Yesterday I headed off to the Gauge O Guild spring event at Kettering. According to the programme, it was going to be a cracking event. I had a couple of things to do there so I was looking forward to it.
Although the venue is close to Kettering station, a quick check showed that this would cost a fortune and involve 3 changes of train as well as taking 4 hours. With three shoebox sized items to deliver I didn't think this was (sadly) much of a plan.
So, I set off in the car. The route planner showed about 45 miles and by ignoring the sat-nav until the last 8 of them I could eshew the motorway system in favour of A roads which saved me the awkward M6/A14 junction too.
Arriving at the venue, I caught the back of a traffic jam. A big one.
It seems that the "Leisure village" the show is held in has perfectly adequate car parking for a normal Saturday morning. What it doesn't have is sufficient when the sports hall has been let to a model railway show and several hundred modellers have chosen to attend. The parking was full. Cars were "creatively" parked on flowerbeds and corners. A nearby housing estate, which like most modern estates is designed to discourage on-street parking, was also full of cars.
After 5 minutes I turned around and headed home. Getting a bit lost meant 110 miles worth of petrol used for no reason. I mean, I don't like driving. If I just wanted to listen to the radio for a couple of hours I could stay at home with a cup of tea and do it without peering through a rainy windscreen.
Sadly, this is a problem all exhibition manager have to face. If you want to hold a big show you need a big car park. A very few modellers will use public transport. Most screw their faces up if you say that's the best option. For years I used to stand behind the layout talking about the Leamington show and being told that the person wouldn't be coming as it was an in-town show and so there would be no parking. There was, but they wouldn't believe it.
The problem is the numbers. You need spaces for all the exhibitors and traders. The club members and then the visiting public. For most shows that means well in excess of 1000. For the larger events 2000+ is more like it. A leisure centre simply doens' have this sort of parking spare on a Saturday morning. Even some exhibition centres struggle. Don't think the punters will car share to help either. 1.25 persons by car is the best you hope for. Most of them will arrive on Saturday morning too so while a few hundred spaces might be OK in the afternoon, you will be stuffed if that's all you have in the morning.
Those are big and scary numbers which most managers deal with by pretending that they don't exist or hoping that some magic will happen on the day. The alternative is to get a venue with enough space and accept that this will be several thousand pounds a day to hire. Which the punters will moan about when they see the price to get in.