The November 12. 2009 London Daily Mail offers us a a glimpse of England’s first-ever “fertility show” with Claudia Connell’s cleverly titled, There’s one born every minute…

We know we’re in for a first class tour as soon as Claudia walks through the gate:

Stepping into the huge exhibition hall at London Olympia, I haven’t had time to look at my programme guide before I’m approached by a young American woman carrying a clipboard and dressed like an air hostess.

‘Hi, good to see you. Are you ready to discuss your fertility options?’ she asks, dazzling me with her megawatt smile.

Before I can say anything, she continues: ‘We’re here today all the way from Connecticut in the U.S. to help people just like you.

For the next 8 hours Claudia takes us on a Wonderland trip of high tech repro hardsell for teary women and a handful of embarrassed, sullen men, who’d seem much happier nursing a pint of Taddy Porter that walking the halls of female babydesire. It’s a shame she didn’t have a video camera with her.

“Everywhere I look,” she writes, “I can see pictures of cherubic babies, while skilfully manipulative videos, showing pregnant women lovingly stroking their bumps or lifting smiling infants from their cribs, play in the background.”

The 83 fertility show exhibits and 43 workshops, housed in the refurbished (built, 1886) National Agricultural Hall (rather fitting) makes even the sleaziest California baby facilitator look saintly

A “suspiciously smooth faced doctor” from a fertility clinic in New England:

He fixes me with his bright blue eyes and tells me I would be a perfect candidate for donor eggs.

He says his organisation just happens to have one of the largest donor pools in America – a claim that four other clinics also make to me in the next hour.


As I stroll around the venue, I’m leapt upon by a woman with trowelled-on make-up who reminds me of Marjorie Dawes from Little Britain. She wants to talk to me about my body clock.

She asks me how old I am and whether I’ve ever had my ovarian reserve tested, in the same way that a financial adviser might ask whether I have a pension plan.

About a Donnie-Osmond look-alike doctor:

His clinic is in Atlanta and, luckily for me, he already knows how many direct flights there are from London a day.

‘Have you visited Atlanta?’ he asks. ‘It’s an exciting city, and we could have your whole treatment done and dusted in less than 48 hours.‘

Tempted though I am by the idea of a £7,400 frozen egg IVF cycle in America’s murder capital, I decline his offer to browse a donor database.

Oh, there’s also a Las Vegas junket.

Having gone through a New Age period in the 1990s, I can appreciate this high tech alternative:

We compare horror stories. I reveal all about my encounters with the smooth-talking Americans and the Marjorie Dawes character, while she tells me how she spent 20 minutes being told her infertility could be cured via astrology…

Connell, in her mid-40s with a failed adoption behind her, seems moderately curious about fertility treatments, but she’s also got a cynic’s eye. She comes across unimpressed by fertility shillery and the industry’s commodification of women and their dreams of motherhood. “Terrified of the menopause?” “Running out of eggs?” Sounds like an outtake from Nightmare Alley. I’d not be surprised to hear that the snake oil associates at the Olympia sealed the deal for her, and others–especially those who didn’t get caught up constructed emotion of the event, but read her account. At the end of her article, referring back to the Las Vegas offer, she writes, “But as every gambler knows, the house always wins – and I have a funny feeling that applies to IVF clinics as well as to casinos.”

I don’t know if the fertility show circuit has hit the US yet. Maybe not, since much of the flim-flammery is based here anyway. But wherever these snake oil shows are held, they’re sure to pack the house. There seems to be no end to high tech consumers with no qualms about purchasing non-traceable goods.

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  1. A fertility convention / tradeshow / carnival? And I thought I’d heard everything.

    How about combining a fertility show with a “forever young” plastic surgery show. One stop shopping for the middle-aged crowd who just can’t accept that their fertility issues and sagging breasts all stem from the same biological process – AGING.

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