A topic of discussion which seems to have become increasingly common amongst tram enthusiasts of late, is the amount of notice being given before interesting events. In fairness, most major tram events are advertised well in advance with the main players in the preservation scene usually announcing a full calendar of planned big events at the start of each year covering the 12 months ahead.
Although these are often rather vague, most of us know to pencil in such key dates as the annual Crich enthusiasts’ day and Blackpool’s anniversary weekend (co-incidentally both held in September), whilst other events such as the Trans Lanc vehicle show at Heaton Park and Birkenhead’s Bus & Tram Show are also well established. In these cases, people generally have a good idea of what to expect in terms of the scale and quality of these events, all of which have deservedly earned a very good reputation and always offer a good day out. Likewise, a lot of the more mainstream events held at Crich Tramway Village – such as the always-popular 1940s and Edwardian themed weekends – are pretty self-explanatory and even if you have no experience of these events, its easy enough to find information on past years’ events to get a taste of what to expect.
However, there has been a little bit of criticism directed at events where nobody really knows what to expect until the last minute – and some things that are not even announced beforehand at all! In such cases, people who may well have been interested can end up making alternative plans and missing a really good event, which then attracts a meager attendance and gets hailed as a failure.
The Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours ‘Gold’ running days are now a familiar and popular part of the heritage tram calendar, to the extent that there have been noticeably less enthusiasts present at recent events – probably because there are so many of them to choose from. The Tram Sunday weekend was a great success but deserved a much better attendance, as it offered the best heritage service to Fleetwood since 2009; something that didn’t really get much fanfare despite being a noteworthy occasion. Hopefully if something similar happens again, it will get the attention it deserves – because Saturday 15th July was surely one of the best days for the tramway post-upgrade so far and I personally was delighted to be present for it. Tram output is also often announced very shortly before event weekends, but this is presumably to ensure that the list of allocations posted is as accurate as possible. It is a shame that those of us who need to plan in advance may miss out on particular cars because of this, but it is probably understandable, albeit frustrating.
Crich have recently ruffled a few feathers by announcing something exciting on the day that it happens. Earlier in this year this happened with the re-launch of Blackpool Boat car 236 following workshop attention, and more recently some shunting of trams which rarely appear outside was similarly promoted on the day but not before. In both cases, it was virtually impossible for most interested parties to go and see these with so little notice given. In the museum’s defense, both of the activities mentioned above were aimed more at the workshop staff and the shunting was not really an event as such, but could certainly have attracted a few extra visitors who would no doubt have led to increased ‘secondary spend’ in the shops and cafe etc. whilst they were on site. As a charitable organisation, surely every penny counts and anything that attracts even a small number of additional visitors should be encouraged, particularly if it doesn’t entail doing anything that wasn’t happening anyway? I myself find things like this very frustrating, when an organisation could seemingly do more to help raise the funds needed to support its actions.
On the flip side of the coin, some of these things may well be kept quiet until the last minute because they are subject to change. Things like shunting of delicate historic trams may well be vulnerable to cancellation due to adverse weather, and this could deter organisers from advertising it beforehand. Sadly some enthusiasts are not very sympathetic towards such changes, even when they are well beyond anybody’s control, despite the warning that everything is changeable under the usual caveats. Perhaps if people were not so quick to complain when this happens, we may see museums more willing to share their plans in advance? It must be disheartening to find that your attempts to keep your audience informed of what you are doing so they can plan a visit leads to complaints when not everything goes exactly according to plan! There must be a compromise to be reached, giving a heads-up of dates to keep free whilst advising some caution that nothing is to be guaranteed until much closer to the actual date?
So if you have stuck with my ramblings, then you’re probably wondering what the point of it all was as there is no real conclusion! However, I would suggest that we enthusiasts try to be a bit more understanding when tram organisations fail to deliver an advertised attraction at an event when the circumstances causing it are clearly not their fault. Maybe, just maybe, that will help to encourage them to give us more notice of what should be happening and when – all being well, of course! And if anyone who has the power to do something about my bugbear is reading this, maybe it will give you a little something to think about for the future? After all, in the age of the Internet it is easier than ever to share information and exploiting this potential can lead to more happy punters and more money in the coffers, a win-win for all!