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Personal reflections: 15 years of PG Live

Joint show director Warren Lomax reminisces about on the event’s life so far

 

It’s the 15th anniversary of Progressive Greetings Live and joint show director Warren Lomax has been reflecting on the growth of the show.

Having set up the UK’s only trade show dedicated to the greeting card industry with his co-directors Jakki Brown, Ian Hyder and Simon Boyd, here he shares some of his personal recollections of the annual event…

“I can’t believe it’s 15 years – where has the time gone! In many ways 2008, when the first PG Live show was staged, seems like yesterday.

Above: Having been cancelled in 2020 due to Covid, the 2021 show was an emotional reunion
Above: Having been cancelled in 2020 due to Covid, the 2021 show was an emotional reunion

“But then, when you think about what we’ve all gone through in those intervening years – the financial crisis and subsequent economic downturn, the Scottish and EU referendums, Covid and lockdowns and now the Ukraine war and the energy crisis – it feels like a generation ago.

“There have been so many great memories along with a few not-so-great ones. I remember particularly the few weeks before the second show, a volcanic ash cloud emanating from Iceland threatened to curtail all international air travel and, since we were expecting export buyers from all around the globe, this was a real worry, but luckily the weather gods were on our side, and a change of wind direction meant the threat never materialised.

“I clearly remember the worries at that first show, despite having a great line up of exhibitors and having promoted extensively, we still wondered if any buyers would turn up, but Jakki repeatedly quoted from the Kevin Costner movie Field Of Dreams, “If we build it, they will come”.

Above: Warren (centre) with Pigment boys Steve Baker (left) and Martin Powderly, who have exhibited at every PG Live
Above: Warren (centre) with Pigment boys Steve Baker (left) and Martin Powderly, who have exhibited at every PG Live

“And come they did! The opening day was packed with buyers, overseas distributors and exhibitors, and everyone seemed to love it. The complimentary lunches went down a storm – especially the vegetarian lasagne which has been a staple on the menu ever since!

“The first night party on site was a riot, but the news in the evening of the death on Michael Jackson and Manchester United losing to Barcelona in the Champions League final also sticks in my mind.

“Being newbies to the exhibition-organising business, we were initially disappointed the second day was not so busy but, as the day wore on, we realised this was when a lot of the serious business was being done, especially by the international buyers who had just been doing their groundwork on the first day and were back to place their orders.

Above: Loyal retailer Sean Austin, of Austin & Co, with Bexy Boo’s Bex Hassett, who has exhibited at PG Live since she started
Above: Loyal retailer Sean Austin, of Austin & Co, with Bexy Boo’s Bex Hassett, who has exhibited at PG Live since she started

“In our second year we introduced what have become PG Live institutions, the meeters and greeters in their greeting card dresses featuring hundreds of exhibitors’ greeting cards, and the soothing sax player Graeme Airth, of Curiosity Killed The Cat fame, providing a jazzy soundtrack to proceedings – although one year the opening wasn’t quite so soothing, courtesy of Davora and a band of colourful Indian bhangra drummers, who almost broke the sound barrier with their vigorous banging!

“It was also in our second year that we introduced the Springboard section which, for many visitors, has become a key highlight of PG Live. This show within a show put the spotlight on new and emerging publishers. Under the auspices of Springboard queen Tracey Arnaud it has given the first start to many new publishers who have gone on to greater things – Wrendale Designs, Bexy Boo, Raspberry Blossom, Rush Design and Stormy Knight to name just a few.

Above: PG Live Aussie distributor and retailer mates at last year’s annual overseas drinks reception on the eve of the show
Above: PG Live Aussie distributor and retailer mates at last year’s annual overseas drinks reception on the eve of the show

“Covid precipitated the cancellation of the exhibition in 2020, but the following year, despite the ongoing pandemic, which had become a pingdemic – do you remember that? – and international travel being prohibited, the great greeting card industry rallied around meaning we could create a great, if partially socially-distanced show. Jakki and I were emotionally moved when the show closed as there was a rapturous round of applause from exhibitors, so pleased to back together.

“So tomorrow we’ll back again for the 15th PG Live, and what looks like being most international one yet, both from an exhibitor front and the overseas buyers we’re expecting.

Above: PG Live is where business and pleasure combine as evidenced at the opening night party – this pic is from 2017
Above: PG Live is where business and pleasure combine as evidenced at the opening night party – this pic is from 2017

“We are so proud that PG Live has grown to become the greatest greeting card show in the world, only possible thanks to our friends in the industry, exhibitors, retailers and overseas distributors, who have supported us over the years.

“We can’t wait to see everyone again and, if you’re a cardie but haven’t yet visited PG Live, come and see what you’ve been missing!”

PG Live 2023 runs tomorrow and Wednesday, 6-7 June, at London’s Business Design Centre. The full article about Warren’s reminiscing appears in Progressive Greetings’ June edition, which can be read online by clicking here.

Top: Saxophonist and PG Live institution Graeme Airth welcoming visitors to the 10th anniversary show…he’ll be there again this year

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