The APF Exhibition is the UK’s largest forestry, woodland, arboriculture, fencing and biomass show. Exhibition secretary Ian Millward offers a glimpse into how preparations are coming along for APF 2021.

ANOTHER month goes by and all we seem to have is more uncertainty on the events front. The promised lifting of the lockdown on 2 December never happened and for many the restrictions got tougher.

I was looking forward to a concert in London on 16 December only to hear on the 14th from the Prime Minister that London was, once again, going into Tier 3 lockdown, so everything hospitality-wise was off!

Some glimmers of hope remain. As I write, the first vaccinations are taking place and a huge amount of expectation rides on them. How quickly they will roll out to the wider population is an unknown commodity. If we draw comparisons with testing then we could still be in for the long haul.

So where does that leave APF 2021? The events industry has been making ever-louder noises towards the Department of Culture, Media and Sport about the 2021 events programme. You may have read articles by Emily Eavis, the organiser of Glastonbury, and others about the dire need for rapid information and support from government. The general tone was that many large events managed to weather the cancellation of 2020 shows, but they will not survive a second cancellation. We are fortunate that the APF show has always been very prudent and our overheads are low. We can survive a second cancellation, but we want to put on an event in 2021.

READ MORE: Bringing you the #APFthatneverwas​

Cancellation insurance for COVID-related causes is impossible to source at any price, as most underwriters got their fingers badly burned this year. Many events have asked the government to underwrite cancellation insurance but, not surprisingly, the government is not keen to do so.

Very soon we will need to book contractors to supply tenting, cabins, temporary tracking, toilets, water, electricity and the myriad of other services we need to put on an event. Given the circumstances, it is likely these contractors will want a fairly sizeable, non-refundable deposit to secure their services. This is not unreasonable given the devastation the cancellation of events had on them last year. While we can afford to pay these deposits, we cannot afford to lose them. We are going to have to make a call early this year as to whether to proceed. Many events like ours depend on visitors through the gate to pay the bills. If there are any restrictions in place that are likely to limit our visitor numbers, then we quickly move into a loss-making situation and that is no good for us, our exhibitors or sponsors, who also require a certain level of visitors to attend.

We are hearing noises that some events are receiving encouragement from various authorities that they will be allowed to proceed next year, but other official sources seem to contradict this as it appears to go against current guidance. It is a real minefield trying to wade through information to try and determine what is guidance and what is law – and it all might change tomorrow!

We are seeking an early 2021 meeting with ‘The Powers That Be’ to get to the bottom of this, make our call to proceed, and recommence our planning process and commit to our contractors.

The other vital component in all of this is, of course, support from our exhibitors and visitors. The APF show is nothing without you. Once the decision to proceed is taken, it will be full steam ahead with no stopping. We will need your support for the event to make it work. Our exhibitors need visitors through the gate to buy their products. Advance ticket purchases will be a very positive sign to them. You can book tickets with confidence as we will refund or rollover any ticket money in the event of cancellation.

This event is designed to showcase our industry. We put back any profits from APF shows into the industry. Let’s all pull together this year to make APF 2021 something truly special.

I hope your Christmas and New Year went well, even if it was somewhat quieter than usual. Look on the bright side and think about how much money you saved by not going to the pub!

Put it towards some new tools and equipment at APF 2021.

Very best wishes for 2021!

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Thanks – and stay safe.