Thursday, 13 June 2013

Broadside 2013 - An organisers tale.......

Well, that's Broadside over for another year!

Except it isnt, of course; we now start all over again and begin preparations for 2014 and even some work for 2015...should we all survive that long and judging by how knackered I am now I am not so sure. It takes a good week to get over each Broadside weekend; hence the lateness of this blog post. To be fair, I was also waiting until I had looked at the general feedback of other blogs and emails before typing but now feel the time has come...that, and the fact I can now actually sit up straight again!

All of the blogs you will find that talk about Broadside are really positive, everyone seems to have had a great time," saw some fantastic games, met up with friends and bought some cool gear"; what more can you ask of a wargame show? As the event drew to a close and we started packing up, plenty of happy campers came over and thanked me for organising the day and congratulated the club for putting on a great show. For me, this is the proof that the hard work was indeed worth it. Those people could have just gone home but they took the time to find me and those that couldn't find me sent emails soon after; all this means a great deal to me personally.

As for the show itself, there is little point me telling you all things that you will find everywhere else in Blogland so, instead, I thought I would share with you a little of what it takes to put on such an event, a bijou diaryette if you will. of how the show builds. The bottom line here is patience.....buckets and buckets of patience. And steely determination....maybe some decent Gin. And some Asprin.

Actually, better throw in another bucket or two of patience....

Are we ready for a long tale heroic deeds and derring do? Then pull on you reading socks and I will begin....

(Please not that this blog post is in no way meant as a criticism of our wonderful traders and visiting clubs, rather an tongue-in-cheek rant :) )

Lets us go back full circle, to this time last year and the end of Broadside 2012. By now I was already starting to receive one or two bookings for the next show, but was still in the process of debriefing sessions to identify mistakes and solutions. So many things happen all at once during a show it is important to get each issue clear in our minds. Most of these are very small and get dealt with quickly with little fuss but lef,t they build up into a gang with their mates and lurk about the place waiting to kick the crap out of you. Remember, we are a small club with less that a dozen members and so we need to make sure each guy is used as effectively as possible. Based upon the feedback and debriefings we re structure our staffing points to take problems into account. Now we start to contact clubs and traders again and a long period of communication and negotiation starts.

I email everyone that took part the previous year and offer them first refusal of their stand. We spend months contacting people, hundreds of emails go out but just a dozen or so are ever responded to. This can be very disheartening to the novice but we have come to understand that these initial emails are really seeds. We plant them and much later, if we are lucky, they bloom! Generally all at once, three weeks before the show, asking for space that has long been sold!!! The lack of initial response may be normal but when you organise such an event it cannot be relied upon. I sit at my PC and trawl through lists of wargame companies, contacting them all individually and inviting them to take part; day after day, company after company.

By about Christmas time I have a list of confirmed traders and clubs, usually less than half of what we need but those seeds will be sprouting soon. The insurance needs paying, the advertising has to be booked in (need to make up the ads of course) and pay for the hall. I now start to get the run of emails and phone calls asking for forms that have already been sent, questions about costs that are actually clearly printed in bold type of the very forms the caller/emailer has in their own hand at that moment and, amazingly, one call that was made just to check that the phone number on the form was for the show and for the booking in case I had missed one off. Now open the second bottle of gin....

And about now our club website was hacked and killed off...permanently. Thankfully, Brigade Models offer us a page on their site for the Broadside stuff and we make use of this blog and the Facebook page. Can anybody else hear that odd high pitched whistley sound? no?

By January we are really flying. Many traders do not even start to look at booking shows until late January so with this in mind we start the third round of mass emails. This is supported by dozens of phone calls to follow up leads and to make personal contact with the trader. This really helps and gives you the opportunity to encourage the trader to take part, a personal bond is created that is very much a part of the friendly nature of Broadside events. More forms need to be sent for those that have been lost or eaten by the recipients daughter's rabbit (I jest not) or that are on the recipients pc somewhere but they cannot be bothered to look so can I have another one sent to me please (again, I kid you not). This goes on in this exact fashion for several months. At this point you are now taking Gin and Asprin in equal measure in the desperate hope the headache goes away or you die, either option is by now very much on the table.

You really can't hear that sound? High pitched but kinda wobbly in the middle?

We now start the fun task of building the hall plans, positioning the various traders and clubs. The traders want various table sizes that we need to plot carefully so no two with similar stock are placed too close together. The clubs all have very different needs table size wise and we need to position those with similar a tetris game that needs evacuation aisles. Of course, not all club and trader spaces are full yet so this plan is in a constant state of tweek and flux. This way we can keep a close eye on available space and know how many more clubs or traders we can fit in.

By March we now confirm the parking arrangement with the council (don't ask...just don't). The stuff that went on in January and February is now happening on a weekly basis rather than monthly. More phone calls, more emails, checking which club members are actually going to be able to help on the day, buying new signs, club shirts for new members etc etc. Just a few months to go and space is getting very tight. Sixth round of emals and calls, these follow ups are very useful as many have been meaning to get in touch but havn't got around to it yet. Can I have a form sent again please? (the fourth in one case). There is little Gin left.

Its ok, that high pitched noise has gone now, I think the purple chicken scared it off.

By April the emails and phone calls both in and out are an all day every day occurence. The fire fighting now starts, small problems start cropping up that need smart attention, issues with the hall, staff, trader needs more/less space. Club has no idea why you are contacting them about their game, they are not involved...are we? We are?! Oh, Bob/John/Thingy didn't say.... Trader desperately wants a trade stand, only need 6ft please fit me in....what do you mean we are already in and have booked and paid for a 12ft stand..really? oh, ok. Hall plans need urgent change as club game has now expanded to 12x8 but later that day they have changed their minds and the game so now only need 6x4! That purple chicken is eating the carpet! We order the tables, a major expense this year as the club games are bigger and more of them.

May. One month to go. Completely out of Gin and Asprin, I am sure the Purple Chicken has some but the bastard wont share. It now lives under the desk and has taken to whistling the theme tune to Dixon of Dock Green. By now we are full and the hall plans are finalised, several revisions to tweek layout for safety. I now email every trader and club with an individualised plan for the show. They are told in clear simple terms what hall they will be in, where to park and how to use the all important parking voucher, where they will be in that hall, what time they can get there to set up. They are told that their table will be clearly marked on the day and that on their table with that name plate there will be any receipts, sandwich chits and parking vouchers. I ask that they respond to that email so I know they have received and understood this important communication. Less than half respond.

Ten days to go. I now spend most of the day every day finalising plans, printing notices, receipts etc., I get call after call and email after email asking what time can I get there to set up - or - what do I do about parking - or - what hall are we in this year. I spend time under my desk bonding with the Purple Chicken. I have meetings with the hall staff to ensure we are all singing from the same sheet and they understand what we need done with the hall. They are supposed to lay out their own tables for us and make sure areas are clear. Hmmm.

The Saturday before the show. Eight phone calls about parking/entry time/what hall between 8am and 3pm. At 4pm we meet at the hall to set up the show. Told the main hall in use till 4.30! It was actually empty with the lights off although the previous user had left large nets out, barrier walls etc. Oh, and the tables had not arrived yet. Tried to set up small hall but the large stage and other gear still in place. Duty manager and very small pretty girl from the centre arrived to sort out hall. It now starts to go runny. I explain how the hall needs to be set up, despite sending them annotated plans previously. I note the Purple Chicken has come with us and is wandering about the hall. The stage needs to be broken down and put into the store room...where the tables are. It all gets very confused as we desperately try and get the tables out and positioned as equipment is being put away to provide the space we need. In the main hall the tables have arrived but many are the wrong type! We manage to sort things out eventually and have just enough of the type we need to cover the game areas...phew! We are finished by 6pm and three traders are setting up in the main hall. Last job of the night, Mark and I place all the trader and club name plates on the relevant tables, along with parking vouchers, receipts, food chits and a small pack of Broadside 2014 flyers. Remember this last bit.

Sunday, D Day. I arrive just before 8am and things are already moving nicely. So far so good. the centre cafe has not put enough staff on despite my repeated warnings and are then thrown into near panic when I mention that the people here now are only the exhibitors...the public, between 300 and 400 of them, arrive from 10am. Two trader no shows by 10am, new plans in place to cover this by redistributing the table to avoid gaps. Minor dispute between two traders, dealt with quickly and problem solved. Seven, count them, seven traders and clubs complain they have not been given parking vouchers. Visited each in turn and showed them their vouchers with their name plate as explained in the emails they all got previously. Received apologies. Purple Chicken seen stealing packets of crisps from vending machine. Trader no shows now known to be caused by a broken leg day before whilst moving house and the other due to van break down on M25. Spent the day firefighting various minor issues, checking on clubs and traders...actually managed to spend thirty five mins looking at show for my self, first time in three years!

Best game in show award given to Deal Wargamers! Many thanks to our good friend Henry Hyde for being our judge for the day and Pen & Sword for being our show sponsor. And also, just as importanly, many thanks indeed for all those who took part in Broadsie 2013, be you a trader, club or visitor! You all go to make the show the success that it is rapidly becoming!

I got home at about 7pm. I then spent four hours going through all the cash, receipts, B&B forms, entrance demographic charts and reports. For those interested, Broadside cost almost £2500.00 to stage. Just 10% of our visitors came from our local area, 59.5% from Kent and 30.5% from beyond Kent.

I hope that this inside view of the show has been of interest and that you have seen a little of what running a show actually takes.


  1. The Purple Chicken is called "Bernard!" I know because he told me so! Anything Alan says to contradict this is a clear indication that he needs stronger Meds.

    1. The chicken ate all my meds!!!!!

    2. There is a picture of you on Rays blog today.... warn Maria and your children.

  2. Sounds like an easy couple of months to me!!

    1. Hi Ray,

      I take it all in my stride mate.....then go off and hide in the corner for a while. It sounds worse than it is...sort of, but not by much :) You have to keep on top of it and then its like surfing!

  3. I thought I saw a purple chicken scuttle under our table at one point, but it was just a 2 year old scaring his mother and making a break for the exit. You make running a wargames show sound like riding a bucking bronco, terrifying and fun in equal measure. Hope the med's kick in soon, and already looking forward to Broadside 2014!

    1. Hi Lee,

      Ah, little Elenor...she can motor when she gets going! As for the show and the bucking bronco, that about sums it up! But then I get to see all the little faces around their wargames table, having fun and meeting their friends and I think, well, maybe it is all worth it. I am a bit like Father Christmas really...a net exporter of happiness!

      Really glad you enjoyed the show, looking forward to seeing you all next year :)