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The Crick Factor

How was the Crick Boat Show for you this year?

For us at Waterways World it was our first year since taking over as the show organisers and, although we say so ourselves, we really enjoyed it. We hope you did too!  We think it fully lived up to its reputation as the busiest and most popular boat show for the UK's tens of thousands canal and river enthusiasts. 

At time of writing our admin people are still working through the attendance figures. However, it's clear the show has been significantly more popular this year and public attendances are well up on recent years - perhaps by as much as 20% - with almost 220 exhibitors taking stands, another big rise on last year. 

This year's long holiday weekend saw mixed weather, including gusty winds on the Saturday that raised worried memories of the gales that forced an early closure of the show a couple of years ago.  Nevertheless the rain held off until the very last day, and falling as it did on the Monday, everyone was spared the mud that might have been generated if it had rained earlier. 

Other waterways festivals might stress the social and the restoration aspect, but Crick remains the place to come to do the business side of boating - to dream, to seek advice, to plan and to buy. 

Small wonder that the show also remains a favourite with boat builders and traders, who rely on Crick to fill their order books - and who booked every available space this year with show boats. 

Favourite Boat of the Show - the impressive ‘Barolo’ 

Nothing draws in the visitors like the chance to look around other people's boats, and probably the show's most popular feature is the Favourite Boat of the Show award, sponsored by boat insurers Collidge and finance company RoyScot Larch. 

'Stunning' is a much overworked word, but Barolo, this year's most popular boat, deserved the epithet.  Barolo is an astonishing confection of design from William Piper Boats  - an imaginative blend of traditional working boat features outside and modern luxury 'floating cottage' inside.

It includes a 'farmhouse' interior - complete with oil-fired Heritage stove and welsh dresser - and a hand-carved interior that's said to be of wood recovered from a refit of Buckingham Palace.

It’s William Piper’s second win (they also carried off the trophy in 2009), and they were helped by adventurous and imaginative owners who really wanted something out of the ordinary. We hope to be examining this boat in greater detail shortly. 

Barolo was described by the proud lady owner as 'a birthday present from my husband!'

Voting was brisker than usual this year, reflecting the large number of high quality boats on show. MGM Boats were a close second place with Braidbar Boats voted third. So good is the standard of boatbuilding presented at Crick these days that any differences in quality are often not evident on casual inspection, and judgement can come down to inspirational design.

What was clearly evident at the show was a mood of optimism from most of the boat builders.  Veteran builder Mel Davis - who not only brought a boat to show but also took a stand in the main marquee - summed it up for many when he said "The industry is on the up.  We’ve had so much interest this year."

A striking trend in recent years has been the increasing number of marinas not only opening but exhibiting at the Show.  There has been talk of a glut in the moorings market – but certainly the marina operators we spoke to seemed optimistic that they could fill the space they had created.

The chandlery and accessory suppliers did a brisk business, helped in most cases by healthy show discounts.

Seminars prove popular

The daily seminars proved a surprise.  When we announced that BW managing director Robin Evans and marketing director Simon Salem would both be appearing on panels, we’d expected these would be crowded out with people eager to hear (or confront them) about the dire state of waterways funding.

WW editor Richard Fairhurst (above) hosted the first discussion with BW Marketing director Simon Salem and IWA leading light Paul Roper.

While the BW bigwigs did get a good audience, by far the biggest seminar audiences were for the Q&A sessions of our own technical staff (above) - Rupert Smedley, Mark Langley and Graham Booth - as well as for the daily talks of Stephanie Horton of River Canal Rescue.   

The talks by the Residential Boat Owner's Association, hosted by chairman Rex Walden also drew in large numbers of hopeful liveaboards.

On the Sunday Robin Evans had a walkabout in the main 'Kingfisher' marquee, where we caught up with him talking to some of the stands, including people on the IWA stand (below).

Competition Trail

One novelty this year that proved popular was the Competition Trail, in which many exhibitors offered free prize draws.  Prizes on offer ranged from two-year subscriptions to Waterways World through to £1,000 off a share syndicate boat from BCBM Boat Share.  We totted them all up and they came to a value of over £15,000.

Beer tent blues and family values

Crick wouldn't be what it is without the regular entertainment from a variety of musicians, some of them returning year after year.  Sharp-eyed readers might have noticed our own erstwhile technical editor, Graham Booth, playing the trumpet with Bill Bailey's jazz band on the final day!

Crick remains an important family show, and an essential part is the profusion of children's entertainment, both active (bungee trampolining or bell boating) and passive (Punch & Judy and circus workshops.)

A big draw this year was the hourly 'personal appearances' from Peppa Pig.   The kids just kept on coming back for cuddles from this pink porcine phenomenon – they couldn’t see enough of the character! 

The voice of the Show

There was one character who was unseen but whose presence was heard throughout the Crick Boat Show. Most of us probably never gave a second thought to the gentle tannoy announcements of Ollie Gallant, the DJ/announcer for local radio station Touch FM, who was on duty throughout the weekend.  Ollie is a familiar voice on the Midlands radio, but (inevitably) little seen.  However, his professional announcements were a huge help in reminding visitors what was upcoming and what they might have otherwise missed. We think he deserves a namecheck and a photograph – and our thanks. 

Floating space 'sold out'

Waterways World's publisher, Peter Johns, tells us he was very pleased with how the show had gone this year.

“The exhibitors seemed to be very pleased, not only with the visitor numbers, but particularly that visitors were buying", he said.  "In the present economic climate it was very pleasing to hear many exhibitors reporting record sales.  We were very happy that the floating exhibitor space was completely sold out and the two marinas provided a real showcase for the very high quality of workmanship that the canal boat builders provide. Despite a wet Monday, overall visitor numbers were up on previous years."

So how was your Crick Boat Show?   We’d like to hear your feedback, and we’re looking forward to seeing you next year!


Sat 4 Feb 2012, 11:03

Love the blog