Diff'rent Strokers

Classic Motor Show, NEC, November 2009

No, not the NEC Bike Show with new-for-2010 hyperbikes and MCN "babes", this is the biggest classic vehicle show of the year.  It's mainly been cars so far and features everything from Diablo's to Allegro's via just about everything you can think of.  They introduced a Classic Bike Hall last year and are trying to build up this particular side of the event so we signed up for it.

Actually, there was rather more to it than that.  Having had our application accepted, the amount of paperwork that we subsequently received and then had to complete and return was a bit of a shock.  A detailed drawing of our proposed stand, health and safety forms, insurance declaration, a risk assessment, showguide entry, discount ticket deals, waste management, electrical requirements - we were beginning to wonder what we'd let ourselves in for.  We'd already paid 120 to meet the requirements for public liability insurance, although this is an annual policy that covers other events too.  We were ready to reluctantly pay the 50 deposit for maximum 60 minutes drop-off too but luckily the bloke on the checkpoint couldn't be bothered and waved us through.

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As usual, the stand space was given to us for free, and quite a generous area we got too.  Not only that but it was located in the prestigious Pavilion foyer just off the main hall and was back-to-back with the LC Club.  Darin was keen to utilise his display unit, a large exhibition trailer with fold-out stage, normally used for outdoor car events.  This would be the first time we had enough space to incorporate it in the stand.  It was a shock to arrive at 10am on Thursday to find a massive steel pillar right where we needed to put it though - that wasn't shown on any plan that we'd been sent.  Eventually we managed to place it where we wanted it - stealing 18" off the LC Club in the process (but with their prior approval - thanks Tony & Co).

When we arrived, the space for each stand was marked out with light-grey carpet.  Having set up the bulk of the stand before 2pm as requested, a team of exhibition staff then went through the halls laying down red carpet in all the aisles and public areas.  Astonishingly, all this carpet is brand-new for each show and everything is cut to size and stuck down while you watch.  This makes the whole show look very neat and professional but the effort and cost involved is unbelievable, not to mention the wastage.  We were told it would all be ripped up and binned the day after the show, so a generous length of red was rolled up on Sunday evening and found its way into Tim's van where it will be used to carpet his garage.

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Because it was a 3-day show (Fri-Sun) and we had to set up on the Thursday, it proved difficult to persuade people to volunteer their bikes - understandably it was too difficult for some people to get time off work to help us out.  Luckily we could count on a couple of reliable regulars - Rob offered us his KR-1S and new NSR250 MC18 and Andy let us borrow his NS400R plus his RGV250, brought along and entered by his Dad John.  Darin brought the ever-faithful MVX plus his RB and YSR gag bikes.  Tim took his 3MA and KR250 along again and Sara brought her NSR50.  Finally new boy Craig kindly tucked his lovely RG500 in the van alongside the 500LC that he was already bringing for the LC boys next door.

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Although the space was free, we had to pay if we wanted electricity.  Given that we wanted to show the updated slideshow off a laptop and a plasma screen plus run the usual lighting units, we forked out 77.17 for the bare minimum single 3-pin mains socket limited to 500W.  Despite Darin's last minute attempts to sabotage everything by suddenly announcing that the unit : a) had an unconventional plug on it, and b) contained it's own lighting system plus a fridge and hot-water urn, we somehow survived the long weekend only tripping the breaker once.  Massive thanks to Craig for bringing his magic kettle that only consumes 3W (by taking 20 minutes to boil a single mug of water !).  Ironically it was so well lit where our stand was located that we didn't even unpack our own lighting units.

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Friday was Press day and with tickets at 23 a pop there were enough people there without it being too busy.  We didn't see any of the Top Gear boys or other celebrities, and the only journalist who came to speak to us was Jim Reynolds who told us were were doing a good job.  Nice that the effort we put in is recognised.  Peter Williams spent a good part of the weekend hanging out on the Norton Club stand next door and there was plenty of professional video equipment being used but none of it was pointed in our direction.  The 'polluting the planet' banners and T-shirts raised the usual chuckles and favourable comments though, and someone got completely the wrong end of the stick regarding the banner that says 'nakeds' and 'gags'...

Saturday and Sunday were busier, so much so that we got very little time to go and explore the rest of the show.  Some familiar faces turned up to say hello and plenty of people discovered us for the first time - hopefully we've inspired some of them to display their bikes sometime.  We still haven't experienced the magic moment though when someone says "I've got an RG500 in the shed, do you want it ?".  It was nice to spend a bit more time than usual with the people from the other bike stands, the Triples Club, Kettle Club and MB5 boys also attending this show for the first time.  We loved the '49 Chevy pickup parked a few feet away at the Ace Cafe area but - it being hooked up to a PA - we were all utterly sick of rock 'n roll by the end of the 3 days.

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Packing up on Sunday was initially a bit of a nightmare, the vans being locked-in half a mile away and no-one allowed access.  Following the lead of others, we rode/pushed some of the bikes to the vans instead, though when we were eventually allowed to drive them into the halls it was pretty easy and stress-free.  Not so on the Thursday night when a simple request to leave his van overnight turned into a pitched battle between Tim and the various hopeless morons who laughingly comprise the 'NEC Traffic Department'.  The stupidest, rudest, most unhelpful and downright inept cretins ever to don a dayglo jacket - and that's saying something.

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Thanks to Andy, John, Rob, Sara and Craig for volunteering their bikes and making it an enjoyable event.  Chell couldn't make it to this show but made a very generous contribution all the same by allowing us to stay at her house for the duration.  Thanks Chell, we won't tell anyone what disc we found in your DVD player...



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