PLASA Show venue doubt1 February 2010
Earls Court exhibition/event centre could be part of a 70-acre regeneration programme following its role in the 2012 Olympic Games, writes David Davies. In addition to being the scene of countless iconic rock performances including Pink Floyd’s multi-show residency with The Wall in 1980, Earls Court is a fixture on the international exhibition scene, hosting trade and commercial events as diverse as the PLASA Show, the London Book Fair and the Great British Beer Festival.
While Capital & Counties – a subsidiary of property company Liberty International – has had a controlling 50% stake in Earls Court & Olympia (EC&O) Venues since July 2007, recent weeks have seen it acquire the remaining shares. Liberty International is currently in its silent period and is due to release full details of the changes later this month.
Despite widespread media suggestion that the demolition of the Earls Court exhibition centre is the preferred scenario, Capital & Counties spokesperson Chris Rumfitt said that, at present, “we are still at the stage of keeping our options open”. Discussions are ongoing with adjacent landholders Transport for London and the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham about the possibility of creating a combined 70-acre mixed-use site, but it is unlikely that any decision will be reached “for some months to come”. A document seeking planning permission, meanwhile, could be more than 12 months away from submission.
“If the [other landholdings] do come into the scheme then putting the three together would give you an area of opportunity of such a scale that you could do something truly fantastic in terms of sustainable city-making,” said Rumfitt. Residential and retail developments could be complemented by a “destination” component that “builds on the heritage of Earls Court”, while the exhibition facilities at Olympia would be “enhanced”.
Although no changes could take place prior to Earls Court’s role in the 2012 Olympic Games, PLASA director of events Nicky Rowland admitted that the possible redevelopment is “obviously a cause for concern because Earls Court has been such an integral part of the show for so many years”. PLASA is in “regular contact” with the venue’s senior management, and whether or not a shift in location is required the focus will be on continuing to produce “an excellent event for the industry which gives people what they need and meets their expectations. Whichever venue can best help us with that will be the venue that we will obviously use.”
Meanwhile, Rowland told Installation Europe that she is working to finalise “some interesting additions” to the 2010 edition of the PLASA Show, which will take place from 12-15 September.