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Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Great Outdoors Awards 2013

Awards-invite-2013 (2)

I received a lovely email today from TGO Towers letting me know that I have been nominated again in the Great Outdoors Awards 2013 under the “environmental or access initiative of the year” category for my “anti wind farm campaign” on my blog. Whilst this is very flattering, I have no expectations at all of winning, as there are far more worthy recipients of this award.

Because I’ve been been a little preoccupied with getting fit & well after my kidney transplant, I missed the opportunity to nominate my personal choice for this category, which would have been Dave Gibson and his team at the Mountaineering Council of Scotland – the MCofS.

Over the years, the MCofS has fought tirelessly on our behalf, fighting in great detail, on two fronts; the first being the painstaking, almost forensic responses to dozens of individual wind farm applications, and the second, on a much broader front, lobbying the Scottish Government, along with the John Muir Trust and others, for the protection of core wild land areas. They must have spent thousands and thousands of man hours fighting wind farms in Scotland on our behalf.

So, I’m sorry, Dave, I really wish I had nominated you and the MCofS, as in my opinion, you would have been the outstanding candidate for this award.

***

This led me to think about the whole purpose of the award scheme.

In my view, the Outdoor Awards is an entirely laudable enterprise. We are all very quick to moan like hell about shoddy kit, poor service, and ‘Rip-off-Britain’ in general, so it’s a pleasant change to find a magazine that’s prepared to sing the praises of all the good stuff in our outdoor world. Looking through the enormous list of nominees, there is plenty to sing about.

I applaud whole-heartedly the category of “Environmental or access initiative of the year.” I just wish that this had been split into two categories, as environmental campaigns and access campaigns are completely different and can be promoted by completely different bodies. Combining them means there can be only one winner, and so the other worthwhile cause will lose out. But it might be thought that there are enough categories already; There are nine categories that the public can vote for and a further four categories that a panel of five judges will have the unenviable task of sorting.

I’m now going to have a little whinge. But please bear in mind this whinge should be tempered by the knowledge that I fully support the Great Outdoors’ motives behind their award scheme! So, look away now if you don’t want to read my whinge!

My complaint, if you can call it that, is that the majority of the awards are going to businesses that make money out of our obsession with kit. Stuff. Just how important, in the overall scheme of things, is kit, when we are marvelling at the view of rolling hills and dramatic cloudscapes, with the wind battering us and taking our breath away?

Just how many of these categories deal with the people who inspire others to get outdoors, whether it’s volunteers taking city kids to experience the countryside for the first time in their lives, or inspirational writers and photographers who remind us all of what we are missing when we are chained to the office desk? What about the Youth Hostel wardens, the volunteer Park Rangers. What about the mountain bothy maintenance organisers who work tirelessly in keeping those simple unlocked shelters up-to-scratch? The list of worthy folk who deserve recognition is endless! Perhaps you could leave a few category suggestions in a comment.

Let’s look at the categories:

  1. Outdoor Clothing Product                                    KIT
  2. Footwear Product                                                KIT
  3. Camping Product                                                 KIT
  4. Outdoor Clothing or Equipment Innovation          KIT
  5. Clothing or equipment brand                               KIT
  6. Independent retailer                                            Sells KIT
  7. Online retailer                                                     Sells KIT  
  8. Chain retailer                                                      Sells KIT 
  9. Accommodation provider                                    Service 
  10. Pub, restaurant or cafe                                       Service
  11. Environmental or access initiative                       THE OUTDOORS
  12. Outdoor book                                                      The writers who inspire us
  13. Outdoor personality                                            A group of wildly disparate souls!

So, eight out of the thirteen categories are all about KIT.

Now, I realise that the Great Outdoors Magazine lives in a tough commercial world and I’ve written about that in the past. I suppose it makes sound economic sense for the magazine to praise to the sky those businesses that have supported the magazine with their advertising budgets over the years, and perhaps, those businesses they hope will advertise with them in the future.

And let’s be honest, there are many outdoor folk who are gear obsessives. I suppose for them, choosing a worthy winner in each of these categories will be a thing of joy.

But, I am afraid that when I look at the long list of kit choices my soul slumps, just a little.

27 comments:

  1. Well done that man....and you with all those kidneys too!

    JJ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, ,JJ.
      I really think that we can do better than just voting for kit.
      There are so many other worthwhile categories out there that this award could promote in a positive way.

      Delete
  2. Well, I've already voted for you. It's important that somebody speaks out about the apparent uncontrolled proliferation of wind farms and you've been doing a very good job of it.

    Keep up the good work and enjoy the new kidney(s).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Darren.
      Folk new to the blog can find my thoughts on wind farms by clicking on the "Wind Power Stations" link in the LABELS section at the RHS of this blog, or by clicking HERE

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. Hi Al
      Indeed! Grough posts regularly on all the call outs - they all seem to take at least a dozen volunteers and some last all night in pretty dreadful conditions.
      These volunteers are saints, and save our sorry arses all the time.
      "Cairngorm John" makes for fascinating reading on the teams herculean efforts.

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. That was "disparate" Tony!
      :-)
      Good luck in your category - so many with wildly different stories pitted against each other.
      Totally mad!

      Delete
    2. Haha, I meant desperate ;-)
      Good luck to all, especially me :-)

      Delete
  5. I agree with the tone of your post, good Sir.

    Mountain rescue, BMC, Mountain Bothies Association - have it over kit.

    The marketing folk are running rings round gear junkies (I'm a recovering one)

    But, the real Outdoor winners are the Organisations that are there for all outdoor pursuits, no matter what folk are wearing.

    BTW I voted for a guy with 3 kidneys :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I buy walking shoes,boots and socks when they wear out.
      Mind you, did I ever tell you about the time when I *did* by a fleece?
      It was a DISASTER

      Delete
  6. I agree with you wholeheartedly Alan, but...Kit sells Copy! Or so it would seem!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm even more cynical than you Al but I keep it to myself (mostly) because I don't, actually, like fighting with decent folk which hill walkers mostly are. Let's save it for tossers in parliament, wind farm wankers seeking pecuniary gain, the arrogant land owning kind and the general degenerate type who make an art of Lies and Cant because that's the society we live in and they know how to Work It.

    Does hill culture fit the same category...no not really. Not for me anyway. So this is lovely:

    "Just how important, in the overall scheme of things, is kit, when we are marvelling at the view of rolling hills and dramatic cloudscapes, with the wind battering us and taking our breath away?"

    Very little. Cue tales of adolescent romps and the fun we all had in a £5 cagoule and similar.

    "Just how many of these categories deal with the people who inspire others to get outdoors, whether it’s volunteers taking city kids to experience the countryside for the first time in their lives, or inspirational writers and photographers who remind us all of what we are missing when we are chained to the office desk? What about the Youth Hostel wardens, the volunteer Park Rangers. What about the mountain bothy maintenance organisers who work tirelessly in keeping those simple unlocked shelters up-to-scratch?"

    Yes, people whose investment in their work is to pass on some joy, some instruction, some hill delight, some barely recognised service which is different from that which is closely associated with, and driven and defined by £££.

    My old Tarptent is 5 years old. I acquired it as a generous free (unwanted) gift. It's starting to fray and is showing further signs of sad old age like a support pole tube hole possibly comparable to medical decline. But where's the Dunkirk Spirit, the Empire resolve, any kind of sea dog grit if I just go out and buy More Shiny Stuff - or where's the £££ to do it with. Ditto my eventually slippery sandals...I got as much out of them as I could and will use them further for low level stuff. I don't really get it, why so many apparently take such pleasure in kit. For me the art of kit is to forget it, like comfy shoes.

    Mountain Rescue - yes! - those chaps would be a lovely vote-for category.

    I'm no historian on such matters and I've seen too much working class griping about the lost old days and how we used to represent the hills but now the metropolitans do - it's tiresome stuff - but is it a reasonable idea to suggest the character of hill culture has changed and not entirely in a good way?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My thoughts, exactly, James.
      "people whose investment in their work is to pass on some joy, some instruction, some hill delight, "
      They are the folk we should be making awards for!

      Delete
  8. I tend to agree with you on the predominance of "stuff". I found it hard to decide who to vote for in most of those categories - ending up with the "least bad" or leaving it blank in several cases. The latter ones on personality, environmental initative, book etc were also hard but for a much better reason - a lot more worthy recipients. In many cases I know I have probably "wasted" my vote by going for someone who is unlikely to win.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Matthew
      I also left quite a few blanks. The first question - "Favourite brand" ???
      Sheeesh!

      Delete
  9. Well James said much of my thoughts.
    I agree, too much emphasis on Gear.
    And, where do they get some of the nominations from for Goodness sake.

    Sadly I suspect that the Gear part is as has been said much to do with revenue streams.
    And also, where do some of the nominees come from.
    Even in the Gear and Pubs etc sections, I can think of loads I would want to vote for, but are not there.
    Many that are, seem to be the nominations of the ½ a day gear groupie.
    You know, the ones with high disposable income.
    The got it all, who needs a compass, desk reviewer.

    Now I( like the odd bit of gear, but I have come to the decision, that I have too much stuff, so I have started giving stuff away to worthy organisations.

    Anyway, it was NOT GEAR that got me into the hills.
    God forbid, there was no gear back then.
    It was nature, beauty and freedom, and in the early days, maybe the odd mind altering substance.

    But anyway, what I am saying is that I agree.
    Too much product, not enough inspiration in the awards.
    AND, too narrow as you say Al.
    I am not sure there are too many categories, just too many of the wrong sort.
    And I would like to have seen a few more Nominees in some of them.

    Oh, and by the way, in the absence of a worthier cause you got my vote.
    As did Terry, The Bridge of Gaur Guesthouse, and Open Air in Cambridge.

    As for a lot of the rest. WHO?? WHY??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Sweetheart!

      "I am not sure there are too many categories, just too many of the wrong sort."
      Yes - thinking about that, you are spot on.

      Okay, TGO (sorry, "The Great Outdoors") does need to look after its commercial supporters, but let's have a few more categories as well: Categories that really do concern themselves with the core product of the magazine: The great outdoors and the people who make our enjoyment of it so life-enhancing.

      Delete
  10. I came a bit late to this, Al, but you got my vote. There were quite a few categories where I couldn't vote at all, having no experience of any of the nominees.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Dave
      :-)
      I didn't vote in about half of them for exactly the same reason.

      Delete
  11. Hello Alan - I'm miles behind with 'blog reader' but have come here as my email to you has bounced. Perhaps you could get in touch. You do have a point about kit, but I feel the one knowledgeable independent retailer, in an area where that is a very rare breed of person, is worthy of some recognition.
    Martin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Martin.
      I'll get back in touch with you by email. You may have a very old email address that is now defunct.

      I agree with you about those who sell the gear - I voted for "Open Air" in Cambridge, who are a wonderfully helpful, knowledgeable outfit, but I refer you to the last line in the piece:

      "I am afraid that when I look at the long list of kit choices my soul slumps, just a little."

      I'm not attacking TGO here, I'm suggesting that there should be more worthwhile categories that aren't exclusively about "kit."

      Delete
  12. I fully understand, Alan, but after reading through the comments I felt the small independent specialist retailer needed someone to stand up for him/her.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Agree with all the comments on kit...what I also find pretty frustrating is that the winners of some of these categories are always going to be pretty predictable. Accommodation / pub of the year is always going to go to somewhere in a honeypot venue so no surprises that Wasdale Head/the Clachaig took these home...same goes for Cotswold. To me these are not awards for the 'best' but rather the 'most popular'. I'd like to see a bit more imagination and celebration of people/organisations who are really making an effort to offer something outstanding - rather than the places/brands where 000s of people flock to automatically...

    ReplyDelete
  14. Ah, James
    The Great Unwashed Outdoor Public, eh?
    Yes - you are right of course.
    :-)

    ReplyDelete

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