Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Leeds, 31st October
For me, this was one of those quirky experiences. Fiasco has moved across the piazza at Clarence Dock, from the Armouries proper to its new exhibition and functions hall, Saviles.
My impression of Saviles is straightforward: it is a big efficient box conceived to appeal to that sector of the market that has no interest in the Armouries or military heritage (there are no traces of the Armouries' identity, and the hall is themed on 1960s pop and celeb culture as tagged by its namesake, Sir Jimmy Savile).
I've no idea what the package choices available to the hosts are, and I would certainly agree that in respects such as loading/unloading, lighting etc. the facilities were more helpful than in the main building. However, this event simply wasn't at the Royal Armouries ... or indeed in a venue with any military or heritage resonance ... more the ambiance of 'trendy winebar meets factory shed'. And that was a disappointment.
Same time, of course, you have all the added expense of the Clarence Dock parking experience.
The comparisons are unfair, of course ... my attendance at Fiasco goes back to the Armley days ... where 'cheap and cheerful' was an understatement ... cheap, cheerful ... also popular and well attended. A very busy day for anyone manning a stand. Almost impossible to do without a fair handful of people.
That could not be said these days. OK - I am biased: I really like the Armouries ... its heritage, its mix of visitors, its museum shop, its expensive but invigorating coffee. Even so, there is no doubt that it was a costly venue to visit and that seems to have put some people off over the years, once the novelty wore off. (breakfast for the team)
We got to the event bright and early after a crisp dawn start, and were rapidly installed, set up and enjoying bacon butties and some good if unremarkable coffee. As well as the stand, we were back to Greyhounds in the Slips, now with an additional storey to the crossbowman's tower. It seemed to go down well.
Sadly, we were next to some fantasy stuff rather than the historical game indicated on the original floor plan. We welcomed incoming Committee member Chris Helm to the Shows North fold, who slipped effortlessly into the accustomed routines of chatting to prospective members, promoting the Society and running participation games.
It would be interesting to know what the attendance figures reveal. (someone left a casualty ring on from a recent game)
My guess would be that visitors were again down ... but it is easy to get the impression with the event moving into a bigger and more airy space. However, the traders I spoke to as the afternoon thinned down were of the same view - though some put this down to the absence of a bring & buy. There were some empty tables, too - 'no shows', I presume ...
There were quite a few good games and displays for those visitors who did attend - and I took the opportunity to distract James Roach of the Ilkley Lads from his Western Desert display game to present him with the Paul Morris Axe.
James won the award for the most innovative non-commercial game within the Society's remit with his ancient naval take on Piquet - which featured at Fiasco last year (much to look at here ...).
We also had a chat with Rick Priestley of Warhammer and Black Powder fame (and he answered a query I had on BP ... but that's not for this blog maybe ...).. We are looking forward to an exciting contribution to next year's Kadesh Battleday ... and it sounds like 2011 will be another great year for ancients publications and rule books. Great news ...
Maybe it's the arrival of winter light, GMT and driving up in the dark (and, on the return from a reunion dinner ... mine was a trip through 5 counties ...).. but whereas SELWG, a couple of weeks ago, is a show that feels in full season, these days Fiasco feels like the year is drawing to conclusion, and has little of the buzz of busier events.
I came home and started making plans for Christmas.
I hope the organisers got good numbers as a result of the changed venue - and certainly, the Society of Ancients will continue to support their venture.
Was this the Armouries, though? No ... But hopefully the future will bring the traders, gamers and visitors that used to attend.
Is there a wargames event in the Armouries these days? Like the Society of Ancients Doubles once was? Or has that gone too? Pity ...
We'll be back in Yorkshire next month for Recon. Maybe we'll see you all there ....
Let's get a good turn out - it's got to beat Christmas shopping ...