Monday, 21 March 2016

The Rather Tired Show Scene In Sheffield

I love shows...

They are still, I don't care what you say to the contrary a great way to see models 'in the flesh', to make an informed choice and maybe even get drawn into another era or area of interest when you catch the sight of a somewhat fetchingly painted model in a glass display case.

Then there are the displays of vehicles and figures, which at the end of the day is what the hobby is all about isn't it? The eye candy..?

There was a show in Sheffield this weekend, that I didn't go to, because frankly I felt it held nothing for me, being smaller than I remember, with little trade to entice me. And so, I had a lie in and then went for a drive in the country, when, I should have been indulging in my passions for miniature worlds.

The ticket price put me off, for a start, being too high for the size of the event. Then there were the displays, of which there were not that many. There were I have seen, a couple which would have given me the buzz which is sought by the addict, but not for the asking price of the ticket.

The trade to my old eye looked somewhat bland, and more akin to a car boot sale, in composition or a rural one day show in the sticks somewhere.

Certainly not in Sheffield, the 'Steel City'. But it seems that there is a tarnishing taking place, and Sheffield doesn't have a big show that it can be proud of anymore despite there being several groups in the area.

When I was a youth, we had a large model railway show, which was every bit as good as York (and York was great, even back then). Back in the days before wargames claimed my soul for 3 and a half decades,  I and my mates would take our hard earned pocket money and go and indulge our passion for 00 gauge locos - Not like that...

I was fanatical about saddle and pannier tanks and many a bargain was had at the local show. Airfix was still producing it's range of plastic railway figures, too and I picked up bags of them for pennies, populating the 6 x 4 layout in our loft. OK, it was a piece of chipboard painted gloss green with a standard Hornby track plan inexpertly nailed to it, but we instilled it with life.

In fact we all visited each others homes, taking a couple of locos with us for running sessions. We weren't too precious about our stock either - all apart from Tommo, who had a rather outrageous collection of blue era diesels which looked cutting edge when placed next to our combined collection of assorted steam power.

When we'd been to the annual show, we'd all race home, throw some food down and meet at someone's hose to review purchases and brag about bargains before getting down to some serious model building or running of new rolling stock.

OK, we had some damned fine model shops, but the show was where it was at, because it gave us a focus and a sense of impending excitement as we counted down the weeks on calendars of in diaries (remember those?)

When I came back to look at model railways again, I was hoping that things would be similarly charged - and they are. But not in my home city, it seems.

York, Derby and Doncaster have some fine shows - really top class events - but Sheffield appears to have two or three little events which don't seem to really advertise or promote themselves. How can this be in such a city?

We went to a show last Autumn - I forget which militant train fetishists group was running it - and it cost £4 per ticket to look at about a dozen layouts (some were admittedly very nice but not spectacular) and a similar number of tired trade stands and tired looking traders. It had the air of a rolling funeral with trains there to liven up the remaining mourners...

About 6 weeks later, there was another small even in a church hall, which we simply drove past, despite it being near a damned fine artisan bakery - for which I have a distinct fondness.

And so to this last weekend, when there was a show at a school, with a ticket price of £5.50 for 17 layouts and 12 traders (some of whom were just exhibitors).

What a bloody farce...

A few weeks ago, I went to the Doncaster show, which admittedly cost me £8 per ticket, but what a difference.

Fuck me, if I wasn't blown away by the sheer volume of product and eye candy. What's more it's one of the few times in my life that I have actually 'needed' to sit down and take refreshments before continuing. And as for the trade and displays, well they were vibrant and effervescent.

This coming Sunday sees the York show, and I can tell you that at £7.50 I will be getting way more than my money's worth. For the last few nights if I lay quite still and listened, I could hear the distinct sound of my wallet crying in the night, and an uneasy rustling of notes as the conferred with the credit card about how they might control me.

So why can't Sheffield have this effect?

I confess, that I don't really know what the politics of the city's groups are, but I suspect that in the past, buffers have been hit at speed, pencils chewed and some cheeky graffiti scrawled in spotters books, leading to schism, hatred, and the Balkanisation of the hobby.

Perhaps, these groups could get together and put on one big show which Sheffield could be proud of and which 'big gun' traders would attend again?

If they really don't think that they could all stand on the same platform, their anoraks almost touching, perhaps a single ticket (with proceeds and responsibilities evenly split) but three venues across the city all open on the same weekend creating a temporary 'Railway Modeller's Quarter... After all 'Quarters' are all the rage these days and if you add all the 'Quarters' up in Sheffield you get 1 3/4 of them, so who's going to moan at another?

Anyway, unless Sheffield's scene bucks it's ideas up, I will continue to travel further afield to get my fix.

Come on Sheffield...

At the moment you are less like the beautiful figure head on a Rolls Royce and more like the ageing good time girl, cigarette dangling from mouth as she sips at a pint of stout in some canal side boozer.

Unite your anoraks and analogue controllers and start looking a little bit more 'Bergahaus' and DCC...


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