6th BSA Exhibition – Show Report
Well, if the measure of an event is the number of catchphrases it generates then the weekend of the 6th BSA Exhibition was way up there in the stars! Not only did we acquire the tagline “It’s only a pound” but our esteemed Chairperson was quoted in the national press (the quality stuff too – none of your tabloid rubbish) as saying that Shohin was “the best yin-yang fit”. And, to make the picture complete, following in the best manner of giving them pet names like Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Baftas etc., our very own BSA awards – so coveted across the known universe –may, I rather suspect, hereafter be referred to as the Trevors.
But to turn to the main business of this review, the 6th British Shohin Association Exhibition held over the weekend of March 10th and 11th at Willowbog Bonsai was in all aspects a roaring success. Concerns that the nation’s ongoing recession might see a drop in standard and attendance were soon allayed, and numbers through the doors were not disappointing. Exhibitor numbers were slightly up on previous years, possibly reflecting the two new categories that had been introduced. More on that later. And of course the Saturday night social event went down a storm with the traditional auction, complete with its new headline acts, once again raising a goodly sum for BSA coffers.
But the weekend was about the trees and they did most certainly not disappoint either. Overall I felt that the quality of the compositions was much improved on last year’s event and this was mirrored in the standard of the single tree exhibits. Last year’s Shohin Off event had been our response to concerns that the same trees were being exhibited event upon event – mostly because as yet there is not a huge pool of shohin-sized trees in the UK. Although the extent to which Shohin Off was responsible is debatable, there was a significant increase in trees that have never been exhibited at this event before and this was very much to the show’s benefit.
As intimated previously, to augment the event this year we had decided to incorporate two new aspects: the collaborative display category and the work-in-progress. Both were intended to boost inclusiveness. The collaborative display allowed people who only had one or two trees to pool their resources, and was ably supported by Ashfield Bonsai Society, Ayrshire Bonsai Club, Surrey Heath Bonsai Society and the Wirral Bonsai Society. The work in progress category, as its name suggests, meant that exhibitors felt able to bring along trees that were not at this moment in an ideal state of show-worthiness but which showed considerable promise and are well on the way to becoming regulars at shows in a few years time. From this category alone, it was very clear that Shohin has a bright future in this country.
The Exhibition was well augmented by talks and discussions: Ritta Cooper gave an informative overview of how she creates her marvellous accent plants while husband Mark told of their experiences with Shohin trees. It is very encouraging to see that, while they have a skill level well in advance of most of us, both Mark and Ritta see their bonsai as an ongoing process of learning. Their modesty about themselves is refreshing and it was impossible to come away from their talks without a distinct feeling of upbeatness. Ritta’s more theoretical talk was ably followed up on the Sunday by a how-to demonstration by Andy Hardman. I have seen several of Andy’s demos in the past few months and am always impressed with his plant knowledge and his enthusiasm – a winning combination if ever there was one. David Jones once again hosted make your own pot sessions in the Willowbog polytunnel where as usual the banter was a significant part of the experience. John Armitage and Peter Warren applied their knowledge and skills both by conducting walkabout critiques of the show and giving hands-on demonstrations of the “tricks of the trade”. Participants came away amazed not just at how easy these guys make it all seem but also the modesty with which they conduct themselves.
It is now very clear that the quality shows in the UK have now attained a level of proficiency of display that was not seen even ten years ago. Gone are the days of “that’ll do” and plonking down trees any old how on the display benches. It is apparent that much thought goes into each and every display, be it a full multi-tree composition or a single tree. We are indeed fortunate that a small specialist society within a small specialist hobby in the UK can so obviously punch above its weight. And with so many trees coming through, the next BSA exhibition (to be held in 2014) offers that tantalising prospect of being the best yet.