Sunday, March 11, 2018

Cancelling shows

After last weeks snow and the cancellation of Leamington Show, it's very interesting to see how this worked out.

First, the behind the scenes story from the exhibition manager, Mike Collins:

A Winter’s Tale from a Warwickshire Exhibition Manager
Weather forecasts early in the week suggested that the south midlands would miss the worst of the snow and we were confident that the show would be able to go ahead. We carefully monitored the local forecasts throughout Thursday and they changed frequently. A Weather Watch bulletin was posted on our website.
We started to collect information from exhibitors’ and traders about journey prospects. Very rapidly it was obvious that those travelling from the south and west were unlikely to be able to make the trip safely with red and amber alerts posted for that area. Heavy snow was now forecast to fall in south Warwickshire throughout the day on Friday. Withdrawals started to come in and were immediately posted on the web site.
It starting snowing heavily approximately 15:30 Thursday afternoon. Road conditions deteriorated rapidly. We started to receive phone calls and more withdrawals. At about 18:00 the amber alert area extended north to include the south and west midlands and the red zone moved in our direction. A conference call was booked with the key exhibition organisers for 19:30. Heavy snow continued, the list of withdrawals was also growing. The consensus view of exhibition team was that if would be unsafe to continue, but the insurance cover should be checked and senior Board members involved in the final decision. A further conference call involving Board members was booked for 20:30. The Exhibition Manager received notification at 20:15 from the College Estates team that the site would be closed on Friday which confirmed that the decision, already taken to cancel the show. was the right one. The 20:30 conference call was now just a formality to advise the Society Management Board.
The website was immediately updated, e-mail cancellation notices were sent out by 21:45, phone calls were made and text messages sent to ensure all exhibitors were aware of the situation by 22:45.
While all of the above was going on members trying to get to the club on Thursday evening failed and those at the club preparing Kimble for transport the following morning reported severe difficulties with their journeys home. On Friday morning we received a report of 6 foot deep snow drifts blocking all roads around the club. The decision taken purely on safety grounds to cancel the exhibition was clearly the right one.
It's never easy to take such a decision and the safety of all involved over-rules everything else, after all it's only a model railway exhibition! We want to be able to welcome everybody again in 2019.
Cancelling a show is never easy. For a start, you are watching hundred of hours of work vanish through no fault of your own. Any potential for profit, money that helps keep the club afloat, also vanishes. Worse, there are bills that can't be avoided such as the cost of hotel rooms, many hundreds of pounds. 
Fortunately, the club is insured against this sort of thing so hopefully there won't be a financial hit once the (time consuming) claim goes in. 
Great efforts were made to update the LWMRS website, Facebook, Twitter and RMweb through the week until cancellation. Something that was much appreciated by exhibitors, traders and visitors. 
Even this isn't enough of course - 29 people still turned up on Saturday morning to be met by a couple of volunteers who explained the situation. Apart from one chap who moaned that most people aren't on the Internet and there should be a telephone number to call, all understood the situation. 
(As an aside, the phone number thing sound good but unless you give out people's mobile numbers, you tie someone to a landline for the week before and weekend of the show. Then you have to put up with people who just ring for a chat about model railways and can't understand that you aren't there for that.)
A couple of people asked if the show would be held on another weekend later in the year. No it won't. You can't find a weekend when all the same trade, layouts and venue would be available. If they aren't then you're basically starting work all over again. Far better to accept the loss of 2018's show and move on to 2019. 
As it turned out, this was very much the right decision. Friday saw a big dump of snow with 6ft drifts blocking access to the clubrooms, entombing the barrier, other exhibition equipment and O gauge layout inside.
This was a lot of work for several people but was handled as well as you can hope to do these things. Social media and the web can be a wonderful thing in this situation - most people will quickly check an organisations website in this situation and a note about opening can make all the difference. A lesson to learn for others I think...

If you are in the Leamington area next weekend, the open day is still on

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