David and Goliath

As most of my esteemed readers will know, I am a member of the AWGB (for the non-wood-turners, that’s the Association of Wood Turners of Great Britain). I haven’t sought them out to become a member, it was part and parcel of both of the clubs that I am a member of.

I have also been to their last seminar, which, as far as I am concerned, was absolutely worth the money and has given me a real boost in many, many aspects.

As it turns out, the AWGB is a bit in a pickle. There weren’t enough delegates at the seminar, and they now have to carry a shortfall of close to 10k. This was enough to make them stop and think, with a huge long thread on their forum, to generate ideas of what needed to be changed to make this more of a success.

At the very same time, there are three quite new and unknown wood turners who are trying to put together a UK and Ireland Wood Turning Symposium, with a lot of marketing hype and big fanfares.

Now let’s compare the two offerings: The AWGB offer an all-inclusive deal for 3 days, with overnight accommodation, all meals and drinks (except the bar), 12 professional demonstrators (6 from overseas), a host of trade stands and an instant gallery for a total of £275. On the other end of the scale, UKIWS offer only day tickets for £15 each, with some public demonstrations, mostly of little known turners, no accomodation, no food, no drinks, no gallery, and only a handful of trade stands. If you want to see a proper pro turning, it’s extra. You want to stay overnight, it’s extra. You want food, extra. You want coffee…, well, you get the message.

This is a little like comparing an easyjet cattle class flight ticket with a business class flight from, say, Singapore Airlines or Emirates. Just not in the same category. However: easyjet make money. Yes, they have to sell loads of tickets, but their possible market place is huge.  And their costs are low. Whereas (as amply demonstrated by the lack of uptake) the market for AWGB seminars is limited. Not everybody can afford it or want to spend the money.

Now, instead of actually listening to any of this, all the folks on the AWGB forum can think of is to heckle those posters who dare to criticise the AWGB. Clearly it hasn’t hurt bad enough. Yet.

Maybe they need some new kids on the block (UKIWS) to pull that magic rabbit out of the hat, to wake up and realize that what has worked in the past, doesn’t work any longer. I think some really hard thinking is in order here. However, the signs are not good. There is some gentle shoulder-tapping and congratulations over a job well done, but no serious questioning of ideas and practices. No doubt, I will have more to say on this as the stories unfold.

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