The Sussex and South London Family History Fair

11 Mar

Today I made my annual visit to the K2 Leisure Centre in Crawley, West Sussex. Forsaking the swimming pool, climbing wall and squash courts I made my way to the family history fair hidden away in the corner of one of the halls.

When I say hidden I mean it, there was no signage that I could see until I was almost at the door to the hall. Fortunately from previous visits I knew where I was going, otherwise who knows what energetic past-time it might have got tangled up in.

As family history events go this couldn’t more different to Who Do You Think You Are? Live a couple of weeks ago. It was small (about twenty stalls), relatively quiet (apart from the thundering of basketballs next door), no talks or lectures and definitely no celebrities.

There was quite a mix of stalls, some I had seen at Olympia and some not, but most if not all were familiar faces, from previous family history fairs. There seemed to be more of an emphasis on books, maps and postcards than at Olympia, but from my point of view that wasn’t a bad thing.

In fact that was a good thing, if it hadn’t been for the pair of postcard dealers I probably would have been in and out within half an hour, but even then I was on my way back to the railway station in about an hour and a half.

To be honest I didn’t really have very high expectations from this fair and in this respect I wasn’t disappointed. I only came away with one purchase, a book entitled The Future of the South Downs edited by Gerald Smart and Peter Brandon. It looks like it should be an interesting read, split between the history of the South Downs and the challenges facing them now and in the future.

I very much fear for the future of small family history fairs like this. In a genealogy world becoming increasingly dominated by the internet and the likes of WDYTYA Live I am not sure that they will survive. I would have to suggest that the organisers haven’t really helped themselves, their website is very sparse on details. That being said I might try to get to their Kent fair in May.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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2 Responses to “The Sussex and South London Family History Fair”

  1. Andrew Strudwick March 15, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    You are absolutely spot on with your comments, but this Fair has suffered in the past from poor (or, rather, lack of) signage and the organisers’ website has always been sparse. You really would think that the “Sussex and South London” would attract a large attendance from such a heavily populated area, but it is badly advertised. I cannot see it being held next year. I asked one stallholder if he thought WDYTYA had stolen this Fair’s thunder but he said that attendance at that had been down on last year. I overheard another saying that a couple of years ago he had pulled out of the Worthing Fair (which seems to have vanished) due to the high cost. I am not sure the internet and the big Fairs are taking all the “trade” but it is the cost and the overall attraction which, frankly, is not always compelling. It cannot be that interest in Family History is dwindling – the very opposite, in fact.

    • John Gasson March 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

      You are right, a fair for Sussex and South London should be flourishing. I don’t think WDYTYAL has had a big impact, although perhaps holding it a bit later in the year might have been a better idea. I used to enjoy the Worthing fair, but mainly because of the location more than anything. My two main reasons for visiting (books and postcards) are probably better provided for at specialised fairs these days or online.

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