The UK show scene


This past winter brought two exhibitions to England, the Event Show and the Live! Show.

The former was held at the London Arena, in the business district at Canary Wharf--and in clear view of the almost-completed Millennium Dome, the focus of everyone's attention.

This year's Event Show, held January 19-21, was combined with ShowExpo, the annual exhibition, conference, and marketing showcase, a marriage of events that appeared entirely mutually beneficial. The show floor itself was much expanded--almost 70 exhibitors for ShowExpo, 150-plus for Event, which practically filled the arena floor and made the trip from central London a more worthwhile excursion. The extravagant parties certainly helped, too.

Of the service companies present, Screenco and CAV were typical. Europe's leading outdoor videoscreen specialist, Screenco, has spent the last year investing heavily in new equipment. "We purchased over 220 sq. m [2,444 sq. ft.] of outdoor LED screen in 1998," says managing director Dave Crump. Sound and light suppliers CAV reported similar investment: "Huge quantities of High End, Martin, and Clay Paky automated lighting," reported managing director Hans Beier, "and at least eight new Avolites desks; another 26 stacks of Martin Wavefront 8s; and both Yamaha and Soundcraft desks have all been added to our inventory."

Perhaps of most interest to the US reader was the expanded content of The White Book, the UK's most comprehensive reference guide for the show and event industry. Sarah Hutchinson of The White Book told how purchase of the guide includes free access to a dedicated White Book website launched in February. The site will include its own custom search engine with such useful features as service provider searches by geographical area. White Book purchasers will be entitled to 500 free hits per year.

Seminars included pontification by two of the UK's leading promoters, Harvey Goldsmith and Tim Parsons, on how the concert industry might reclaim its share of the leisure pound. Arguably of most interest was a hugely well attended talk by Joe Simpson, media and national program director of the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC), the controlling body not only for London's Millennium Dome, but all other millennium events throughout the UK. Simpson presented a review of the impact of the UK's last comparable event, the Great Exhibition of 1951, which managed to attract eight million visitors to London that year. Simpson predicted in excess of 12 million for the millennium, with an extra four million visitors from abroad.

The Live! Show, held February 10-11, sailed in rough waters this season, amidst a change in editors at Live!, the magazine that hosts the program. But moving the show venue from the Roundhouse to Alexander Palace was most welcome, even if it did mean a 40-minute journey from the center of London.

Fifty exhibitors took the stands this year, just a couple more than last, with audio taking the lion's share, followed by lighting, video, and others. There is a growing emphasis on manufacturers, with fewer service companies exhibiting each year. Even so this does not seem to diminish the show's attraction as a marketplace for the live industry professional. For exhibitors this is a show for the thick-skinned: Operators and technicians are nothing if not blunt in their appraisals of equipment, but judging by comments heard at stands, all find the pain of criticism well worth the insight into meeting their customers' needs.

Templine/Showpower chose the Live! Show to announce the opening of a dedicated London office at the Three Mills Island facility in East London. Showpower also announced the addition of large-scale portable heating and air conditioning to its range of portable generators and mains distribution systems, and has developed its own diesel-fired units for portable heating, providing2,100kW of heating for the recent residency of Stomp at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse.

Zero 88 chose Live! to give a first UK airing to a new variant of the Contour 12 dimmer. An addition to the existing 16A and 25A versions, the 10A model comes with either individual fuses or breakers on each channel; can be powered from single- or three-phase (star or delta); and its auto-sensing power control will tolerate voltages from 90 to 270V, and cycle fluctuations of 45-75Hz.

Cerebrum Lighting, after a break of several years, is once again the sole distributor for MA Lighting products. The latest GrandMA lighting control desk hogged the limelight at Cerebrum's stand. The company also announced reductions in the price of MA dimmers, a factor indicative of the general weakness of the UK market.

Light & Sound Design sponsored the central bar of the Live! Show yet again, and not without good reason. "It's the only seriously social meeting point of the year for leading service industry companies like ourselves," says managing director Dave Keighley. "This is where the key production people in the industry come." AC Lighting also values the Live! Show for its social activity, and used the show as a vehicle for demonstrating the latest WYSIWYG 3D rendering software for the Flying Pig Systems Wholehog II.

Companies taking home gold awards this year included Martin Professional, for its Trackpod product; Clay Paky, for its Stageline fixtures; Avolites, for its Diamond III console; Bandit Lites, in the lighting production company of the year category; and VLPS, in the international production company of the year category. The Spice Girls' Spiceworld claimed the gold as tour production of the year, as did its LD, Peter Barnes.