BY the time you read this there will be just four months to go until we open the gates to APF 2022.

Exhibitor bookings continue to come in daily and we have very little space left on the demo circuit. Advance tickets and campsite bookings are flooding in. Please remember if you are booking a campsite pitch you do need to book tickets as well. The cost of the campsite does not include entrance to the show.

The opening of the gates on Thursday, 22 September will be the culmination of a huge amount of work from our team. At this stage we are rather ‘swan-like’ – smooth on the surface, but a lot of activity underneath.

Jem, our chief co-ordinator, is putting the final touches to our temporary tracking, fencing and cabins order as well as finalising our staff requirements. The devil is in the detail and with temporary tracking being a very expensive commodity, getting the meterage right is vital. We need about two miles of the stuff and if you have ever ordered it yourself you can imagine what the cost of that amount is likely to be. Most of our staff are now all confirmed and this leads onto us sending out contracts, getting clothing sizes and determining what training they need. Eric, our assistant safety officer, is sourcing training and refresher courses as required. Eric keeps an up-to-date list of all the various certificates our staff have, from first aid to chainsaws.

Mat, our assistant chief co-ordinator, is finalising our machinery and timber requirements. Gordon, our safety officer, continues to put the finishing touches on our event management plan and is starting the unenviable job of checking through 300-plus risk assessments

We have booked our toilets and showers, water, electricity, IT and WiFi, catering and marquee suppliers. Given what happened in 2020 and 2021 with COVID cancellations, most suppliers are trying to protect themselves by asking for deposits or even full payment up front. I can understand their thinking, but it does hit your cashflow hard and means we simply have to hope the dreaded pandemic is behind us. I don’t want to think about what lost deposits due to another cancellation would cost us!

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Susie, my assistant exhibition secretary, has been keeping up to date with processing all the booking forms and keeping our accounts up to speed. We send out regular bulletins to our exhibitors and one of the problems we have encountered is that, because many of the exhibitors booked way back in 2019 and 2020, there have been many changes to personnel and whoever sent in the original booking form and contact details is no longer with the company. This has necessitated us contacting everyone to update their details.

It might sound a straightforward task, but that is 250 phone calls we would not have had to make in a ‘normal’ year. One or two companies didn’t even know they were booked to exhibit! Others have sent in booking forms, not realising they had already booked and even paid a couple of years ago. Tempting though it is to send out a second invoice – that’s my Yorkshire thrift for you – we have been very honest in letting these companies know they have already paid.

Once an exhibitor books, they are sent details to set up their information in our exhibitor hub. They are then required to upload various pieces of information like insurance details and their risk assessments. Our safety team then looks through these and checks they are adequate. Despite risk assessments having been a legal requirement now for 23 years, we still get some through as blank pages saying ‘no risks on our stand’.

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Needless to say, these don’t pass our suitability test! No-one likes unnecessary paperwork, but with over £60 million of machinery on show and 25,000 visitors, we do need exhibitors to be fully prepared for the event. There is no way around this. No exhibitor is allowed on site to set up unless our safety team has given their RA the green light, their public liability insurance is valid and they have paid. In 2018, we had one lorry parked at the gate for half a day until payment and insurance details arrived.

I do sometimes yearn for the ‘good old days’ when we did all this on a wing and a prayer, without all the paperwork, but what we did back then was a village fete compared to the event we run today. We live in a very different and, I think, safer world. I do like to think, however, that the friendly, helpful atmosphere we generated back in those days still pervades today.