Landscape Live 2015

In the last review of a so-called "Trade Show", it was mentioned that there is something of a vacancy for a good exhibition/show/celebration of our trade, and that there are a number of candidates vying for the position. Obviously, attracting good exhibitors is one of the keys to success, as is bringing in the visitors to whom those exhibitors can flog their goods and services. I'd venture that a third key element would be a decent name. Too many of these candidates are relying on the term "Landscape" in the show title and it's becoming extremely confusing.

A couple of weeks ago it was Landscape Show ; this week it's Landscape Live ; next month it's FutureScape . More than the need for a decent trade show, there's a desperate need for an original title, so those of us cajoled into attending these events can recall which is which, which to recall, and which to reject.

Anyway, Landscape Live . On the plus side, it's held outside that London, which can only be a good thing. It has a seminar/discussion programme, which seems to be de rigeur these days, it's been reasonably well promoted by the organisers, and there were complimentary reports emanating from last year's event. So: on with the bike leathers and head off over the Pennines to the venue at Yorkshire County Cricket ground.

Finding Leeds, was easy enough, but the signage for the cricket ground is, as far as I can tell, non-existent. There are signs for Headingly Stadium, the ground used by Leeds Rhino Ruggerby League, but is that the same as the cricket? After checking an online map (how did we ever cope before smartphones?) it turns out that the two are adjacent (well, they wouldn't appreciate scrums on a cricket square, would they?), but even then, the way in is not exactly obvious.

At the side of the rugby bit, I spot a flaccid piece of A4 strapped to a gate proclaiming it to be the car park for Landscape Live. A further sequence of well-camouflaged sheets of paper affixed to lamp-posts points away from the car park, back up the lane. Tracking these indicators for a couple of hundred metres, to the point where they suddenly disappear, I park the bike on the road by the side of the final 'clue' and head off in search of the elusive event. Thankfully, a very helpful steward directs me to a building another 200m away, and that's when I notice a couple of those whip banners very cleverly concealed behind a barrier blocking access to what looks like a private parking area. This must be it!

Through the doors and no real indication of where to go, but it's obviously not on the ground floor. Take the lift to the 1st floor and here we are: Landscape Live in all its glory.

Except it's really not very glorious.

It's a long, gallery room, with relatively small booths pinned against the walls. Even the biggest of booths couldn't be more than 10m² in total, and many were barely half that. Halfway down The Long Room an array of seats have been laid out facing a raised dais of a stage, which turns out to be the forum or seminar area. Sadly, none of the advertised discussions or seminars, and there are only four in total, are of any interest unless you are into the greenery.

And the same goes for the overwhelming majority of exhibitors. Only three of any interest to a hard-landscaper, possibly four if you want to include cell/grid pavers and geo-textiles from ABG Geo-Synthetics.

I had a chat with each of the paving exhibitors, Westminster Stone with their National Trust Collection, Natural Paving with a sideshow of the lovely Vande Moortel clay pavers, and right at the bottom, CED with a small display of samples and brochures. Not once was any of these conversations interrupted by visitors looking for information. That is very worrying. Very, very worrying.

Still, there was great chat about motorbikes with CED, and Rugby League with Westminster. By the time I got to Natural Paving, both they and I seemed so dis-spirited that we did little more than exchange pleasantries.

It's probably not fair to bemoan the organisers. It wasn't promoted as a hard-landscaping show, and, if the soft-stuff is your sort of thing, then it may well have been an interesting hour or two, but for us on the hard side of the trade, it has no relevance. Not enough to interest a pavior, not enough space for the exhibitors to make a serious impact, not enough visitors to warrant those few exhibitors spending any more than they did.

Had I driven there, I'd probably be annoyed at the wasted fuel and time, but as I went on the 'bike and it was a decent autumnal day, at least I had the consolation of being able to saunter home along winding country roads through glorious countryside, which certainly helped mellow my experience. However, in the cold light (and damp) of the following day, the only honest assessment I can make of Landscape Live is that, for paviors and hard-landscapers, it has no real appeal in its current format.

If it's staged again next year, unless it's at the British Legion just down the lane from here, I don't think I'll be bothering, and that's a very sad state of affairs because our industry needs a good show. Landscape Live, judging from yesterday, is not that show.