Too Many Audio Shows? Roy Bird, The Chester Group

A Response from Roy Bird, The Chester Group

I wish I could say, and as is usually said, "I read with interest" John Atkinson's recent leader in Stereophile . . . but alas not a day goes by it seems when someone somewhere feels it necessary to not just question the amount of shows, or the point of shows, or in the worst cases deride them; although I'm certainly not accusing a fellow Englishman of the latter.

There is a saying John that goes something like "if shows did not exist right now, then they would very soon be invented " and that's a truth.

Ever since the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in England in 1851, exhibitions (or shows as we prefer to call them) have endured over 160 odd years of popularity, and their appeal and objectivity has never really changed; yes economic woes have driven many to the wall and footfall and exhibitor support has taken its knocks, but overall shows are without doubt one of the media world's greatest survivors.

So just what "are" they? They are unique showcases, were the public (in our case) can see all that's new and exciting under one roof, where there is glorious and unfettered brand rivalry, choice and presentation backed up by fantastic expertise. And you simply cannot compare that with any other option.

And this is the point, none of the shows that John Atkinson refers to have hit the wall and failed to attract sufficient numbers, be that exhibitors or visitors; overall, therefore, the public have over the years voted with their feet and ensured that shows as a concept are completely accepted, looked forward to and loyally supported. Our only real concern is the "sameness" of some of the events in our own particular industry and, speaking for ourselves, we are doing a lot about that in order to address new markets and ensure that the overall packaging of our shows is commensurate with the products they represent.

And my comments above about visitor support applies to the trade as well . . . believe me we "do not" and "could not" drag exhibitors screaming and shouting to our shows, they make their own decisions, and having done so we do our level best to make that a rewarding experience.

Our next show will be (in my lifetime) the 150th that I have organised in the 30-odd years I've been involved in the industry, and I have helped and promoted many different consumer industries. Although the challenges are always there, each new show is for us just like a new baby. It's never boring and if it ever becomes so I have two able-bodied sons and a loyal team quite capable of showing me the door because we are showmen and we love what we do, and that certainly helps because believe me this is probably one of the most demanding, diversely skilled, stressful and entrepreneurial jobs imaginable.

So rather than all this continual questioning, particularly from key and influential media like your good selves, let's start talking things up and be grateful that we have such a great invention to help our industry, because they are there because "they are needed" and not because we make people do them, and when and where they "happen" and more importantly "succeed" in those locations and dates, is not decided by us, but by the public; period.—Roy Bird, Chester Group

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