The 99th Miniatura.

I have been exhibiting at Miniatura for over thirty years and, as I started writing for magazines very soon after I began exhibiting, I’ve been reporting Miniatura for nearly thirty years.

I have interviewed artisans, I have reported on what it’s like to be an exhibitor, I’ve told you about the hall, the set-up, what I am taking, I’ve done adverts here for what other exhibitors were taking, when it was something new and they didn’t want you to miss it.  I’ve liaised with the management, with magazine editors, with photographers and, on several occasions, been a photographer.  I encouraged an exhibitor to make the smallest teddy bear in the world and then found a reporter to get it into the London Times newspaper (who had to buy a special lens to photograph it.)  I have had drivers, helpers and done the show on my own.

I’ve seen the show when it was at Birmingham cricket ground, exhibited at the National Exhibition Centre, the cricket ground in Edinburgh, the Scottish National Exhibition Centre and a theatre on Sauchiehall Street, Edinburgh.

And this last show was the 99th show at which I did something at the show which I have never done before.

No, it was not have a quick kip under the table, (though I did know a family of exhibitors, where the dad, who was the driver, from a long way away after a busy working week, did just that.)  Most of us just keep bags under the table.

If you look at the title of this column, you might guess.  This was the 99th Miniatura which means that the next one will be the 100th Miniatura.  I am doing something very special for the 100th Miniatura, so, to tell people what that will be, I designed leaflets to give away at the show.

The thing that I did this time that I have never done before, a lot, was to talk to the visitors about the show.  Numbers have gone up and down, especially round the aftermath of the pandemic, but the show now seems to be attracting a steady round about two thousand visitors over the weekend.  I think I printed off four lots of 50 leaflets and gave away over three quarters of them, which means that I talked to nearly one sixth of the visitors to the show.

And I listened to those visitors to the show, who all had plenty to say, and questions to ask.  Here, following, are some of the Miniatura facts which visitors did not know or were unsure about.

The first fact is that it was the 99th show, run by the same family, since the beginning.  This is highly unusual.  Shows of all sorts are businesses. Successful businesses (in which class we would include any show getting to 99) are sold on to the next owner, who runs them for profit.  As I said to over 300 people, Miniatura was not founded to make money, it was founded to make an affordable place in the Midlands for makers in miniature to meet their collectors, or, as the motto of the show has it, for miniaturists, by miniaturists.  Not for money, for us.

The second really important fact is that you cannot just pay for an exhibition table and show up.  Exhibitors, who are selected, have to be of a certain standard to have a chance of getting in.  As you learned a couple of blogs ago, the organisers do not make the exhibitors pay through the nose.  The outcome of this policy is a preponderance of original artisans and a fair number of exclusive artisans who you cannot find anywhere else.  Artisans here meaning people who can get an original idea out of their head and on to the table, in miniature, using whatever medium they are choosing to work in.  And because they are not forking out for very expensive hotels or paying exorbitant table fees they can afford to charge modest sums for their work, which means you have a chance of being able to collect it. Artists, as I’m sure you know, simply will not be told.  They do one, then they have a better idea and do a different one, then a better idea and do an even better one.  They do not work like machines, it’s mind to fingertips, every time, reasonably priced.

This makes the show a collector’s paradise, and neatly explains what happens when  the doors open. Miniaturists run wild and free to the exhibitor they love, to see what has been produced and buy it before anyone else gets a look-in.

This, of course, is one of the great benefits of the hobby.  The end result is a dolls’ house, or collection of miniatures, unlike any other in the world, yours alone and about as heirloomy as you can get.  When  you get a show that doesn’t just favour that, but encourages it, that, as really hundreds of people told me ‘is what makes Miniatura different.’  ‘You never,’ a lady told me,  ‘get tables the same next to each other, and they’re all different from stuff you see anywhere else.’

One of the problems a few visitors still seemed to have was getting to the show by public transport.  If you go to the Miniatura website here  click on ‘next show’ and scroll down to ‘getting to the show’ there is lots of information and even a video about the shuttle bus from Coventry rail station.  The chap at the end who says ‘Welcome to Miniatura’ is Andy Hopwood, who runs the show.  His mother started Miniatura after exhibiting (she is a potter) at expensive venues and the reverse, in tents.  She realised we needed to be somewhere that didn’t cost the earth, was easy to get to, easy to visit and a wonderful place to exhibit (if you were good enough).  The first few shows covered their costs and left enough for a takeaway meal and that was it.  There are rumours that Muriel Hopwood, who invented Miniatura, will be there at the 100th, though she has retired now.

While you are on the Miniatura website, scroll down from the ‘contact Miniatura’ section and add your name to the email updates.  The next show will be the 100th, many exhibitors will be doing special things, not just because we all love Miniatura but because I don’t think there has ever been a one hundredth miniatures show run by the same family from the beginning.  As the special things are announced they will appear as news in the email updates. I think they will be good because the show itself just gets better and better.  You can tell this by the number of previous exhibitors, long retired, who still come to the show as visitors. I am not surprised, on the occasion that I was unable to exhibit, just after I had broken the first arm, I was a visitor who staggered round the show saying ‘Crikey this is good!’ every five minutes.

At the 99th show it was very interesting talking to visitors, I was surprised that some people didn’t know who was running the show (Andy, he’s in a video on the website), or how long it had been going, or that getting in to exhibit was satisfyingly difficult. If you are a Miniatura exhibitor, that says something about you.  As a visitor you know your time will never be wasted, as one visitor remarked, after being told of entrance requirements for exhibitors – ‘Well that explains it, I thought it was good!’

And it is. It is so good that some exhibitors will be doing special things for the 100th show in the autumn.

What I will be doing is

oh dear, I’ve run out of room.  Next time…


This entry was posted in Miniatura and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *