THE APF Exhibition is the UK’s largest forestry, woodland, arboriculture, fencing and biomass show. Following the announcement of its postponement due to COVID-19, exhibition secretary Ian Millward shares a little of what’s been happening behind the scenes and what lies ahead for the event.

IT is with a very heavy heart I write this following our decision to postpone APF 2020 until next year. As the current crisis seems, thankfully, to be abating, we were hoping for some positive, event-specific news and guidance from the government, even a glimmer. Unfortunately, this has not been forthcoming.

With almost daily updates from the government on reopening shops, pubs, restaurants and re-starting sporting fixtures (albeit behind closed doors) there has been absolutely nothing about mass gatherings being allowed and we are currently restricted to six attendees. That would have made the APF a very small show!

This continuing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 left us with little option but to postpone the event this year. There is light at the end of tunnel however, and we will now stage the show on 23–25 September 2021, at the same venue at Ragley Estate.

Forestry Journal:

As you might imagine, this was not a decision we made lightly. We all wanted it to go ahead as planned, but we also live in the real world. We looked at all currently available advice and pondered on how we might manage the risks. Nothing so far published covered mass gatherings. To this was added the increasing need to make a positive decision one way or another, so that both exhibitors and ourselves could move forward with planning. We also canvassed the opinion of a number of exhibitors and sponsors. The more we thought about it, the more factors we had to take into account, including:

  • The current ban on mass gatherings is still in place with no indication of if or when this restriction will be lifted
  • Recognising that exhibitors need to order stock and equipment for the show, much of which has a three-month lead time, and avoiding the risk of exhibitors buying stock for the show which is then cancelled at short notice
  • Many businesses have been forced to close and equipment that some exhibitors would like to have for the show will not be available
  • The potential lack of availability of nearby hotel accommodation and current restrictions on staying away overnight meaning that camping is also banned
  • The proposed restrictions and quarantining of anyone visiting the UK will severely affect exhibitors, their staff and visitors from abroad being able to attend
  • Social distancing rules making it very hard for exhibitors to engage with visitors safely
  • Concerns about safety and business lockdowns affecting the number of exhibitors who attend
  • Concerns that safety issues will restrict visitor numbers and therefore badly affect trading levels for exhibitors
  • Our ability to safely manage large numbers of visitors, maintain social distancing rules and provide toilets and catering
  • The need not to place an unnecessary potential burden on local emergency services by holding a mass gathering and recognising that currently police, ambulance and St John Ambulance are not attending any such events, with no indication of when they might do so
  • Concerns about our own staff’s safety working at such a large event
  • Concerns raised by exhibitors about attending and whether it would be viable for them to do so.

Taking all of the above into account, it became obvious there was only one sensible option and that was to postpone until September 2021. Even if we could have managed many of the risks, the key point is that mass gatherings are currently banned so the decision would effectively be taken out of our hands.

It would have been entirely wrong to push on and have exhibitors incur expense only to pull the plug several weeks later.

The show is the industry flagship event and all of us in the organising team are passionate about it and want to make it the best we possibly can. We simply cannot stage the event this year to the size and quality our exhibitors, sponsors, visitors and we ourselves want in the light of the current restrictions.

We sincerely hope that in 12 months’ time, the world will have returned to normal and we can run the event as we and everyone else wants.

Forestry Journal:

We will incur extra costs due to the postponement, the first being the extension of our insurance cover for another year at a time when insurers are taking a real hit from cancelled events. The additional premium is over half what we have already paid. Fortunately, the APF maintains a strong financial position. No exhibitor will lose their site fees. We will simply roll these forward to APF 2021. Any visitors who have already bought advance tickets can either carry forward their tickets to APF 2021 or request a refund.

We remain open for bookings and welcome the British Hardwood Tree Nursery as our first exhibitor to book after the announced postponement. 175 other exhibitors are already booked in.

The APF team always gets more excited about the show the closer we get to it. I know I certainly was due to the new events we were planning to stage. These included a top-rate climbing competition, the Arb Worker Zone, the UK fencing championships, have-a-go horse logging and the opportunity to learn a new skill with a traditional woodland craft course. However, after talking to all our sponsors and event organisers, we are pleased to confirm that all these events will still take place at APF 2021.

After APF 2021, we will continue with our usual two-year cycle so the next event would be 2023, then 2025 etc.

I think I can speak on behalf of our whole team when I say we are now feeling rather flat. As I am sure you can see from reading the above, it was the only sensible decision to take. Pushing the send button and sending out the postponement email to all our exhibitors and trade press was a painful moment. I was not sure what reaction to expect from both visitors and exhibitors but am greatly encouraged by the 100-per-cent supportive and understanding messages received via emails and on social media. It seemed everyone was thinking the same as us, wanting it to go ahead but knowing it could not. One Facebook post said they were going to miss sitting in traffic! It is good to know many people retain their sense of humour.

Over the summer, we will be working with our media partner Forestry Journal to help exhibitors to promote their businesses and new products. We will invite them to send us details of new products so we can feature them on our social media and in print. 

With my ever-optimistic hat on, we now have an extra year to plan. Let us all come together to make APF 2021 a huge celebration of the forestry, arboriculture, tree and timber industry. Put the new dates in your diary now: 23–25 September 2021.

If you have any queries about any of the above please contact us on 01428 723545 or email us at

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