Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Guess the Exhibition...

One of the things about living in Earl's Court is that the events at the Earl's Court Exhibition Centre become part of the warp and weft of life, especially if, like me, you can see it from your bedroom window, and use the same entrance to the underground station as the punters visiting a trade fair, event or concert.

I can actually hear the music - and applause - from rock concerts at the Centre, though thankfully they have to finish before midnight. They always bring with them a certain number of stretch limousines in their wake, which have to find somewhere to park during the concert - either by double-parking, or simply prowling around the streets for a few hours. It looks eerie, when half a dozen such vehicles, all with their dark glass, are cruising around, more Bronx than Kensington...

But the main impact from all these events is simply the volume of punters themselves, most notably in the long passageway that links Warwick Road to Earl's Court tube station. If there is a Trade Fair on, I like to play a little game of 'guess the exhibition', by looking at the people attending. (Of course, I could just look at the Billboard, but that would be cheating).

Travel shows bring a mixture of smart suits, coiffured and painted ladies, all in a wide variety of nationalities, presumably all plugging their little patch of earth to potential tourists and promoters. IT shows just reinforce the stereotype (sorry, folks) with a mixture of affable, studenty-looking geeky types, and a rather smaller number of very slickly dressed entrepreneurs who have clearly made a mint out of some or other, and have spent some of their new-found wealth at Versace or Armani (possibly both). Book fairs have lots of nice, earnest looking people who resemble my primary school teachers; who else wears corduroy is such quantity, these days? Currently, there's a show on for on-line gaming, which seems to have brought out a lot of designer suits, and very expensive-looking Italian footwear (black lizard skin, pointy toes). Clearly, there's real money to be made in that business - or do they just have to look the part?

Concerts are a different matter altogether. Firstly, there's the crush: trying to enter when the fans are arriving for the start of a concert is rather like trying to go the wrong way through a herd of stampeding wildebeest. The deadly serious look on their faces implies they are on some kind of mission, whereas I seem to become completely invisible. The fans also betray their interests, of course: 40-somethings in smart casuals for any music that predates 1990; lots of well-watered young men downing a last tin of lager before going to watch Oasis; and crowds of seven-year-olds for Boy and Girl-bands.

I was amazed - having never really thought about, if I'm honest - when the Spice Girls came to Earl's Court in the late 1990s. There were crowds of little girls, all in bright colours, all wearing clothes in the style of their heroines: hundreds of seven-year olds bearing their mid-riffs on a freezing December evening, while holding onto their Mums' and Dads' hands. It was slightly surreal, not to say mildly unnerving. I felt rather old-fashioned: at that age, my generation were told to 'wrap up warm!' against the cold, to say nothing of dressing modestly. Heck, we didn't even go to pop concerts at that age.

And finally, there are the regular exhibitions. Lots of well-heeled types, and presumably aspirational families, to the Boat Show; crowds of all sorts to the Ideal Home Exhibition - usually carrying out that year's must-have, but affordable, household gadget (in 2007 it seemed to be some kind of red and yellow floor mop); and an affable and slightly portly crowd, mostly arriving in groups, for the Great British Beer Festival. (No tinned lager for them).

Now, that's one show I make sure never to miss...

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