INDIANA WANTS ME
So sang R Dean Taylor (ask your parents, kids) - but then added "Lord I can't go back there". I could.
Certainly to the state capital, Indianapolis - a charming mid-sized, mid-West city with a vibrant art and cultural scene, a downtown that is still alive after the working day ends, a world class zoo and splendid examples of early twentieth century architecture, with some touches of Americana in the detail. The look and feel of downtown is very traditional. This is heartland USA. The White River State Park walking trail which takes in the Zoo, Botanical Gardens, Eiteljorg Museum and Indiana State Museum is immaculately maintained and a Sunday morning magnet for walkers and joggers. Disappointingly, as I was in town for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums conference, I didn't see much wildlife, although I did spot a sunbathing raccoon. Or possibly it was dead; hard to tell.
The AZA – the key event in the US zoo/aquarium calendar - is a mix of educational events, policy creation/discussion and - the focal point for me - a trade show with around 300 exhibitors. It's not IAAPA-sized and, of course, it's somewhat specialised. But it is so US-centric (there was only one non-US exhibitor, a German lighting company) that it strikes me that a UK presence would stand out a mile, and attract considerable interest. The delegates to whom I spoke had no knowledge of what the UK could offer, and felt that an injection of new ideas, products and ideas would be well received.
Which is why I am looking at the idea of a UK experience sector booth at next September's show in Seattle. It could be an anchor for UK companies visiting the show and an opportunity for us to promote the wider experience sector through experienceuk.org. Companies, of course, might benefit from taking their own booths but, as a first step, being part of a general UK presence might be a more attractive option. I will be in touch directly with companies which I know are active in this area, but if anyone reading this blog is interested in the concept, I'd be delighted to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. I should say that the AZA has quite stringent rules about attendance involving paying for membership and attendance but perhaps DIT can smooth the way.
Exhibitor categories included:
Animal care supplies
Animal enrichment products
Aquarium fit out products
Audio, video, multimedia (several 3d/4d film makers)
Rides, attractions, entertainments
Some of the companies offering products which have UK equivalent included D3D cinema, Gateway Ticketing, Aquatic Equipment and Design Inc, Gretel, GuestX Ticketing, Guru, Living Color Aquaruims, Minotaur Mazes, nWave Pictures, Roto, SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment (the world leader in 4d theater entertainment, apparently), ZeroEdge Aquarium Corp
The atmosphere at the event was extremely congenial and collegiate - there's definitely a community feel to the conference.
Back that Sunday morning stroll. The social problems so apparent in many US cities are much less visible in Indianapolis - although I did see one gentleman staggering along, clutching a bottle of wine and yelling "gonna lose...yessir...gonna lose alright". He was quite obviously a Colts fan - and a realistic one, at that.
Indianapolis is the US's 14th largest city but it feels cosy and homely. Local crafts, cuisine and beer feature highly and are extremely good. But this is no backwater. During my stay, U2 played the Lucas Oil Stadium - home of the aforementioned Colts - a structure which looks like a vast factory, which seems appropriate for Indiana - "A state that works". And a couple of days earlier, Ed Sheeran (ask your kids, parents) was in town. And, of course, there's the annual Indy 500...a motor race which attracts crowds of 300,000, making it the world's largest single day sporting event.
So, unlike R Dean (the first white artist to be signed by Tamla Motown), I think I will go back there. But, first, I gotta see Jane...
Head, Experience Economy
Department for International Trade
3 Whitehall Place
London SW1A 2AW
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