From the Editor: All bets are off in London's battle of the boat shows

The first notable difference when disembarking from the Docklands Light Railway at Custom House for the Collins Stewart London Boat Show was the sound of seagulls being broadcast above the walkway to match the draped graphics that depicted the trawler-seeking birds.

The effect on visitors as they passed underneath was instantly to smile. National Boat Shows creative director Tim Pyne had achieved his primary objective.

The redesign of an ailing show will often see the introduction of new features, improved catering or ripping up the floor plan to start over.

Last month's Boat Show at Excel did all of this to good effect but it also went further. It brought a smile to the faces of visitors and exhibitors alike.

The mood of exhibitors was lifted by sand-coloured carpet, complete with tide-lines. These design points were small but had an emotional impact on an audience in desperate need of stimulation. Last year, one of the UK's most popular shows had become little more than a cold dealer showroom with dark carpets and unhappy stand-holders. A new creative has stimulated a new emotional connection to an old show that now faces new competition.

These rejuvenated feelings, focused on a love of sailing among exhibitors and visitors, may yet prevent a mass exodus to December's Earls Court rival marine event as the west London venue looks to restore a show that it was originally built to host.

The sailing fraternity in the capital is predominantly in London's south-west and rival organiser James Brooke will look to reminisce about yesteryear to convince member companies of the British Marine Federation (BMF) that their rightful home is west and not east. A history of aborted attempts to launch against the BMF show suggests that support will not be so forthcoming.

And now that the cracks that threatened to rip open the Excel show have been addressed by a proactive organiser and a maverick designer, the battle of the boat shows will not be as one-sided as some may have believed.


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