Visitors to the Spirit of Christmas Fair in London were surprised to be greeted by Santa Claus and his elves warning them that the Fair's owners are involved in the arms trade.
The Fair, which took place at Kensington Olympia in London on Sunday (7 November), is run by Clarion Events. The company also own a string of arms fairs, including the biennial London arms fair, known formally as Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi).
Hundreds of leaflets were distributed to the fair's customers by campaigners dressed as Santa and elves. They displayed placards calling for "Tinsel, Not Tanks". The campaigners said that the spirit of Christmas was “being corrupted by the owners of the DSEi arms fair”.
The demonstration was organised by the London Group of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). They described it as a continuation of their campaign for Clarion to ditch its portfolio of arms fairs. Clarion has also faced protests at a number of its other exhibitions, including the high-profile Baby Show.
Clarion bought many of the arms fairs – including DSEi – from the publishing business Reed Elsevier. Reed sold them following a campaign by their own customers, clients and shareholders, which was co-ordinated by CAAT.
“I find it disgusting that Clarion Events are happy to run such family-friendly events as the Spirit of Christmas Fair while also organising the destructive, harmful DSEi arms fair,” said London CAAT activist Ian Pocock, 35.
London CAAT pledged to continue their campaign on Clarion into 2011. The next DSEi arms fair is scheduled for 13-16 September 2011.