Tuesday 10 September 2019

Making money at exhibitions

On Saturday I had that conversation again and found myself defending the 'evil Mr D, the profiteering exhibition manager'. I don't want to defend him, he's quite capable of doing that himself. I have a feeling, since I understand that he's entered politics, that the exhibitions he organises may be on the wane anyway. However defend I did and almost repeated verbatim what I wrote here back in March.

This is getting silly now as although I wasn't aware of the reported discussions on RMweb, I do have  history of exhibiting for the gentleman and therefore feel that I have more weight than possibly most who are spouting online. I've found him a) charming, b) slightly disorganised, but c) entirely honourable in that I got the expenses that I asked for at 4pm on the day. Which is more than I can say for one or two other supposedly upstanding exhibition managers who I now avoid.

It's possibly time to re-think how we hold exhibitions and not be afraid of breaking away from the 'club show' model which has been in place since the 1950s. Interestingly a very good friend of mine has been holding an annual exhibition for over twenty years ostensibly without a standard club, only a few like minded souls to assist him and I don't ever think I've ever heard him being referred to as a profiteer. Similarly at the other end of the scale, a group of clubs working with an umbrella committee used to organise a large, highly successful show in the south, the surplus of which was well into four figures shared amongst the clubs giving them a sizable payday and essentially bankrolled these clubs for the year. This was also acceptable and not described as profiteering.

The question is, is there anything wrong with making money from what is basically a day or two of entertainment for the public put on by what are in effect a group of talented craftsmen? In the original post I likened it to the traditional entertainment model and I see no reason why this should not sit along side the regular club show shape. Is there anything wrong with organising say a tour show/exhibition that ran in say six venues around the country as a package - one organiser, a dozen layouts plus local trade stands.? This would be for profit, unashamedly so and no different from the usual music tour shape. Would it work? No. Because all the clubs would jump up and down, metaphorically piss on the lampposts and complain about profiteering if it came near their patch....

...and so we return to the nice cosy amateur world of the 1950s model railway club show set in the 21st century and nothing changes.


  1. As I've said before, if it's a club then I'll exhibit for expenses. If it's for a private individual making a profit, I want paying for my time. You don't drum for free at a show where the punters pay to come in, why should you play trains?

    The elephant in the room are magazine shows, but generally, people assume that they are putting back into the hobby. I'm also pleased that exhibitors at Warners shows are looked after very well with more meals than you get at club events. Not sure if I could be quite so sanguine if they weren't.

    The touring show is a good idea, but in the same way a touring theatre production pays the cast, why shouldn't the exhibitors get paid and cover all their expenses, including building the layouts?

  2. Re the tour idea: my thought was that everybody would get paid. I can't honestly see anybody running with this, but it would be interesting to see if it would work.