Max and I are both very avid bakers (though he is far more accomplished than I am!), and we have just got back from The Cake and Bake Show 2013, held this weekend at Manchester Central (GMEX for us traditionalists).
It is currently 14:49 at the time of writing, and the exhibition doesn’t close until 17:00. Infer what you will…
I had bought the tickets as part of Max’s recent birthday presents and had also decided on a few VIP seats and classes to make the day a little more worthwhile.
First off, I shall start with the good – we went to see Brendan from The Great British Bake Off over in the Bakery area, and after much of a to-do finally found out how to use our VIP seat tickets for the demonstration.
Brendan himself was an absolute treasure, shorter than I’d imagined, but he spoke of many interesting things and projects and gave plenty of amazing advice to those keen to take it. We loved the idea of the bread that he baked on the demonstration and are really looking forward to trying it for ourselves at home.
After the demonstration had ended, we then found ourselves with two hours to spare before our next demonstration event, with John – the winner of the latest series of The Great British Bake Off.
Wandering through the exhibition space, I have to say that this is where it all started to come unstuck for us. We quickly tired of walking around and found the following aspects to be problematic:
- The event was more of a shop than a fayre. Stall holders were keen to just sell you their product rather than to explain the origins behind it or to show any passion or enthusiasm around the subject.
- There were very few opportunities to sample goods, and whenever there was, the freebie crowd acted appallingly and used elbows and knees to get what they wanted.
- We didn’t come away with any sort of discount vouchers for any of the retailers whom we had allowed to pitch to us by attending this show – as I mentioned earlier, it was very poor and people were expected to just “blind-buy” (and do so very quickly) rather than build a relationship with the brand or ask questions.
- Not enough space was provided between the stands, making it very difficult to navigate, especially with the volume of pushchairs on the day.
- The mix of stands was particularly bland. Whilst stall holders pay a fee to attend the show, there really should be some control to ensure that the right mix of stall types are on hand, as otherwise, people crowd the few good ones, and the tatty ones become generic. We’re also still not sure why the Cats Protection League had secured a pretty prominent stand!
- Unless you were prepared to wait thirty minutes prior in a seat for a twenty-minute show, then it was near impossible to see any of the other demonstrations. As soon as you left your seat, people would rush forward to secure it for the next show.
- Plenty to do for kids, but absolutely nothing creative for adults!
- It was disappointing that whilst Mary Berry was used to promote the event (but sadly had to drop out due to filming commitments), that Paul Hollywood, who was also a poster boy for the event, was only available on the Friday lunchtime, and at no other point during the weekend.
Unfortunately, having the two-hour gap between talks, and all of the above started to take its toll on our day. We decided to leave early, despite having invested money in advance for VIP seats for John Whaite and also having bought a ticket for the classroom, as we simply were not enjoying the experience and didn’t think that the other demonstrations would be particularly interesting/’technical’. Had we stayed, we would have been staying for the money and not for the experience, which we both would have deeply begrudged.
All in all, it has been a positive experience. Max and I both enjoyed the day and especially loved hearing Brendan talk – that was a real pleasure. Would I go to an exhibition like this again? I am not too sure, it would depend on the mix of stalls, but as I wouldn’t be booking in advance as a surprise, I would be free to give it a lot more consideration, and I think that for future shows, I won’t leave such a gap between talks and demonstrations!
The Cake and Bake Show is also convening at Earls Court in London in September 2013.