Sat, Aug

Let me tell you a story…

News of the fire spread through Drupa’s exhibition halls like, well, wildfire really. Turned out it was not in the exhibition centre itself - so none of the 300,000 visitors tramping through the halls in search of enlightenment, excitement or a coffee were in any danger - but in a building full of migrants nearby.

The blaze reminded me of my first Drupa, back in 1986, when the whole of Dusseldorf boiled in an unnatural heat that, it was rumoured at the time, probably owed something to the fallout from Chernobyl, which had erupted just before the show. Although the German authorities made the usual reassuring noises about public safety, I’m not convinced.

I’ve only ever felt that hot once since - walking down a street in Memphis Tennessee in a suit in July in 90% humidity to attend a business meeting. By the time I got to the office, I looked like I’d been drenched in a monsoon.

It’s easy to get a bit blasé about these exhibitions, especially when you’ve been to as many shows as I have. Often, it’s not the technology you remember later as much as the war stories - the day one of your rivals had a heart attack and left the exhibition in an ambulance, the evening you realised that you’d left the details of your hotel on the bedside table, and the time you left a stand bent double in agony because you hadn’t taken Prince Phillip’s eminently sensible advice and taken every opportunity to have a wee.

I was intrigued by Benny Landa’s nanographic press. Hitherto, I’d suspected Benny’s greatest gift was for generating publicity - including one very flattering profile in the ‘Financial Times’ last year. But the Quadracci family who run Quad/Graphics, with whom Benny has struck a partnership, are no mugs so I’ll be curious to see how that goes.

The Printing 4.0 stuff at the Drupa conference was interesting, providing you take some of the content with the requisite amount of salt. Like most of the delegates, I have no idea what the future holds for our industry in the next 20-25 years but I left Dusseldorf convinced of one thing: it does have a future.


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