Sunday, August 02, 2020

When shows come back, do I want to go?

This week, there have been the first flutterings of the return of the model railway show. A couple of sizable events have said they plan to go ahead this year - and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

A few basics:
  • I love going to shows. I really love turning up as either a punter or an exhibitor.Trains, boats, plastic kits, old cars - that's a good day out for me and has been for most of my life.
  • Through a combination of ignorance and incompetence, I don't believe our government has a clue what it's doing or saying.
  • This is a fluid situation and things can and will change over time. The science behind Covid will be better understood. Treatments will get better. Less people will become seriously ill.
  • I like to look at the numbers rather than the click-bait stories in the popular press. Being told that we are about to have an apocalyptic "second wave" when hospitalisations are down, cases per 100,000 tests are down and calls to 111/999 are down is simply playing to the misery porn on social media.
Having said this, like everyone else, I need to decide how comfortable I am going to an event where there are crowds of people who won't social distance and think hand washing after using the toilet, never mind during the day, is for wimps.

One of the issues I suspect will be wearing masks. I don't like it, but have been covered up in shops etc. for weeks before Boris said it was a good idea. Half an hour in the supermarket is one thing. 6 hours plus at a show? I'm less keen. And yes, I know medical staff wear them for long shifts etc.

When I attend as a demonstrator, a requirement for at least one of the events, I'm going to need to sit there with people breathing at me. Statistically, even without a mask, I should be fine, but in my head, there is still a risk. I'm sure there will be plenty with spurious reasons they can't wear a face covering too, and suspect the overlap with those who don't see the point of showers and washing machines will be large.

We've spent months being told that trains and buses are dirty. That you should never venture outside. That everyone breathing on you means death. The drip-drip-drip of this sticks in your head. I've not rushed to the pub, booked a holiday or headed to the beach, and I still don't want to. Since the end of March, I've been in exactly 6 different shops, two supermarkets, two hardware shops, a model shop and a newsagent, and right now, that's plenty. Even when we were allowed a single stroll a day for exercise, I didn't bother because when I tried, everywhere was too quiet and horrible to stay out. Far better to hide indoors. In safety.

So, I look at the science and the statistics (except the PHE ones which it turns out are rubbish and they don't seem inclined or able to fix) and am uncomfortable with heading to a show. How many people who get their news from the Daily Doom are going to want to go anyway?

"Vaccine" I hear you cry. Well, we won't have one for months and then to be effective you need 80-85% of the population jabbed. Already the anti-vaxers are out in force and there will be many potential Andrew Wakefield's lining up with made up science to do for Covid vaccine what he did for MMR. We might do some good there, but it's a very long way off.

The shows that will be back first are trade events. Lower numbers, better separation because of this and people in clean clothes with washed hands make these a much more plausible idea. I hold out some hope for the London Toy Fair in January. Just a little.

Toy train shows with a scrum around layouts and trade stands? That's a very different prospect.

How's everyone else feeling?


Andy in Germany said...

I sympathise. Here the lockdown wasn't as severe, and being an introvert I must admit the emptiness didn't bother me too much.

I've become accustomed to wearing a mask at work now, but I ave a number of clients who wear a plastic visor which has a number of advantages: their face is visible, they don't get steamed up glasses, and it protects them, whereas my cotton mask protects other people but not me.

That may be an option, or maybe a sign on the bench "Please wear a mask or keep 1.5m distance"? and keep sanitiser on hand so you can wash your hands.

I dunno, it's a tough call as you say.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it one of the great advantages of a vaccine is that you don't need 85% of the population to have had it to protect those who have had the vaccine. Having an approved vaccine protects you however few others have decided to have it. As an aside we need to wait and see how effective any vaccine may turn out to be. 100% effective is unlikely.

The 85% vaccinated is to protect those who haven't had the vaccine. The more of them that don't have it the higher the risk that they will have to live with.

I won't be taking a holiday / visiting shows / visiting anywhere with crowds until an effective vaccine is approved and I have had it.

Nick Brad said...

I'll confess to never having been a regular show-goer before Covid for exactly the reasons stated above. I went to Doncaster quite a few years ago and although I loved the presentations as much as I did the actual layouts etc, the great unwashed scrum downstairs made it much less enjoyable.

I prefer smaller local shows when I attend, but I certainly wouldn't consider venturing out to any shows for a while yet.

James Finister said...

We've been discussing the issues even for trade shows with companies being unwilling to expose their employees and customers to the risk. We are particularly sensitive to it because we know a big show in Singapore was badly impacted at the very beginning, with one friend nearly dying.

The railway world, like the real world, seems split between those who are gung ho but see the risk purely from a personal perspective, and others. I don't see the second group attending shows this year, and I don't want to go to a show attended by the other sort.

On the practical side it is going to mean perspex screens and contactless payments. As for masks it is worth trying some different designs. One design I find comfortable Issy can't stand, and one she likes I can stand but it isn't my first choice.

James Finister said...

Anon, As you say the vaccine also protects those who genuinely can't receive it, for instance because of cancer treatment, but only when a critical mass has received it. Until then we also have to face up to the reality that many in the hobby fall into vulnerable groups.

Nick, I do wonder if this is a chance to rethink the exhibition experience entirely. I must admit I enjoy shows at the Peterborough arena because of the space available. I wouldn't mind seeing the box shifters in their own trade village, perhaps opening in advance of the main show.

I don't know if much market research has been done into what makes a show popular with certain audiences, but I suspect there is some scope for a less is more philosophy.

Apple Tree said...

A well thought out article which expresses what I suspect many of us, particularly in the older generation, feel. Personally I am quite happy in this semi-lockdown, social distancing world and feel no requirement to suddenly rush out and engage with others. I can maintain contact with those who are important to me by internet or phone and internet shopping and pre-ordered pickups keep me supplied. I think we are here for the long haul, 2 years at least, and we may as well get used to the idea.
Government make decisions at a macro level that help to stop the NHS collapsing and keep the economy going. They do not and cannot make decisions for you personally, that is your responsibility and the actions you decide on are individual to you and your circumstances. Are you in a vulnerable group, what age are you, how is your general health and are your family and close friends at risk ? These points, and many others, will decide for you the level of risk you are able to take. For me at least, they do not include attending in person exhibitions and shows.

Grahame Every said...

To me, hobby shows are simply another place where the potentially infected are likely to gather, like shopping centres, pubs, restaurants, concert halls and on and on. No, I don't feel safe, some of my family have had a brush with this thing and are still suffering months later, so best to avoid it any way you can. My hobbies are very important to me, they have got me through the last four months, but they are less important than life. It's not just my life: if I get it, all those I see daily are at risk. Not even model railways are worth that.

BR60103 said...

About 18 years ago SARS struck us. This was less dangerous than CoVid is turning out to be We held the NMRA convention in Toronto but HQ cancelled the train show. American companies were not going to require employees to come to Canada because of liability issues. The local organizers put on a show anyways.
Just a couple of points to think about.

I'm not going to any shows for quite a while yet.

Phil Parker said...

Some interesting comments. I suspect a lot of my issues are because I've been able to hunker down and ignore the rest of the world in my own little bubble. Had I been out and about working then maybe the world would look bigger and more open.

Quite a few of us have found that we are perfectly happy with our little worlds and I wonder how many will be perfectly happy to avoid mixing with people, even if they aren't diseased, in the future?

Unknown said...

Hi Phil
Your post is remarkably timely as we (as in Bole Laser Craft) were having to make some decisions about future shows only last week. For us not attending shows indefinitely is not really an option as they are a shop window for potential customers. Many customers still don't trust the internet and like to physically see the products before they part with their cash. However these are the customers who are most likely still to be "shielding" and I don't expect to be talking to many of them on the other side of the table before next autumn.

Many things will need to change if/when shows resume. Picking up the models to have a good look at them will be out for the time being. We are planning to display all our models in "glazed" display cases. Contact less payment is a bit of an issue as most of our transactions exceed £45 but we will sort something out

One of my big worries is the actual show set-up and break down. Anyone who has seen the break down of an all weekend show when everyone is trying to pack up and get out of the door within 30 minutes, will know what I mean. Trying to maintain a 2 meter distance will be challenging to say the least.

Huw Griffiths said...

I suspect that, when shows return, a number of us will judge for ourselves, based on available evidence and gut feeling - in all honesty, a bit like visiting various shops now.

There are, however, a number of factors which might sway these personal decisions.

Having to buy everything using "plastic" would probably be a turn-off to a number of people - since punters at shows and hobby shops often try to get their "must have" purchases into the house as quietly as possible, with no "paper trail".

Any attempt to impose timed show visiting "slots" would be a definite non starter for me (I doubt if I'm alone here). If I'm visiting a show (especially if it's the first one back after a long lay-off), I intend to make the most of the chance - to meet people, see layouts, learn from demonstrators and obtain project supplies I've been wanting the chance to get for rather a long time.

More to the point, I would have spent quite a lot of time and money getting to and from the show and paying for admission.

If, after all that, I get told that my, eagerly anticipated, "Warley" or "Ally Pally" experience SHALL be restricted to an awkwardly timed 2, 3 or even 4 hour fixed "slot", I'd be feeling well and truly swindled - so much so that I know I'd refuse the so called "deal".

A lot of people know that I'm very "quiet" - but, even for me, the "World's Greatest Hobby" is all about the people I get to enjoy it with. If I'm not allowed to meet any people - if I'm not allowed to spend enough time meeting people - then where's the hobby (and the show) gone?

Phil Parker said...

Good point about the setup and knock down at shows. That can be a serious scrum and not something considered by regulations aimed at trade shows with bigger stands. If social distancing is to be maintained then both setup and knock down will take longer. Would shows be happy to close an hour earlier to accommodate this?