Tuesday 14 June 2022

Liverpool & the Outdoor Trade Show

Big cities are strange places. At least they are when you haven’t visited one for a long time. The noise! The smell! The people! The buildings! The traffic! Wow!

The city in question was Liverpool and I was there last week for the Outdoor Trade Show (OTS). I’ve been to such shows many times over the decades in places as varied as Harrogate and Friedrichshafen. Rarely has a year gone by without my attending at least one. Due to the pandemic this was the first since 2019, however. Indeed, it was the first time I’d been out of Scotland since then, and only once had I left the Highlands. Other than that brief visit to the edge of Edinburgh the biggest place I’ve been in the last three years is Inverness, a city itself but hardly Liverpool scale.

The show itself was down in the newly developed docks area, right on the banks of the River Mersey. Inside it felt familiar and just like every other trade show. Somehow this was reassuring. I was there to look at outdoor gear, but much enjoyment came from meeting people I mostly hadn’t seen for three years. One of the best aspects of shows like this is the community feel. OTS may be about business but it’s also about the outdoor community and it was good to feel part of that again. Online meetings don’t adequately replace face-to-face ones.

I’m not going to write about the gear I saw here. We made some little videos on some of the most interesting stuff that’ll appear on The Great Outdoors website soon and I’ll be reviewing items on the same site the rest of the year and probably into next year as some of the gear won’t appear until then. For now, I’ll just say I was pleased that sustainability was a major theme. I’m aware that some companies are probably only doing this because they feel they have to and there’s undoubtedly elements of greenwash around. However, I think that whatever the reason it’s better companies do something rather than nothing and that the outdoor industry is at least moving in the right direction.

Away from the show I had a little time to wander round the Albert Dock and Mann Island areas, now redeveloped and modernised and a big tourist draw. I hadn't visited the area for many decades (I was brought up in Formby just up the coast and so came to Liverpool quite often as a child and teenager) and it was just about unrecognisable. The development is attractive and there are informative signs as well as museums for a deeper look at the history – I had no time for these, unfortunately. There is somewhat of a clash of architectural styles though, with the red brick of the functional dock buildings and the pale grey of the classical Liver Building and its neighbours somewhat at odds with the hard angles and flat brightness of modern glass and steel constructions. 

After the show I spent a very enjoyable few hours with my brother John who lives not far way and who I hadn’t seen for quite a few years. I mentioned to him that I could do with a decent coffee, that in the hotel and at the show being, frankly, vile – I’d abandoned several almost-full mugs from various outlets (oh, I have got fussy!). “There’s a speciality one next to your hotel”, he said. And there was. Root Coffee. And it was excellent. How had I failed to see it? Because it lay the other way from the show and the docks. Thanks John!
As well as visiting England for the first time in three years I also hadn’t been on a train in that time. To be travelling on one again seemed quite exciting! Actually six trains there and back. Of these three were cancelled yet somehow I arrived only slightly late and got back to Aviemore at the right time. Perhaps oddest was that the London to Edinburgh train I was meant to catch at Wigan was cancelled but only from London to Preston. So I caught a train to Preston and caught the almost empty train there.

As always crossing Drumochter Pass was a joy, even though it was grey and windswept. Home again!

Now I’m back my blog will return to normal. I don’t think there’ll be another city for a while. The hills beckon.

Note: the show pictures were taken right at the end, just before packing up began. Most of the time it was busy!

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