The APF Exhibition is the UK’s largest forestry, woodland, arboriculture, fencing and biomass show. Following the cancellation of this year’s event due to COVID-19, exhibition secretary Ian Millward offers an insight into how organisers are forging ahead.

AS I write this in mid August, though pubs have reopened and there is talk of supporters soon being allowed into football matches and even of test events to see if business conferences could be held safely, there is nothing even vaguely on the horizon about outdoor events being allowed to resume. The proposals for sport events seem to be for around 30 per cent of stadium capacity, which for most will make it uneconomic.

The recent re-imposing of rules and quarantining in countries such as France and Spain are a sobering reminder that we are not out of the woods yet and secondary flare-ups are happening all too easily.

If nothing else, it justifies the decision we made back in May to postpone. Our fear was that a couple of weeks later lockdown would be lifted, the world would get back to normal and we would be looking a little daft. I am pleased our call was right and that our exhibitors didn’t incur any wasted expenditure in ordering machinery and stock.

We are keeping in contact with our suppliers to see how they are faring and hope they will still be around in 2021. Many businesses suffered after being forced to close for several months, but there has been very little in the news about the events industry. Effectively every major public event in 2020 has been cancelled, from large events like the Royal Highland and Royal Welsh shows to weddings. Imagine if your business lost 12 months of work. Work that cannot be caught up or alternatives found, but lost for good. That is where the events industry is. I heard last week that our long-term marquee supplier Attwoolls had decided to close its business for good. There will be others. Attwoolls was one of the largest suppliers, so who knows who will be left standing when we enter 2021?

In more positive news, look out for our special #APFthatneverwas showcase next month! Forestry Journal and ourselves are putting together a unique ‘catalogue’ for the 2020 show, featuring all the exhibitors and products that were due to be launched. It will also contain recollections from previous shows dating back to our first ever one in 1976.

While looking up some information for the showcase, I dug out the back copies of catalogues that I keep from each show and found I have some gaps. I took on the role of exhibition secretary way back in 1993 and I found I have no catalogues pre-1994 and am missing my copies for 1996 and 2000. Both of those shows were at Weston Park. If you have copies of any of these and would be happy to donate them to the APF archive I would be delighted to hear from you.

When you receive the special #APFthatneverwas showcase next month, please take time to read through it and, if you are in the market for some new kit, please support the exhibitors within. The APF demo has a great reputation for being the place to come to see and buy new equipment. It is why so many exhibitors book with us. They know they will have some very discerning and serious buyers and very few ‘tyre kickers’! We get lots of feedback about how much business is done over the three days. Those three days have been lost this year. Please support our exhibitors if you can; they are one of the reasons the show is so enjoyable.

Now a word of caution: several of our exhibitors have received emails offering them the APF 2020 visitor database for a fee. This happens practically every year. It is, of course, a scam. No such list exists and we never sell visitor information to third parties. If you receive such an email ignore it and consign it to the deepest depths of your junk folder.

Finally for this month, a ray of sunshine. Last week, one visitor bought two online tickets for APF 2021. Whoever you are, I admire your optimism and confidence. I shall dig out your details and send a small prize over to you!

It does emphasise that we are open for business. Our online ticket site is working. We are open for exhibitor bookings. Maps and booking forms are on our website and if you book now there is nothing to pay until 2021. That sounds like one of those sofa adverts on television!

Keep smiling and see you next month.

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Thanks – and stay safe.