Martin Pearce and The Timber Show are a natural fit. There have been two driving enthusiasms through his career, communication and wood, so you really couldn’t find a role that suited him much better than press officer for the industry’s newest exhibition.

Martin acknowledges that when he was mulling over jobs after college, the fields that appealed most weren’t an obvious combination.

“My favourite school subject was English, but I was also drawn to working outdoors,” he said, “so the options were journalism or forestry!”

The standard route into journalism via local papers didn’t really appeal and a door into forestry didn’t immediately open either, but then Martin spotted an advertisement for a trainee manager at James Latham‘s east London site. That fitted the bill closely enough, he got the job and was soon hooked.

“I worked on the hardwood wharf with the measurers, learning about timber identification,” he said. “I started my IWSc certificate there too and also got involved with the kilns – in fact I soon found myself running them when the manager called in sick!”

Martin moved on to importer Kibblewhite & Barron in Barking, now working in softwood and panel products. Even then he was starting to ponder his pet topic: timber marketing and promotion. “I remember when we had to cut prices to move plywood from stock because of disruption caused by large consignment shipments. This emphasised that the trade could be its own worst enemy and that more generic effort should be made to expand markets and educate buyers about the value of products rather than view them as commodities.”

Communications sector

The chance to enter the communications sector while staying involved with wood came soon afterwards.

“TTJ advertised for someone in the trade to train as a journalist and they took me on,” said Martin. “It was a leap, but I really enjoyed it.”

He later became editor of TTJ’s sister title Asian Timber and launched its offshoot Asian Furniture. These were later sold to a publisher in Singapore and he was asked to move with them, but decided instead to widen his journalistic horizons, editing titles for a range of industries, from the sports trade, to engineering, food manufacturing and even the hush-hush security sector.

The call of the timber trade never entirely faded, however, and when Martin moved into PR the industry provided key clients. He also became press officer for the Woodmex timber technology show. His work increasingly brought into focus the view that the wood sector needed to raise the bar in marketing and public relations.

“It always seemed on the back foot with the green groups; defending itself against allegations about environmental performance instead of promoting its benefits,” he said. “That reinforced popular misconceptions about wood and rival material sectors took advantage.”

With the additional hook of having worked with exhibition organiser John Southam before, Martin didn’t need much persuading to join The Timber Show team for its debut event at London’s ExCeL last September.

The show, he said, is designed as a business forum for suppliers and customers from the construction, merchanting and manufacturing sectors – and to promote the technical, performance, aesthetic and environmental attributes of timber and wood products. “Timber may be the renewable material, but with steel, plastic and concrete all creating their own ‘sustainability stories, the industry can’t just rely on this,” he said.

The initial show was very much a first step, attracting 63 exhibitors and 1,000 visitors, but the template was set. It was supported by the TTF, BWF, UKTFA, UKFPA, Canada Wood and Wood for Good and exhibitors reflected the breadth of industry activity, including distributors, treatment producers, timber frame specialists and engineered products and sheet materials manufacturers. Seminars were delivered by CPET, Defra and FSC.

The scale of the show has prompted comment but Martin maintains that feedback from exhibitors and visitors was positive. “Some pretty high-profile figures told us ‘we need this show’,” he said.

The aim for this year’s event is to really “ramp it up, with more exhibitors and more visitors”.

Timber Show 2007

ConFor, American Softwoods, the Institute of Carpenters and the Timber Decking Association have joined our supporters for the 2007 event and we’re surveying members of the Royal Institute of British Architects to find out more about what they want to know about timber. We’re also looking at how we can complement the Wood for Gold campaign to promote timber use in the London 2012 Olympics and legacy developments.”

With the Olympics and the drive to sustainable construction generally, Martin believes the timber sector has unprecedented opportunities, but it must seize them. That’s why it needs its own showcase event. “The time for The Timber Show is now,” he said. “It shows competitors this trade is a force to be reckoned with.”

The Timber Show takes place from September 25-27.