Straight away I have to confess that - delightful as it was to go round chatting for as long as I liked to old acquaintances and lingering over any and every thing that caught my eye - I definitely prefer to be on the other side of a table. It felt plain wrong to be wandering about without a care in the world, however relaxing it has been not to have to prepare work in (natch) a late flurry of activity.
Of course, I wanted to discover what exhibitors thought about the new location. Last year's fair was held in Leeds University's Parkinson Building - and as an aside, I've just spotted that the fair has moved from one art deco building to another - which has an elegant and enormous hall where all the tables are in the same room and on the same floor. This year's is split over two floors and (more or less) three rooms. Some of the tables share space with the refreshment area. I have no idea if that poses any kind of problem for those exhibitors or not (didn't happen to ask any of them) - it might even be a good thing? When I asked a handful of exhibitors spread over the rest of the fair how things were going, there were worries (this was early on) about potential footfall because of the move and a reduction in student numbers again because of the move (some people depend more on student sales than others), there were anxieties about how many visitors might do a preliminary viewing circuit but never make it back upstairs, there were uncertainties about stretching the fair over 3 days (it opened on Friday evening). But equally, some people thought the new location was a plus and that the Friday evening felt like a private view, with a real buzz to it. As is not surprising, it appears the jury's still out, but the organisers have been at this game for seventeen fairs now - they know what they're doing. For my part, I thought the interior of the building was delightful, quirky, cosy - but it lacked the airy lightness of the Parkinson Building and felt just a little cramped. I always think there's some risk, too, in splitting any event over a number of rooms - it can be too easy to miss some rooms altogether and never know. Before I left, it was quite difficult to get around the tables because of the crowds - but I really couldn't tell if that was excitingly high numbers of visitors or lack of space, and perhaps that it felt busy was good enough. The Tetley has a slight flavour of Bristol's Arnolfini, in a tinier size, though without an equivalent of Bristol Docks just outside the door (it's a lovely place to pass the time on a sunny late afternoon).
Lots of fascinating and beautiful books and such, of course. I fell in love with lengthy, tactile, sewn books made by Joan Newell (of Page Paper Stitch) and wound on to old wooden spools, and I always seem to end up with something from Old Bear Press (no website! outrageous! but they might claim they're too busy drawing, printing, cutting, making). There was a ton of gorgeous stuff all round, in fact, and I'm not sure I did it justice. Maybe I should ignore the long list of things I ought to be doing tomorrow and make a second visit? I'll look at the state of the house and decide in the morning.