Icy England after balmy Orlando, and a good time to reflect not just on pleasant encounters with people during the few days of our annual LDI gathering but also on the downtime of the event.
Apart from the aisles of the show floor itself, we spend a lot of time striding the lengthy passageways of one convention center or another, shuttling between show and hotel, hotel and hotel, hotel and restaurant, party venue and hotel, back to show, etc. And the cash outlay! A large company spends nearly quarter of a million dollars to mount its booth, meeting rooms, drayage, hotel rooms, and the smiles on the faces of taxi drivers, valets, and doormen who drain us of the dregs of our loose change.
Event organizers are, of course, hobbled by venue regulations: catering has to be in-house, and every power and flying point installation milked by the house for every dollar it can render, against the backdrop of union regulations that, in some cases, extend to insisting that even for jobs unique to the skills of an exhibitor, a union man must tag along just to justify a fee.
So here is the plan: LDI rents a show ground for its 2007 event, with a central exhibition space and satellite spaces rigged by lean rock crews, not union hefties. Exhibitors load up their trailers with their wares; overseas companies fill sea containers that upon landing are hauled by shiny rigs to converge on the show site. The wagons circle and dock at their respective points around the perimeter of the exhibition space. Crews and sales staff arrive in crew buses, motor homes, RVs, and double-wide film-star trailers.
In a live setting, power companies get to show off their generators, distro, and immaculate cable highways. The crème de la crème of caterers, the same who serve the top bands and film crews, arrive with delicious fresh food. (For those who have never had the hip fortune to eat such fare on a major tour, the quality is far beyond that of any Las Vegas or Orlando restaurant.)
Imagine the luxury of your own transport backing right up to the edge of your booth during the setup and breakdown. Imagine a trailer equipped with your own show sales offices and meeting rooms or a pre-rigged demonstration area. Imagine your staff's accommodation being a stone's throw from the show and transport included, to boot. Imagine Ms. Lampert-Gréaux, the hard-nosed LDI wagonmaster, replete in buckskin chaps and Cuban heels, whipping in untidy parkers.
Come evening, and we pull out the stops on light-fantastic creations backed by the sound men who used to languish in acoustically silenced enclosures and can now loosen the reins on the raw horsepower of their woofers. At night, we marry the vital elements of our business — sound and light — forced apart during the day. Companies compete to create an intimate club ambiance here and stages with foot-tapping DJs and live bands there. The HES house band makes a welcome riotous return. At last, uncircumscribed by taxi lines and shuttle trips, the dancing and merrymaking — entertainment even — fly free.
Such an LDI communal event would abandon the perpetual bipolar disorder of annual shuttle between the two cultural deserts of the Themepark City/Sin City evil axis. We would be free to locate to any state or spot that could accommodate an agricultural show, circus, or Woodstock. RV accommodation would make it a family affair for those who desire it, and cool trips could be made into the hinterland prior or post show.
A few years ago, I served on the design team for the biggest demountable fabric structure in Europe — seating 20,000, swallowing four football fields, yet erectable in a single day. I also know of an available ex-Cirque touring venue. But my all-time preference is geodesic structures free from any pillar, no distinction between wall and floor, every strut of the frame bearing equal load. Unlike the concrete of the convention center, there is a certain exhilaration from just entering such a structure — another, freer order.
I hear it calling us — a great, three-ring circus big top with Camelot pennants flying, magical special effects, sights, and sounds. Shall we meet beneath the stars?
Peter Wynne Willson is co-founder with Tony Gottelier of WWG, which seeks to innovate theatrical, entertainment, and architectural lighting. (www.wwg.co.uk)