Stafford Model Railway Exhibition 2021 (the show that never was!)
This coming weekend would have been the date for the 2021 Stafford Model Railway Exhibition but, due to the now familiar situation we are in, it had to be postponed.
We decided to mark the occasion by taking a trip down memory lane with the help of Youtube videos of past shows and some words from 2 members who have been heavily involved with the show in the capacity of exhibition manager.
First, Terry Robinson:
Well, this year is very strange in that it’s not full steam ahead for our annual exhibition, sorting out all the last minute issues that arise as part of the exhibition planning.
For me I suppose it really started to hit home prior to the Warley Exhibition weekend, as normally by then I would have been in touch with all the model railway publications, agreeing our adverts and exhibition diary information.
Other members of the exhibition team would have been working on checking all mains leads and PAT testing, arranging insurance and very importantly, the catering for us all for the weekend.
Straight after Christmas, it’s a similar situation that we would have been in: placing adverts with the local press and sending information to the local radio stations. Also organizing the borrowing of Warley equipment such as the barriers, tablecloths, children’s steps and the periscopes.
For all the exhibition team it’s a worrying time with all that’s going on and with a keen eye on the long range weather forecast.
I was the exhibition manager for a long time, and was grateful to Colin Hill for taking on a great deal of the exhibition organisation some years back as my assistant, a role that has of course reversed, as for the last few years Colin has been at the helm.
Stafford Railway Circle annual exhibition moved to the County Showground in 2003, a major step from our previous venue at Weston Road School. We had the exhibition at the school for a number of years after the Stychfields Hall was closed, and prior to that our exhibition had been held at the Stafford Borough Hall (now the Gatehouse Theatre).
The move to the Stafford County Showground was a major step forward for the club, and over the years it grew from just the Sandylands Hall to all three halls that we currently use.
Although over the years it was Colin’s and my name that have been in the credits as exhibition managers, it was and is very much a team effort from all the club members, with a large amount of work from the likes of Dave Hughes, Ron Kington, Pete Griffiths, Tony Parker and Brian Taylor.
The full support of all the SRC members and many friends makes our exhibition very special to us all.
Let’s hope that in 2022 we can return to having our annual exhibition.
THOUGHTS ON THE EXHIBITION – Colin Hill.
Normally at this time of the year, a week before our annual exhibition, I would be taking a weekend off from the planning and organisation of the event to go away for the weekend. Not to relax so much as visiting two shows, one at Erith in Kent and the other at Southampton. Instead of doing this again I am at home in lockdown and can only reflect on what has happened this year and how it has affected me as your Exhibition Manager and what we have achieved since I took over the role from Terry.
When I first took overall charge of the exhibition I took a couple of years without making any great changes as we already had layouts booked for some of these shows and I just needed to top up the numbers. It was then that I realised that I would have to travel further afield to get the quality layouts that we needed and so began to fill my diary with exhibitions to visit. This has continued so that I have attended 30 plus shows every year and have been a regular customer of Stafford station during that time catching trains to all points of the compass. Often I would fit in two shows over a weekend or on some memorable occasions two on the same day! The outcome of all this was that I was able to invite layouts that were not normally seen in this area thus broadening the appeal of our show to visitors.
After a couple of years of doing this I found myself wondering how I could further add to the experience. In my travels I had noted how other shows laid out the exhibits but there was nothing different to what we were doing. About this time I found myself looking more at micro layouts which were in attendance at shows and it dawned on me that we could make a feature of these at our show. Normally it seemed that exhibitions were laid out with the micro layouts filling in gaps in the display space so there was no great impact from them. It was then that I decided to introduce a “themed area” to our exhibition and that micro layouts would be the first. You will recall that we had a dozen such layouts grouped together by the catering area in the first hall and that all the owners agreed to no barriers so that they could actively talk to the viewers. This was a great success and it seemed as if the exhibition managers from other clubs took notice as by the year end I was visiting shows who had done the same. Since then I have tried to do a themed area each year and we have had an Isle of Wight area, a 3mm area and this year it would have been a Large Layout area.
At the same time I was able to get a few more traders into our exhibition improving the ratio between specialist and general stands and so maintaining the aspect of our show that we knew worked well.
Of course, in the last 12 months things have changed dramatically and the exhibition circuit has closed down. We are already seeing cancellation of events scheduled for September and October and I am sure more will follow. In our case we continue to monitor the situation and plan for our 2022 exhibition.
After the exhibition last year I expressed a wish to pull back somewhat from the organisation as I was about to turn 75. After a number of meetings various members came forward with offers of help and subsequently Nick took over the layout booking and he and I will share the visits to other shows. The trade booking was also passed on but has subsequently come back into my sphere of influence. The rest of the team are carrying on as normal and our hope is that we will once again be in a position to run our 2022 show and, as important, that we will be able to get back into a clubroom and rediscover our social evenings playing trains.
In the meantime I ask you all to take care and next weekend just think of the exhibition manager who will have nothing to do!
Let’s now look at some scenes from past exhibitions. This is by no means exhaustive and apologies to anybody whose layout doesn’t feature. Thanks to those who have made the material available via Youtube and thanks to all who have been involved in the exhibition over the years – exhibitors, traders, demonstrators, visitors and club members and helpers.
Here’s hoping that the 2022 will be able to go ahead as planned.