The place to be for event and function organisers, the Showman’s Show is the biggest of its kind in Europe, yet remains a real family affair. Tally Wade reports
Founded by the Lance Family in 1984 the Showman’s Show is still going strong, attracting over 4,500 visitors and 300+ trade stands. Open Air Business was there signing up event organisers and function venue owners, and I had the tricky task of judging the top three trade stands from the 99 in the indoor exhibition hall.
In my walk around it quickly became clear to me just how many of the businesses exhibiting were true family affairs – some up to five generations old. Many had also been attending since the show’s inception over 30 years ago, and the organisers were like family to them. Hats off to the Lances for fostering such great relationships – I can’t think of many trade shows in any of the industries that I have worked in that have pulled off such loyalty among the majority of exhibitors. It also goes to show that despite the digital age (and use of Google ads and social media marketing), trade shows really are the place to get in front of people and cement relationships face to face.
It was very hard to pick the top three stands indoors. In the end I went for the GT Trax stand in first place. Suppliers of temporary roadways, among other things, to the outdoor event industry, its stand certainly stood out with a full on Halloween theme, complete with video graphics and atmospheric lighting. The team themselves were in full costume bringing a real sense of ‘showmanship’ to the stand, and were engaging and friendly. They had also impressed with their audience engagement prior to the show on social media.
Second place went to a great concept from event branding company Sunbaba. It showcased its backdrop products using a ‘maze’ construction, that made very clever use of the stand’s footprint, inviting visitors though a walkway of beautiful imagery from Machu Pikchu to an underwater aquarium experience.
Third place may have surprised some people but it was awarded to Olympus Flooring. Despite being a pretty standard trade stand in many ways, I was impressed with the enthusiasm, honesty and engaging nature of the Olympus team and the simple but effective way their literature sold their product. Who would have thought of marketing something as unimaginative as temporary carpet for exhibitions and events using mood board type graphics that could have come from the beauty industry? It certainly caught my eye.
Outside, the show just exploded. With avenue after avenue of exhibitors showcasing their wares ‘for real’ so to speak. From stages, funfair attractions, temporary buildings, marquees, toilets and catering concessions to tiny but powerful innovations such as Tracking This’ inventory tracking system, which allows organisers or hire companies to keep on top of equipment (location, ownership, servicing, rental timescales etc). Displaying products in the environment for which they are designed is likely why the show attracts so much of the industry – exhibitors and visitors alike.
Among attendees was a good contingency of students studying event organisation. Although unlikely to be specifying products at this stage in their careers, they represent the next generation for the industry and it was good to see so many in the audience of the Campfire Sessions (a new addition to the Show this year). This seminar programme was held in a glorious structure supplied by Big Chief Tipis (the hire arm of The Tipi Company), complete with fairy lights and a coffee concession. It was encouraging to see so much interest in the Sustainable Power at Events discussion in particular.
Exhibitors for 10 years, the team reported that the show offered a unique opportunity to speak to the majority of their customers in one event. Supplying portable toilets and shower facilities, its shower block in particular is targeted at festivals, weddings and glampsites. Based on a wet room design, it is easy to clean and the potential for damage is kept to a minimum, with no exposed moving parts. www.borderloos.co.uk
RentaHedge / RentaMaze
Perfect for weddings and outdoor events alike, RentaHedge and sister company RentaMaze provide portable, real hedging and topiary products that certainly add impact. RentaHedge supplied hedges for the cross country courses at the London Olympics as well as Bramham Horse Trials and the Grand National, and had some beautiful examples of what can be achieved on their stand. Want a maze? No problem! The company also supplies permanent hedging for landscaping, and can create an established look on the same day as installation. www.rentahedge.com
The Tropical Roadshow
An attraction providing all creatures great and small. From 14 foot pythons to bugs, with owls and guinea pigs in the middle, this was a popular stand! A new business born out of a passion for animals, the team were delightful and clearly loved and cared for their creatures. They tour with a converted, heated trailer and are a real hit with organisers as an attraction to ‘take care of the children’ at events aimed more at mums and dads, and for corporate days looking for something different. www.tropicalroadshow.co.uk
The Next Level of Mobile Adventure
Showcasing a caving trailer, climbing wall, giant slide and human table football, designer Chris Rainbow explained how all the products on offer were developed to be mobile and, when not out on hire, form part of the activities on offer at the Tolmers Scouts Activity Centre in Hertfordshire, where he is scout warden. Perfect for entertaining both young and old at outdoor events, functions and for corporate training days. www.nextlevelofmobileadventure.co.uk
The Stage Bus
In its ninth year as an exhibitor, The Stage Bus showcased its Truck Stage. Suitable for audiences of up to 8,000 people, it is totally self contained and can be ready in one hour. With sound, light and power all included in the rig, it comes with at least one technician and is a fantastic option for speed and convenience. The stage can be solar powered and is is completely self sufficient for eight hours, with battery packs hidden beneath the floor. Stages range from £800-£2,500 / day. www.thestagebus.com
Mobile Solar Chargers
Mobile Solar Chargers launched the Solar Charging Can. This solar charging station is contained within a portable, easy to store metal drum, supplying ‘green’ 5V-24V charging, lighting, CCTV and Wi-Fi! In the standard Solar Charging Can the parts are secured within the drum for storage and transport, including 180W solar panel, full wiring loom, 230Ah batteries, telescopic poles, controllers and multiple power outlets. The standard removable control box can also be swapped to add an inverter or removable Li-Po super power banks up to 300Ah. www.mobilesolarchargers.co.uk
The Tipi Company
Another family business (run by a father, son and daughter team), 2016 saw a series of new launches for The Tipi Company, the hire arm of which, Big Chief Tipis, supplied the venue for the show’s Campfire Sessions seminar series. On display was the new Little Hat, a quick to assemble outdoor shelter perfect for drinks receptions, meeting points or shelter, and a new sectional wooden flooring product for semi-permanent tipi sites where woven matting isn’t practical. Also announced was an online training portal for clients, providing step-by-step guides, videos and images. www.thetipicompany.com
Morris Site Machinery
Light and power supplier Morris Site Machinery launched the TL90 iLED, the latest lighting tower in its range. Fitted with a Deep Sea control panel, it provides operators advanced monitoring to include fuel management, GPS tracking, engine and alternator displays, remote switch-on and off, and instant text or mail alerts. The family-owned company also showcased one of the industry’s first solar lighting towers, the Solar-2. Among its generator range was the compact SMC GenPac 10 – with all the plug points you could need, it is ideal for use where space is limited or for powering the likes of catering marquees. www.morrismachinery.co.uk
If you are looking forward to Christmas you would have loved the extensive ‘grotto’ created by Themes Incorporated, one of the largest props suppliers to the events and functions industry. Visitors were treated to a walk through some magical scenes including Narnia, A Christmas Carol, polar creatures (including a yeti), a Christmassy Alice in Wonderland and, of course, the full Father Christmas experience. It also had on display beautiful, pre-decorated trees. www.themesinc.co.uk