Media 10 celebrates 20 years!

January 2003, and the bare rooms of a partially derelict house in Epping, Essex. It is where it all began for Media 10 – there weren’t many rules, except to bring your own garden furniture, use the box from your over-sized personal computer as a desk and to finish painting your part of the office on your first morning.  Fast forward two decades and Media 10 have achieved a fair bit since those early days; for a start the offices have moved to more salubrious settings, the workforce has grown exponentially but the ethos remains; fiercely creative, doggedly determined and resolutely independent. 

Success? They’ve had a few and when you start to reel off some of the products that have been devised, moulded and launched from this organisation it makes more than impressive reading. As an exhibition organiser Media 10 have attracted over 10 million visitors to their shows, won more awards than any of their contemporaries and launched some of the most iconic global events. This list includes Grand Designs Live, Clerkenwell Design Week, 100% Optical and UK Construction Week, and of course The Coronation Festival - the only exhibition to be held in the grounds of Buckingham Palace - amongst others. Then layer on the world's oldest exhibition, the Ideal Home Show, 115 years old, survived two World Wars, many recessions and famously saved, revamped and re-invented year after year, and all this success has been driven by the charismatic CEO, Lee Newton. 

There are no external investors, no private equity, no other shareholders, it's all been done at Media 10's risk (and sometimes near bankruptcy) but the results have been nothing short of spectacular. From those humble beginnings to running some of the world's largest consumer and trade events. Many make the mistake that Media 10 is a consumer exhibition business, because of their high profile events but the reality is that their trade events are just as big, if not bigger. Newton states, “We seem to have the perfect recipe in the markets we are in - for example, the ‘home’ market will only ever grow and we have consumer and trade events that would help you design it, build it, furnish it and even live in it, almost all of what we do complements each other – I’m surprised that we are one of the only organisers that successfully combines B2B with B2C. We are the field to fork equivalent…we cover the market from every angle”. 

Trend-setters they certainly are. Grand Designs Live introduced the famous tunnel entrance to UK exhibitions, allowing all visitors to enter the show from the middle; Clerkenwell Design Week showed the industry that trade events can be hugely successful outside of traditional venues; Design Shanghai grew from an idea in Essex to the largest design event in Asia. There's been Destination Star Trek and a world record for visitors in its first outing, 100% Optical which revolutionised and galvanised the market, the Duke of Essex Polo which made the cover story in the Sunday Times magazine. The list is endless; Royal visitors, partnerships with BBC, ITV, Sky, Channel 4, CBS, and they even convinced the future King to open their shows. The award-wins followed suit and they have not stopped streaming in since those early days, it has been 20 years of remarkable success.  

So what does the next chapter hold? Newton is a man who for years said that the 'plan was not to have a plan', but has that changed? "The last few years have been seismic for Media 10" states Newton. “In 2019 we sold Design Shanghai for a significant sum, which not only opened our eyes to the value of our brands but also came just months prior to the global pandemic shutdown”. Newton’s investments are now spread beyond just exhibitions, he now owns an overseas property business, heads up a successful AI software business and even finds time to run 2 award-winning restaurants, meaning “there is always something new and exciting to get out of bed for every day”. However he did admit that “messing about on boats and skiing is taking up a lot of his time these days.”

“Then again, I take immense pride in building a B2B division that is now delivering some of the best trade shows in the sector. Similarly our digital growth since 2020 has been remarkable and driven by our incredible workforce – 20 years of success has been a team effort and I believe that I have assembled the best team in the business, we live and breathe the industry.  We have held 40’s style parties, complete with spitfires for the local pensioners, convinced 30 of us to shave our hair off to support one of our team going through chemotherapy, and raised over a million pounds for the Soldiers Charity.  It’s been 20 years of shame, pain, fame and fun”. 

Whatever the future holds, one thing is certain, Media 10 have made an indelible mark on the UK events sector and what a ride it has been.