Shortly after the 2017 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show ended at the Birmingham NEC, and the last genealogist was gently nudged out of the venue, the doors locked. Forever. Then the news began to trickle through saying that the much-loved live show would not be returning.
For me, this was sad news, having easily recovered from the shift from London’s Olympia just a few years before, I was sad to not be going to the next one. I’d attended several in it’s ten year history of shows.
Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2018
I’m trying to think what a WDYTYA? Live 2018 show would look like in all but name.
What makes me attend the show? What brings the thousands of attendees from across the country and the globe (yes, globe!) to tread the NEC’s bright blue carpets?
News of the cancellation has been missing from the Who Do You Think You Are? Live team themselves, almost as if one day they were working and suddenly all locked out.
— WDYTYA? LIVE (@WDYTYALIVE) April 26, 2017
Even the show’s official website still talks about how they’ll be returning for their 11th show, and that they “invite you to explore highlights from previous shows, browse our extensive photo galleries and get an idea of what is in store for 2018”.
You have to turn to the affiliated magazine to find out why the show has been cancelled – owners Immediate Media (who took over in 2011), have found the show has been making a loss.
What could replace WDYTYA? Live?
If there’s to be a replacement in 2018, then organisers are surely to already be working hard to plan it – and maybe they are. A huge show like Who Do You Think You Are? Live takes many months to organise – and even something half the size would be no mean feat.
In the Autumn edition of the Cambridgeshire Family History Society Journal, a tantalising note can be read: “We understand that there are proposals are being made for a new event format at a new location. … no firm details as yet we’ll keep you posted..“. Given that this Society also knew about the Birmingham switch ahead of the curve, maybe their inside information is something to get excited about?
So what would get me out of my house, travelling many miles, staying in a hotel, and spending 3 days walking around talking, thinking, watching, listening, and eating genealogy?
For me, the essential stuff (in no particular order) is:
- Venue – an easily accessible venue, with good facilities. I remember there being great concern from stand-holders and attendees alike when I seemingly broke the news online in April 2014.
- Brands – 2017 saw those DNA tests at their most competitively priced, and there was a fair range of brands – small and large. A few charities, and age-group-targeted-clothing had crept in (hopefully you know what I mean!), but if they’re in the minority and willing to pay for a stand, then okay.
- Experts – I’m not particularly worried about celebrity talks. I’d rather hear talks by reputable family history/genealogy/DNA/Archives experts, who have put the hours in, felt the pain, and achieved their own results.
- Social spaces – One of the biggest things that kept me coming back to the show was how it would draw a large number of people, and that included those I’d grown to know – initially via twitter or this blog – but then being able to call the friends too – even a slightly-convoluted relative was met there (hey, Amelia!). The Tweet-ups were also good fun.
- Societies – The Society of Genealogists helped ensure that the local history societies had a presence and a voice at the show. It was always a fantastic opportunity to get to talk from the experts on their stands – they could tell me about record sets, and all the kinds of things that only local historians know about the area they live and research.
- Wifi – As a family historian, and an event attendee, I need wifi. That might be to look things up, tweet a friend, or upload an image. Sometimes the availability has been scarce, leaving suspicious groups of family historians to gather in the corner of the hall. If you want to amplify an event to a wider audience who might then come along, or feel envious and come next time, then allow attendees to do it from within the event, rather than pushing them outside or to a cafe to do it – that gives them a reason not to return.
Without the 2018 show in my calendar, there’s a big gap that I feel I need to fill with something similar. I’ve no intention to head over to RootsTech in the US – as someone with paternal and maternal ancestors who rarely strayed from the same 30 mile radius for the best part of 450 years, heading over to the US to hear about American records, feels like it’s not a valid reason. I know a few people who have been, but I don’t think that it would be worth it for me.
One of my favourite bits from RootsTech though is definitely the video interview booth – and wished this had been mirrored at WDYTYA? Live, again helping the show to reach further. Or that someone like StoryCorps had made it into the show (or at least the UK).
Regardless of what we do or don’t get in 2018, I am going to miss not attending the show – the whole experience: from my hotel in Coventry and leisurely train ride to the NEC each day, through to the experts on the society stands, and the meeting of old friends.
My local county family history society, who normally run a genealogy event in September each year, are seemingly not doing so this year, and there’s no sign yet of next April’s ‘Big Family History Fair’ held by my district family history society.
One of the most intriguing sounding events appearing in 2018 seems to be Secret Lives – a collaboration between Society of Genealogists, AGRA, GOONS, and The Halstead Trust.
What do you think a Who Do You Think You Are? Live-like event should be like, or do you think they’ve run their last? What will you miss about the show? Are you going to any alternative genealogy events instead? Let me know in the comments below.
As ever, thanks for reading, and happy tree surgery!