AEO awards Osborne for a lifetime's work

Haymarket Exhibitions chairman Peter Osborne received a lifetime achievement award from Lord Michael Heseltine for his contribution to the industry at the Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO) Excellence Awards.

The ceremony, hosted by comedian Dara O' Briain, was held in the Platinum Suite at Excel London on 1 July.

Other winners included De Boer Structures, Product Supplier of the Year, research agency Vivid Interface, Service Supplier of the Year, and Exhibition Xchange, winner of the Innovation of the Year category for its trading website of new and used exhibition equipment.

Exhibition Xchange managing director Pippa Burnside said: "Exhibiting needs to be affordable and I'm pleased all the work of the past year has been recognised by so many industry leaders."

In the show categories, the Thames Gateway Forum won Best Launch Show Trade for its Meeting of Minds event, while Best Launch Show Consumer went to Clarion Events for its Fly - The London Air Show.

The Arena Group and Wembley won the Venue Facilities Development and Innovation award for Wembley Arena Pavilion, built by Arena Structures while the £35m refurbishment of Wembley Arena takes place.

However, an incident involving a false alert about fire security that repeated during Lord Heseltine's tribute speech to Osborne took the shine off an otherwise successful daytime event. Lord Heseltine was clearly angered that the alert could not be switched off until, finally, proceedings were halted and the problem rectified.

"It was clearly regrettable for us and the AEO," said Excel London deputy chief executive and managing director exhibitions Kevin Murphy. "We were aware that the smoke used as part of the ceremony would trigger our fire security systems. Steps were taken to overcome this so the voice activation wouldn't be heard, but on the day our mainframe computer overrode the commands and the audience heard the alert message.

"We take fire, safety and security measures extremely seriously and are pleased that this has been the only incident we have encountered in three years of hosting the AEO awards."