Party products

15 April 2008

Despite the scudding grey skies and ever present threat of the torrential rain that usually accompanies the UK's Showman's Show, exhibitors at the recent event were upbeat. Most reporting excellent trading conditions and good forward order books. This positive outlook is perhaps not surprising from an industry that is always striving to improve and innovative in bringing new ideas to market. This year was no exception, with new offerings ranging from the small but beautifully formed to the gargantuan.

Beginning with one of the smallest. Marquee staking has been a necessity since we first put canvas over poles. Gone are the wooden pegs of boy scout days, replaced by the modern day metal stake, either manually driven or powered in with modified jack-hammers.

Now, however, comes City B Group with a truly ground breaking new anchorage system called the Terra Bolt. A course threaded ground anchor that is driven in either with an impact driver or manually with a ‘T’ bar and 65mm socket which fits over the nut shaped head. An eyebolt is then inserted into the Terra bolt courtesy of a central thread inside the nut. Removal, often the hardest part of any staking, is easy. Simply unwind the bolt from the ground. Available in a choice of colours – for reasons that are not at all obvious – this little bolt is going to be big.

In previous articles about the show, we have touched on event accommodation. A first time exhibitor this year, Podpads, came up with certainly one of the most colourful exhibits and an unusual approach to accommodating people on festival sites and in private grounds for parties and events.

Taking away the camping aspect, these knockdown, colourful mini chalets come to site and are pre-erected complete with carpet, solar power lighting, 12v power and various bedding options. Looking like something the kids might like, I am not sure that the concept has enough adult appeal to be a real winner.

Moving up the size scale again, the Roka stand, occupying its usual corner site, showed once again what can be done with a catering trailer, turning one into a stunning Wild West themed mobile bar. Coming to site in its closed up side arrangement, it unfolds and expands to reveal the delights within. These include two stunning copper coils which feed the beer pumps with ice cold beer and in doing so get covered with ice, so there is no missing what temperature your drink is going to be. The model on show was sold, but another could be yours for anywhere between £120000 and £170000 (€178000-252000), depending on specification.

Amongst the marquee exhibitors, Spantech stood out for two reasons. First, it was demonstrating an innovative new system for joining aluminium extrusion sections commonly used to create the framework for today' clear span tents. A simple click system takes all the pain out of aligning bolt or pin holes thus speeding up the erection time. This slip fit system replaces the need for bolts or pins-parts – which are often lost in the grass – with a simpler and speedier option.

Bespoke tents

As a manufacturer active in some 18 countries, it has cleverly picked up on local demand for bespoke tents and in particular, the design of the metal structures which hold them up. Thus the second reason for Spantech to stand out from the crowd of regular box section aluminium extruded frames around the showground was a selection of some of their more fancy metal frames-some in steel, which these days is a rare metal in such structures. However, since some of their work is in semi-permanent or even permanent structures, there is no reason why this material cannot be used. They showed in their Concept structures that artistry in marquees is still very much alive.

One issue which divides people who work in offices is what to do with the smokers? Are they banished to loiter furtively at the back door, or will they get their own heated outdoor environment? One company who think this a good sideline use for their new structure could be onto a winner. Ferodo, from Scotland – where smoking in public spaces is now banned – has designed and built a heated terrace unit. Conceived as an alternative to traditional event structures or marquees, it provides comfort and protection from the elements without being totally enclosed. It features integral radiant heaters built into the roof and a clever guttering system allowing rainwater to be ducted away.

Its modularity could allow extended use and I can see marketplaces all over the globe's colder areas for both fixed venue use and temporary events where your VIPs could be housed in comfort whilst watching outdoor events. Plus you could always let the smokers in!

So, finally to the biggest and certainly the most expensive bit of rental kit at this year's show – Arena's stunning new triple decker hospitality unit. Straight off the green grass at this year's Ryder Cup, and therefore only in its second outing, this stunningly appointed structure reeks of class.

High quality fittings and a clever design layout allowing easy transition from the viewing terrace on the third floor via two wide staircases to the lower floors where dining, bars, cloakrooms and lounge spaces are all fitted out to a five star luxury hotel standard.

This latest incarnation of what started out only a few years ago as a ‘Meccano’ style set of knocked-down steel shipping containers which could be reassembled and stacked five high as a series of small hospitality units, just shows what the rarified world of the corporate rental market will demand in the future. As long as the corporate pocket is big, Arena will give them the best.

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