Showlite and PPMA - a lifelong partnership

Posted on Thu 25th Jan 2018 at 1:34pm

In an interview which took place shortly before his sudden death, Paul Wicks reminisced with David Harrison of PPMA about a partnership and close friendship that had lasted nearly 30 years. From shared business values, heavy gales and birthday celebrations on a fork lift …

When eight founder members established the PPMA in 1987 it was with the aim of holding their own trade show. Unhappy with the UK show landscape at the time, they decided they could do a better job! The rest is history – the first show took place a year later in Telford with 40 exhibitors and has gone from strength to strength.

The event outgrew Telford in 1993 and has taken place in a number of different venues since including the NEC, Wembley, G Mex and ExCeL before making a permanent home at the NEC. A joint venture with Reed Exhibitions was announced in 2001 lasting until 2014 when The PPMA Show once again became independent under the expert guidance of David Harrison.

Today, the PPMA Show remains the flagship event in the machinery supply calendar and continues to attract a high calibre of visitor. The recent event which took place at the NEC delivered 7,500 visitors and 350 exhibitors representing 1,500 brands.

Accompanying PPMA on the journey over the last 30 years has been Paul Wicks, founder of Showlite, who has worked on every single edition of the show, firstly as an electrician and for the last 25 years with his company Showlite.

This is a long standing relationship like no other.

David Harrison, who has been with PPMA for 27 years comments on the partnership “There’s a reason we’ve been with Showlite and that’s because they’ve contributed to our success. We can certainly attribute the continued growth of PPMA down in part to the smooth and seamless build up on the show each year.”

“We share the same business values – integrity, honesty, service and trust – and we can completely rely on Paul and his team to deliver. Showlite are an intrinsic part of the team, completely reliable and always on hand to fix any problems. Nothing is too much trouble. Showlite have a total focus on service.”

Paul Wicks remembers the early days at the Telford Racquet and Fitness Centre as it was then. “In those days the venue had just been bought from the council and had to be boarded out before each event to protect the still very valuable tennis courts. There were no mains to speak of and for PPMA Show we surrounded the building with generators and air compressors to service the show and had to fly all services in from overhead.”

“It was cherry pickers and catenary wires and at least two days solid work to install the mains, on top of a three day build for contractors. Today, we get just three days to do the complete build even though it is still the most technical installation that we undertake. The physical size and quantity of the supplies required and our continued promise to work with each exhibitor to provide options to help keep their electrical spend at a realistic level is a challenge which we rise to every year!”

“Over the years we have seen it all. Machines dropped on the cobbles at Manchester G Mex, a spike holding down a marquee hammered through an underground mains cable and I even broke my thumb and wrist at one Telford PPMA build. Whilst rushing along reading a plan I got my boot lace caught in some discarded timber in the aisle.”

David Harrison remembers the year it blew a gale: “Before the days of hall 3 at Telford, the show ran in a marquee. To make the marquee level the flooring was 1.8m tall on scaffolding at one end and Showlite would run their cables under the marquee and up through the floor. Anyway, the year of the gale the whole marquee swayed and moved about and a cable was pinched by the scaffolding creating an intermittent fault that took a while to find. Sadly it was the PPMA Chairman’s stand that was affected and he wasn’t a happy man at the best of times! But it was testament to Showlite that they worked tirelessly to find the fault and fix it as quickly as they could.”

“The people are just exceptional. I have seen Showlite grow from 4-5 people up to a team of 35 and everyone subscribes to the ethos of the company. We know we are in a safe pair of hands whatever the elements may throw at us!”

“When PPMA came out of the joint venture with Reed Exhibitions, it was vital for us to prove we were capable of running a better show. It was important to have a professional safe pair of hands and Showlite were the only supplier who has stayed with the show, right from the beginning, through the joint venture and up to the present day.”

“At the end of the day it’s all about the deliverables and with Paul and the team, we are a real partnership. They are great team players, focus is on service delivered with a hands-on, can do attitude. I wouldn’t work with anyone else!”

Paul Wicks comments, “I look forward to this show every year. It is extremely high pressure due to the timescale for an event of this complexity compared to the luxury of years gone by, but it feels very special to be part of a team, who I have worked with annually for the majority of my working life. We have enjoyed birthday celebrations on the forks of a forklift, team building events standing on the top of a telegraph pole, team caricatures drawn, days out watching rugby, sailing, team meals, drinks and Christmas dos. I am extremely proud to have been a very small but important part of their show.”

“However, there is one down side for me, I have a son Tom who was born on the 26th September 1993 and because of The PPMA Show I have only ever made it home for his birthday on a handful of occasions in his 24 years. I hope he understands now!”

David Harrison is the Group Exhibition Manager on the PPMA Show. Paul Wicks was the founder and owner of Showlite

Our Services

“The onsite team is always happy to co-operate with the inevitable last minute changes.”
Natasha Messer, Events Operations Manager, Prospects Events
“Showlite deliver exceptionally high levels of personal service. I know that I can rely on them to deliver throughout all aspects of the pre-planning, build and onsite work”
Mark Mayo, Director, Motorcycle Expo
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Mirabelle Chatterjee, Head of Operations, Nineteen Events
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Diane Sheppard, Event Operations Manager, Quartz Business Media
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Andrew Reed, Managing Director, William Reed Business Media
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Karen Harris, Operations Manager, Idex Media
“Showlite have worked hand in hand with us, investing in design, stock and materials developing an innovative product for our customers”
Bill Hammond, Managing Director, 3rd Street Group
“It has been a pleasure to work with Showlite who provided a seamless delivery both presite and onsite.”
Paul Clarke, Organiser, Installer Live
“My sincerest thanks go out to all Showlite staff who played an invaluable part in what seemed the impossible task. It goes without saying that I would not hesitate in recommending their services to others.”
Phil Valentine, Managing Director, ETES, Southern Manufacturing & Electronics
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Nicola Greenaway, Managing Director, Nineteen Events
“We have a longstanding relationship with Showlite. They demonstrate a real professionalism and dedication and I look forward to working with the team again!”
Hannah Webb, Head of Operations, Hemming Group
“A massive thank you for helping us make this year’s Hearth & Home Exhibition a success. ”
Claire Cox, Hearth & Home, Fireplace Marketing Company
“Thanks to everyone at Showlite for a job very well done at The Mayfair Antiques & Fine Art Fair! The event went beyond expectation and there were hardly any glitches at all.”
Ingrid Nilson, Director, The Antiques Dealers Fair Limited
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Joy-Fleur Brettschneider, Marketing & Operations Director, Solar Media Limited
“Thank you so much for all your support on PATS this year. Showlite were absolutely brilliant. ”
Jo Scotting, Head of Operations, Impact Exhibitions
“We always know we’re in a safe pair of hands with Showlite. They deliver professional results with attention to detail and focus on service.”
Jo Foreman, Operations Manager, Brintex
“I would recommend Showlite completely from the level of personal service, quality of work and positive work attitude to keep on going until the job is done.”
Emma Barratt, Managing Director, Broadway Events
“Thank you for all your help and support for the NFE show. We had a lot of last minute changes, and Showlite were very accommodating and professional.”
Angela Long, Sales and Marketing Executive, Wesley Media
“Many thanks to Showlite. Everything went really smoothly and the show looked absolutely fantastic.”
Mandie Lavin, CEO, NAFD
“Phex has never looked as good and the build-up and breakdown went really smoothly. Thanks to everyone. I look forward to be working with you again in the future.”
Julie Pollet, Operations Manager, Brintex
“Showlite are the ultimate in prior planning and preparation. We never have any problem and if we do have an issue we resolve it there and then. We love working with Showlite.”
Andrew Reed, MD, William Reed Events & Exhibitions
“Big thank you to Showlite … once again it was a pleasure working with you all again and look forward to 2018!”
Sam Hunt, NMBS Events Manager
“Many thanks for the brilliant job you did on this year’s UKIVA which was a great success. The team pulled out all the stops to make sure everything was ready in time and ran smoothly throughout the day.”
Christine Valdes, Event Organiser, UKIVA, PPMA Group
“We would like to thank you and the team for an excellent build and all your help in the move to Mall Galleries after 25 years. ”
Gay Hutson, Founder and organiser, 20/21 British Art Fair
“The event looked great and the help and advice from Showlite throughout was invaluable. ”
Toby Merigan, Founder, European Sport Fishing Show
“Thank you for being a magnificent partner to Highways UK. Love the Showlite can do attitude and the smiles and personality that come with it.”
Andrew Dowding, Managing Director, Essential Infrastructure Events
“We have had excellent feedback from exhibitors and visitors and this is testament to the excellent partnership we have with Showlite.”
Justine Devereux, Operations & Project Manager, Xmark Media Ltd
“It was great to have Jenni onsite as it really makes a difference having her help to co-ordinate all aspects of the project.”
Joel Swarc, Associate Director, Promotor Events Ltd
“I would like to highlight the outstanding performance of Ross Isolda during the build up of the recent Foodex show at the NEC. I would like to thank him - and the boys on the tools also, for making the whole process as smooth as it was considering the challenge. ”
Phil Birch, Team leader, NEC mains services, NEC

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