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?