Ceramics South East - An Exhibitor's Perspective

12 Feb 2008

Ceramics South East 2007 took place on 29th-30th June and 1st July. As well as providing a delightful setting, the Carmelite community of The Friars (also known as Aylesford Priory) is home to Aylesford Pottery which was originally established by David Leach and Colin Pearson: a most appropriate background to this international selected event which is now in its third year. The venue is within easy reach of London and is well signposted from the M20. From start to finish, there is a notably welcoming atmosphere. Every organisational aspect of this event evidences the amount of consideration given to exhibitors and public visitors alike. There is much attention to detail and the CSE Team really do listen to feedback, with additional year-on-year tuning.

For the most part, stands consist of covered market stalls brought over from Holland specially for the weekend and they are more substantial than the UK equivalent. The remaining stands are in individual marquees. The overall layout is clear and tidy, striking a good balance between a comfortable amount of space and the remote impersonality of too much.

Moving from the background to the specifics of this year's event, the major factor was undoubtedly the bad weather which, of course, nobody can control and is certainly nobody's fault. This dramatically affected public attendance and, with some exceptions, sales were down on previous years. The alternating strong winds and heavy showers were of concern to exhibitors throughout the weekend; sadly, the wind caused some losses of work - a chilling sound which nobody wants to hear. Nevertheless, the standard of display was in most cases high; the variety of exhibited work was, as noted by many visitors, extremely well balanced.

Visitors' enthusiasm was just as strong as in previous years, especially amongst the high proportion of students; this leads on to the old chestnut of 'Potters Market versus International Ceramics Festival'. Whilst the mainland European meaning of the former term is usually synonymous with that of the latter, the word 'market' has various connotations in the UK and is somewhat open to misinterpretation in connection with studio ceramics; this may even deter some potentially high-spending members of the public from visiting what is in fact a top quality showcase. This is a general comment and I would not wish it to detract from the tremendous efforts put into publicising the event. To develop the profile as an International Ceramics Festival and perhaps expand the visitor spectrum, I would like to see the inclusion of at least one master-class demonstration on each day of the event.

Although visitor numbers were down, Ceramics South East 2007 should still be regarded as a success. The event has come a long way in its three-year history. Maturing and improving still further, it richly deserves recognition in the UK and European events calendar.

Bob Kershaw

More information on the 2008 event can be found here.