Plasa gets its groove back
WORLD: Olympia, the site of the original Olympic Games in Ancient Greece, was described as a sanctuary. And sanctuary is what Olympia London provided to the Plasa show, now in its 40th year.
Following a turbulent three years at the ExCel Centre in East London, Plasa returned to the western side of England’s capital city, taking place just around the corner from its former home of the much larger Earl’s Court. Olympia is a much smaller venue than the Professional Lighting and Sound Association’s annual show has been used to in recent years, but it was in coming back to the Kensington-based exhibition hall – which Plasa called its home between 1988 and 1992 – that it experienced somewhat of a resurgence, an almost resurrection, a rebuilding and a rebirth, reclaiming and recapturing a little of its past glory.
A running joke during the last few years had been that the show’s name should drop letters from its acronym that represent ‘and sound’, as although the lighting portion of the exhibition continued to be well represented, the audio side dwindled to the point where there were just a handful of sound companies on the floor a couple of years ago. Those in the pro audio industry that chose to give the show a try now that it was back in a more central location described their trepidation over whether it would be worth the price of exhibiting, but those nerves were calmed as soon as the aisles filled with hustle and bustle. The hustle was provided in the form of business being done on the exhibitor’s booths, further quashing any fears that manufacturers and distributors might have had prior to the show by delivering an immediate return on investment. The bustle was in part due to the narrower aisles that certainly gave the appearance of a busier show than those staged at the very spacious and spread-out ExCel Centre. This generated a buzz that has been absent from Plasa for a number of years.
‘Audio - it’s back in the game,’ declared the Plasa Show Daily, also noting that ‘audio is higher on the agenda’ with ‘an increase in representation from manufacturers, whether exhibiting in their own right, or in partnership with their dealers and distributors’. As soon as you had passed the security checks and been scanned in, you were greeted by the FBT booth and the sight and sounds of the Italian manufacturer’s loudspeaker systems. As you then wandered around the hall, you couldn’t help but notice that the audio/lighting ratio was a lot more balanced than in previous years, with SSE Audio Group dominating a corner of the floor to showcase its inventory including L-Acoustics, d&b audiotechnik and DiGiCo. Meanwhile, Yamaha and Nexo were sharing a booth next door.
Taking the stairs to the upper balcony that circles the perimeter of the building, you would find booths that were a little more humble in appearance but busy nonetheless, including Adamson Systems Engineering and EM Acoustics. In addition to booths hosted by various educational institutes attracting the next generation of sound and lighting engineers, the upper balcony also played host to various seminar spaces such as the Lighting and Staging Theatre and the Audio and AV Theatre, both of which reported strong attendances for each session. Also located on the balcony were the Innovation Gallery and the Nightclub Room, the latter demonstrating equipment designed for nightclubs from Aura Audio and Shermann Audio.
Wherever you were in the venue, upstairs or down, DAS Audio provided a constant reminder that audio was indeed on the upswing at Plasa by occasionally blasting Olympia with the low frequencies of its Sound Force series. These bursts of bass drew the attention of everyone, ushering in a moment of stunned silence as the vibrations ceased before everyone went back about their business. A battle-cry on behalf of the pro audio industry if ever there was one.
On the lighting side, Robe had arrived with a red double-decker bus in tow. The lighting manufacturer provided regular demonstrations of its latest products, including the newly released Spiider. Also of note was the AED stand which capped off day two of the show by staging the UK leg of its Hog Factor competition from Barco brand, High End Systems. The contest pit teams of lighting design students from universities across the land against each other to put on the best lighting show to music using only High End Systems products.
Whereas Plasa has been considered more of a domestic show for the UK-based pro audio and lighting sectors in recent years, there was more of an international flavour at the 2016 edition. Exhibitors noted plenty of traffic and interest from visitors that had flown in from across Europe as well as a small contingent from the Middle East and Africa.
It was also encouraging to see the camaraderie of the industry on full display as the show slowed down for the day after 5pm. Not one frowning face was to be found as the atmosphere at the event during the prior days had raised the spirits of all. Plasa has seemingly rejuvenated itself by moving back to an old venue and in the process regained its life and soul.