The All England Koi Show - Full Report
My ramblings on a very enjoyable weekend...
Having been cancelled in 2020 due to covid19 (the first show missed since 1988!) the South East Section and its fiercely committed army of volunteers was keen to muck in, despite constant set backs due to the pandemic and make the AEKS 2021 an event to be proud of.
Detling Show Ground and the colossal 4600sqm venue was probably not even in the wildest dreams of those who planned and manned the Sections first open show back in 1984. Mike Dilling and David Brown, could probably attest to that, considering they both volunteered at that very show, all those years ago! Come 2021 and they're still giving up their time to support the club and the show, along with many others who have a rich history with the South East Section - a history almost as long as David and Mikes!
Visually this show is seriously impressive, as a koi enthusiast it's hard not to be excited when you walk through the entrance and behold the arena...
The backbone of any koi show is comprised of volunteers and sponsors and this year the shows main sponsor was Japan Pet Design (JPD).
A4 Koi, Walcot Koi, COLUMBO, Kusuri, Burtons Aquatic Systems, Eazy Pond Ltd and Fish Treatments.
Alongside this, dealers and manufacturers present with trade stands were; A4 Koi, Ace of Koi, Adam Byer Koi, Burtons Aquatics Systems, Cascade Koi, Clearwater Koi UK, Cottage Koi, Cuttlebrook Koi Farm, Dock Koi, Exclusively Koi, Heat Pumps 4 Pools, Isle of Ely Koi, Koi Carp UK, Koi Water Barn, Nippon Nishikigoi, Norfine Nets, Northdown Nursuries, Oase, Select Nishikigoi International, The Carp Co, TKC Koi Ltd, Vyair, Walcot Koi, Wakai Trees and Keith Siddle...
...that took some typing!
As I've stated before, trade stands are a vital part of any koi show, with many attendees turning up solely to see what deals can be had - no judgement here! Those with stands didn't disappoint and the punters were seemly impressed...
The AEKS operate a 'one vat per exhibitor' rule, this means each exhibitor gets one vat and one vat only to display their chosen koi. Each vat comes with an allocation of points, the length of each koi (ascertained at benching*) contributes towards those points and thus dictates how many koi can be in each vat. This is implemented at most koi shows for the wellbeing of the fish. The interesting thing regarding the 'one vat' rule is that it not only encourages as many exhibitors as possible but also forces each exhibitor to put serious thought into what koi they decide bring along...
(*Benching is the process of measuring and photographing each koi entered and placing it into its relevant size and class category ready for judging).
As an exhibitor, making decisions must be extremely tough! You may have searched high and low for a certain specimen and dedicated many years to raising it. You've now been conditioning it for several months, begrudgingly starved it for two weeks and you're convinced it's your best contender, but until the show weekend arrives - anything can happen...
Then comes the transportation.
It won't dawn on most people just how risky this is and that's before the koi even make it to the motor - First you have to net them! Mishaps can happen no matter how experienced and confident you are. Jumpers, broken pecs, bashed noses, damaged scales, snapped tails, the list of horrific possibilities is endless! Therefore, the exhibitors must exercise extreme care when handling and transporting their koi.
Upon arriving at the show ground the koi are placed into the appropriate vat and from here on in, they're under the care of the show volunteers. Each show team has their own method but at the AEKS water parameters are maintained by the use of binding chemicals and tonics. These are administered and monitored by David Edge and his team, the purpose is to neutralise the negative effects harmful water parameters can have on the koi. As well as the addition of these clever chemicals, the vats also receive regular water changes using dechlorinated and aerated fresh water. The objective is to ensure the koi are as comfortable as possible on their little vacation to the show ground.
Exhibitors must then spend the weekend witnessing their koi being goggled at - praised, critiqued and everything in between, all whilst they anxiously await the verdict of the judges decisions! Don't forget, when the awards get pinned up it could be the victory they dreamt of, or the very disappointment they feared - and when the award ceremony is over, it's time to carefully pack their koi and transport them home. However, the journey doesn't stop there, the stress of the show and transportation may induce parasites, damage or little issues and these will also require careful attention.
Obviously, this is an abbreviated summary of the process and it's not my intention for it to appear overly daunting or scary. Showing koi is achievable on many different levels and is actually incredibly accessible. I just wanted to highlight, in some small way, the incredible efforts made by all those that choose to exhibit their koi. The hope being, that we might all learn to appreciate the immense value of each and every exhibitor, simply on the basis of their decision to turn up!
Koi Exhibitors - We Salute You!
Like I said, the AEKS is not a small affair and this year over 330 koi were exhibited, fiercely competing for the trophies on display in the picture above. A big shout out to all the judges that gave up their time to be at the show, no easy task to undertake in sensible time!
The 'Benching Matrix' below details the number of koi entered in each size and class…
A slither of trivia - the South East Section was the first to issue a benching matrix, which has now become a rather useful staple across the country.
The major prize winners - from left to right:
David Brown - Club Chairman
Robert Robson - Baby Champion
Mick Preston - Young Champion
Luke Warren - Mature Champion
Paul - Selective Koi Sales (Prize Sponsor)
Steve Rollins - Adult Champion
Lee Manning - Grand Champion & Superior Champion
Let's See Some Koi...
(please enlarge to see the details)
There were some absolutely stunning koi gracing the show vats, here are just a few that caught my eye - many of which picked up prizes...
Full List of Winners
(click to enlarge)
Another nice tradition at the AEKS is that every winning koi gets its own certificate that is pinned on the display board near each vat. I think this is a lovely touch and something the exhibitors can use to document progress!
I think koi shows are often judged by some on their 'scale' as an event, - were there enough koi on display, were there enough trade stands offering enough deals, how much money did the traders make, was the catering comprehensive enough - did the bar sell honey coated Brazil nuts...?!
Although worth consideration in some respects (especially the Brazil nuts), I do think we sometimes miss the point. I'm reminded of something I said after my visit to 'The National' which I'll quote...
Inevitably there are always an influx of suggestions after an event of how it could be improved and whilst these are useful and constructive in most cases, I would say that if you're a koi enthusiast with a burning passion to add something to the mix, get involved early doors!
A koi show requires all sorts of brains and brawn!
Organising a show is no easy feat and we must remember that with any given amount of man power, money and resources, there's only so much one can achieve. However, if you consider the hugely versatile skill set of all the UK Koi Enthusiasts and Koi Dealers and then imagine for a moment, if you were able to deploy but a small percentage of those people on "Project Koi Show," just think of what could be achieved...
You only reap what you sow
If you want to see the major winners in more detail, click the pic below.
Due to illness, I very nearly didn't make the show. Aside from snapping the koi, I spent three very enjoyable days catching up with folk and having a much needed laugh, as well as meandering round the show trying to absorb the spirit of things.
I was once again reminded that on the whole, this really is an inclusive hobby, full of good people who are truly passionate and the South East Section are a prime example. I saw so many acts of kindness over the weekend. I saw the GC winner and a 'water-team' member taking the time to bag other vats of koi before finally doing their own. I saw a dealer offer his equipment to another, to aid vital water changes. I saw the head judge elbow deep in water to ensure that koi were packed safely and I saw gifts given to youngsters to get them excited about the hobby...
This year the show faced uncertainty not only from the pandemic but also from the fuel madness that descended upon the UK over the weekend. Despite their unavoidable impact, the AEKS 2021 was brimming with all the positive things we should be celebrating about this wonderful hobby; good vibes, camaraderie and some of the very best koi in the country...
Well Done South East Section
- I'm very glad I made it!
Thank you to everyone who made the show possible.
More pics, I hope you enjoy...
More Info about The South East Section:
*Thanks to Bernie Woollands for helping me with show info and club history.