Forgive the somewhat dramatic title of this post yet there is a growing concern that the 31st edition of the Euromilitaire Show, Folkestone U.K. may well have been the last or if things don’t change soon, it could very well be one of the last. The latest show took place the weekend of the 17th and 18th September and for me is my highlight of the hobbying year.
I was rather spoilt at my first Euro, last year, as it was the 30th anniversary and as such the competition room was full to the rafters with figure after figure, bust after bust, vehicle after vehicle and so on. The best of the best had invaded the run down seaside town of Folkestone, showing off their incredible works and were an inspiration to so many figure painters of all levels.
This year saw a major drop in attendance and quantity of competition pieces although the standard remained very high. I started taking photographs early in the morning, a rookie mistake as surely more figures would turn up and I would soon realise the difficulty I would have photographing certain figures more than once and others not at all. However, to my surprise within an hour or two of the show opening there were very few additions to the competition tables, I heard numbers such as 60% down on entries compared to previous years!!
So anyway let us catch up first before we analyse anything too much! The weekend was the fist time Kerri and I had spent anytime away from our kids and the oldest is three and a bit! Grandad was kind enough to look after them for the whole weekend, so it meant a drive from Bury St Edmunds to Harwich, drop off the kids and all their stuff, then drive down to Folkestone, find parking and unload the car and up to the rather run down and sad looking Southcliff Hotel.
The weather was atrocious especially for driving in, with torrential rain and slippery roads, taking my time we still got there within three hours. The underground, long stay parking was easy to find and cost £3 for an entire 24 hours, as we got down there a little before 6pm on the Friday, we only needed to pay for two days as we would be long gone before 6pm on the final day; a small victory!
As soon as we walked into the lobby of the hotel, we were hit with the presence of the hobby, people I knew were already sat around, talking and drinking, it was nice to walk in somewhere and get such a warm welcome and this was just the start! Right, let’s get booked in, unload our possessions and get some food! We were on the third floor and to say the accommodation isn’t great is a bit of an understatement.
I wasn’t too bothered yet I think Kerri was looking forward to getting away from the kids, no worries or everyday stuff and just enjoy her break, so I think she was quite disappointed. Our double bed was two singles pushed together, a catastrophe in the making, our window wouldn’t stay open and the bedding smelt damp.
However, for the price we did get a view overlooking the Leas and location wise it was perfect as it was just across the road from the venue. Next year’s hotel is already booked and we are going a little up market to say the least, so the weekend will be a great experience for Kerri and not just myself. We will be staying at the Rocksalt Rooms, a fifteen minute walk along the Leas to the venue.
So after dinner we headed to the Skuba Bar as we had received a message from our Greek friends, Michael Kontraros, Ant Con and Marios Vrachiolidis, to meet there and have some drinks. However, by the time we got there the pace had emptied as everyone had gone to freshen up for the evenings festivities.
It wasn’t too long though until Kris Toad and Normski Ealand joined us and we started having a right old laugh, banter, righting the world and talking hobby stuff. From there it was a case of going back to the hotel lobby where vast groups of figure painters were congregating and drinking.
I am also an enthusiast of armour modelling and I was stoked to spend some time with Chris Meddings, Andy Argent, Jon Simmons and the incredibly funny Lester Plaskitt who actually out bantered the legendary Normski. You would have to be there to realise how funny it was especially after all that alcohol!
So it was the middle of the night before we said our goodbyes and headed for bed, looking forward to the show the following day!
The day began with the customary McDonalds breakfast where I got to say a quick hello to Anthony Rodriguez and Meg Maples and then a short walk back to the hotel room to pick up my figure carry case. From there we were off to the venue, straight away bumping into our friends Paul Bullock, Matty Pearce, Iain Adkins et al.
First chance to check out Paul’s goblin ship creation (crazzzzzzy) and then a lovely moment where I met my Korean friend Jae Kwon Yoo and his family, so warm and welcoming and easy to talk to.
The upstairs cafe was beginning to fill up yet no one was allowed in to the show or even to enter their figures until tickets went on sale at 10am, this itself seems a little strange and was causing a backup on the stairs. Those who had bought their tickets online were ushered in at 10am whilst the rest of us eagerly waited to pay our fees.
Here is what is considered one of the first issues with the show, the price. For the two day event, tickets cost £14 per person, so £28 straight away for Kerri and I. No program, no freebie, no pin …. nothing! Then once we are in, it is a case of entering your figures. Another issue to consider, £2 per entry and no pre-registration available, so there are lots of people sitting around scribbling out their entry forms, looking for pens, trying to decide which class they’re in etc etc.
There are shows such as the Athens Show and Scale Model Challenge that provide very easy pre-registration online that saves a lot of time and hassle on the day. So my four entries add an additional £8, the show has already cost £36 and I have only been here two minutes! More about this later!
Down the first set of stairs takes us into the vendors area with a lot of the usual suspects on show, to name just a few we have Pegaso, Aradia, Tiny Leads, Nocturna, Scale 75, FeR, H&V, Hawk Miniatures and newcomers such as BrokenToad too, then we have the stalls selling plinths, literature and modelling materials and tools.
There is always plenty to look at and plenty to buy yet there are rarely any Euromilitaire exclusives or something that you couldn’t just as easily buy throughout the year on the internet.
The trader area is small and difficult to manoeuvre around especially when we consider how rude and inconsiderate some people can be with their backpacks and cameras, I don’t mean any offence here but we have all seen and been victim to a backpack nudge or attack at these shows.
Last year we took our two kids but the facilities and lack of space at the venue means this truly can’t be considered a family event, or certainly not with small children in tow.
Then it is down another set of stairs (there is a dodgy lift by the way) to the competition room. On this level we have seating areas and the bar also.
This year saw some new classes being added to the competition including Aviation, it was just a shame though that these were in a separate area and as with most new classes, the number of entries was minimal (about a dozen or so I believe).
Already I could see some amazing works on the tables, recognising pieces that I had seen on the internet from the masters that inspire me to become the best painter I can be.
Another issue for me are the competition tables, the shelves aren’t very deep, this means painters placing their entries on the bottom shelf run the risk of having their pieces nudged, manhandled or knocked to the floor while everyone is frantically trying to photograph and look at the entries on the higher shelves.
The middle shelf is probably the best as it benefits from decent lighting and is at less risk of being knocked over. The top shelf, reserved for the larger projects, suffers from the glare of the daylight coming through the windows at that height, so viewing and photographing these pieces is tricky. I see some competition rooms such as at Scale Model Challenge and Monte san Savino that look positively lavish in comparison.
I spoke with Andy Argent, a master diorama creator about the tables and here are his thoughts:
“They were wooden planks painted black with cloth pinned attached to the sides. They were too narrow for some classes resulting in some work being put up high in fear of being knocked off and broken . In addition, diorama classes were placed on top shelf too which I believe is a bit too high as I think a diorama should be viewed at an above as well as front view. They lacked the prestige look they once had with the upmarket gloss white stands. Very cheap looking in my eyes and did nothing to display the models to their fullest potential”.
Again space in and around the competition tables is limited and I think the show organisers would do everyone a favour by banning backpacks from the competition hall!
Once my figures were entered, it was time to photograph as many entries as I possibly could prior to sinking a few cold ones and chatting to everyone. One of the main draws for me to attend shows is the social aspect of immersing yourself in the hobby with like minded people.
The hours positively flew by and soon we were all thinking about refreshing ourselves and heading out for dinner. A large group of us set out looking for the all you can eat Chinese, some being too eager wondered off and left us stragglers behind, we invariably landed up at a different venue, a decision which we will come to regret I fear.
So we start loading up our first plate, the food looks incredible, the beer is cold and despite our group having to sit at two different tables we were soon laughing and joking. The food was delicious, time for another plate annnnndddddd…… some geezer at a party of people just behind us begins to projectile vomit across the entire restaurant! Appetite gone!
It just kept coming and the noise was disgusting, it soon became apparent as they called for an ambulance the poor fellow was in a particularly bad way. Meanwhile Normski just continued as if nothing had happened swallowing fork loads of noodles and other tasty morsels. The owner was gracious enough to knock 50% off our bill but we felt that the meal had ended before it even began.
From there it was time to hit a few bars and as the beer flowed, debates soon started up about different approaches to teaching and learning, fucksmoothness and the responsibility of all painters passing on knowledge to ensure the hobby doesn’t stagnate. To be involved in such debates with passionate people such as Kyle Quickshank, Jack Crowe and Anthony Rodriguez was really refreshing and gave me plenty to think about for the future.
It wasn’t too long until we were back at the hotel lobby chewing the cud with some of the hobbies great characters like Benny Sa and Fernando Ruiz, both are so funny and warm. Benny in particular has helped me so much with my site and supporting my endeavours that after the show I gave him the Berserk bust I painted for the show, it was worth it just to see his face! Although Fernando and Jaume took the mickey and said we needed to get a room! A true bromance is blossoming!
The armour modellers were in abundance too and I had such a laugh with John Simmons and Alex Long, John Simmons regaled us with how he created his own class at Euro just so he could win Gold with his AT-ST, was so funny I swear. John is one of those characters that alcohol has a positive effect on, making him super witty, charming and endearing. It was fast approaching 2 am and we were starting to lag so we went outside to say goodnight to everyone when the night show began!
Seriously out of nowhere, this scantily clad girl turns up, headphones in her ears, rocking some high heels and puts on an impromptu sex/cabaret show. It was a little peculiar but extremely funny, the police were eventually called as some of us began to get a little concerned, the policeman took it as the good humoured event that it was and as he ushered her into the patrol car, I encouraged everyone to give a round of applause, the hobbyists duly obliged and our drunk heroine gave us all one last big wave and smiling said her farewells!
With that Day 1 was over, wow!
The second day began, dragging ourselves out of bed with somewhat stuffy heads, we made our way to breakfast. Once we were refreshed it was time to head to the show. I had decided on a couple of purchases, I bought the Extreme Reality book, the new 90mm Roman Legionary kit from Pegaso and a suitable, high quality plinth to accompany the figure. I had every intention of getting Andy Argent and the guys to sign my book but at every opportunity I was thwarted, one day!
Then it was down to the competition hall where I was overwhelmed to realise that my Mushroom Shaman had been awarded a Silver medal! I was a little surprised that the figure was so warmly regarded by so many people and I soon had people coming up to me saying “hey your’e the mushroom guy” or some such! I took commended also for the Wicken King bust from Broken Toad, sadly my other entries didn’t impress the judges enough.
Judging and the results at shows generally throw up some curiosities and as always some people will disagree with their results, it is the same at this show too. However, in my opinion the quality of judging at Euromilitaire is particularly high and the judges are always more than happy to offer, valuable constructive criticism. At the end of the day their job is incredibly difficult. Last year I went home with two Bronzes, I took on the judges’ advice and critique and this year I return with a Silver! Next year ………..
I spent time talking to one of my inspirations, Alfonso Praolo, who is actually in the process of writing an article for the site, about his stunning Gold winning entries and his fear for my Shamans forest becoming mouldy as I used natural products eeek. Oh well the Shaman is a gift for a comic artist friend of mine in the States, so the mouldy forest will be his problem! Michael Kontraros told me a secret plan of his and I was so excited for him as he won Best of Show for Atonement!
It was great rubbing shoulders with the greats such as Pepe Gallardo, Mike Blank and David Zabrocki and then it was just a case of sitting around waiting to collect your figures and medals and watching the award ceremony. Sunday feels like a day of waiting and as we were driving back home after the show, that meant alcohol was forbidden.
For me personally, Euromilitaire is the highlight of my hobbying year, no doubt in large part because I don’t have the disposable income to afford to travel to the shows overseas. Euromilitaire was for two decades, the show that the best of the best competed against each other, the show that was eagerly awaited by everyone who was a figure painter or scale modeller.
The last ten years I am led to believe has seen a steady decline in the prestige of the show. Its organisers and sponsors have been accused of not promoting, advertising or investing in the show, relying on its history to keep carrying it forward, year on year.
With the introduction and growing reputation of some other shows such as SMC, Monte and Hussar to name a few it is becoming very clear that some changes need to be made to the current format. The competition itself is lacking in my opinion, perhaps the show could generate more interest and a higher attendance if there was a Standard and a Masters for each of the classes. That way at least the up and coming figure painters wouldn’t be put off the idea of attending and competing at such a show? Best of Show is another sticking point, it is invariably awarded to a figure painter, this in itself is a big enough thorn to dissuade a lot of stunningly talented diorama and armour modellers from even attending the show.
Perhaps a simple solution would be to split BoS into two prizes; a BoS for figures and one for Scale Armour. How can scale armour and figures be judged in the same way during the process and then have armour consistently failing to achieve any of the more prestigious awards?
I would like to see greater advertising of the show, the first flyer I saw for the competition was on Friday night in the Southcliff Hotel! A little late don’t you think? Would it not also be possible to sort out pre-registartion, produce a program and perhaps even create a glossy coffee table artbook of the entries. They could easily sell the previous years artbooks at the current show and or sell them immediately afterwards to whet the appetites of all those figure painters unable to attend, perhaps this sort of venture could start attracting more to attend in the future. I can see so many areas that need improvement and the fact that so many are willing to offer help, advice and support seems almost churlish that no efforts have so far been made to drag the show into the 21st century.
The location, venue, accommodation, travel network, accessibility, cost to vendors etc have all been questioned over the years and there seems to be no desire for transparent debate with the organisers. However, some folk have been approached by the event organisers following this years show to find out why numbers are down etc. This is despite people being willing to discuss this very issue with them for several years now, I hope this is the realisation they need to breathe new life into the Greatest Show on Earth.
I can’t wait for next year! Time to start my new projects and I hope to see you all there next year and for many years to come!