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“The demand for character appearances is already back to 2019 levels”

With the character parade confirmed to return to Brand Licensing Europe in November, catches up with Simon Foulkes, md of Rainbow Productions to get some show memories.

How many BLEs have you taken part in?

Back in 1998 the licensing community got together at the Landmark Hotel in a conference room and little did any of us in the room envisage that the scale of licensing would grow to the extent it has. Hindsight is wonderful and as it has grown to fill an enormous space at Excel London each venue over the years has helped shape the whole licensing Industry and whether it was the BDC in Islington, the exhibition centres in Earls Court or Olympia each one has had its own appeal.

You must have had a tough year, how good it is to be back for BLE 2021?

For the most part of 2020 and half of 2021 it was not the time to be involved in live events for fairly obvious reasons, but with the optimism that the country is now feeling the live space is an integral part of all of us getting back to all we enjoyed. The demand for character appearances is already back to 2019 levels.

Which are the most popular when it comes to selfies?

The holy grail of character development and appeal is to have a property that genuinely draws multi-generational interest and without question the characters which attract more selfies than any other are the Minions. The journey around the aisles at BLE takes three times longer with Bob, Stuart and Kevin than other character such are their photo/selfie requests.

Who’s the cheekiest?

The pride of the UK is a wee chap called Dennis the Menace and the antics he can get away with bridges a fine line between cheeky and naughty, but if there is one character that is guaranteed to put smiles on everyone’s face it is the comic strip hero from The Beano.

What’s your favourite BLE experiences?

Every BLE throws up unique experiences and character costumes are always at the heart of them; the mantle-piece photos I have at home are inevitably character related. Which is hardly surprising as Bob the Builder introduced me to a Polish live event licensee many years ago who is now my wife! BLE always introduces us to new characters and this gives us opportunities to meet new companies and forge new relationships. But, and I think all of us who have been involved in the industry for so many years, would say the same thing; what BLE means for us is the chance to hook up once again with great friends and BLE 2021 is going to be off the charts!

Is BLE the biggest character parade that you have done?

Controversially here I am going to have to say that BLE surpasses any other character parade anywhere in the world at any other trade show. Even some theme parks which regularly manage character parades don’t have the range and mass appeal of the BLE character parade and the 2019 character parade had over 100 people involved representing dozens and dozens of different brands. From all the conversations I have had so far already I can very confidently predict that BLE 2021 is going to be #Costumecharactermassive.

We found out recently David Scott was nicknamed Lord Fluff. Any other fabulous secrets you can share with us?

The wonderful and enigmatic Lord Fluff may have hung up his furry feet but somehow I think he will be somewhere in the BLE2021 aisles, maybe even ‘in character’. I reckon there are a lot of BLE attendees over the years who have some fabulous secrets and character stories to tell, so I look forward to hearing all about them.

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