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Thoughts of a Show Manager

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The anatomy of a show

It’s mid-day Sunday, 7th May 2000, the day after Beacon’s 13th Annual Show. Roy Wilce has just been soaking in a hot bath for over an hour. It's his first lie-in for ages. He is sitting on his patio in the sun with a coffee, and a collie lying at his feet. Life is good. The Show went well, but his thoughts about it keeping turning over in his brain like some demonic tumble-dryer. He thinks, 'Perhaps it will help if I unload everything on to paper.' For the benefit of the reader, he has expanded some of these thoughts.

Why me? I ask myself every year. How many years? I think ten as Show Manager, taking over from Tony Stackhouse back in year dot though I have helped on all the Shows. How did I get the job? As far as I can remember, it was because I was at the front when everyone else stepped back.

Am I suitable? Newcomers to the sport will not know me as I have not competed for several years, and some would question my suitability on those grounds alone. However, in the early nineties I was competing with the best of them and on some days I can say with conviction that me and my Altricia Wide Awake were the best in the world. As a successful competitor I had a few invites to judge and even got to judge a few finals. Okay, so I know a bit about the sport, but does that make anyone a good manager?

Thoughts on… Beacon Club
All clubs and shows are run differently. This means the job of Show Manager varies from Club to Club. I have always been fortunate in that Beacon is a strong club, managed by a dedicated Committee of eight so we can share the load. The turnover of members is low. This means there is a 'corporate memory' and knowledge of how to run a show.

Thoughts on… Show Manager credentials
What makes a good Show Manager? To be honest I don’t know. In my case I don’t think I am suitable: I am not a natural manager though I am a Team Leader for a small group in my proper job. My strengths are in design and planning. My weakness is my inability to delegate. Other qualities I would list are stamina, endurance and tolerance. Oh! And I am a key member in the Club (that means I was once the Chairman of the Veseyan Sports and Social Club and have a set of keys to open anything). However, I lose a lot of sleep before the Show and that cannot be right. 

Thoughts on… The Show
Beacon has always held a one-day Show in early May with four to five rings at our training venue. It is convenient and inexpensive but also small. We have always aimed for a comfortable show - not too ambitious - because of the size of the grounds. We have always kept the same date as Tunbridge, so we don’t get swamped with entries.

Thoughts on… The Preparation
The date of the Show was set even before the last one took place. The Committee worked on the planning though last summer. My job started in November getting the schedule ready for printing in December. In February I compile the schedule of rosettes and trophies needed, and then in April the Task List (who does what before the Show, on the preceding day, and on the day itself.) In true planners style, I have condensed all this to one side on A4. The list cannot be compiled until we know the final numbers in case another ring is needed, even then we will typically get though three drafts before the day. Next I can make up the ringside notices. We have one final committee meeting dedicated to the Show to check everyone has their bits under control. Now it’s fingers crossed that the lousy weather will stay lousy long enough to break out fine for the Show.

Thoughts on… The Run-up
Because historically we always had difficulty hiring equipment we have now amassed all we need. This is great for training, but it needs to be overhauled before the Show. We arrange an evening session to clean, paint and resurface the contacts, and a final blitz on equipment cleaning on the last training evenings before the Show. I think the corporate memory was working well this year. We never announce it but were unusually short of members on the cleaning night this year.

Thoughts on… Two days in the life of a Show Manager
Friday means a days annual leave from work. The ‘Show Box’ has already come down from the attic and been checked. Batteries put back into the stopwatches. Damn! One watch is unreliable and must be replaced. It's a quick trip to the local sports shop. The dogs get walked, they will not come to this Show. A light lunch and the car loaded to bursting with essential and ‘might need’ bits. At 1:30 I set out to for the Club, putting up the road signs on the way. At the Club the public address engineer is only person around. They did it last year so know what to do. Barry Anslow pulls up, as usual, one of the first members to arrive. He has already marked out where the rings will be. We start getting the equipment out. I post up a ‘things to do’ list in case anyone needs inspiration.

Now it’s 3:30, time to go to our other store seven miles away to meet Jan and Robin, who has hired a van for the other equipment. By 6:00 several of the club members have turned up and the Ring Managers have set up their rings. The car parking bunting is hung out, and Club signage put up. By 8:00 we have gone as we can. Time to open the bar, the phone rings. A scribe and scorer cannot come tomorrow. Then the caterer rings. He is sending a substitute company. At 10:00 I leave Barry to lock up the Club. He is sleeping on-site; I am off home.

At 6:45am on Saturday the day of the Show, I am back on-site to unlock the Club and cancel the alarms. Experience tells me the first thing people want is the toilets. The show opens 8am for judging at 8:45 but the first competitor arrives at 7:01. Graham Taylor is on post, and I’ll help the car parking until there are enough Club members to take over. From then on it’s a case of staying near the Secretary’s tent to fill vacant posts and pass on knowledge and information to the Club members. The Show secretary will look after the competitors. A minor panic when a judge does not turn up until gone 8:15. All courses walking by 8:30 and the briefings out of the way by 8:40. The calls go out for competitors. Every year it’s the same. The judges are waiting the competitors are not. At last the Show is under way. From here on I flit from ring to ring to kitchen to bar to stallholders to score tents to competitors. Not that I go looking for trouble; if there is any it finds me easily enough. With small classes for Minis and Midis, we are able to give out a few trophies and rosettes during the morning.

A PC Flyball qualifier was a new experience for us. Fortunately, we had Daventry DTC to help us; help us? They almost ran it for us! What surprised me was the number of non-agility flyball competitors. Who in heck would bring a dog and not want to do agility at an Agility Show? By 12:15 we had the Flyball teams registered, and the draw done. Now time to close the rings and get the judges, their timers and scribes fed. In my exalted position, I get to eat the excellent lunch but as usual I have lost my appetite. I eat anyway because I’ll need the calories later.

By 2:00 all the rings are running again and I am beginning to feel more comfortable. Soon be time to start thinking about closing down. Collect in the traffic cones from the car park and parking notices. By 3:30 the first ring closes. From here on in the pace will quicken. By 5:15pm we have the last call for the last class. Everyone is clamouring for their rosettes. It’s hard to remember which class has had its presentation, which is still waiting for the final tally to come in, and which is ready for presentation but waiting for a judge who is still judging another class.

6:00pm the last competitor has gone and I am leaving the grounds with the van to return much of the equipment to store. By 7pm I am back at the Club collecting the road signs on the way. Barry is the only person left. Why does that not surprise me? We lock up the Club and grounds thankful the weather has stayed dry throughout both days. I stop off at the chip shop and by 8:00pm the car is in my garage.

Thoughts on… Show Highlights

  • The ex-members who unexpectedly turned up to help.
  • The young woman who was doing such a marvelous job on the scoreboard. Not only was it her first agility show, but she does not compete; she does not even own a dog.
  • The Judge who refused expenses and competitors who gave their prize money to Aldridge Dog Rescue.
  • The competitors who came over to say thanks at the end of their day.
  • Anyway, I am still no nearer an answer. Why do I do it?  Maybe because I can, maybe because no-one else wants to. Will I do it again? Yesterday it was ‘No.' Today it’s ‘I don’t think so’.

Thoughts… Now
Download complete. I’ll tidy this up later. My coffee has gone cold. It’s time to start sorting out the pile of show boxes in the front hall, check and repack them, take the batteries out of the watches. Next I’ll do some notes for our Show Debriefing Committee meeting on Wednesday when it starts all over again. I think my appetite is coming back.

A companion article to ‘Thoughts of a Judge,’ originally printed in Agility Voice (Oct 1992) and reprinted on Agilitynet in the History section of the Magazine.
Picture credit: Ginger Cutter's English Shepherd* Tam. All photos by Bill Newcomb.
* The English Shepherd is American breed, an active family and working dog, with legendary family loyalty.  It has found great favor among pet owners, as an extraordinary companion which is very good with children and yet is instinctually protective.