The ‘jewel in the crown’ of British shooting shows and game fairs is back – here’s how the show will shape up in 2020.
A mere eleven years on from its first ever outing in Newark in 2009, the British Shooting Show has evolved into something few us could have expected or even imagined.
It’s massive, occupying three enormous connected halls; it’s a showcase for the industry, with the NEC venue putting in on the same footing as Crufts, Comic Con and other nationally renowned events; and, despite its name, it’s actually rather international.
That’s thanks to the number of global brands who bring huge stands to the show (of the sort that was once reserved for IWA, the trade-only European show).
Those companies also fly in their international representatives, making use of Birmingham’s airport links. As a result, it’s become a place where you can see new products before they appear anywhere else, and talk to industry experts in a volume you won’t see elsewhere.
Yes, the British Shooting Show is back, and with barely a month to go until the 2020 show takes place, show organisers have given us a flavour of the show’s scale.
Over 600 manufacturers, distributors and retailers will be there, spanning every corner of the shooting industry, from scopes to coats, ammo to camo; among the exhibitors, there will be over 50 international stands.
However, though the field of exhibitors keeps on growing, what the show’s head honcho John Allison really wants to do is increase the number of people who visit.
“We haven’t scratched the surface yet,” he says. “It’s driven by shooters and not the accountants, and that’s the reason we have success. The progress of the show to date has all been positive – all we need from you is your support.”
He’s saying that for a reason. In 2019 the show faced some political challenges, first with a campaign to remove overseas hunting exhibitors from the event and then with the BSS’s second event, originally intended to take place in Liverpool, cancelled after Liverpool’s mayor put pressure on the event venue and the city council declared that game shooting is “barbaric”.
That second event is now safely installed at Manchester’s Event City, and the flagship Birmingham show goes ahead unaffected, but there is no avoiding the fact that the shooting industry is under more external pressure than ever.
How to solve that is a matter of endless debate. However, antis are resourceful, and quite happy to tie us up indefinitely fighting back against their campaigns.
What we need to do is not just fight the negatives, but spread the positives – how wildlife thrives on land managed for shooting, how hotels and pubs in remote areas benefit from a much-needed boost in custom from visiting shooters, how shooting provides people with exercise, access to the outdoors and a social scene.
It’s easy to feel daunted, or that any positive stories we spread will be lost amid a whirlwind of social media propaganda. But attending the British Shooting Show is one simple yet meaningful step you can take.
Having a massive gathering of shooting businesses and field sports enthusiasts in one place is a major reminder to policy-makers that shooting is not a niche area that can be ignored; it is a serious economic force and a huge participation sport.
And let’s not forget just how much fun we all have when we’re there. The sheer array of rifles, optics, NV, clothing and accessories on display is bound to bring out that ‘kid in a sweet shop’ effect from all of us.
We’ll be there on 14-16 February – as magazine publishers but also as enthusiasts. After all, there’s nowhere else we’d want to be.