FROM THE EDITOR: Industry has to debate issue of creating a united voice

There is no greater rivalry between venue managers than that of Earls Court & Olympia's Andrew Morris and Excel's new chief executive Jamie Buchan. Hardly surprising when some indecisive organisers are still flitting their shows from one venue to the other. Until now little was known about Buchan. In an exclusive interview with Event (page 23) he reveals a shrewdness that will serve him well in his mission to seduce visitors and organisers.

Morris on the other hand is well-known for the kind of canniness that led one newspaper reporter to leap to the conclusion that ECO Group was lining up a bid for its arch-rival. But he is also renowned for his intelligent insight, and his call to absorb the three key trade bodies into the Association of Exhibition Organisers with one single industry agenda is worthy of debate.

The Exhibition Venues Association has lost its chairman after only six months. Bill Ross has the charisma and understanding that is required to lobby government and promote strategic initiatives. But because his venue has plans that go beyond his retirement age, the industry as a whole loses out. This wouldn't be the case if Ross were full-time chair of the AEO's venue division.

Lynn Felton, director of the British Exhibition Contractors Association, is fighting back over claims that the organisation should do more to protect its members, but the reality is that a combined force is a stronger force.

Logistically, there may be too many mountains to climb for one voice to speak on behalf of three wide-ranging sectors with overlapping issues.

But the debate is vital to ensure that every conceivable way to make our industry stronger has been assessed.

Event will continue to debate the issues that matter, which just leaves me to make a rallying cry of our own - deadline for entries into the 2002 Event Awards is 17 May. The judges will be looking to reward the cream of the exhibition and live event industries so entry forms need detailed preparation to reflect the quality of each project.

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