Arranged by Golden Orbit, this event is run every two months and occurs across the North of England, including such cities as Birmingham, Sheffield and Newcastle. It is disconcerting to only discover the website for the event, after you have visited and collected a flyer!
In Leeds, it is held - appropriately enough - in the Crypt of Leeds Town Hall. A generous-sized room, it is laid out in the manner of any market or boot fair and filled to capacity with sprawling dealer's tables.
The merchandise on offer is primarily Trading Cards and back issues of comic books - boxes and boxes fill every available flat surface. Other fare includes autographed photographs, action figures, model kits, novels and 'fandom'-related books such as behind the scenes or actor autobiographies. Trinkets such as Dalek cufflinks and Red Dwarf belt buckles were also available.
The average attendee is middle-aged, male and white, usually sensibly dressed in cagoule and sturdy backpack. A small crowd of children move en masse from table to table, discussing the intricacies of trading and the minutiae of a particular card's merits. Occasional women stand out from the crowd, harassed and incomprehensible mothers or wives, or even the odd female sci-fi fan – and they do exist, stereotypical judgements notwithstanding.
Regulars chat amiably with traders, but for the most part customers move singly or in small groups, eyes always downcast and assessing merchandise, valuing and acquiring in mere heartbeats. The atmosphere is one of quiet busyness, space is at a premium at every desk, and in the narrow corridors elaborate dances occur between the portly patrons and darting children as room is exchanged smoothly if reluctantly.
Golden Orbit stress the appeal of their fair to the casual customer as well as to the determined collector, but I would certainly advise that if you wish to visit, you go in the company of some old-hand fair navigator so that you are not marooned in a sea of old paper, new memorabilia and mid-life fans.
The next Leeds fairs are on April 24th, and June 12th, start at 11am and are held at Leeds Town Hall.