After our visit at the Uni of Nottingham we headed down to the NEC, Birmingham where Saltex 2022 was being held. Arriving the day before the show opened to set up our Stand D220 which was located next to the GMA hub, Myerscough College and City & Guilds. Although the show had begun yet Daryl was taken back by the sheer size of the show and how many exhibitors were in attendance. I could emphasise with Daryl on this, while I was out in Australia he took me out to see a few small regional shows and the Innovations Day held at Sydney University annually.
A completely new world to us we began to set up our stand speaking to our counterparts in the neighbouring stands. A very daunting few days but one we were very much looking forward to. For us Saltex 2022 was very much the start of a new beginning, with myself (Bradley) leaving my full time position in January 2023 and taking on International Greenkeepers full time. An opportunity for us to meet directly with groundstaff directly, meet those who have spoken online and catch up with previous colleagues. Showing that we are in fact real people with genuine ambitions to help the industry.
After setting up and carrying what felt like the heaviest boxes in the world full of magazines into the venue we decided to call it an evening and head back to our hotel. This hotel was the only of the trip that I allowed Daryl to book and it won’t be happening again… as you can see from the picture here Harry Potter may have struggled in this room! After a trip to a local and a delivery pizza later we called it a day.
What is Saltex?
SALTEX is the annual one-stop-shop for thousands of individuals working to install, manage and maintain the UK’s outdoor leisure spaces – from sports grounds personnel to park & leisure amenity officers, from landscapers to greenkeepers, and foresters to estate managers.
In 1938, SALTEX was launched to unite the industry and offer educational and networking opportunities for those that managed green spaces. Since that time, the show has continued to grow and has now established itself as Europe’s largest annual turf management event. With its home at the NEC, in Birmingham, SALTEX remains true to those within the industry offering a world of limitless opportunities in which they can discover the latest trends and innovations, connect with colleagues and learn from top industry professionals.
The show is organised by the Grounds Management Association – the leading not-for-profit membership organisation representing grounds managers, grounds personnel, grounds maintenance managers, greenkeepers and all others involved in the management of sports pitches, landscape and amenity facilities in the UK. The show provides a great opportunity to meet industry colleagues and make new connections – building networks, knowledge and learning about new innovations. With visitors and exhibitors from around the UK and overseas it’s free to enter and free to join the learning sessions.
The next morning we headed back over the NEC to start our first day as exhibitors in the UK. Unfortunately the first hour did get off to a slow start due to a traffic incident on a nearby motorway making access to the NEC difficult and slow. Thankfully man persevered and the halls began to fill up quickly from around 10am onwards. This did however give myself and Daryl an opportunity to speak with current sponsors and make contact with the likes of Geoff Webb, CEO of the GMA.
During the show we couldn’t believe just how many people wanted to come and meet us, some who we had spoken to online but also new friends that had been a part of our social media groups for some time and wanted to meet us in person. It was great to have these conversations, it validated that the work we had put in over the past few years was really being seen and used by fellow groundstaff and greenkeepers alike.
During the first day myself and Daryl took part in one of the live learning seminars, we covered the topic – International Opportunities. Which was actually quite a fun and engaging chat. We housed an almost full theatre and had a fantastic audience that threw a lot of questions at both of us. It was nice to talk about my international experiences, especially my time at Sydney University with Daryl. It was a very open and friendly feel to the chat and I’m glad we did it.
Hopefully the GMA will invite us back again next year for another. A lot of the questions we received were about how people can find these opportunities, to which we reply ‘Speak to us!’ We stayed behind after the seminar/chat to answer a few questions, in which time the free chocolates we had placed on our stand had been raided along with the copies of our magazine. A win win in our eyes.
The first evening of the show was followed by the GMA awards ceremony. We had kindly been invited as guests of the GMA. The winners of the Grounds Management Association (GMA) Industry Awards 2022 were announced during a packed-out gala ceremony at the Vox, Birmingham NEC, hosted by BBC broadcaster Mark Clemmit.
The prestigious awards ceremony recognised talent from across the grounds care industry, by acknowledging the people who are making a huge difference in local communities, sports clubs, and educational establishments across the country.
The sell-out event made its long-awaited return, after a two-year pandemic-enforced hiatus, with more than 500 of the industry’s leading grounds care experts from both the professional and volunteer sector, industry suppliers and dignitaries from the governing bodies of sport and influential sports administrators in attendance to honour the expertise, the dedication, and the passion by exceptional grounds personnel.
In total, eighteen awards were presented – celebrating a range of achievements, including Young Grounds Person of the Year, Best Environmental and Sustainability Impact, and International Impact Award, plus the esteemed Alex R Millar award as well as two new entries into the GMA Hall of Fame.
We sat next to Sean Clixby of Broughton Recreation Field. Who won volunteer Sports Grounds Team / Individual of the Year (Sponsored by Kubota UK & Redexim)
Located in Lincolnshire, the Broughton Recreation Field, overseen by Sean Clixby, has seen great improvements over the last few years – thanks to expert GMA advice and funding from the Football Foundation’s PitchPower programme. Volunteers at Broughton Rovers JFC, Broughton Cricket Club, Broughton Working Men’s Club FC, Broughton Town Council, and North Lincolnshire Council all work together to achieve vital pitch improvement.
We were impressed by the amount Sean and the teams get done alongside their full time careers, it really is a testimony to the resilience of the UK turf sector. We’ve since kept in contact with Sean and will hopefully be bringing you an article in the next magazine!
After lots of interesting conversations about working overseas, education and workplace issues such as staffing and salaries, the second day of the show came to a close. A show we felt went really well, meeting peers and spreading the word of International Greenkeepers For Hire.
Saltex 2022 exhibition was attended by almost 15% more attendees than its 2021 edition in a return of pre-pandemic confidence.Over 8,300 attendees from more than 50 countries attended the 76th iteration of the event, which ran from 2-3 November at Birmingham NEC. The show has stated that the increase in delegate numbers demonstrates a return of pre-pandemic confidence.
The Learning LIVE schedule was extended to over 30 sessions, with additional papers attacking the key issues for the grounds care industry of pay, career development, recruitment, and retention, how to negotiate in the workplace and how to find out about the millions of pounds of grant funding available from sports clubs. But what’s at the heart of Learning LIVE and the show was sustainability and the environment.
Those managing and maintaining sports turf and green spaces are already having to deal with the impact of climate change and industry suppliers are doing their best to innovate and help ground people minimise the impact of droughts and floods. The session on reducing the impact of future water restrictions on golf and sports turf, for example, with Owen Turpin from the Environment Agency, Tony Hanson from Environmental Solutions International and Robin Price from Anglian Water discussing the water charter and how to deal with it will provide valuable practical advice.
The whole concept of the Eco Village is to showcase sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices in grounds care and consider what is a sustainable piece of machinery – what’s the impact on the environment and how does it help achieve neutrality? The Eco Village features a programme of daily demonstrations of cutting-edge sustainable technology, offering visitors an opportunity of seeing several products in action. Plus, industry experts will offer advice on green technology and how it could benefit current working practices