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May 2, 2008

London Boat Show crisis as Gower jumps ship

James Gower has announced his departure from National Boatshows, the British Marine Federation (BMF) subsidiary, effective from 17 August. He leaves to join Emap Construct with Interbuild set to be the main beneficiary.

Whilst his timing is perfectly understandable with a second child due before his 10 September start date at Emap`s new HQ at Greater London House, Gower leaves the trade association`s events arm at a critical moment in time. The Southampton Boat Show begins in September, but the real issues face the Collins Stewart London Boat Show in January where genuine competition from the people-mounted Earls Court Boat Show in December continues to gather enormous pace and international support, despite desperate efforts by the trade body to discredit and kill off the launch event at birth.

Gower, former Marketing Director at The Daily Mail Ideal Home Show, is one of the consumer exhibition industry`s truly gifted talents and his contribution to adding a commercial edge to National Boatshows has been reflected in his ability to attract corporate sponsorships, especially from the financial services sector, as well as media partnerships across mainstream broadcasters and the national press. He is also one of live events` street-fighters par excellence and the BMF boat-builder board members will struggle to find a similar replacement to rise to the challenges of the next six months.

James Gower
James Gower
Streetfighter par excellence

Once again it raises questions of the trade body and whether it remains fit for purpose to administer key events on behalf of its members and whether indeed the time has come for a professional organizer to take over the helm alongside the excellent NBS operational team, and leave the BMF to stick to its boat-builder knitting and boating promotions. To lose a talent of Gower`s multiple-award winning marketing and commercial quality at such a crucial time sends the worst signals to the BMF membership, and fuels speculation that it is struggling to meet the challenge thrown down by the Whyte and Mackay-backed appeal to return to the spiritual home of boating`s annual thrash in Theatreland. Gower`s announcement will do little for the morale of the NBS operational team, headed by Murray Ellis, the ExCeL venue, or the renewed sponsors, who have all supported the association`s call to arms with distinction.

James Gower is not the sort to quit, so the issues at Marine House will be as deep-rooted as his bosses` heads are in the sand. A refocus on the interests on the boating consumer before those of the member manufacturers might be a likely starting point for his successor but for now it will be all hands on deck to offset the return of Captain Jack to Earls Court.

EVENTS:review`s recent interview with Earls Court Boat Show founder, James Brooke, will follow shortly.

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