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April 16, 2008
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WEATHER BEATEN:How the CLA Game Fair survived the summer




Remember this…?
– More than 250% above-average rainfall for June and July.
– Parts of Britain under water without power for over three weeks.
– Sewage overflow causing infected water supplies.
– Flooded housing on an unprecedented scale.
– and the tragic death of a man with his foot caught in the drains, while firemen fought in vain to save him.

Well, whatever effect this catastrophic climate had on the outdoor events industry this year, such scenes of devastation and loss of life put them sharply into perspective. We should also thank our lucky stars that what parts of the UK had to suffer this summer isn't the constant fight for existance that other parts of the world face on a daily basis.

That said, during this summer of outstanding natural misery, the outdoor events industry had to rise to the challenges that came with this unforeseen inclemency.
And so it was for the Country Landowners Association (CLA) Game Fair. Due to be held at Harewood House near Leeds from the 27-29 July, the rain just kept falling until, eventually, just three days before the show was due to open – and after an exhaustive effort to fight the tide of watery mud and install a deluged infrastructure – the organisers were forced to cancel the event.

Devastation
This spelled disaster for the world's leading Game Fair, with more than 900 exhibits in its 49th year; disaster for the exhibitors, especially for those smaller businesses that depend so heavily upon country land-loving summer events to reach their core markets; and disaster for the supply chain that not only had to fight the fight to get the infrastructure in place, but then saw their endeavours (and indeed many of their assets) washed away or written off, as electrical equipment through to perishable foods were lost to the will and bad temper of a higher force.

Mud bath: Disasterous summer weather killed off the CLA's flagship event
You probably think that now comes the juicy bit about who's going to sue who for losses, but you would be wrong, because the CLA Game Fair community is made up of pragmatists – realists who live closer to nature's ill-tempered ability to spring a winter force on a summer's day than most of us. Yes, of course there have been recriminations, and yes, there have been desperate times, not least in the shadow of the decision by the organisers not to insure against such an unlikely event that the fair would be cancelled due to the weather.

But country folk don't throw the 'I know my rights' tantrum, they just get on with it.

So instead, realism has risen to the fore. The CLA`s financial reserves simply do not extend to paying out for losses incurred as a result of the events' untimely cancellation, rumoured to run into millions of pounds. Instead, despite initial indications than no refund for space sales would be forthcoming and after lengthy discussions with the accountants, the CLA Game Fair have offered a package that enables exhibitors to recoup either 50% of their space investment now, or a 40% refund now with a 20% discount on the 2008 event.

Finding a way forward

While this does represent a fair offer under the circumsatnces on the part of the CLA, exhibitors will also have to factor their losses for other pre-paid services and accomodation costs, as well as the loss of trade resulting from the cancellation. Nevertheless, the path proposed by the CLA provides a constructive way ahead compared to one of mutually assured destruction that a less mature market and its constituent parts would inevitably tread.

The 50th CLA Game Fair, therefore, will go on.

Blenheim Palace: home to the 50th CLA Game Fair in 2008
David Hough, the unfortunate organiser, is a seasoned and highly respected veteran of the live events community. Like the honest man he is, he simply holds his hands up to the lessons learned. "I'm not going to dwell on the misery of this year," he says. "We are learning the lessons of the experience and we will be looking very closely at the type of land that we house the event upon in the future. But we'll stick with the culture of the event being housed at a country house location rather than a purpose-built showground, and I will continue to place faith in my own judgement and the judgement of those around me.

"We are investigating the opportunities to package an opt-in/out exhibitor offer of cover with insurance companies that understand the risks associated with outdoor events and outdoor life at large," he continues, "and we will do everything in our power to continue to be crystal clear about those risks with everyone associated with the show. I'm pleased to say that the exhibitors have, in the main, taken to our offer of compensation well, especially after we had taken the necessary time to establish what we could and could not practically afford to offer, without placing the 50th CLA Game Fair at Blenheim Palace next year in jeopardy.

"The CLA Game Fair and its collective community is an illustration of how deep-rooted brands and communities can pull together when disaster strikes. Would other events react in the same way? Perhaps this is a lesson for us all…

For more about insuring your presence at your own, or someone else's, live event click here.

For more about the CLA Game Fair 2008, click here.


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