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The NEC is one of the key drivers of the West Midlands economy and a major local attraction – but Andy Munro reckons after a recent visit that it’s resting on its laurels.

I haven’t been to the NEC for some time – in fact the last time it was to watch yet another of the Who’s ‘farewell’ tours when I remember Pete Townsend having the temerity to do the vocals on ‘Happy Jack’ whilst he was under suspicion of using the internet for nefarious purposes.

The time before it had been a visit to the Good Food Show when the pain of paying out for the admission AND having to pay extortionate parking fees was deadened by consuming an array of free samples – unfortunately freebies at the Show are apparently now as scarce as the proverbial Rocking Horse ****…and now the same can be said for my visits.

However as part of my Jewellery Quarter job,I needed to beat a path to the Spring Fair and was also looking forward to seeing how one of Brum’s crown jewels was progressing as a top venue in the face of increasing competition.

The good news on arrival was that,as it was a trade fair, the parking was free but the bad news was the stressful process of finding that parking. Right from the start of entering the maze that is the vehicular routes into and around the NEC, there were loads of arrow signs for the ‘Spring Fair’ and lots for ‘Car Parking’ but none bearing the simple legend ‘Spring Fair Car Parking’.

Anyway by the time I had parked, I was so relieved that I forgot to remember the car park number until I had almost arrived at the Hall but luckily somebody on the shuttle bus remembered.

Now for those of you who like shopping – a word of advice – NEVER go to the Spring Fair. There are lots of interesting and innovative products but none are on sale to the public. Mind you some of the stuff is a bit strange and for example in the Jewellery Hall - there was jewellery with insects entombed in them….cockroach earrings anybody?

It was all thirsty work pushing through crowds of smarmy sales reps and glam assistants done up to the nines and all waiting to pounce the moment anybody even broke their was like being in the souk in Marrakesh.

Consequently having made my business calls, I decided to have a relaxing cup of coffee. I might as well have been asking for the finest vintage claret because there was apparently no coffee available and even if there had been, the coffee came from the sort of vending machine frequently ‘gracing’ office tea points.

In fact the state of cleanliness on the tables and the range of food was about as good as Kings Heath Garden Show – another catering opportunity missed.

On my way out, I decided to draw out some cash so I could at least eat something on the way home. Typically all the cash points charged commission and it was only at the third time of asking that I found one that worked.

Overall the NEC was a disappointing experience and it seems to me that the venue has become complacent which is a shame when it needs to be top of its game!

Andy Munro is writing in a personal capacity.


Andy Munro would like to point out that 'my views are personal and not those of the City Council'


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