Motor show ‘more like car boot sale’

Andy Smyth pictured with his car at his home in Belfast
Andy Smyth pictured with his car at his home in Belfast

The organisers of the Belfast Motor Show have played down criticism of the event after many attendees complained bitterly about a lack of activities and vehicles.

The event at the King’s Hall complex on Saturday and Sunday came under fire for offering too little for its £10-per-head standard ticket prices (along with £4 for parking), with one attendee branding it a “joke”.

Belfast Motor Show 2014

Belfast Motor Show 2014

The BBC’s Nolan Show heard complaints yesterday from those present, while one motoring enthusiast used an online forum to liken the show to something from ‘Father Ted’ – which once featured a barren, ineptly-run funfair in one of its episodes.

A spokeswoman for the show said “a small number of people were unhappy”, but the majority appeared to enjoy it.

Asked if anyone may be entitled to refunds, she said they are taking legal advice.

Yesterday, Andy Smyth told the News Letter what he encountered when he took his 40-year-old Austin Allegro to exhibit on Saturday.

The 31-year-old north Belfast man said as soon as he arrived it did not feel right.

With few people around, he thought the main action must be taking place in the King’s Hall building itself.

However, this was locked.

Outside there were some food stalls about and people selling model cars and jumpers.

“It was like a car boot sale,” he said.

He went into a nearby covered pavilion, but said only a tiny fraction of the space inside was occupied.

He believes if he had been in sitting in the car park outside nearby CarpetRight “we would have seen as many cars, and maybe more, than we saw sitting in the car park of the King’s Hall”.

It was, he concluded, “a joke”, adding: “Nobody should’ve had to pay money to get into that.”

He said: “I’d like to hope the organisers set out with fairly good intentions. However, it should have been clear to them quite some weeks ago that reality had fallen way short of those intentions.

“They should’ve done the decent thing several weeks ago and said, ‘this isn’t going to work’.”

A PR woman for the show said: “Approximately 5,000 people attended the show and the vast majority of them seemed to enjoy it and thought it was value for money.

“As often happens with any large public event, a small number of people were unhappy and made comments on social media. Some of these comments were abusive and threatening to the organisers. We have reported the abusive comments to the police.”

Former MP defends show

Lembit Opik, the Ulster-born Lib Dem former MP, had been at the show with the Motorcycle Action Group.

He told the Nolan Show: “It just didn’t seem to me people were unhappy,” adding there was “actually quite a lot to do”.

He said that one gripping event involved a reconstruction of a car crash, which was watched by up to 500 spectators.

It reached a dramatic finale when Mr Opik himself was taken away in a body bag, and he said: “In terms of a dramatic reconstruction of a road traffic accident, I haven’t seen anything like that.”