Putting on an exhibition is quite an experience, I must have been involved in fifty or more by now. The earliest ones were motorcycle shows at the Horticultural Halls in London, where parking presented its own problems.
Dirt Bike shows in Bristol were great fun and Bristol was a place to be at the time. Memories of crowded halls, keys found and children lost; driving around looking for stolen caravans and coping with wheel-spin from the vans on the loading ramp. Running in December, the weather could usually be relied upon to throw you the odd curved ball.
We tried running another show, the Great Adventure Exhibition. I guess these days it would be called the Extreme Sports Exhibition but it looks like we were 20 years premature and it was hardly a success.
I have memories of manhandling a hang-glider up a flight of stairs with open banisters, that was about as easy as trying to put an octopus into a string bag. After the Bristol Halls came in line for demolition, the whole affair was moved up to Donington.
Show-opening day, the halls are warm and bright, and your little town comes alive with the bustle of folk and the “ching” of the cash registers! Keys lost and children found. Repeat this for as many days as the show extends, deal with all the myriad of problems that occur every day and try to get a little sleep in between.
There’s a whole range of tasks to be completed but the basic structure is not unlike building a small town. When you take control of the hall at the beginning of the rental period, it is empty, and echoes to your voice and footfall. You make chalk marks on the floor to signify where stands and aisles will be, before the workmen come in and erect the stands and lay the carpet. Electricity and telephones are added and as the exhibitors bring their wares into the hall a buzz begins to happen.
On the final show day, chaos in the car parks as every exhibitor jostles for position before closing the doors to the visitors then throwing everything open to let the exhibitors out. If you’re lucky, you’ll get away from the halls before the pubs close.
And so you return to the halls the following morning to be met with just the empty cardboard boxes and other detritus of what was your bustling little town, now disappeared as if struck by some unseen hurricane in the middle of the night.
In the last few days you have been, at various times, head of security, public address announcer, doorman, ticket collector, problem solver, fire officer, drunk handler, designer, floor manager, dispute soother, planner and probably twenty other things besides. The long hours and pressure have taken their toll and now your town has gone.
When’s the next one start? Well, currently my only show activity is working for Martin Capenhurst at his excellent Kartmania show, and long may it run.