Showcase: BBC Showcase 2005

This year's sneak preview for media buyers boasted ballroom dancing, actor Bill Nighy and a Dalek. Claire Bond reports.

For the 29th outing of the BBC Showcase the corporation, in conjunction with its commercial arm BBC Worldwide, pulled out all the stops. More than 500 delegates from around the world headed to Brighton for an event that offered viewings of at least 600 hours of BBC material.

The showcase, which took place from 27 February to 2 March at the Brighton Centre, is the biggest event on BBC Worldwide's calendar, expected to generate £50m worth of business from licensing and co-production deals.

Indeed, as the showcase has expanded year-on-year the event has run the risk of outgrowing the venue.

At the moment it commands exclusivity on the Brighton Centre and The Grand hotel's meeting and banqueting space. Elaine Gordon, BBC Worldwide's head of events, explains: "We usually book the Brighton Centre three or four years in advance. After this year we're going to have a review meeting and check on numbers because for Brighton we're at absolute capacity and if our numbers increase we might need an alternative venue."

Gordon suggests the choices are limited because logistically the venue needs to be near a major international airport, away from London to avoid losing delegates to alternative events and attractions, and with clear exhibition space able to take 500 individual viewing booths as well as banqueting space that can seat 450 people.

The 3,332sqm set design consisted of block colours from the entrance through to the screening area with images of new programming framed throughout.

"We've used this design six times but it's very simple and very clean, and so it works well," says Gordon.

The only alteration proposed is to the way the shows are screened. "In the future I'd like to change the technology because people are still viewing off of VHS cassettes, which I feel is archaic these days.

"I'd like some kind of video-on-demand system that everybody could access through the screen and key in what they want and download it. But of course the budget has to be right and the technology has to be sound because we rely on it so much."

During the day a whole raft of producer presentations were held in a dedicated auditorium, allowing the production departments to enthuse about specific projects and to show snippets of a vast range of programmes.

Each day was themed to reflect the different BBC genres.

Traditionally a large element of the four-day showcase is the evening entertainment, with themed events taking place each night in the Empress Suite of the neighbouring hotel, The Grand. On average delegates remain at the showcase for three or four days, which means there is a need for some light relief once the meetings and viewings are finished for the day.

Since 2002, BBC Worldwide has produced the gala evenings alongside production company Wild Lemon but this year decided to take all the creative aspects back in house. "The decision was partly due to budgets and partly because I do a lot of creative myself and realised this is the area that I really love," says Gordon, who has worked on the event for seven years.

For this year's showcase her team worked directly with Anagram Production Services, a Cambridge-based firm that provided all technical production at The Grand. Peter Harding, the company's managing director, says: "We sat down in late December and brainstormed with BBC Worldwide. We both had ideas and then - as with anything these days - made them fit the budget."

The first night is normally a relaxed affair that allows delegates to recover from travelling, and this year was based around the new political drama, The Girl in the Cafe. Both the writer, Richard Curtis, and the principal actor, Bill Nighy, were in attendance.

On the second evening one of the most eagerly awaited launches, the revival of Doctor Who, took centre stage. Guests were treated to a live action sequence including a Dalek with an operational laser, and the show's lead writer and executive producer, Russell T Davies, appeared from the Tardis set to present to the media-buying audience.

The Tuesday and Wednesday evenings presented a Frank Sinatra theme and a Strictly Come Dancing spectacle respectively - relating, once again, to programmes in the BBC's impressive portfolio.

FACT FILE

BBC Showcase 2005

Creative: BBC Worldwide

Venue: The Brighton Centre and The Grand, Brighton

Date: 27 February - 2 March 2005

Budget: £750,000

The Brighton Centre

Size of set: 3,332sqm

Attendance: 500 customers + 350 visitors/staff/producers/VIPs

Display, graphics, signage and booth construction: Communication By

Design

Production and audiovisual: RR Events

The Grand: Empress Suite

Capacity: 460

Production, audiovisual, set and design: Anagram Production Services

Florist: Invisible Blue


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