No erotic expos please, we're Wembley

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S first major exhibition of "adult products and services" - everything from soft porn magazines and videos to the latest bondage and S&M fashions - has been cancelled, thanks to a combination of public relations jitters and good old- fashioned moral outrage.

The organisers of "Erotica '95", planned for Wembley Exhibition Centre over the first weekend in December, were hoping that 20,000 over-18s would pay pounds 15 a head to see what the well-turned out transvestite is wearing, what assorted troupes of straight and gay dancers are not, and to pick up some tips on trends in tattooing and nipple-piercing among the 100 stands.

But last week, after the organisers had invested pounds 80,000 and 18 months of planning, Wembley cancelled the booking, citing opposition from local residents. Wembley will lose an estimated pounds 50,000 in revenue, plus the pounds 6,500 it paid Brent council to be licensed as a "sex establishment" for three days.

Wembley's spokesman, Martin Corrie, said: "People are pretty sensitive about these matters. Residents were concerned about the nature of the event and the elements it might attract. This has lost us money, but we can't let financial considerations outweigh moral principles."

Erotica '95 claims that moral principles have less to do with Wembley's decision than maintaining a squeaky-clean image at a time when the complex is in the running for up to pounds 150m of National Lottery cash earmarked for a new national sports stadium.

Peter Brameld, 53, a professional exhibition organiser acting as a consultant to the backers of Erotica '95 - a group of businessmen who prefer to remain anonymous - said: "If Wembley are concerned for their reputation, fine, but I wish they'd thought of it 18 months ago."

Mr Brameld, a newcomer to the world of studded leather collars, crotchless panties and outsized dildoes, is more used to arranging less controversial exhibitions on subjects such as home computers and needlecraft. A previous big project this year was the Pig Meat '95 show.

"It's a shame some residents have pre-judged us," he said. "Exhibitions like this are common in Europe. They're stylish and fun. We certainly are not interested in the dirty mac brigade. We have been charged, tried and convicted before we have committed any crime.

"There is still a hypocrisy in Britain when it comes to sex and erotica. People think of dark, sleazy basements in Soho. Yet erotica is everywhere, in pop, art and fashion. This is not some event for perverts."

Many of Father Michael Stevens' parishioners at Saint Joseph's Catholic church in Wembley signed a petition against the licence application. He said: "We were under the impression that it was for a permanent sex shop. We now understand it was just for a temporary exhibition, so to that extent we were misinformed. But most people here are happy it is not going ahead."

Mr Brameld said he was looking for another venue, for Valentine's Day 1996. He added: "To me this is just another exhibition project, albeit rather more interesting than pig breeding."

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