White Rose/Figureworld North 2022

The Fen Model Show isn’t the only new show this year, and since the White Rose/Figureworld collaboration was announced last year, I’d been keen to head along. Figureworld used to be based out of Oundle, which is pretty close to me, and had been a show I really enjoyed. It was never a competition, just a get-together for painters to show off their work and do some shopping.

Before I get into the review proper, the usual caveats about photos:

  1. I’m a terrible photographer. Yadda yadda. No news there.
  2. Lighting wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t awful – the level of natural light was very good, but that’s all it had, which meant that some models had windows directly behind them, making it tough to get photos.

Note to the organisers if they happen to read this review:

Well done! Thoroughly enjoyed the show. Below the pictures I have a lot of opinions. They are precisely that and I encourage you to ignore them entirely or take them with a pinch of salt. It’s your show to do with as you please – I’m just some nerd who writes things.

In terms of results, my hobo nickels took a gold, while the infected gangster and Apophys took silvers, so it was a pretty successful show for me. The judging clearly seemed to be aiming for a similar style to the old Euro Militaire, which is to say setting a very high boundary for bronze, which meant that in each category there was only a relatively small number of medals awarded.

I think this approach can be a good or a bad take – on the positive side, it does encourage entrants to bring their A game and pushes them to improve, as the value of any prize is perceived as quite high. On the negative side, it can discourage painters, especially if they enter over and over again without ever quite making the standard. Euro had examples of both, and the fabled ‘Euro gold’ was held in very high esteem internationally, which kept it going for quite some time.

I’d argue that if a show takes that approach and gets very large, it’s worth considering adding a ‘standard’ category, so there’s a sort of stepping stone for painters, whereby they can achieve at standard level before moving up and trying for masters’ level. This show isn’t large enough to worry about that yet, but hopefully it’ll grow and become part of the organisers’ conversations.

In terms of turnout, Colin told me they had about 340 entries in the competition, which is a very healthy number for a first show. I thought it looked like more, but I’m terrible at gauging that sort of thing. There were also club displays downstairs, which probably had a couple of hundred more models on show.

I would say that some of the categories felt a little arbitrary to me, but I’ve held that opinion about painting competitions in general for quite a long time. For instance, the historical single figure category was split between up to 65mm and 65mm+, while the fantasy single figure category mixed all scales (including two extraordinarily large pieces). In my opinion, if you don’t think a model at one scale can be compared to a model at another, you should at least be consistent with this. If the issue is that you expect one category to be much larger than others, I think a cleaner solution is to rope in some more judges.

On a personal note, I’d also like to see the end of ‘military’ in category names unless it’s absolutely restricted to military topics. The hobby has a huge range of topics, many of which aren’t military, and while it can seem a small thing, I think people can be put off entering a category if they don’t think their work will be accepted by the judges.

Anyway, the show itself was very well run and organised, although I seem to have missed the prizegiving. It was advertised on the Facebook page as being at 3, so, as is tradition, I buggered off for a pint at around 1.30 and returned just before 3 to find people collecting their models and medals. It’s not a massive issue, as I was confident I wasn’t going to win best of show (and it did let us get away a little earlier so we could get home at a more reasonable hour), but I would have liked to be around for it to clap for the winners and get a better idea of who did what.

The quality on display was very good, and Colin told me there were around 340 entries, which is a very strong first showing. I would have liked to see more entries in the junior category, but I think that’s always going to be a struggle unless you really yoke yourself to GW topics.

One of the most important parts of any show – for me, at least – is that it’s more than just the show. I really enjoy competitions in places where I can feel a bit like I’m on holiday and coincidentally there happens to be a model show. The World Expo in Stresa was a great example, as was Duke of Bavaria in Ingolstadt; we hope the Fen Model Show has much the same vibe in Ely. I wasn’t sure what Easingwold would have, but I was very happy to discover that’s a very nice little village, with some excellent cafes and pubs, and set in a beautiful part of the country.

We actually came up to York the night before to have dinner in the city, because Christina and I have enjoyed previous trips there and figured it was a good opportunity. We came up with Joey and his wife, who claimed to have ‘always wanted to visit York’. Given this claim, I was very surprised to discover that they’d not heard of the Shambles. Or even the Minster. Or much at all other than something vague about Vikings having been there. Needless to say, I made sure we stopped by the obvious tourist spots.

All up, I’m very keen to come back next year, but I’m also thinking about heading to Kontrast in Poland, which was the same weekend this year. Hopefully there’s not a clash!

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