Stepping into Christmas

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It’s that time of year again when you wrap up warm, start mulling the wine (or cider in our case) and watch retail brands chase the Holy Grail of the best Christmas ad on TV. Full of inter-species friendships, cheesy soundtracks and cloying sentimentality, they all aim to transport the audience to a magical wonderland, not unlike the Christmas fairs of today – the magical wonderland that is. With Christmas events running from as early as October until the end of January, it’ll be hard not to miss one. The question is – how are they all approaching the festive season?Luxury The Spirit of Christmas Fair was one of the first to kick off the November month with a unique and stylish fashion to Christmas at Olympia London. Indulgence was a key theme with a new collection of independent boutiques and emerging design talent, among 600 companies presenting their wares to Yuletide shoppers. The Spirit of Christmas Fair had the food covered too, where visitors discovered culinary delights, festive tipples and specialist delicacies from artisan producers and Great Taste award winners, on 4-9 November. Rural England In preparation for Christmas and in contrast, the Country Living Magazine Christmas Fair decided to bring a taste of rural England to the Business Design Centre, with all the traditionalism that goes with it. More than 400 exhibitors filled the halls with handmade toys, tartan and tinsel, stocking fillers, and seasonal food on 12-16 November. Super theatres? Not one to approach the festive season quietly, River Street Events held two shows celebrating across the country. The BBC Good Food Show London was held at Olympia London on 14-16 November, followed swiftly by the BBC Good Food Show Winter at the NEC on 27-30 November. More than 110,000 visitors are expected across both shows. “Our USP is our Supertheatre,” Laura Biggs, River Street Events MD tells EN. “Every advance ticket included a seat to see a live chef demonstration from the finest in the business including Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, James Martin, Jamie Oliver, Michel Roux Jr, Tom Kerridge, Lorraine Pascale, and The Hairy Bikers.” Biggs says the team increased the size of all the Supertheatres’ to accommodate demand for popular sessions and days. “We had also put in yet more seating and relaxation areas to increase dwell time and new dedicated content areas including the Eat Well Pavilion and Bakes & Cakes area. The BBC Good Food Kitchen was a brand new restaurant at both shows and we’d increased the number of VIP tickets due to popular demand.” The UK’s temperamental weather may have caused a slow start to the shows, along with the increase in food shows each year, but the line-up of talent is what sets both events apart from other Christmas shows, says Biggs. “We’ve been doing it for 10 years so were used to it, it’s a great atmosphere in the office and everyone’s on a high. Our contractors and venues have worked with us for many years so we are in good hands. In the month or so we’ve already run BBC Good Food Show Scotland, Bakes & Cakes and before the beginning of December we will have run another two.” Biggs also says River Street Events’ food shows look at trends within the market and what’s popular in the world of food. “We ask the audience what they would like to see and we develop content with partners such as Lakeland and Cactus – the TV producers of Saturday Kitchen.” Festive Twist Media 10 says there is a dedicated features team who are the creative brains behind every show, that makes each show stand out. “We look at visitor research and current trends to develop our features and fill them with relevant and entertaining content. More importantly, it must have a Christmas theme,” explains Media 10 CEO Lee Newton. The organiser held its first Manchester Ideal Home Show at Christmas at EventCity on 14-16 November with an expected attendance of 35,000 visitors. The show took on favourite elements of the London show and added local twists. The organiser’s third Ideal Home Show at Christmas ran at Earls Court 19-23 November with around 90,000 visitors, claimed to be the largest home event of the winter. “We are fortunate that the London show is now a well-established event, so we can use a lot of the same features and content templates across both and know what works,” adds Newton. “This presents us with another challenge though which is the time constraint of physically building and breaking down the two shows within such a short amount of time. Our show management and features teams have the support of some trusted suppliers to help us through. We’ve turned the Ideal Home Show at Christmas into a roadshow.” Building an ice rink in the middle of an exhibition hall must’ve also proved to have been a challenge for the Loughton-based organiser. “Packing up our launch Manchester show and re-building in London within three days was also a huge challenge for us this year.” What also helps a show get into the festive spirit and attract the crowds - apart from Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? on repeat, - is of course a celebrity appearance. “We pride ourselves on giving our visitors an experience, so that they are not just stepping into another exhibition but are part of an exciting ‘event’. Our celebrity ambassadors also help to bring our show sections to life and help create a buzz at the show,” adds Newton. Fancy dress? Opting for an unique Christmas, visitors converged on Olympia London for an Asian alternative to the festive season. Hyper Japan held its second event of the year with its Christmas market on 14-16 November. A three-day extravaganza of Japanese goods, fashion, food and drink, stage performances and 100 exhibitors showcased popular games and anime to more traditional kimono clothing, ceramics and bonsai trees. Cosplay enthusiasts turned up to entertain the crowds among the likes of the J-Rock appearances. But alas, it’s not even 25 December yet, and we’re looking forward to what else is rocking around the Christmas tree.  This article was first published in the December issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne
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