It is hard to believe that the marine modelling world is so fragmented at times, with one side knowing little or nothing about what the other is doing, or seeming not too care at times either. Until fairly recently, I have to admit that I really did not know that there is quite a healthy marine modelling aspect to the International Plastic Modelling Society or IPMS. This is a worldwide organisation with branches in almost every country on the globe. Principally, the interest lies in the military, aircraft and sci-fi fields rather than marine modelling though.Pic 1:You can’t keep our Range Finder columnist Dave Wooley (in the cap) from talking model warships – whatever the venue. Pic 2:Plenty of groups demonstrating model building – young and old. Pic 3:‘Fear God and Dreadnought.’ Pic 4:A fine model of HMS Amethyst 1945. Pic 5:Wreck of the Titanic.
The principle show for the UK is held at Telford during early November of each year. I have visited the show on two or three occasions and have never found it less than interesting, informative and inspiring. The show is held in three halls; yes I do mean three large halls, thereby putting virtually all other marine and other modelling shows into perspective. Entrants to the competition and spectators come not only from the UK and most countries in Europe, but also from Argentina, South Africa, and on one occasion Japan.
Trade stands take the area of about one hall in total I should think; intermingled with the traders though are Special Interest Groups (SIG). These are groups as the name implies with an interest in one area of modelling; for example in the marine area it might be battleships or ships from a certain period. In others it may be military models from a specific period or action; whatever the subject the expertise in producing such models is rarely less than awe-inspiring.
In the vast majority of cases the models are produced from kits, some are built straight from the box, and others are heavily modified to correct mistakes or to improve the finished appearance of the model. Others though, are scratch built using a variety of materials but mainly plastic of course.
Scales also vary considerably as well ranging from 1:1200 to 1:72, though most are in the smaller scales with only a small number being at the larger end of the range. The real inspiration comes from the finished models in the competition. The finish, at least from a distance, is in all cases quite astonishing, and this together with the research which goes into producing an extensive diorama or model is a lesson to all modellers whatever their discipline.
The trade side of the show is extensive and far and away better supported than most other modelling shows and exhibitions. Though this being a show for essentially plastic models that is obviously reflected in the goods which are on sale, so if you are on the lookout for a new lathe or drilling machine this is not the place to find one, though if it is a plastic or resin kit of any kind or age then this is the place to visit.
It is also refreshing to see many of the larger manufactures such as Revell and a revitalised Airfix displaying their new and exciting releases. In the case of Revell there was the new 1:72 Gato class submarine, with a 1:72 destroyer to follow I believe - and in the case of Airfix the new Severn class lifeboat. Examples of both these products were to be seen and I was mightily impressed with both, particularly the attention to detail in both cases which is first rate, and in many respects sets new standards which many of the familiar established manufacturers are going to find difficult to emulate.
Other prominent traders on the marine side included White Ensign Models from the UK, L’Arsenal from France and a new vendor, WMM, from Austria.
For the bookworm there are plenty of booksellers in attendance – so many in fact that one could spend the whole day just going through the publications they have to offer. It also obvious from the moment you walk into the exhibition, that there is rather a difference in the ages of people around the stands. The vast majority are at a guess, in the twenties and thirties, many are teenagers and there is a smattering of the older generations to be seen; young people are actively encouraged to build models during the show as could be seen with the local air cadets busily building away in their area - quite the opposite to what I normally see at other exhibitions. So, is there a moral to this? Well, I think that there is. In recent years marine modelling in the larger working scales has spiralled downwards, until it has now hopefully reached a plain. The reasons for this are many and varied of course. I have pondered the question for quite sometime as to where we are going to get the new blood to keep the hobby moving forward. Well, I think part of the answer would be to try and encourage some of the modellers we see here, to have a go at building larger scale models; static or working - it does not matter. I really don’t see there being any difficulty in transferring the skills and the degree of detailing we see here to the larger scales.
The highlight of the whole show though is the competition. Here, we can see models and dioramas of all subjects which just make you drool with envy and admiration. Yes, the entries for the most part are kits, you may say, but so what? My reaction to that is the degree of work done to produce these models, allied with the necessary skills and dedication, is equal to those of us who build completely from scratch; the results in most cases are quite simply astonishing.
One of the most prolific miniature marine modellers is Jim Bauman, Jim is known throughout the world as one of the finest modellers in this area. His output is prolific and he won awards for a number of his models in this section – including Admiral Nahkimov and HMS Queen Elizabeth. Unlike most other competitions the models do not have the name of the modeller displayed with the model. This is no doubt is to reduce the risk of favouritism I would imagine; another welcome aspect, at least from my standpoint, is that all glass cases have to be removed for judging. They are though, replaced when the public view the models. Subjects entered covered almost every type of waterborne craft you could think of: aircraft carriers, destroyers, submarines, 19th century Russian battleships, cruisers, E-boats, MTBs, coastal boats, fishing boats, dinghies, etc. The majority of the models are depicted as being afloat either at anchor or underway; this in many respects brings an added dimension to the hobby as to do it properly and effectively it is necessary to have an observant eye and the skills of a sculptor to make the sea and wake realistic.
All too soon though it was time for home. As has been the case in the past, I left with some regret what had been another inspiring day at this venue.
I hope in the future that the more mainstream modelling areas and groups such as the IPMS can come together more; I have little doubt that in doing so would result in greater benefits for all. The present rather insular attitudes of the modelling world towards each other as a whole needs to be reformed if there is to be any real meaningful progress in the future.
My photographs are chosen to show just a representative idea of some of the marvellous models at this show. This year’s show will be at the same venue, the Telford International Centre, and will be on 10/11th November 2007.
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