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June 11, 2006

If the event fails, blame the bogs!

On a day of mixed emotions last tuesday, ExCeL in London Docklands played host to the Live Communications sector and the Marketing Press, as Fiona Bruce of the BBC moderated a conference entitled Completing the Vision for London's Eastside, stimulated by the recent announcements for the development of ExCeL`s Phase II, the O2, and the Olympics.

Following BBC News anchor Fiona Bruce`s introduction to the day, the 100-or-so assembled delegates were given an introduction (by ExCeL Chairman and Docklands Regeneration Grandee, Lord King,) about London`s Eastside Development (Part II), up to and beyond the 2012 Olympics. It involved King reciting a nostalgic helicopter ride with Michael Heseltine (Liverpool, no doubt you`re listening loud and clear) over a redundant and dilapidated Royal Docks in the late 1970s through the decades to present day, and further introduced the developers of the Olympic Village, the O2, the CrossRail and DLR extentions, and London City Airport. All went peer-makingly well until the final panel discussion featuring one Nick Forster, Global Commercial Director of Reed Exhibitions.

Post-event toilet sources alleged that it was AEO-Chairman-Elect, Andy Centre, who utilised the electronic Q+A facilities to pose the question as to why Reed Exhibitions had reverted the London Bookfair back to Earls Court after just one session in East London. Instead of admitting the event's inability to withstand international competition from Frankfurt who threatened to invade the recently vacated Earls Court space, Forster immediately used his privileged opportunity to suggest that the move back to Earls Court in some way related to this year's communal use of the ExCeL's lavatories with co-located attendees of a beauty show! It was a guff so pathetic that even the perpetrator did his best to assume a retreat position from his effluent bunker and further confirm that, in truth, it was a defensive move to keep the Frankfurters out, and that London Bookfair would be returning to ExCeL once the threat had been repelled.

Imagine how delighted Earls Court will be to hear that!

Continuing to squirm in his chair, Forster did himself and his organisation a grave dis-service. Worse still, he did little to endear himself to an exhibitions industry that is competing not just for 'live' spend, but for budget within the marketing space as a whole, and it was notable that his co-panellist from Jack Morton Worldwide took every opportunity to distance his position beyond the gutter from which Forster appeared. Hardly an advert for a day at Reed`s Races when the company`s commercial figurehead confirms that for publishers and authors to share the lavatories with working brass beauticians must be in some way like George Bush finding an intern or three hanging from the cells of his Cuban Guesthouse.

Truth is, I suspect, that the London Bookfair has some lavatorial housework of its own to do and that the opportunity to break wind in ExCeL's front room was just too irresistible a scapegoat for Forster as he attempted to offload the failings of a product considerably closer to home on to a defenceless venue. No thought that dates could be adjusted, or that the highly flexible ExCeL w/c facilities could be reconfigured I suppose?

Rest assured, there were some choice descriptions of Forster`s performance flying around the aforementioned facilities post-event and that a very public apology should be winging its way from West London to a few East London stakeholders very shortly, and quite rightly, too!

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