As this year I was helping out on the Wargames Terrain Workshop stall, rather than wandering the aisles, this year’s report will hopefully give a view ‘behind the scenes’. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to take many photos, being on call or occupied for most of the day, which also meant I missed the annual blogger’s meet. However, as the time for this had changed to 12.30 and no-one had mentioned this…I probably would have missed this anyway.
So, my Salute experience started around midday on the Friday, as I packed up my stuff at work and made my way to the station. With trundle-bag in tow, I had a reasonably swift and pleasant journey into London having wisely decided to get some hot food to eat on the journey.
Having arrived at Paddington and checking the time, I realised that my cunning plan to visit The Porterhouse in Covent Garden was still a possibility, so jumped on the tube and made my way there. I’d visited the one in Dublin last October, and when I found there was one in London too, I had promised myself a visit the next opportunity I got.
After a very pleasant pint of their Plain Porter, I did what I usually do when in a part of London I’m unfamiliar with, which is to set off in roughly the right direction for my final destination and hope to hit a tube station. After wanderng past Somerset House on the Embankment, I ended up at Temple, then tubed to Tower Gateway and on to the DLR for the Excel.
As it was slightly later than I’d anticipated, I headed directly to the hotel to book in – to find that they couldn’t find my booking. Slightly annoying, but luckily they did have a room available and it was actually £20 cheaper than when I’d initially booked.
I dumped my stuff, used the facilities and then went to meet Dave.
Slipping in through the Contractors Entrance, I got my first look at the hall from an insider’s perspective. All three rear shutters were open, allowing the afternoon sunlight in and my first thought was…that’s a lot of vans.
From a logical point of view, I should have expected it, but seeing the shutters closed and all the stands set up as an attendee, you don’t immediately connect the two and realise that getting all the stuff in would require more than a few sack trucks and trolleys. They open the shutters, the traders drive their vans in and unload. And you thought the width of the aisles was for your comfort…
Traders are allowed in from approximately half two on the Friday to set up and are kicked out at around five. Depending on how much you’ve got to set up and when you arrive limits what you can get done on the Friday. The traders are allowed back in at 7.30 on the Saturday to finish off and have to be in the hall by 9.00am at the latest, prior to the doors opening at 10. In these two and half hours, there is an air of franticness palpable, as those traders with large complicated stalls or those who have arrived later than the others try to get everything ready by ten.
This pre-opening period is also the opportunity for those ‘inside’ to network and make purchases prior to the crowds filtering in, but not ever trader is in a position to take your money, so a certain degree of persuasion IS needed. Luckily, being a charming chap, everyone I spoke to was prepared to help me out. I even had two of the staff on Caliver Books stall searching their entire stock for a particular miniature I was after, for which I was extremely grateful. I made a few modest purchases, more of which later.
Bearing in mind that Salute officially opens at 10.00am, I was surprised to discover from one of the Salute staff that some attendees had been queuing since 6.30 that morning! Standing in a queue for three and a half hours, just to be one of the first through the doors. That’s dedication…or possibly some kind of mental aberration.
From a traders point of view, the day goes in pulses. You get the initial filtering in of the crowd – some will rush straight in to their targeted supplier, desperate to get their stuff before it sells out, others take their time and browse as they go.
As Dave and I were manning the demonstration table, there was a certain degree of waiting until such time as people had made their initial purchases and felt inclined to sit down and play a game. I think this is typical of all these sorts of events.
As the crowds filtered past, I saw Imperial Stormtroopers, Scouts and officers, a Jawa, a rather nice Cylon Centurion and Deadpool wandering about. Simon Moore (aka Blaxkleric) of Fantorical dropped in to say hello and later in the day, so did Andy Nash of da Gobbo’s Grotto, although I was running a demo game of Death Match at the time and wasn’t able to chat as much as I would have liked.
Whilst Dave ran the lion’s share of the demo games, as he’s more familiar with the rules than me, I did run at least three or four games, including one for the writer of the rules and his son, which was slightly nerve-wracking as he obviously knew them better than me! The final game finished just as they were kicking people out the hall at five and I realised that the day had actually gone a lot quicker than I’d thought.
After all the attendees have left, the traders have two hours to pack up and leave. It’s pretty remarkable that they do manage it in this time, as by the time we’d packed up at 6.30pm, the majority of the traders were already done. Years of practice obviously.
So, it was an interesting experience to see if from the other side. It’s an early start for the traders, with breaks taken as and when possible, and ideally getting a good night’s sleep the previous evening is recommended. Unless, like me, you had a raucous party occurring on the rear deck of the Sunborn yacht hotel going on into the wee hours of the morning within high-pitched squealing laughter of your room…
However, the illuminated London skyline IS quite pretty…
As this is a longer post than I anticipated, my Salute purchases will have to wait for another, later post.
Whilst I will be attending Salute next year, I think I may go back to being a patron. However, I would like to thank Dave for the opportunity and also to the rest of the WTW crew for making me feel very welcome.