The vastness of the ExCel centre in London was host to this year's Outdoor Show. The venue so huge that the organisers were able to pack in The London Bike Show, the Active Travel Show and The London Boat Show all in for the same entry fee. It remains to be seen whether this juxtaposition of unfamiliar bed-fellows was a stroke of genius or a desperate attempt to save a failing Boat Show suffering under the burden of the current economic climate.
The result was a very busy show but a mish-mash of interest-types with climbers looking for good quality bargain gear diluted by families there for a fun day out letting their kids have a go on one of the climbing walls. One woman I talked to from Killamarsh said she had come down for the boat show but her kids had enjoyed the climbing walls so much that they had come in for a second day just so that they could have another go. Unwittingly this woman had found a passion hobby for her children and she was absolutely delighted. For others though I think the sight of a £10 million pound boat that could barely fit inside the hall didn't sit so well next to their aim of finding a bargain rope or quickdraw.
The main focus of the outdoor event was the Climbing Village ably masterminded by Steve Mayers of Beacon CC and Chris Rowlands of DMM. Steve's Crazy Climb initiative had some super little climbing challenges with aliens, spinning holds, weird shapes, glass walls and slippery chimneys providing endless entertainment for youngsters and not-so-youngsters alike.
The BMG were there to run some workshops - this one is crevasse rescue
Around this was a collection of the various climbing tuition and guiding organisations NICAS, AMI and the BMG, who were on hand to explain the finer points of the pursuit to the largely uneducated audience.
Sophie Mitchell with her new Rockfax book on the NICAS stand
Rockfax also had a small presence with the launch of the new Beginners' Guide for Climbers - a picture instruction book aimed at NICAS Level 1, 2 and a bit of 3. Sophie Mitchell, the talented author and illustrator, was on hand to sign copies.
For the bargain hunter there were plenty of good deals to be had especially on the DMM stand and Wild Country. DMM also got into the spirit of the event more than most with a hands-on krab assembly section on one side of their stand, and then a krab destruction unit on the other. There were also coaching sessions available from DMM athletes Libby Peter and Lucy Creamer which were a great success.
Other companies and organisations with a representation were Wild Country, the BMC, Montane and TGO, plus many other colleges and travel companies like Rock and Sun.
With a lot of climbers having an interest in the various types of biking - myself especially - The Bike Show should have been a welcome additional attraction, however they didn't seem to have got the idea. There with few have-a-go activities available, and most of the products were expensive bike-porn rather than decent bargains.
For next year the organisers need to decide what they want to do with the show. The Outdoor Show itself definitely has legs and with the enthusiastic support of DMM and the Beacon CC especially, and the various guiding and instruction organisations, it should be a something worth putting into your diary, but a different venue and focus from the main organisers may be needed in order to get the thing back to the core value of the 'outdoors'.
Photo gallery of some of the things on offer this year
DMM assemble a krab workshop
Lucy Creamer coaching session
NICAS climbing tower
DMM krab-testing rig
The Bike Show - not so much 'have a go' , more 'don't try this at home'