At The RRP we attempt to avoid the mainstream as we gravitate towards the underground. The freedom of expression, the desire for escapism and the avoidance of political oppression are at the core of everything our scene stands for. In the 1980’s the UK witnessed the largest counter culture movement the world had ever seen. Illegal raves, Acid house and Ecstasy were powering youth culture and redefining the UK landscape.
Fast forward to 2019 and the UK is at a similar crossroads. Thanks to the US Farm bill of 2018, Hemp farming is now legal in the US and according to research done by the Brightfield Group; they reckon the value of Hemp will balloon to $20billion by 2022. Combine that with decriminalisation across the US, Canada, Portugal and South Africa the UK government is under ever increasing pressure to start a conversation around Hemp, CBD and Medical Cannabis. In the UK there has been a growing movement advocating the benefits of Hemp and CBD for some time. None more so than Product Earth.
Product Earth which takes place across the 23-25th of the August Bank holiday, is totally unique in the UK. Being the only Hemp and CBD event that highlights the complete business eco-system of this amazing plant. Its many varieties, derivatives and uses. From agricultural, industrial, medicinal and recreational, to production, wholesale and retail, it is the leading UK showcase for this rapidly evolving and exciting industry.
This year the Product Earth team have announced their plans for 2019 with the event taking place at NAEC Stoneleigh Park. Building on the success of previous years they will combine a carefully curated line-up of DJ’s and bands with over 150 Hemp and CBD retailers.
Humboldt Seeds, Dutch Snacks, Ali Bongo, Blue Ridge Hemp Co, The Attitude Seed Bank, Pure Sativa, Buddha’s Tree, Spin Pro, FHD and Pot Valley are serious industry heavy weights and have already committed their support to the 2019 event. With the UK festival scene constantly evolving and a demand from party goers for the next best thing we thought it was time to sit down with the directors and found out more about this unique event.
Hi James, can you introduce yourself’s and tell us about your experience in this industry?
Originally Product Earth was formed by me and my founding partner Richard Dennison, who is no longer involved in the business. We initially started by working together and utilising our networks to form Home Grown Expo in 2014. The following year we built Product Earth Expo as an extension of this.
As Richard retired abroad, I then approached Gavin Sathanathian in 2017 having met him at a networking event. It soon became clear Gavin was a sector entrepreneur and with his help I could considerably widen the expertise within the business.
Education has always been a key driving force behind Product Earth. Unfortunately we think it is something that is severely lacking in our industry and sometimes holds us back. As a result we wanted to create a professional platform in the UK for Hemp based businesses to network and do business.
Product Earth is billed as a unique event in the UK. What makes the event so unique?
I can quite easily say it is totally unique. We have an exhibition element with the industries biggest brands like Humboldt Seeds, The Attitude Seed Bank, Ali Bongo all signed up to showcase their products. This is then combined with Seminars that are hosted by leading experts, legislators and clinical professionals. Finally to top it all off we have the festival element making for an experience like no other event in Europe.
It allows people to gain improve their knowledge around the industry, network with like minded business’ and socialise with their friends all under one banner. What more could you want?
The lineup is yet to be announced for PEXF2019 but in recent years you have some major names. Grand Master Flash, Congo Natty are just a few. What can we expect from the event in terms of musical offering?
There is a big line up announcement coming with in the next week so make sure you keep your eyes peeled. However you are correct we have had some impressive names. Grandmaster Flash and Congo Natty were both pretty huge.
We tend to invite people along that are pro the cause. Product Earth has been built on a mutual respect from people with in the industry. We wouldn’t be where we are today with out the support of the Head Shops and the wider community. It is is the same for the artists, everyone involved in Product Earth has a shared sense of social activism.
In 2016 you welcomed over 5,000 visitors to your location in Peterborough. This makes Product Earth by definition officially a festival. Did you ever expect PE to grow to the size it has and how do you see Product Earth growing in the future?
The Festival element to the Expo was simply to encourage more visitors to the event. Emphasis has always been on the trade show component and education. Our intentions were to always grow the event in size, both in visitors and exhibitors. The Festival will become an integral part to the Expo and we are working hard to increase Exhibitors to 200+ and visitor numbers to 20,000+ over the next 3 years.
A popular element of the Product Earth Expo-Fest is the Camping element. Is this something that will be reintroduced to the 2019 edition?
Correct in 2017 we used an inner city venue which unfortunately meant we did’t have the camping element. A lot of people said that it was sorely missed so it was important that we could bring it back in 2019. It will return along with Glamping and Camper van options. It adds good value to the weekend.
Can you tell us more about any new elements or features that we can expect to see at PEXF2019?
The 2019 Expo-Fest will see in the introduction of Hemp and Hydroponics. Hemp has featured at the event in the past, but has been a small part of the event. This year, working in partnership with the British Hemp Association we are going to see a big increase in Hemp Exhibitors and educational talks. Hemp is the future for so many people in the UK and the world. Its possibilities are endless, from clothing to construction, make up to manufacturing. We want to champion Hemp and all its benefits.
We are also introducing Hydroponics for the first time this year. It is an integral part of the industry as it allows individuals to be self sufficient. To have the support from companies in this sector is crucial for the growth of the event, and we are getting this from massive brands like the Future Harvest Development. Education is crucial across all sectors of the industry, none more so than Hydroponics.
Events of this scale take a lot of preparation and support from the community. How has the Hemp and CBD community in the UK helped Product Earth?
Since day one we have seen a lot of support from a wide range of people. We wouldn’t be where we are today with out their help. The UKCSC who are at the heart of the UK Medical Cannabis community have always worked closely with us. Then their is brands like The Attitude Seed Bank who have been their since day one.
What is nice about this industry is it is at heart still a community. People have a shared interest and a common goal. I hope that never changes as it is what I would like to think sets us apart.
Product Earth has announced its partnership with National Agricultural Exhitbition Centre (NAEC) Stoneleigh who will be your hosts for the event on the August Bank Holiday. Why did you pick this venue?
It is the BEST venue in the UK! We are extremely proud to be working with the NAEC and the venue is large enough to support the growth of the event. It is situated in the centre of the UK, offers incredible Exhibition Halls as well as lots of outside space. In terms of accessibility it is just south of Coventry in the Midlands. There is trains from Birmingham and Coventry as well as plenty of parking.
What are the difficulties around putting on an event of this scale? Obviously legalisation has not yet happened in the UK. Does this cause any issues?
The only issue is the lack of education around the industry. Authorities always want to ensure the event is safe and we have delivered that across the 3 previous years. We have had 9 minor incidents with the medical team and given we have had 10,000+ people with no violence, no arrests, no drunk and disorderly. I would say it is the friendliest crowd you could ask for. Change is coming, we want to make sure we offer the UK the best platform to achieve it.
Following on from the idea of legalisation, Legalisation is now taking place across the globe and to varying degrees. Legalisation in the US is the best documented to date but other countries are following suit. South Africa, Argentina, The Netherlands, Canada have all recently changed their laws. Do you think the UK is ready to follow suit or is there some way to go before this happens?
Change is coming. How long that will be is still up for debate? All we know is Medicinal Cannabis is now available on prescription in the UK as well as CBD being sold in large commercial retail outlets such as Holland & Barrett as well as Boots. This is a step in the right direction for sure, legalisation needs to happen sooner rather than later! Maybe within the next 3-5 years?
James, what has been your favourite Product Earth memory?
2016 – Peterborough. Seeing the event increase by 140% from Year 1 was incredible. To have over 5,000+ people enjoying the event, what the industry has to offer and still discussing months after was pleasing to see.
And What are you most looking forward to about PEXF2019?
Bringing in the Hemp industry and showcasing its potential. The applications for this plant are endless. Hempcrete is a thing of beauty and being able to learn what we can do with that alone is quite exciting.