Yesterday morning I had a 25-minute conversation with the MP for Vividink's constituency, Robert Largan MP. He was genuinely interested in the plight of the events and exhibitions industry, what it needs, and how he may be able to help.
He had already responded to ministers that their cut and paste letter didn't help, and he wanted numbers and information from me.
I focused the conversation on 3 simple points
- We need a go date.
- We need agreement on the risk-based process
- We need support between now and the 'go-date' to bring people back from furlough to organise and prep ready for the industry to start.
The first on the list happened an hour later, the second he understood after I had explained the work undertaken by ESSA, AEV & AEO led by Chris Skeith and anything he may be able to do to apply some pressure to DCMS and requested more details. The last took the greater part of our the discussion, explaining that there is a gap between the 'go-date' being announced and the industry having to recall all the people on furlough to deliver on the go date. The key issue is a massive hole in cashflow for many businesses as the Covid Catch 22 manifests itself – no revenue to pay salaries but work requiring to be done in order to deliver events post 01 October.
I took him through the numbers from the EIA, BVEP etc in terms of value to the economy, explained the scale of the ecosystem that supports any event from venues to catering, cleaning to accommodation and all points in between. We discussed the economic impact of events and exhibitions as launch platforms for new products and services, their reach to potential buyers both at home and overseas, the value of business tourism, the export of exhibition expertise with geocloning of shows by UK organisers.
We worked on a shopping list of further information and updates he would like in order to try and make a case.
Finally, we discussed confidence, we can open the venues, organise the shows but we need exhibitors and visitors, attendees and audiences to know that they are safe, which brought us nicely around to the guidance proposed by the associations and their array of experts from the industry.
My natural Yorkshire cynicism is never too far under the surface but in Robert Largan MP it would seem that Vividink has an MP who is interested in our plight and that of the whole events and exhibitions industry. After posting this my attention will turn to gathering more evidence and data for Robert, I hope that he is true to his word and as engaged as he seemed to me yesterday.