The Library. Quiet Please


I wrote this as I was flying home from attending Cake International at The NEC in Birmingham, England. I know that people will ask me about the experience and decided that I should share my thoughts with my blog readers.

Before I went the first time last year, friends told me that the crowds would shock me. More people than I had ever seen before at a cake event. They told me that the queues for the restrooms, for food and especially for shopping from vendors would be unbelievably deep. To some extent, that is true. I understand that it is worst on Saturday, so I have skipped Saturday both visits. Saturday commonly sells out, so you will deal with the maximum crowd that day. I found the late afternoons to be brilliant times to actually get to speak to the vendors and make purchases.

Despite the thousands of visitors, there are only a few demonstration rooms open at any time. Many of the demos repeated twice throughout the weekend – which is great if you cannot attend one , but is disappointing if you want to offer visitors the most possible choices. The only demonstrators are those decorators “sponsored” by a vendor. At ICES, you are not allowed to push your products during a demonstration – the demo is to be about the technique. But that is far from the largest difference. At Cake International, the demos can be more like a commercial and can really promote specific products and booths.

In England, the presenters must present their information without letting in too much personality, it seems. Presenters are shushed if giggles or laughter breaks out in the rooms. One of my friends was actually told NOT to be himself…the exuberant, funny guy that he naturally is. Even one of my quieter friends was told to keep it down. I cannot decide whether it is caused by the environment for the demos or if this is just how it is in England. The demo rooms are essentially temporary boxes, all connected by thin walls with no roof. You can sit in one and hear the demo on either side as well as the one you are attending. I hope that this is why you are made to feel like you are in a library.

I desperately hope that the British do not expect all classes and demonstrations to be serious and quiet. I have not had the honor of teaching or demonstrating there, but I hope to have the opportunity some day. Can I be my goofy self? I believe that humor and laughter relax students and make it easier to learn. Some of my friends and I worry about whether we would be accepted in England. Does the American teaching style buck too many traditions for the British?

I spoke with the organizers for the Cake International last year and expressed surprise that they did not offer true hands on classes and more demonstrations. At ICES, there will be 35 hands on classes and hundreds of demonstrations. At Cake Int., there were 42 demonstrations, of which 10 were duplicates. ICES has about 1000 -2000 attendees, while the Cake Int. has about 10,000 – 15,000 per day!! With those numbers, so much more could be possible! ICES has activities in the evenings, be it classes, demos, banquets or opportunities to socialize. They arrange for host hotels to house the attendees. At Cake Int., everyone starts leaving at about 4 each day. No hotel in the area is large enough to house the entire crowd, so people go their different ways.

What would my British friends like to see? Is this how you WANT it to be? My friends and I have considered trying to offer classes tied to Cake International, but would not want to offend long standing traditions. What are your thoughts?

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7 thoughts on “The Library. Quiet Please

  1. Hi I agree with all that you have said Ruth having attended ICES in Reno last summer ,it was markedly different from what I have experienced in the UK. It’s important to remember tho that ICES is organised by the organisation itself and for the benefit of members whereby Cake International is very much a commercial enterprise developed largely foe sales I would think. I would hate you to think we had no sense of fun here in the UK and may be your experiences would have been different at events organised by the British Sugarcraft Guild. I do a lot of teaching and demonstrating and attend lots of demonstrations and there is always lots of laughter and genuine sharing around where sugar crafters meet .having been lucky enough to meet up with cake people beyond the ICES convention in the USA I also found them to be full of fun and keen to share as I think you would find lots of people here are too.

  2. I have always been told that the English are a little stuffy(my ancestors) in their traditions.Truly, the relaxed atmosphere helps to ease the tension of the learning process. I am so glad that the Americans are more laid back and less rigid in their traditions.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience since many will never get to go. I’m wondering if theres a way to show a video of a demo or a mini demo to show how we differ and see how the students would react. Never the less, that’s wh ICES is more like a family reunion that just classes.

  4. Having lived in England I can understand Ruth’s point of view.when the Brits come over to ICES they meet and greet as many people as they can. They just come up and talk away. Well it is not like that over in the UK. First you must have a proper introduction !!!. Even if you are standing looking at the person it is not proper form to talk to them.
    When attending the British Sugar Guild International Exhibition at Telford this past May, it was very evident that unless you met them at ICES first, you did not speak to them .
    One person who has been conversing with me via email and facebook for several years was not the friendliest when I introduced myself over there and later sent me an emai lstating that we had not had a proper introduction.
    So folks. If you want to meet the Brits, talk to them at ICES and maybe they will give you the time of day when you see them on their home turf but do not bet on it.
    And it does not matter how much money you spend on their books etc. So be warned !!!

  5. I would agree with most of what you say in reflection of Cake International and as a sugar crafter from the UK and having attended the ICES convention in Reno this year the experiences are very different. It has to be remembered that Cake International is a commercial venture organised by a big organisation not like ICES convention which is organised for its members . Therefore there is a different approach in what is provided , cake international is organised not necessarily as a sharing and educating event but as a means of selling products, which is why there is a difference in the exhibition of sugar work , most of that which is on display is competition work not a celebration of what everyone can do and contribute.
    As a teacher I would hope that my classes and demonstrations would not be regarded as stuffy and I can assure you that we do have a sense of humour and a great sense of fun. I havent attended any of the demonstrations at cake international but it sounds as if it differs so much from dems that take place elsewhere where the atmosphere is invariably informal and relaxed an I’m saddened to think that visitors would go away feeling the way you did about our teaching and demonstrations. Our British Sugarcraft Guilds events take on a different focus and tend to display a whole range of sugar work both in competitions and branch displays and tend to be a great deal friendlier than the big Cake International event.
    I am surprised to read a comment here about British people expecting to be formally introduced as I can’t say that that has ever been part of my experience.
    I look forward to attending ICES in Lexington next summer.
    Best wishes. Margaret Carter

  6. I attended my first ICES this year and laughed and smiled so much my cheeks hurt…I was in your front row….I could not beleive how funny some of the speakers were and walked away wanting more…I took 10 classes that weekend, made new fb freinds and found you for this site…It never hurts to try one year of classes I think and see what you get…I am friends with Lorriane McCay on fb and she keeps me laughing all the time…and I am thinking she is from that area…
    Good luck with what you do, but I say try it and become big, big, big over their

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