Philip Moss takes us on a journey to see how the rare British Shooting Show Tradesman survives the days following hibernation…
Having watched the BBC’s new wildlife-porn programme, Alaska, I now believe virtually anything in life can be reduced to this formula with all issues adequately, if awkwardly, covered. This new way to spend the licence fee shows a variety of unhappy creatures from northern climes wandering around, doing not much, scratching their backsides, while the voiceover adds the drama. Admittedly, they have now stopped the odious practice of naming the cute little ground squirrel which is about to be predated by the coyote, but intercession of the voiceover still determines the narrative:
“Beneath the snow, the ground squirrel is hibernating. His metabolism begins to resemble that of a British teenager. His temperature has dropped to zero with just enough to keep his libido and the need for alcohol, doner kebabs, and tobacco alive.”
The rest of the programme was padded out with shots of cameramen running around on ice trying to photograph arctic foxes, the usual grizzly bear-on-salmon action and some boring shots of a mother polar bear and her two cubs, which was frankly less interesting than the Jeremy Kyle show – no huntress dragging the dead seal from the ice here. Perhaps the most interesting item was the world’s largest gathering of bald eagles. This resembled a United Nations meeting to solve the current Ukraine crisis. The outcome was the same but there were no speeches, and more fish got eaten.
So how would the BBC Wildlife Photography Unit deal with the British Shooting Show?
Voiceover: Roots and carrion would be a treat for this trader, who has spent all winter warding off starvation. January is a bleak time for this hardy, often solitary species (camera shot of trader examining and then sniffing index finger). Gathering in small groups at point-to-points, or street markets, things can turn nasty.
Camera shot shows a lone customer being mobbed by desperate traders on a bleak and barren hillside (not unlike Lark Hill). Soon the traders turn on each other in exasperation as the customer seeks the safety of a Cornish Pasty stand.
Voiceover: But change is in the air. Here traders seem to sense that the British Shooting Show is only days away.
Camera shot shows traders cleaning their coats by rubbing themselves against the frosty ground and trees, and then pans to the shower cubicles provided free on site, which remain virtually unused.
Voiceover: And despite the loss of over half their body weight owing to a recent VAT quarterly payment, there is a sudden burst of activity.
Camera shows traders unloading stands and stock from vans during the two-day set-up period.
Voiceover: All this activity doesn’t go unnoticed.
Camera pans to a close-up of the bearded, eagle-eyed visage of John Allison, new head honcho of The British Shooting Show.
Voiceover: It’s just as important for him that the show is a success. (copyright BBC Patently Bleeding Obvious Department, 2015)
Camera fades and reopens. The chaotic set-up scenes have been transmogrified into the perfectly presented but empty show halls just before it’s all spoilt by allowing the public to trample over it. There’s another close-up of Mr Allison with sweat visible on his top lip as Prince Harry cuts the ribbon and unleashes the buying public into Stoneleigh’s cavernous interior.
Ah! First day sales. They are, as it might say in The Good Book, fresh air unto the drowning man. The sales come so thick and fast, all thoughts even of breakfast are forgotten as customers and traders alike the fill their metaphorical boots.
Voiceover: But not everything is going plan…
Camera shot shows John Allison in front of the entrance booth thinking that no one is ever going to organise a show where all the traders are happy and all the customers are happy… Yes, our BBC cameramen can really portray this exact thought with a single camera shot!
Change of camera angle shows John Allison in front of Hawaiian beach (Not a continuity problem. He was standing in front of a holiday poster), thinking: “We chucked money at this thing and there’s still so much to do.”
Camera shot follows him through the dingy light levels of the connection between Halls 1 & 2 across the exhibitor car park to Halls 4 & 5 to check footfall.
Voiceover: Despite the occasional ‘glitch’ (copyright BBC Department of Demotic English), the show seems to be attracting the right type of customer in the right numbers without the traffic problems of previous years.
Camera cuts to traders after the show closes on first day. Oxen are roasted, gin is consumed, authority figures taunted, National Lottery cards filled in. Not everyone has had a good show but that is, sadly, the nature of shows. The fact remains that, like spring in Alaska, the British Shooting Show curtails the starvation period of the year which, we all too easily forget, used to extend until March. Unless you fancy starring in a BBC programme about traders migrating around Europe in January, there are no other events to offer this sort of route to market for shooting businesses. Even for those who don’t make it pay, the turnover is undeniably useful.
And now, the behind-the-scenes section all those BBC nature programmes invariably have:
Shooting Show Diaries
Voiceover: Our trip to Stoneleigh allowed us to film some time-honoured traditions…
Camera shot shows trader and customer from Northern Ireland arguing loudly over Northern Irish banknotes as to what constitutes legal tender.
Voiceover: …some things never before captured on film…
Camera pans to myself at the Gwatkin Cider bar, refusing the offer of a free pint of Foxwhelp as ‘my religion forbids it’.
Voiceover: … and some things that just leave us dumbstruck with the true majesty of nature.
Camera pans to redacted shot of corpulent, naked trader rolling around on a huge pile of banknotes in the back of his van.
Orchestral finale swells in the background. Camera footage shows majestic herd of wildebeest moving across the Serengeti making that strange grunting noise they do:
Voiceover: Just as the wildebeest return to the Serengeti every year, traders will return to The British Shooting Show…
Camera cuts to traders moving majestically across the car park making that strange complaining noise about the cost of stands that they do.
Voiceover: …and the commercial life of the shooting industry survives another year.
It is in the nature of things that shows the size of Stoneleigh develop a churn of exhibitors each year, adding a few here, losing a few there. For me, there isn’t a UK alternative route-to-market specialising in the shooting industry, so I for one will be back at 2016’s British Shooting Show.