The 2015 CLA Game Fair returns to Harewood House in Yorkshire, its first show since 2003. At the venue, there is growing excitement at the event’s return to the north. We ask the team what’s new this year for exhibitors and visitors
A Treasure House of England and architectural masterpiece, Harewood House near Leeds in Yorkshire is a fitting location for the 2015 CLA Game Fair, which will run from Friday 31 July until Sunday 2 August 2015. Architects John Carr and Robert Adam designed the house, built between 1759 and 1771, for Edwin Lascelles, the first Baron Harewood. Home still to the Lascelles family, the Grade 1 listed building is surrounded by grounds designed by Capability Brown.
“We’re really excited to be returning to Harewood House,” says Tony Wall, director of the CLA Game Fair. “Not only is the venue stunning, but its location means the event will appeal to a new audience. In addition, Yorkshire has a long-standing tradition of countryside activities, such as grouse shooting on the moors, for example, and we are looking forward to seeing lots of local exhibitors at the show, as well as a larger proportion of visitors from the countryside and cities in the north.”
Although this is the sixth time the fair has been held at Harewood, the decade-long gap since its last outing has spurred the CLA Game Fair team to freshen up the show by introducing several new features. One of the key differences this year will be the new ‘smart high street’ feel of the event. “As we’ve not been to this site for over a decade, the layout will feel very fresh,” explains Liz Haynes, CLA Game Fair director of operations. “We are looking closely at where we place exhibitors – we don’t want to place similar companies all in the same area, but mix them up and create a more varied, high street-style layout that is more interesting for visitors. Core areas such as Gunmakers’ Row will, however, stay the same.”
The overall quality of the show is also being upgraded, as Robert Sears, CLA Game Fair exhibitor liaison officer, outlines: “We’re reducing exhibitor numbers this year from around 950 to 850 to raise the overall quality of the show, which means that exhibitors that don’t meet our quality standards will disappear. We established an exhibitor group made up of a cross-section of people who attend the show, and it was agreed that this approach is the right way forward, as it’s vital for our audience and the event’s reputation that we maintain a high-quality fair.”
New for this year is the Great British Village, the first major themed area to be introduced at the CLA Game Fair for several years. Showcasing the uniqueness, quality and variety of British life, the Great British Village will include food and drink exhibitors, rural crafts, cultural traditions, entertainment, country pursuits, fashion and more – all of the elements constituting ‘Britishness’.
Robert Sears explains: “The idea behind the new Great British Village is that there are many small companies or individuals in craft or food or that are producing for a niche market that can’t afford to have a big stand. This area has been set up to encourage those smaller outlets to be part of a bigger event, to stress Britishness, and also to encourage local companies from Yorkshire and the surrounding areas. Smaller retailers will still have to apply and meet our criteria, but I am hoping a lot of applications will come via word of mouth, and am certain this area will be extremely popular with both exhibitors and showgoers.”
All new for exhibitors is the CLA online exhibitor hub and microsite, where applicants can apply for space, download and complete relevant forms and set up an online exhibitor profile. Charlie Thomas, CLA Game Fair marketing and PR manager, explains: “This is an important new feature and really opens up the technological world for exhibitors so they can provide information about themselves, control their profiles, see which other companies are exhibiting and get access to relevant information from us. We want to get the word out that all the forms and information exhibitors need can be found on this new hub and we are backing that up by sending out e-newsletters to exhibitors to help them know what to do and when.”
One of the most important issues for exhibitors and visitors alike, and one that has caused some grumbles, is on-site communications. This year, however, the event will benefit from greatly improved mobile coverage, thanks to a £130,000 investment in technology, funding 12 free Wi-Fi hotspots located on the show site. In addition, the show will also feature a broadcast network, dedicated solely to the transmission and processing of credit and debit card transactions. The “123VIP” network, supported by six broadcast masts providing coverage of the whole showground, will enable exhibitors to use a congestion-free payment system, to the benefit of all.
As well as improving communications, the CLA Game Fair team is encouraging exhibitors to get the most out of the show by planning ahead. “We are encouraging exhibitors to work with our dedicated exhibitor liaison team and really plan their attendance,” says Robert Sears. “For example, exhibitors should set goals for what they want to achieve, focus on building a good stand, provide lots of information and ensure their staff are knowledgeable and prepared. We also encourage exhibitors to liaise with us on marketing and promotion, to make the most of social media and to liaise closely with the team which can provide advice and assistance.”
As always, fingers are crossed for the celebration of the Great British Countryside to be blessed with sunshine. “Last year we had a bit of everything weather-wise,” says Liz Haynes. “Yes, we are crossing our fingers, but we have also been proactive on the site itself. For example, we have looked closely at the layout plans, we have been through a formal soil analysis process to learn about drainage, and we are extremely conscious about access in the build up of the show, and will work to ensure the ground is preserved. So we are taking a lot of pre-planned practical steps. But of course, this is an outdoor event, and people do come prepared. After all, the Great British Countryside does mean Great British weather at times!”