Exclusive: Favourite memories from Toy Fair over the years

Published on: 9th January 2024

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of Toy Fair, Toy World asked exhibitors and visitors to share their fondest and funniest memories of the show from across the decades. 

Although some reflections were too risqué to print, the feature demonstrates why the industry loves this show. It is clear that the wonderful atmosphere which brings together some of the best in the toy sector is one of the reasons why everyone keeps returning.

Julie Pittilla, owner of Pittilla PR, expressed the importance of Toy Fair. She said: “Yes of course it’s about doing business and seeing what’s out there, but I just love seeing everyone.”

She reminded us of 1999 when Caroline McNulty from HGL made a chicken out of a bath sheet which was subsequently taken to venues around the world, and 2003 when Manchester airport was closed and trains were cancelled due to snow. Julie and her colleagues took a taxi all the way to ExCeL.

Paul Reader, commercial director at Toymaster, has been attending for 40 years and told us: “In the early 80s, as a young Beattie’s of London store manager, I had the pleasure of visiting London Toy Fair for the first time. A few years later, I joined the buying team and was very proud of my first jam-packed Toy Fair itinerary. I expected my buying controller to be impressed – with a little grin, he simply said, “Good luck with that.” By midday on the first day, I knew exactly what he meant.”

Wicked Uncle’s Mike O’Shea shared some of the company’s embarrassing moments: “Launching the Stomp Rocket with a bit too much enthusiasm led to it soaring high over the stands and crashing down spectacularly. Then there was the z-bow with the rubber head that hit one of the overhead lights and melted on to it, possibly coming down several hours later.”

Graham Gardiner managed to cause consternation when his toddler spotted him on TV. He explained: “I was presenting a new R/C car live on the Big Breakfast at around 7.30am, when my two year old son saw me and was thoroughly traumatised. He was convinced Daddy had been eaten up by the TV and was never going to come home.”

Industry stalwart Keith Elmer just missed out on getting his memory to us, but contacted us to say that he’d supplied the BTHA with a comment about Toy Fair in the late 90s: “How can you be serious about toys and not be there?!” – a sentiment that was used for many years in Toy Fair publicity.

Toy World’s John Baulch, Rachael Simpson-Jones, Mark Austin and Anita Baulch also shared their own London Toy Fair reflections. To read these, and many more, click here for the full feature, which appeared in the January issue of Toy World.


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