The perfect boat show?

Imagine all the people who will visit the Liverpool Boat Show…certainly the organisers feel it’s easy if you try. In a curtain-raiser held in a dank warehouse – now the home of London’s Museum in Docklands – the suits lined up to reveal this stunning new land of boat-floggery.

There will be 400,000 coming along, they say. ‘This is not an aggressive move towards London,’ Liverpool Boat Show’s commercial director James Gower told us, ‘This is not a hostile move…we did not take a stand in ExCel for that very reason.’ Cute.

Just along the slush-covered walkways of Docklands, ExCel was preparing to open its doors for the fifth day of the London Boat Show, as exhibitors there imagined there was no heaven, not on earth anyway, as punters stayed away. ExCel will be hard pushed to get a quarter of Liverpool’s promised multitude this year.

Many are talking of ditching ExCel altogether and only setting up stall in Southampton. Others of ditching Southampton and having just one major UK boat show in ExCel…in September when the weather might encourage ice-cream sellers instead of chestnut roasters.

Yet a powerful group of businessmen, civic leaders and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston proffered us bacon sarnies – in fashionable ciabatta bread, of course and not Muvver’s Pride as the East End of Dickens, the Blitz and Ronnie Kray disappears forever – to tell us about the Sceptred Isle’s greatest Boat Show secret…the North.

Forget the Solent, the Thames Estuary and the West Country, it’s the Mersey, stupid. That’s the place to sell your boats, fellas. We were told that in 2001 Liverpool was number 17 in the ‘UK’s retail spend’ charts. By 2008 it was number 4. There are five new hotels on the Liverpool waterfront. We were told that the vibrancy of the nightlife was such that an alien from Outer Space would think the human race had been told: ‘In four hour’s time you’re all gonna die.’

From what I remember of covering newspaper stories in Liverpool, the alien’s perception might have had more to do with reality than fantasy. But, if the good folks of the Liverpool Boat Show are to be believed, things have changed and if John Lennon could land at the airport named after he would not recognise the hell on earth that was once his home. Imagine.