Seabrook on ... new thinking for Glee

The Glee exhibition is the one occasion in the year when all sections of the British garden trade meet. But it is also of international significance, with many foreign suppliers and buyers attending.

The exhibitor support is, however, shrinking. When I was there on Sunday afternoon and Monday, the attendance appeared to be down. One leading exhibitor of 30 years' standing expressed concerns over the fragmentation away from this most important of trade events.

He pointed out that LOFA had left, rumours floated about over the likelihood of GIMA staging its own show and some nurserymen have suggested the HTA creates a national stand-alone exhibition for nurserymen.

Of course, both Glee's organisers and the NEC have to make a profit, but there comes a point when costs for exhibitors are just too high. When most horticultural companies are cutting costs, when buyers are driving ever harder bargains, it makes no sense to increase the Glee charges to loyal nursery company exhibitors by 18 per cent for 2009 and up the card rate by five per cent overall.

Why is it necessary for the NEC to charge £60 a lift from the lorry in the yard and then another £60 to move the same heavy object through the hall? Surely one forklift could do both jobs and halve the cost to exhibitors.

Entries for the new products competition appeared to me to be down, yet there were plenty that didn't take part in the competition in the halls. Why? And why are the winners not announced until Monday night? I can see no reason to deny visitors attending the first two days the winners' names.

Sunday night's machinery manufacturers' dinner was half the size of 2007, I'm told, and here again, costs are taking their toll.

This is an important exhibition and the interests of both exhibitor and visitor need to be looked after. New thinking needs quickly to come to the fore to breathe new life into Glee, to protect this valuable national asset.

- Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster

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