). For venues, we might also like to consider Open (the old Barclays’ building on Bank Plain) – not sure if the space would work but again it is central. Would be wonderful if we could host some performance art too.

    One further thought – it would be great if The Sainsbury Centre and Norwich Museum could display some of their collection at the fair… perhaps some of the stuff that isn’t on permanent display in their own galleries. They might be able to help with speakers.

    Look forward to seeing you on Thursday.


  • This is great stuff and looking forward to it

  • Ruski says:

    I notice that the “Art of Norwich” and the venue: St Margarets Church of Art are missing from your lists.

    The Art of Norwich is about to hold their 24th exhibition in nearly five years. Aiming to offer exhibition opportunities to nurture grassroots talent, their exhibitions are open to all artists, without exception. Over 250 artists have taken part so far.


    Also, the venue St Margarets Church of Art holds exhibitions throughout the year (including the regular Art of Norwich) and is becoming firmly established as a great place to see and show artwork.

    Surely they are worth considering to be part of any prospective art fair?

    • rosiewinnart says:

      Many thanks for getting in touch! There are lots of venues, exhibitions and art events that I didn’t add – I could’ve mentioned lots more but just wrote about the large scale ones and places (e.g N & N Festival and NUCA). I am a massive fan of St Margarets Church and the Art of Norwich. but for the fair, as I am looking to get 150+ artist and gallery representatives, all with stands, as well as talks taking place, I am looking for a very large venue. Your comments are great, and I will bring them up at the meet up.

    • Huw Sayer says:

      I agree with Rosie that Art of Norwich and the Church of Art are great examples of the passion for art in our local community. Although the (currently rough) #NorwichArtFair idea is for something much bigger, I hope that all who back the movement will also join in supporting other artistic and cultural events around Norwich and Norfolk. That way we can create a real buzz (the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts) that raises our region’s profile on the international art scene.

  • Laure says:

    Fantastic! Wishing you all the best in this growing idea that will surely blossom to an awesome outcome. Well done for planting the seed!

    Laure Om (local artist).

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