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 for 2021.

JUST as we all thought we were turning the corner from this cursed virus, a second lockdown is sprung upon us. The pubs are closed again and everyone, except in key industries, is confined to barracks once more. Just like spring, but with worse weather!

The forest and arb world seems to be operating, within the guidelines, without too many problems and training courses are still going ahead.

The Prime Minister has vowed to lift the lockdown on December 2, so we can all have a ‘normal’ Christmas, meet our mates in the pub and have the family round to celebrate. Will it happen? Who knows? There are no doubt many people secretly very glad they may not be allowed to visit their in-laws this festive season.

No sooner had this lockdown been announced than, almost immediately, came the silver lining that a couple of vaccines appear to be 95-per-cent effective against COVID and should be available early in the new year.

READ MORE: Bringing you the #APFthatneverwas​

From an APF Demo point of view, we can do little more now than sit and wait for the restrictions to be lifted and for mass gatherings to be permitted once again. Our team has put everything in place it can. The site is booked and kit reserved for next September. We just need the green flag. Social distancing needs to have been lifted or the show will just not be the place we all want it to be. You want to come and touch, try and buy equipment, and having signs saying ‘Do Not Touch’ is not conducive to relaxed shopping.

Fingers crossed that any rules will be sane and practical. You may have seen last month that, when West Ham were playing Manchester United at the Olympic Stadium recently – a venue with an 80,000-seat capacity – fans were, of course, banned. However, if you wandered just 100 metres down the road, you could pop into the local cinema and watch the match live. Crazy!

From emails and enquiries I am getting, there is a tangible feeling that the industry is really looking forward to the show. Government plans for new tree planting, both urban and in the countryside all over the UK, are getting a lot of publicity at the moment, and it appears that, for once, long-term plans and better funding are being put in place.

We want to make APF 2021 a real celebration of the trees and timber industry, showcasing what we can offer and capturing the public interest. In many other European countries, where forest cover is over 30 per cent of land area, the public is engaged and understands the importance of forests and trees for a wide range of activities, from timber to mushroom picking. In the UK, this is far less so and we all need to do what we can to educate people. Our school visits programme will be better than ever. We want to use the event to showcase what our industry is all about, from horses to harvesters, seeds to the sawmill.

As we approach Christmas, all I want in my stocking is a statement from the government stating all restrictions on shows are lifted. Have a great socially distanced Christmas!

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