As the Spirit of Christmas Fair opened in London this morning, its owners Clarion Events faced ridicule over their complacent assertion that they were "entirely comfortable" with their recent purchase of arms fairs.
A peaceful protest by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) today saw activists dressed as Santa Claus and elves carrying sacks of weapons rather than presents highlight the stark contrast between family fun and investing in death.
Several exhibitors had earlier contacted Clarion's management to express their opposition to the arms industry. Clarion's chief executive Simon Kimble wrote to critical exhibitors arguing that public opinion is not against the industry and stating that he was comfortable with the company's position.
CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill said: "It is beyond satire for a company to celebrate the 'Spirit of Christmas' while making profits from the arms trade. Clarion's bosses seem to be the only people who don't find it absurd."
He went on: "Exhibitors here have been shocked to learn of Clarion's ownership of arms fairs, which have hosted representatives of vicious regimes such as China, Libya and Saudi Arabia. Clarion are out of touch with public opinion and their reputation is already affected."
CAAT supporter Ian Pocock, who joined the protest dressed as an elf, said: "I'm here because this is a good way to make a point about the owners of the Spirit of Christmas Fair also running DSEi, the London arms fair. Allowing countries with poor human rights records to buy weapons is no part of the spirit of Christmas."
Clarion Events bought five arms fairs earlier this year, including the biennial arms fair in east London known as Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi). Last month Clarion faced a backlash from exhibitors at their Baby Show, with Bounty withdrawing as a sponsor and Unicef refusing to accept donations from ticket sales.