PLASA managing director Peter Heath has spoken to Headliner about what we can expect from this year’s show and the work the organisation has been doing behind the scenes for the industry and its members.
Taking place at Olympia London from September 5-7, PLASA 2021 marks the show’s first outing since 2019. Despite a huge effort from organisers to run the show in 2020, lockdown and travel restrictions meant that the event was unable to go ahead.
This year, Heath and the PLASA team will be looking to capitalise on the momentum that was built up in 2019 to deliver a vibrant and eventful show. Having partnered with ABTT (Association of British Theatre Technicians), the show has transitioned from the venue’s National Hall to the larger Grand Hall, while a comprehensive seminar programme and live stage for everything from musical performances to panel sessions and product demos, ensures that there’s plenty going on away from the exhibition floor as well.
Here, Heath explains what visitors and exhibitors can expect from PLASA 2021…
Thanks very much for joining us, Peter. How are preparations going for the show now that we’re less than two weeks away?
Very challenging but very exciting. Normally, planning the PLASA show is a 10-month process, we’re trying to do it in 10 weeks! With additional hoops to jump through due to Covid, it adds a different flavour.
How have you gone about making this happen in such a short space of time?
The process we have in place starts with the previous year’s show - and hopefully the success of that show - with people committing to coming back the next year. At the end of the 2019 show, we announced we were moving out of the National Hall to the Grand Hall, which is considerably bigger. During the years of 2016-2019 we had grown our audio audience and participation and there was growth pretty much in every area of the show. So when we walked away from 2019 we had good momentum for a really cracking show in 2020. And then Covid arrived. So, there were subsequently real challenges. And we made a couple of false starts, where we were planning for the show to take place, and then Boris Johnson shut things down again so it couldn’t go ahead. So, we really didn’t start working on this show until around April/May of this year.
What has the appetite for this year’s show been like? How determined are people to be at a trade show in-person again?
A very healthy appetite. That was countered of course by the fact that Covid and cash are serious challenges. The international presence has been muted for that reason, although there are still some people who have committed to travel from overseas to be at the show. And from a registration perspective, the response has been very strong. But this is clearly not a normal year.