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Themed Entertainment : Under First International President, Nick Farmer, Themed Entertainment Association Significantly Boosts Worldwide Membership

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Total membership of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) topped 600 during the past year, with Europeans making up about 100 of the total. Nick Farmer(right), who as head of UK-based Farmer Attraction Development became TEA’s first European president last year, was one of a mere handful of charter European members some 15 years ago. As he completes his year as TEA president, Farmer is gratified to see the growth, which is due in part to his efforts in conjunction with the organization’s Fast Track Expansion program, launched last November, which helped increase TEA membership by 20%.

Within a few years of TEA’s founding in Burbank, Calif. in 1991, Farmer was part of an informal European chapter of the association that began meeting at trade events. This core group also included Peter Ed (of PE Consulting, and the first TEA European Board president), Sara Hine (Helifilms), Kevin Murphy (Event Communications Ltd, and the current TEA European Board president), John Robinett (Economics Research Associates), Richard Curtis (TiLE), Teri Ruffley (HIT Entertainment), Seth Foster and Cindy Zelka. The group was mentored by Keith James, president of Cincinnati-based Jack Rouse Associates (and TEA president 2000-2002) during his many trips through London.

The fledgling TEA Europe chapter – many of whose members are still active in TEA today – was formalized in 1998 in London, when the group met to compose a mission statement and set priorities. “It came to pretty much the same thing as now – to build our network, and to get better at doing business by learning from our colleagues, ” says Farmer. “We had a lot of energy but didn’t want to create our own separate association. The idea of trying to create a worldwide association through TEA was clearly the way to move forward.”

Over the years, TEA has delivered increasingly solid member benefits to Europeans in the form of educational and networking opportunities, and kept its organization networked across the Atlantic, Farmer points out. “We are now organizing some really excellent behind-the-scenes events. We’ve put together a number of one- or two-day gatherings in which we visit a couple of attractions and have some social activity, that have been really very successful. We had one in the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth, UK last year and one in Paris at Euro Disney this year, both of them tremendous successes.  We’ll meet again next year in Barcelona.  Gene Jeffers [TEA executive director] often joins us which our members greatly appreciate.”

Recently, TEA Europe held its first full-blown educational one-day workshop in London (Oct. 30) sponsored by the British government. They met to discuss the tender process. “Bidding for something straightforward such as an AV install can be fairly simple, but bidding creative work such as media for the AV, or a storytelling treatment for presenting a particular aspect of a museum’s collection is more challenging, ” notes Farmer. “It can be quite difficult to bid like for like. This session was designed to help us all learn to write stronger bids that have a better chance of winning.”

Planning is underway for TEA to hold a SATE conference (Story-Architecture-Technology-Experience) in the Netherlands next September. And TEA’s international expansion is not confined to Europe. There is talk of establishing a new chapter in the UAE, and networking in the Far East is ongoing.

Although Farmer will pass the TEA presidential gavel in November (to incoming president Steve Thorburn of Thorburn Associates) he has every intention of continuing his involvement with the organization he has devoted some 12 years to, including six years on the International Board and three years as president of the European Board. But he also looks forward to welcoming new blood. “TEA is now in a position to nurture the next generation. It won’t be long before some of the TEA founding members begin to retire. To bring on the next generation is a key strategy we must pursue. Helping everybody get better at business makes the world go ‘round.”

About TEA

The TEA(Themed Entertainment Association) is an international nonprofit alliance founded in 1991 and based in Burbank, Calif. TEA represents some 7, 000 creative specialists, from architects to designers, technical specialists to master planners, scenic fabricators to artists, and builders to feasibility analysts working in more than 600 firms in 30 US states and 40 different countries. TEA presents the annual Thea Awards and the TEA Summit and hosts the annual SATE conferences (Story, Architecture, Technology, Experience). TEA also produces a variety of print and electronic publications, including the TEA/ERA Global Attraction Attendance Report, TEA Sourcebook, TEA Project Management Guidelines, and TEA Annual & Directory. Visit the TEA exhibit booth at the IAAPA Attractions Expo (booth 1268) and on the Web at teaconnect.org.

Contacts: Judith Rubin rubin.judith@gmail.com
Gene Jeffers gene@teaconnect.org

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