15 June 2020 Events

We have lost our modern pilgrimage – for now

Gareth Ward dreams of what Drupa 2020 could have been as the reality of adapted events – online announcements, webinars, interactive videos and virtual exhibitions – hits.

Drupa was scheduled to open its doors tomorrow and this comment ought to have been written beside the Rhine, not the English Channel. For months, years in some cases, development has been focused on this one day and the ten days that follow. But of course that is not going to happen. There will be announcements and webinars in the coming days as if the show had gone on, and we will have a Drupa Daily story on the website, but it’s not the same. It’s not right.

The organisers have promised the show will go on in April next year, assuming that the world can keep Covid-19 at bay. But now the question is whether the visitors will come. Whether visitors will come to any major exhibition at all. That is a question vexing everyone in the exhibitions business. They fear that the spell binding printers to Drupa is just a habit, that lockdown may have broken. They can point to the collapse of Ipex when it shifted to London as evidence of what follows when an exhibition does not take place.

But the alternatives currently fall short: webinars, Zoom and Teams, open houses, interactive video, let alone any online virtual exhibition, can replicate some aspects of the vast thronging exhibition, but not all. Since the days of Stonehenge, humans have had an impulse to congregate and share vast collective experiences and stories. Drupa is the modern equivalent of that primeval urge. We look forward to responding to our palaeolithic impulse next year, watching the lithographic presses, and sinking a glass of Dusseldorf’s refreshing Altbier.

Gareth Ward