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100 years of Muba: "Always be open to everything"

Published on 4/12/2016 by Christoph Spangenberg
100 years of the MCH Group also means 100 years of Muba. From 15 to 24 April 2016, the fair that was behind the development of the company group will also be celebrating its anniversary. In this interview, Daniel Nussbaumer, the new exhibition manager, and Simon Dürrenberger, head of communications, speak about the highlights of the anniversary edition. They recall blue-blooded guests and guests splashing around in whirlpools, reveal the successful recipe behind the "mother of all fairs", together with their personal experiences, and express their thoughts on the Muba of the future.


Simon Dürrenberger (left), Daniel Nussbaumer.

In a few days' time, we will be celebrating the start of the 100th Muba. And you've put together a large number of highlights once again. Give us an idea of what's in store for us!

Simon Dürrenberger: The big highlight is our festival in the inner courtyard. We have been able to engage 20 different Swiss artists, including top acts like Massimo Rocchi, Marco Rima and Luca Hänni. We are naturally adopting a nostalgic approach to the anniversary too, and acknowledging our history: we are depicting the former "Kopfbau" building with old-timers from the Pantheon Basel standing in front of them. This is based on times past, when cars were still allowed to park on Exhibition Square. Some people will still remember that. There are also pictures and exhibits from back then to marvel at.
In addition, we are displaying all 100 Muba posters that have been used since 1917. Fifty of these are similarly included in the poster exhibition in the heart of Basel that you will be able to take a look at up until 25 April. At the official opening ceremony being held with invited guests, we will be showing the development of the Basel Sample Fair in a delightful time-lapse film. We will then naturally be sharing the film on our social media channels too.

Since 1917, Muba has defied all the different social, political and economic changes. And now it's celebrating its 100th anniversary. How has the "Sample Fair" been able to survive so long?

Dürrenberger: Because the fair has repeatedly been aligned to the prevailing circumstances.  During the early days of the "Sample Fair", exhibi­tors from all areas of Swiss industry were pres­ent. But the "mother of all fairs" gradually let her grown-up "children" move on. Holz, the trade fair for wood, was the first specialist trade fair to become independent in the 1950s. And an increasing number of expanding sectors from Muba followed this example. The most well-known are doubtless Baselworld, the globally leading watch and jewellery show, and Swissbau and Giardina. It was the "Sample fair" that, back then, laid the foundation stone for the growth of today's MCH Group.

Are there exhibitors who have also been present at Muba for many decades already?

Dürrenberger: Yes, of course, a large number of exhibitors have attended the fair for many years – in the longest case, for 99 years already. The Mauler company, a family-run operation from the west of Switzerland producing sparkling wine has only missed one Muba. Feldschlösschen has been there more than 90 times, and Möbel Pfister and others, 50 times.

Simon, you have worked for Messe Basel for 15 years, and for 13 of these you have been head of communications for Muba. You can doubtless tell us about one or other highlight or strange experience!

Dürrenberger: Yes, there have certainly been plenty of them. In 2005, for example, a member of the Danish royal family, Prince Henrik of Denmark, came to the Muba opening ceremony. The annual visit from the Federal Councillor has always been particularly exciting too, but when a member of a royal family comes, that's on a whole new level.

The story about a whirlpool exhibitor is a highly intriguing one. He had a shed at the fair, with a whirlpool in it. One day he cried out in alarm that there were people in the pool. A couple of young men had got into the shed, taken their clothes off and hopped into the whirlpool with a crate of beer. The exhibitor couldn't do anything about it, because they had locked the shed from the inside. Security had to be called. The fair is, after all, intended for people to try out things – these were just a couple of lads who had taken that somewhat too literally.

Daniel, all of this is still in store for you. You have been the new exhibition manager for Muba since 1 April 2016. Do let us know what attracted you to Muba.

Daniel Nussbaumer: I have always been very closely associated with Muba and I particularly wanted to take up this challenge and help shape this traditional event that is such an integral part of Basel.

My mother worked in the catalogue team at the "Sample Fair". And, as a child, I always went to the FC Basel stand. I also once won a language course worth CHF 2000 at Muba. Unfortunately, I was still too young for it back then. So, I waited four years and then redeemed the voucher.

Also, I was an exhibitor myself at Muba a couple of times. It was there that I got to know two of my best friends. So, as you can see, I have very fond memories of this fair, which have made their mark on my life.

Simon, have you any tips for the new boss?

Dürrenberger: Be open for everything! You encounter so many different and exciting things when working for a fair – and especially for Muba. Every year we create a platform that offers space for virtually everything. It's essential to always keep an eye on what you can do to further develop the fair, yet also on what will be of interest to the visitors. That is what I found to be the most exciting aspect: the fact that I was confronted with new and fascinating things each year when preparing the fair and got to know new people. I found this extremely enriching.

Daniel, we are, of course, looking forward at the moment to the 100th Muba with all its highlights. But have you got plans for the next few years already? In which direction will you be taking Muba?

Nussbaumer: It's still too early to say at present. I've naturally got a few ideas but right now it's a matter of getting to know Muba inside out and benefitting from people like Simon, who have done so much and have so much experience, and then taking things from there.

Dürrenberger: It's really good that Daniel can fully absorb the last two weeks of preparation and the ten days of Muba and let the fair have an impact on him. He will then have a lot of impressions to process. There's a great deal to do. He needs to further develop the fair with his team, establishing the right balance between an exhibition and an event.

Simon, how do you picture Muba in ten years' time?

Dürrenberger: I haven't any specific ideas; everything has been changing so rapidly in recent times. It is, however, essential to sense how the consumption and leisure-time behaviour of the younger target groups is developing, which platforms they regard as relevant and what they would like to experience there. These target groups are extremely important and we need to stir up their enthusiasm for the fair. We have to provide the right offerings, together with the exhibitors and other partners. Aspects like virtual reality and location-based marketing, and how to stage a product, company and brand in general, will be playing an increasingly important role in future. These are highly exciting developments.

Simon, you are leaving the company after the anniversary edition of Muba. Will you miss the fair?

Dürrenberger: Yes, of course! I have had such a good time. During the 15 1/2 years that I have worked for Messe Basel and Muba, I have experienced so many things and established so many contacts. This is a major part of my life. But it's also fine if a new chapter is starting now and I can put the knowledge I have acquired here to get things moving elsewhere. But I will naturally always come back again to see how the fairs are developing and what Dani is doing here.

Can you already tell us where you are off to next?

Dürrenberger: No, that's still not been decided on. Perhaps there will be a brief pause in order to take a breather...

The 100th Muba is being staged at Messe Basel from 15 to 24 April 2016. Information, highlights and programme:

Christoph Spangenberg

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