Sunday 21 June 2020

Saturday Ramble - Moving forward

O gauge Manning Wardle

I realise that some of what I've put up here in recent weeks/months has been slightly (and understandably) negative. Most of this has been wrapped around the collapsing exhibition circuit and I've written on several different platforms about what might happen. There's been a small amount of reaction to this. An old friend dropped me a line yesterday which included a synopsis of the problem:

'We obtained a copy of the Government's guidelines for events and to put it bluntly, a small club hasn't  a hope in hell of putting on a show. For instance just to get people through the door we would have to have a machine for contactless payments, there would be no catering unless we obtained the Covid19 certificates (and small shows rely on the profits from catering), no toilet facilities unless they were constantly cleaned and many more conditions.

Also it is unlikely that we could hire a hall from a local authority or get exhibition insurance unless we could guarantee compliance with all of the guidelines. All of that and much more before we could even consider exhibitors, traders and the number of admitted public (based on the square footage of the hall). Even if Perspex screens were placed around layouts and trade stands, they would need to be disinfected at frequent intervals.'

We're now essentially at ground zero, so what do exhibitions do?
1. Wait. There's not really a lot of point running around and planning shows in the fullest sense for probably six months at least. I don't think things will get going until this time next year, but we can take on board the (shifting) guidelines and gradually build contingencies around this.
2. Re-book this year's layouts. Most seem to be doing this. It would be daft not to utilise the planning work already done.
3. Downsize slightly. The footfall maybe smaller, so booking a large venue maybe a costly error. That said the traditional spacings of items in the hall may need to be rethought, with more room around each. Barriers may well be mandatory to obtain distance from exhibitors and rear op's would be preferable in most cases as you already have the depth of the layout to include. Getting the balance right here will be fun. Fewer layouts, less trade and more or the same expense for the venue.

Exhibitors: 1. Slow down a little; it's not going out for a while.
2. Any 'new' exhibition layout should factor in the above points. Front op's are out, screens maybe worth considering (masks definitely) and a lower personal engagement is suddenly paramount. This will preclude some exhibitors completely - those who have made the front op'/chat to the public the root of the design. 
3. A dramatic shift in thinking will be apparent for some, including a move to online only especially those with health issues. This isn't as radical as you may think and the lock down has thrown up some gems of home-based layouts.

Trade: A more 'sealed' jewellery shop approach with a no-touch display. Till screens and contactless payments.

The circuit will return, but it's going to look quite different. I'm old enough to remember when most shows were in church halls and quite low-key - we may well have to return to a similar standpoint and build up from there. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. A vaguely competitive element has developed in the last decade with bigger shows and more widely travelled layouts. Returning to, and restoring touch with a more local visitor (and potential club member) baseline will I believe be the way to move forward and build from this point.
It's going to be OK.


  1. You'd imagine any shows that come back will be of a fairly small low budget variety just to test the water. I'm not sure this is a bad thing, a little members day versus being in a huge hall packed with people, not always of a hygienic nature, is much healthier. I'm not someone who gets sick easily but I've been to shows where people pack around the sales stand and I had to go outside as I thought I was going to be ill. Sounds daft but with all these bigger shows it would take one person with Covid invading other people's personal space to cause a lot of people to become ill with potential fatalities. So slow and steady really should be the way.
    Rant over!

    1. Totally agree. The way forward will surely be a series of small events - possibly free or donation on exit - this will test the water and get people used to the way things are to be done. I already have a plan for something along these lines rolling around in the back of my head.

    2. Problem you could then get is loads of people turn up to a tiny village hall that would be completely unprepared for them as they've been starved of any shows to go to... I wonder if it might have to be more of a private thing where you have to pre book tickets or something?
      I don't think anyone knows what will happen but it's a definite possibility.
      (Btw if required as I'm younger and hypothetically less susceptible (!) I'd be happy to bring St Petroc along or my West Dorset micro as that might gee me up to actually finishing the thing...)

    3. We ran exactly that for over ten years. Maybe it's time to revive it.

  2. Now that sounds interesting...

  3. " just to get people through the door we would have to have a machine for contactless payments" - and that is a problem why? These things aren't difficult to get or expensive. Given the option, I'm sure you'll find people happier to pay for admission by card than cash anyway nowadays. I know I've been doing this for years and I'm hardly young or an early adopter.

  4. Chris,
    I would like to reply to Phil Parker's comments re. card machines but for some reason I'm unable to post comments on your blog. Is it possible that you could include the following or some of it as I feel that some points need to be explained. I understand if you are unable, but you know me...I rarely raise my voice!

    I belong to a small club (14 members) that each year tries, with a limited budget, to put on a small show in our local council run hall. This years show having been cancelled, we decided to plan something for next year, mainly to raise everyone's spirits, however we ran into so many potential problems that it was obvious we could not achieve our aims. If I could illustrate a few of those problems -:

    Admission. Our member on the door would have to be wearing PPE mask, visor & gloves and possibly behind a Perspex screen. His first task would be to ensure that everyone entering the hall uses the hand sanitiser. We would need to buy a card machine (approx. £30) to offer card/contactless payments. We then found out that our bank would charge a fee for each transaction. If the machine is used for chip & pin payments it would need to be sanitised after each use. Any cash either received in payment or given in change would need to be wiped with a sanitised cloth.,

    Catering. The kitchen/serving area would need to be fully sanitised both before and after the show. This would be done by the hall's caretaker but paid for by us. Our husband & wife catering team would also need PPE masks, visors & gloves and serve behind a Perspex screen. All supplies brought into the kitchen area would have to be sanitised. We would need to buy another contactless card machine for purchases (which would involve more bank fees) Again both machine & cash would need to be sanitised. Once our customers have consumed their tea & cake, the cups & plates would need to be disposed of in a sealable bin away from the public area. Then the chairs and table they sat at would need to be sanitised.

    Toilets. We would only have access to one toilet cubical, this for everyone of both sexes, everything else would be taped out of use. This cubical would need to be sanitised after each use...who is going to volunteer to do that job?

    There were many, many more conditions such as social distancing, ventilation, signage, etc. before we even got to the complexities of layouts/exhibitors/traders/insurance etc. We would not have been allowed to hire the hall unless we met all of the conditions.

    We went into this with a positive attitude and were even prepared to make a small loss, but we were left looking at making a substantial loss which at present we could not afford. We are having a hard time at present, even though we have paid our clubroom rent up until the end of the year, we cannot have access as it is not suitable for social distancing. We have offered all of our members free membership for next year as compensation but with the loss involved of cancelling this years show, plus no subs or revenue from a show next year, we are struggling as I'm sure most small clubs are. Glib comments from the likes of Phil Parker do not help. We do not have a large membership or financial backing from manufacturers or publishers and any additional costs have to be paid out of our own pockets. There is a different world outside of Warley/RMWeb.

    I'm sure exhibitions will return but we have to be prepared that they will be very different than what we've been used to.


  5. Since Graham has seen fit to attack me in his comments, I suppose I better respond.

    Every show is different and I don't see any mention of the size of the show in the original posting. I appreciate that I'm supposed to be psychic and know exactly the circumstances, but amazingly, I'm not.

    Card readers vary in price and in the circumstances, £30 isn't unreasonable as a one-off cost. As well as taking money on the door, it can also take money for the catering and second hand stall. I know this, because it's exactly what our club did for several years. We have since moved to multiple machines because we found them valuable. 2nd hand sales and catering take more money when people aren't worrying about running out of cash for a start.

    On the basis that people are likely to move away from cash in the future, the banks are pushing this and while this or any other virus is around the public are becoming used to contactless. They will more and more expect to pay this way. I'm sorry if progress isn't popular, but this is likely to be the way things go. To be blunt, people expect to pay for things with a card nowadays.

    As for all the other issues - there's not much I can disagree with. However, the very same considerations will be affecting other businesses and we can learn from them. I don't quite see why Graham considers them my fault though, but it's obviously because I am a bad person.

    Perhaps I should just get off the Internet and out of the hobby.