P&Q Profile: QMJ Group’s Richard Bradbury

By |  March 21, 2022


Hillhead is a popular international trade show, with the last one taking place four years ago. After two postponements, Hillhead will finally return June 21-23 to the Hillhead Quarry in the United Kingdom. To discuss the show’s triumphant return, QMJ Group’s Richard Bradbury paid P&Q a visit. QMJ Group manages the Hillhead show.

How challenging was it having to cancel Hillhead multiple times in recent years?

Going into the first cancellation in 2020, the UK was in complete lockdown from late March. Any gatherings of more than 10 people, you couldn’t hold. So, legally, we couldn’t hold the show in 2020. The exhibition industry in the UK basically shut down for 18 months.

In June 2021, again we weren’t allowed to hold a show. We had no choice in it. It was disappointing because restrictions were starting to lift a little bit but there still wasn’t a green light for the exhibition industry. Buxton, where we have the show, was still quite steep with COVID cases in the area.

The decision was out of our hands. It was government regulations.

In March 2021, we ran a multi-tier, multi-stream conference looking at the themes that were affecting the industry now and over the next decade. We made sure we kept our presence in the market, and we wanted to offer some good value to our exhibitors. It was good to do the digital experience, and we had maybe 6,000 people come through the platform.

It was a good event. We got some very positive feedback, but I also want to be honest about it and say that for actual engagement between visitors and exhibitors, you can’t beat face to face.

Hillhead is expected to have 600 exhibitors for the first time this year. What does that say about the desire to get back to the show?

It’s remarkable, really. We have a lot of people who were booked already for 2020. The vast majority of those companies – about 87 percent – have kept those bookings.

All of the restrictions were lifted a few weeks ago in the UK. Since the middle of January, we’ve had more than 115 exhibitor inquiries. Indoors, we’ve completely sold out and have a waiting list for indoor space.

Photo by Kevin Yanik

More than 600 exhibitors are expected to be at Hillhead 2022, a first for the UK-based trade show. Photo: P&Q Staff

Is there anything new planned for Hillhead 2022?

We extended outside in two areas. At the top end of the site, we’ve extended into one of the demo areas so we can squeeze in a bit more space for exhibitors. And on the quarry floor, we’ve extended about 4,500 sq. meters into the quarry face.

That’s allowed us to get more outdoor exhibitors in, which is why we’re going to end up being about 10 percent larger in 2022 compared to 2018. We’ve got more than 60,000 sq. meters of net space at the show for the first time.

What interest has Hillhead drawn from Americans wanting to attend or exhibit?

There is a lot of interest from the States indirectly, but not as much directly. There are some very big American brands that have UK bases but are American companies.

Directly from the States, we have McLanahan Corp., which is exhibiting for the first time at Hillhead. They’re going to be pushing their washing plants. They’ve got a 772-meter stand at the show. They’re going to build a washing plant, presumably.

Also from the States, we’ve got a bigger presence than we’ve ever had from Astec Industries. They’re keen to do more in the UK market and Europe with their crushing and screening.

Assuming this year’s Hillhead goes off as planned, what is the plan for future shows?

We will keep our two-year cycle. During stable, good periods, we’ve always had people say, ‘Why don’t you go every year?’

It’s about what the customers want. One of the mistakes that quite a bit of exhibitions organizers make is, they have a good thing going and then they overdo it. You have to listen to your customers. Every two years brings about enough change and innovation in the market to present a show that people really look forward to and there’s a lot of new things happening at it.

One of the things I want to get across for 2024 after 2022 is back to basics. Come to Hillhead, show your kit, it’s a working show. Yes it’s nice to provide hospitality, but you don’t need to have triple-decker structures and spend hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pounds on being there. It’s more important to be there, show the products, provide some hospitality but you don’t have to go overboard.

It’s about sustainability going forward as well. Doing things on a sustainable basis. I think, looking out to 2024, getting back to normalcy.

Jack Kopanski

About the Author:

Jack Kopanski is the Managing Editor of Pit & Quarry and Editor-in-Chief of Portable Plants. Kopanski can be reached at 216-706-3756 or jkopanski@northcoastmedia.net.

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