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Putting on a show
posted on: 30/8/2012 15:58:24
Kent Event Centre
We take a look at how several UK showground venues across the country are endeavouring to further branch out from their agricultural heritage and increase their exhibition profiles.

Newbury Showground, Berkshire

The Newbury Showground consists of 145 acres of greenfield land, and is perhaps best known for The Showman’s Show, which is held on the site every year. It attracts nearly 5,000 visitors over two days and has in excess of 340 exhibitors, who showcase a range of structures, equipment and entertainment for the event industry. This year’s show is on 17 and 18 October.

“We are a greenfield site, so we can offer immense flexibility to any event – we host equestrian events, leading trade shows, agricultural events,  motor launches, dog shows, conferences and sporting events,” said general manager Becky Elvin.

“We’re particularly well known for our annual Royal County of Berkshire Show – a county show that is one of the most well regarded on the agriculture circuit.” Elvin said many event organisers hire marquees and other facilities at the venue. As a result, it is exploring options for the structures to be shared across several events. “This would be simpler and more cost-effective for all concerned,” Elvin said.

The venue also takes transport seriously and is looking to improve access to, and around, the site to make it more sustainable.

“For example, larger events can make the most of shuttle buses from Newbury and Thatcham town centres, and there is also a cycle route from central Newbury,” said Elvin.

Looking ahead into 2013, the Newbury and District Agricultural Society plans to have a permanent building at the showground to use for cattle over the weekend of the Royal County of Berkshire Show.

“Once complete, this will be a useful addition to the site for a variety of other users too,” said Elvin, adding that the venue is also planning to erect an outdoor ménage for international equestrian events.


Three Counties Showground, Worcestershire

The Three Counties Showground in Malvern, Worcestershire, has historically hosted consumer exhibitions such as antiques fairs, horse auctions and dog shows. These tend to be weekend shows to attract consumers.

The venue has had several business-to-business exhibitions, which it believes have worked well, such as the Energy Expo. These shows tend to be mid-week, which is when the venue has the best availability.

Its new Three Counties Centre is designed to accommodate anything from a small trade show or product launch for a single company through to a larger exhibition for an industry requiring seminar rooms, exhibition space and mobile catering.

According to Francis Brackley, the venue’s business development manager, the combination of indoor and outdoor space is ideal for the motor industry while the environment of the Malvern Hills suits industries who want to reinforce their support to local producers, British agricultural produce and green or environmental credentials. “For exhibition delegates’ time is more important and they will only attend if the exhibition provides the platform for them to address specific issues or gain tangible new insight or intelligence,” he claimed.

The venue has just finished a major new build and overhaul of existing facilities. It has added more than 600sqm of new conference and exhibition space to its existing 2,200sqm exhibition hall, which has recently had its floors, lighting, AV and décor replaced. Three Counties also offers free car parking and does not charge extra for electricity and water.


East of England Showground, Cambridgeshire

The East of England Showground sits on the edge of Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, at the crossroads of the A1M/A14, and a 45-minute train from Kings Cross, making access one of its key selling points.

Owned by a registered charity, the East of England Agricultural Society, the 250-acre site is home to some of the main events in the UK’s rural calendar including national equine, heavy horses, dog and hunting events.

“It is a unique challenge,” said MD Keith Dalton. “We have some superior indoor facilities and these provide us with a strategic advantage in helping us reduce our reliance on external events.

In three months, enquiry rates have tripled and exhibition business is 25 per cent up on July 2011. “We are a showground with acres of land to offer, we even have an outdoor grandstand. But we also have some great indoor space including a 6,000 capacity exhibition hall which gives us huge flexibility,” explained Dalton. “It’s our job to milk all of these assets to the full to drive up revenue.”

Its core venue Peterborough Arena is already home to a number of consumer and trade exhibitions. The focus will now be on handpicking key annual exhibitions to target, as well as smaller ad hoc shows needing a quick turnaround.

There are seven indoor halls, and the main rooms are being fitted with Wi-Fi to help exhibitors and visitors. Peterborough Arena also runs its own ‘fresh local food’ catering team; it also offers organisers pre-event publicity and marketing support, and there’s free parking across the entire venue. Twenty miles of hard roads provide an efficient transport network inside the site. Car parking arrangements can be tailored to suit any event with parking for up to 25,000 cars.


Kent Event Centre (Pictured), Kent

The Kent Event Centre is the largest conference facility in the county and has been at the Showground at Detling, near Maidstone since 1964.

The centre hosts large-scale exhibitions, trade fairs, business conferences, dinner dances and weddings. Facilities include the Clive Emson Conference Centre (1,700sqm), the John Hendry Pavilion (1,750sqm) and the Kent Pavilion (3,000sqm). There is free parking for 30,000 vehicles. According to event centre manager Alison Wallington, one of its greatest strengths is in helping new exhibitors.

“Some people are making the leap from staging their exhibitions in small venues to us and we help them to achieve that move,” she said. “For example, a recent baby show staged here was making the move from a small hotel to us and we worked closely with the organiser to facilitate that.”

The venue hosts craft shows, gardening shows, business-to-business events, social care, product launches and various exhibitions for private businesses.

“People like to visit family-oriented events where the admission is free or where there is a reasonable charge, as opposed to the more expensive events,” said Wallington.

The venue has secured a major new angling show for November. “We have been organising exhibitions here for 50 years, so we have a depth of experience and knowledge and are able to adapt to a variety of requests,” added Wallington.


Lincolnshire Events Centre, Lincolnshire

The Lincolnshire Events Centre at the Lincolnshire Showground can accommodate up to 1,900 people indoors and thousands of visitors outdoors across its 200 acres of grounds. It has two exhibition halls, the Epic Centre and the Exhibition Hall, the latter offering more than 1,300sqm.

In the past year, the centre has hosted a wide range of exhibitions across industry sectors including sustainability, toys and trains, weddings, antiques, crafts, property and business.

It has even had an exhibition for budding cartophilists, also known as cigarette card fans.

According to marketing and communications coordinator Karen Malpass, the venue is looking at hosting medical and pharmaceutical expos, and events for the motor industry.

“We have space available for major car exhibitions, as we have hosted a lot of major vehicle displays recently,” she said. The venue is keeping a close eye on improving its online access and facilities. For big shows, it brings in two phone masts to ease communication for visitors. It has also recently relaunched its website.

“We’ve have increased the functionality of the What’s On section on our website to further support organisers who hold their events here,” said Lincolnshire Events Centre director Jayne Southall. “We’ve made great strides in using social media to also help promote our clients’ events, as well as through existing publications, and our events team is almost as passionate about shouting about their events as those responsible for running them.”

But current economic conditions are leaving the venue to be less prescriptive when dealing with organisers for its events. “Many organisers are making bookings and confirming details much later than before, partially due to market confidence or because their own exhibitors are leaving it until the last minute to sign up,” said Southall.

This was first published in the July edition of Exhibition NEws. Any comments? Email

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