An interesting debate has broken out, and been locked, (no change there then) in a small corner of the interweb. It all kicked off because some one asked an event organiser if their show was a commercial show or not. The difference being that most of the UK’s model railway hobby exhibitons/shows are organised by a club or society to generate funds for the organisation. Some clubs are set up as charities or companies and have full accounts, committees, and others have nothing formal at all. As a generalisation its fair to say the annual exhibition can have a huge impact on the club and its financial viability, sometimes helping it to survive and pay for premises and equipment, and other times taking the club to breaking point or worse if the show bombs for a particular year. There are a large number of shows in the UK ranging from Warley, the biggest, and a commercial venture, to the village hall run by a very small club of a handful of members. Warley whilst a commercial show, is run by a Ltd company from Warley club using their members. The following debate was interesting, there are a good number of foamers piling in too, especially those who clearly haven’t been on the exhibition circuit, (not referring to either organiser) and know very little about it.
Read this thread next to put it into context. Warning, it is twenty minutes of your life you won’t get back.
These two shows David’s ‘Railex’ and Harrys ‘Sevenoaks’ are at the opposite ends of the show spectrum. If you want a football analogy, Railex (a club show), is up there pretty much always at the top of the Premier league season in, season out, and Harry’s is (currently) conference (but a commercial show). However if Harry managed 900 footfall on his first single day show last year, he did something very well or got lucky. I’m inclined to believe it was the former, he did well. Lets face it conference teams do go up as well as down, same too for the premier league. I suspect if tied to another event like a beer festival then that could have helped very well, as would being in a densely populated urban location (South London, good lad!) City and town locations charge a commercial rate for their venues, there have been any number of comments in the modelling community, about how we no longer see the inner city shows we used to. In simple terms its the shopping centre retail park effect. Why pay a premium for an in town location when you can get a gym hall cheaper and easier to access? Easy to access is critical for success, for both exhibitors and visitors. If you run a multi day show you need to get exhibitors located in easy distance from the venue, so on day two, they can actually get there.
I understand why David (Railex) asked if it were a commercial show, and if so where (in general terms) the income went, which isn’t unreasonable. I view exhibiting at shows and accepting the invite under who its for? (do I support their aims?), where it is?, and what expenses they are paying. Every show I have attended either as exhibitor or operator, in effect I have made a financial loss. I accept that because I support the aims of the organiser, and obviously I get a good deal of enjoyment out of it as I actually want to attend. There are some exhibitions that have taken the piss with the exhibitor/trader generosity/co-operation, people don’t go back, and word gets round among exhibitors and traders through the jungle telegraph too. Things like having your truck locked in a car park that no one has the key to at break down, or Vietnamese boat people style cramped accommodation, being ignored by the organiser through the show, incorrect or insufficient space allowed for the layout/stand are the types of things that get noticed.
I think whomever said if you paid people even the NMW national-minimum-wage-rates , the viability of shows would change significantly, and that is true. Harry mentioned he paid petrol and subsistence, perhaps if there were clarification if that includes van/car hire and overnight accommodation for those travelling longer distances, (though perhaps he’s not had that to deal with yet). It appears that the exhibitors for Harrys show are local, for David at Railex that isn’t the case. When I did Railex from the east midlands, he had accommodation+van hire+fuel for me, and 3 x petrol for my operators whom are (literally) spread across the country. Again my team doesn’t take the piss with requesting expenses, in effect rounding down fuel and not charging a mileage rate. For example if one of my operators charged using annual mileage HMRC 40p/mile rate, there would be an extra £94 for him alone, rather than £20 for fuel. If I were to charge at the cheaper annual mileage rate at HMRC/25p rate for my three oppos you’d still be looking at around £160 that we don’t actually currently ask for. I use the HMRC rate as reasonable if you’re going to give all exhibitors the same T&C’s. https://www.gov.mileage-and-fuel-allowances
The above of course doesn’t take into account travel time, set up, exhibition appearance, and break down, travel home, which are all show ‘duties’. If exhibitors charged NMW for that, only those with the deepest pockets could pay, but likely wouldn’t.
I’ve been asked by some exhibition managers to attend with either Albion Yard, or Bawdsey. Often I get a where are you from? and then a discussion in my hearing that this one will do, he doesn’t have far to come, and then an offer to attend a lower league show. I’m always polite but they often take a step back when I say they likely can’t afford us. This is because we aren’t a charity, and as mentioned in para one, there are very different quality shows across the exhibition circuit. I don’t want to be treking around with a layout to shows I wouldn’t attend as a visitor, arranging leave is a problem too for two of us who work in the aviation industry, not everyone has weekends free. And no, I’m not going to use local enthusiasts to the show to operate my train set, unless I personally know and trust them. That’s part of the enjoyment of a show for the exhibitor, taking a layout and team out, it is part social too. The team is a key part of the layout, they know how it operates, and can assist with repairs in the event of failures, and can engage the visitor, knowing about the layout and what it represents, rather than saying ‘dunno, its not mine’. The team if its a good one help with efficient set up and break down, that helps the organiser too making the show run with less hassle.
A question perhaps to be asked is for a commercial show, why shouldn’t exhibitors get better T&C’s than they do now?, a nominal appearance fee for example, the same for any layout regardless of size, to acknowledge the effort the owner/team has made. It has to be the same, to prevent the ‘size’ argument kicking off, ladies, look away now. If its for a club/society which puts something back into the hobby then I, and others may take a different view regarding full expenses and ‘appearance fees’. Even though a club/soc. exhibition is providing capital/funds for their organisation, that helps sustain and grow the hobby. For example it means there is a club that a newbie of any age can join and progress in the hobby from. That doesn’t detract from a commercial show bringing people in too, or giving them direction to progress in, but even allowing for charitable donations etc, a commercial show is there to make profit for the organiser to put in their pocket. The commercial show needs the clubs/exhibitors who provide the layouts (with whatever T&C’s), to have a show. Without those layouts the commercial organiser would have to make or buy in layouts and staff, to actually have a show. I have no problem with commercial shows at all, but I don’t work for my employer for free whom are making a profit, why should an exhibitor provide their effort without payment from a commercial organiser?
So, he who pays the piper calls the tune. Perhaps the pipers are realising the pay packet, from some organisers, is empty.
Out of courtesy I’ve let both the managers know of this posting.
NB: Now you’ve read this too thats about 40 minutes of your life you won’t get back! The easyJet vs BA argument example in the forum thread isn’t relevant to this debate apart from in a simple sentence that they were different. (I was there)