East of England opens its halls for the first time since lockdown

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On 2nd & 3rd of October, in spite of the pandemic and mixed weather, The Festival of Antiques Market was held at the East of England Arena and Events Centre. For two days, visitors and bargain hunters were able to browse and shop a great selection of indoor and outdoor stalls, all with strict COVID19 safety procedures in place.

The Festival of Antiques is the first indoor activity at the arena since the lockdown. The Arena agreed on a number of specific COVID control measures in consultation with the local authority and public health to allow activities to take place. These measures include strict caps on visitor numbers for each part of the venue, increasing the number of marshalls counting visitors in and out, a strict one way system and extra wide aisles, up to 5m in places. The International Antiques & Collectors Fairs (IACF), organiser of the Festival of Antiques, also worked closely with public health and the local authorities to ensure that the popular indoor and outdoor market went ahead. 

Will Thomas, managing director of International Antiques & Collectors Markets, said, “The safety of our stallholders and visitors was our absolute priority. We introduced comprehensive safety measures at the venue, including track and trace as a condition of entry to the market.”

Venue director, Jason Lunn, explained, “As a venue we want our organisers to survive this current situation and we work with them to identify where they can adapt their activity to comply fully with the guidance currently in place. We will not bend any rules or take any shortcuts, but if changing the format of an activity can make it compliant, then we will fully assist them in making that happen. We can do this because we have remained in open and honest dialogue with our local authority and public health.”

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“We are working within government guidelines, however we feel that there is a need for a greater level of safety required so we have adopted the principles of the DCMS approved All Secure Standard and we overlay that on any basic guidance in place. It is a risk based assessment and provides peace of mind as well as a higher standard of assurance,” he added.

Those parts of the venue that were covered but had a free flow of fresh air needed no additional ventilation and the main halls used their fresh air ventilation systems to ensure compliance. All structures at the venue were set up with a pedestrian traffic management system to allow visitors to move freely but permit accurate visitor counting. Outside areas had massively increased pedestrian thoroughfares and traders were stepped back from the concourse to provide additional space.

Pamela Newbould, COVID19 and H&S Officer at the venue, commented, “Following the successful delivery of the Outdoor Motorhome and Camper Sale and Truckfest we have built a very strong working relationship with our local public health and environment health contacts. We worked with them and the organiser to find out what changes would be required to the Festival of Antiques in order that it would fully comply with the appropriate guidance and meet with Local Authority approval. In this case it was agreed that the bar and restaurant would be removed for this year and it would become an outdoor / indoor market for this year. Catering was provided by outdoor concessions in line with guidance.”

There was track and trace in operation across the venue (as there has been for all activities since lockdown), although the specific guidance does not require that to be in place for a market, the venue hand sanitiser system was deployed both indoors and out, toilet facilities were attended and regularly cleaned down, and mask enforcement was in place for all indoor areas.

“I am delighted to say that we did not have a single instance reported of any trader or visitors breaching the rules on wearing masks indoors,” continues Newbould, “everyone complied and appeared happy to do so.”

“In this case we have ensured that the Festival of Antiques Market conforms to all COVID 19 guidance for indoor / outdoor markets, the organiser advised international traders not to attend and procedures for registration and admission prevented anyone entering who did not comply with the guidance,” concluded Newbould.