Given this central support we were taken seriously by other media like Dennis Publishing, EMAP Images, IPC TV Weeklies (TV Times, What’s on TV, TV & Satellite Week), radio stations including Capital Radio, specialist magazines like ERT magazine, HiFi Choice, Amateur Photographer, Video Camera, Car Stereo & Security… They promoted the event and I negotiated for them to run seminars in their subject areas. We contra’d advertising with each of them in return for their stand at the show.
The major trade associations like BREMA (British Radio & Electronic Equipment Manufacturers’ Association), BPIA (British Photographic and Imaging Association), RETRA (Radio, Electrical and Television Retailers’ Association). BADA (British Audio Dealers Association) … supported the show by advising their members to participate within our five key themes – audio/music, visual, photographic, interactive/software and communication/control.
BT sponsored a ‘Time Tunnel’ to show the history of consumer electronics, Dolby Laboratories with Haymarket’s audio magazines promoted its ‘Home Cinema Promenade’, and Dolby Laboratories presented a ‘History of Sound in the Cinema’. BADA created a ‘Real HiFi’ feature. Mercury/One-to-One created a series of ‘Rooms of the Future’.
Yamaha ran its National Youth Rock & Pop Awards competition. The notion was Yamaha’s, aware that the UK national curriculum covered the subject of music appreciation and playing music, but it did not cover composing – something in which the UK was prolific.
The TES got the message to the schools and colleges and suggested young composers (16-21), send in three-minute tapes of their compositions (today, my grandkids have little concept of tape recorders!). The winning compositions would be played live at Live ’93.
We received thousands of tapes, the Music Education Council agreed to listen to these and provide a written critique as feedback to each one. They then prepared a shortlist of around thirty that they thought worthy of an award. The Prince’s Trust supported this event and as part of its commitment it arranged for Phil Collins to be our artiste judge. Phil was supported by the BBC Radio One DJ Mark Radcliffe A&M Man Jeremy Silver of Virgin Records, and the impresario Harvey Goldsmith.
Satellite TV Europe (STE) ran the Pace STEvie awards. Oscar-like awards for satellite television categories hosted by Chris Tarrant.
We had an outside broadcast scanner truck on site to direct material from our Live TV Studio and stages to walls-of-screens around the venue. We had competitions for ‘Camcorder Short Film Awards’, ‘Video Out-takes’ and perhaps the most forward-thinking ‘Create a Videophone Cartoon’. The Sun ran a ‘Gotchas’ promotion in cooperation with Video Camera magazine.
We had a raft of seminars and workshops, perhaps the most memorable by Professor Peter Cochrane of BT’s Research Laboratories, their top Futurologist. He was charged with ignoring anything that could become a product within a decade and instead focus beyond that, out there in the blue sky.
TES ran the ‘Newspaper Day’ with hundreds of schools and colleges agreeing to have their pupils cooperate in preparing a school newspaper on a given day. They were fed material from a central editorial team that they could use or sub-edit and interspersed these with their own locally-generated stories. The winning six teams were invited to write and produce the ‘LIVE Daily Show News’ at the venue.
They were briefed on arrival then split into journos, photographers, editors and printers. The journos were supplied with tape machines to record interviews, the photographers were with cameras to take photos and a dark-room to develop film (which sounds very old fashioned today!). The editors had Apple computers with the latest desktop publishing software and the printers had a full-scale Roland printing press to churn out the issue. They wrote and produced the next day’s issue that was printed and distributed around the show.
This was such a hands-on process that my son, Matt, who had other duties at the show, ended up supporting the teams for six days. It was a brilliant opportunity for the schools and students. I know the core educational team went on, after several years at Live, to run larger and larger national Newspaper Days.
It was epic, EMAP Images magazines supported a Games Gallery, ERT magazine promoted trade suites, Car Stereo and Security sponsored our In-car Concourse. The Sun ran an ‘All-Time Driving Top Ten’, Computer Shopper supported a PC Village. The News of the World ran its ‘Photo Parade’ feature, to celebrate photo-journalism across its 150 years in print.
The photographic association, the BPIA, proved something of a challenge, because we did not understand their internal beliefs of their market. They had concluded their customers were women, while we initially aimed our messages at hobbyist men. The Sun offered to have their Page Three girls refer to the BPIA feature and attend the show, so that attendees could take pictures of them or with them – selfies and camera phones were still years away! We even suggested that this might be a feature for Polaroid, given that our belief was that most home-users used these for private candid pictures. Both organisations were horrified by our suggestions and we had to recover their faith across the following months, they believed we might do it anyway, we surprised them and did not.
|ASIDE: We approached Kodak to participate but they refused. One of the top News International (NI) executives called the top Kodak UK man to a lunch at his table at the Savoy Grill. He explained that if Kodak did not participate then all of their cameras and copiers used by NI, as a partner company, would be thrown out. The guy was stunned, could not see any linkage of these two matters but was disabused of that notion. This was the only such example of NI getting involved in this power-wielding way. But it was pretty uncomfortable when I was subsequently called into meetings with people at Kodak who were clearly unhappy that they had been forced to the table.|
The event attracted 140,000 visitors across six days for its inaugural in 1993. This was my first public (rather than trade) show. The main difference was that the real pressures on the operating team happened once the show was opened and the public had been admitted. With trade shows the opening was a turning point where all the rushing about was over and the role proved quite civilised during the open days
One, of many, notable attendees was Michael Caine who just turned up. Tipped off by my floor managers I located him on the aisles and offered to assist his visit. He was a consumer electronics fan and wanted no fuss, and asked to be left to his own devices. Most celebs however were keen to be escorted and photographed, and of course the exhibitors wanted to have them visit their stand.
One individual who stood out above the rest was Jeremy Beadle, who would become a firm friend of the show. He first came in to the organiser office and asked me which exhibitor was currently fraught, I didn’t understand at first, wanting to suggest of course they were all deliriously happy. He pressed, and I named a few who were bothered about something or other. Jeremy went directly to their stands and created a stir to attract visitors onto their stand, often demming their kit, he was a natural.
It is strange that everyone who saw him on TV tended to be confused about him, but everyone who met him personally soon realised what a great human being he was. I visited his new home after the show to find his basement full of books on outsiders (which he considered included himself). He had copies of every board game and was constantly developing TV game show concepts and electronic pub games (more below).
|ASIDE: Jeremy died too soon, at just 59-years-old in 2008, his headstone at Highgate Cemetery headstone bears the inscription ‘Writer, Presenter, Curator of Oddities’.|
The top man at Sharp Japan was to visit and Robb Mackenzie, knowing I had travelled and worked in Japan, asked me to describe how he should greet him. I explained that we Westerners would never get bowing right, so he should just dip his head politely. I had not considered that a 6’ 5” Robb towering over the Sharp boss, would look threatening as he dipped his head toward this diminutive guy who took several steps backwards.
It got worse. The Sharp team had made clear that their boss had a slight disfigurement to his right ear and was sensitive about it, would I personally ensure no pictures were taken from that side. I had our press team brief all the photographers to only stand on his left-hand side. They all respectfully did so, but we had all reckoned without the Sharp CEO routinely spinning on his heel as he changed direction along his tour. The sight of the photographers falling over each-other to get back on to his right (or in fact, left) side was hilarious. Fortunately, if he noticed, he maintained his Oriental inscrutability on the matter.
Closing the venue
We had several live stages and ran into an issue. Sky was broadcasting live its ‘Saturday Sport’ show with Georgie Best and Denis Law on the stage previewing and reviewing that afternoon’s games. On another stage we had the Steve Miller Band (not to be confused with Ed Miliband!), great music but the two stages proved a little too close. Sky complained.
Chris Simpson was running the music stage and he tried to get Steve to stop. As the ‘crisis’ evolved he turned off most of his amps, but they still played on. Eventually I went up on stage and invited them to the bar. They agreed with alacrity and we decamped to a side bar. I bought several bottles of Vodka and sat down with them to assist their consumption. This was the first time I had sat down in eight days, and the first alcohol during open hours.
It was there that Hall Management caught up with me to advise that we had to close the doors as we had exceeded the venue’s capacity. They wanted us to limit entry to one-out, one-in. I agreed promptly. When I walked across to the Organiser Office to follow through, Robb Mackenzie remonstrated with me, focused on the revenues that we might lose. I had to remind him that the fact that we had to close the doors made our show legendary! We then arranged for Capital Radio to advise visitors they should not come today – reverse psychology!
Robb and I went outside to see what was occurring. Six-carriage LU Tube units were arriving in the surface station beside the halls, each delivering another 600+ people. Fire engines were arriving, every hour or two, because the BT stand had installed a whole raft of phones that visitors could use – and they had failed to block calling 999 – London Fire Brigade could not ignore any such call to such a populated venue.
I used our radio to ask Jane, back in the organiser office, to call London Underground, and ask them to hold the trains at Earls Court until we could calm things down. One of the sales team, Kit Brinkley, one of life’s last true gentlemen, promptly called me on the radio. He said I couldn’t stop the Tube because there was another show in Olympia 2 and some of the travellers might be coming for that. It didn’t help much that this was Exclusively Housewares
This was the show that I had co-habited with in St Albans for my PropBus earn-out year. Earlier that week I had received a complaint from its team about our noise levels. I went over to their area to find this was fully justified, because all the pots and pans on their stands were shuddering from our sound systems and some were falling from the fixtures. We hung several layers of thick carpet underfelt in front of the shutters between the shows to deaden the transmission. Now, I felt I had worried enough about them already, and they were currently nowhere on my agenda. Robb read the signs on my face during Kit’s radio message and grabbed my radio. He raised each finger in turn to count to ten, then handed it back, by then I was calm enough to say, ‘Thanks for sharing that with us Kit’ and got back to managing the two main entrances.