Tuesday, 5 July 2016
Sheffield Triples was the first wargames show I ever attended, back in the early 1980s. It was there that I bought my first historical figures in the form of 12 1/300 vehicles from the bring and buy (run by the club itself back then) at 9p each - painted.
I guess that was when I really became hooked on historical gaming as much I was on Dungeons & Dragons at the time. I was aware of historical gaming, and attended the local school based club, run by the venerable Steve Roberts, but I'd not really delved into it despite my deep love of history. I never missed a show until 2015, and when I lived out in the sticks in 1987, I actually climbed the wall of a park adjacent to the venue and slept on a bench so that I would be there on time on Sunday morning, as the bus services were so poor at weekends.
It was with mixed feelings that I read today of the demise of the show with effect from 2017. It was a bit like hearing of the death of someone you were close to at school, but then with whom all contact was lost for the next 4 decades.
In the eighties and early 1990s the show was an absolute stormer, but then is started to lose it's way. Originally, it had always come before Salute and people were all too ready to spend, spend, spend, but it moved for one reason or another to a later spot, and the money and footfall started to wane. This was noticed first on the bring & buy, where you could read the show like a barometer and draw conclusions based on the faces you saw, and takings on each day at a given time.
The competition (remember, that's where the show got it's name) started to die off, and the effort put in by members similarly went into entropy. Gone were the days when the club would ferry everything in at the start of the show and then out again at the end of the weekend. I remember in I think it was 2013, at the end of the weekend, there being no assistance for the traders, the membership dissolving like chalk in vinegar.
The show stopped attracting some of the big names on the display and trade side of things and the bring and buy was handed over to a group of figure dealers, who attracted some negative comments because of the way that all the 'good stuff' seemed to be snapped up and then sold at the next major show (one of them even bragged of that).
I think this must have contributed to the creation of a perfect storm.
I myself didn't attend in 2015 and 2016, but the internet was ablaze with negative reportage of the show. I don't know - as I said, I was not there. But having seen some pictures taken at what would be considered as traditionally busy times, I am not surprised.
When paying punters, traders and members are all telling a club that something is wrong, then you really do have to sit up and listen. If you blithely continue and just resort to a Marie Antoinette state of denial, you are going to exacerbate any decline.
What a shame that what was one of the gems of the wargaming calendar has gone to the wall, but perhaps like the old and faithful dog at the end of a long and loyal life, the needle in the paw was really the best answer. Who really knows?
I have no doubt that after a period of reflection another show will appear like a phoenix from the ashes. There was talk a few years ago of trying to make the show a one day event, but at the time that was resisted. Only time will tell...
In the meantime, ladies and gentlemen, charge your glasses please...
'To absent friends!'