Sword and Lance 2023

A couple of weeks back, the Ely crew took a wee jaunt into the Grim North for the resurrected Sword and Lance. Last time we came, it was just me and Martin, and we sort of cleaned up, so I was interested to see what the new iteration of the show would be like. Also, despite its reputation, the North is actually pretty great, and I do like Darlington a lot.

So, to kick off, the usual pictures of variable quality:

So, time for the usual commentary.

The show had a pretty incredible turnout, especially given the extremely low visibility online. I assume most of the advertising was done through clubs rather than really seeking out painters outside that sort of community, which is a little sad, but it was effective at getting numbers. All up there must have been close to a thousand models on display, which is a great result for any show in the UK at the moment.

The quality was also very high – many of the painters there would easily win medals at the major international shows (and some had!).

The canteen didn’t serve beer, but there was a pub a short way up the road for those in need of show beers.

(I had over-indulged the night before and mostly just wanted coffee. The canteen coffee was one of the worst I’ve ever had. Also, the canteen served pies. To those of you not from New Zealand, this might sound like a Good Thing. However, pies are basically the national dish of New Zealand, and we do not accept mediocrity in pies. Even pies from petrol stations have to meet a certain standard. Pies in the UK – almost entirely without exception – are terrible. Don’t even get me started on the apparent lack of emotional response to calling a stew with a pastry lid a pie. In 17 years in this country, I’ve had one good pie that I didn’t make myself. For the record, it was in Lowestoft, of all places.)

I think the judging was generally quite fair. There were some outliers here and there – some people not having their work properly recognised, some being over-rewarded – but they were relatively few and far between, and I didn’t hear anyone moaning about the results.

However, it wasn’t all peachy. In my usual fashion, I must raise some bullets:

  1. Category names
    The main historical figure category was called ‘Figure painters’. This was clarified with a note below the sign, explaining that it really meant ‘historical’ and ‘military’. This sort of linguistic silliness bothers me – it suggests that anyone who paints fantasy or civilian figures isn’t a ‘figure painter’. I doubt it’s deliberate, but having spoken to a number of painters over the years, there is still a large contingent of painters who sincerely believe that the only modelling worth doing is military history, and that everything else is just silly (and, to some, actually ‘disrespectful’). If you want a military category, just call it ‘military’ (but, if you must make distinctions, make sure you also have a category for non-military historical).
  2. Temperatures
    The trading hall was freezing, while the display hall was roasting. The extremely low temperatures in the trading hall probably affected sales, too, and I know at least a couple of the traders were quite annoyed by it all. It certainly didn’t help that the trading hall was quite a long way from the club stands and the display area.
  3. Lighting
    The display area relied solely on natural light from windows on one side of the room. It wasn’t too bad if your models were on the side with the windows (it’s still relatively early in the year, so the light wasn’t too intense), but if you were on the other, it was difficult to see much. My camera even had trouble with its autofocus because of the extremely low light.

However, to counter my previous however, I was delighted to hear them announce that they recognised the two latter issues and would be working to fix them for next year. It’s quite rare that a show recognises its issues literally on the day, but they’ve committed to sorting them out, which is absolutely magnificent. It’s an enjoyable show and I look forward to seeing it grow and improve.

As to results, all of the Ely crew managed to get golds, which I’m pretty sure exceeded our expectations. The next show for the crew will be Salute, but, as you might recall from my post about the last one, I’ll be skipping that. The rest of the crew will be there, though, so do say hi to them and tell them Fet says they suck at painting.

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