In the UK, skydiving continues through the Winter, pursued by those keen enough to brave the short days of a fairly Northern latitude. This cold, dark journey starts to grind around Christmas and gets worse once you realise that the holidays are far from the end. Buried among this frigid part of the season is Skydive the Expo, the event which is perhaps what really signifies the transition of one British skydiving year to the next. It is a long day too, perilously so for many among us, to which the barely-functioning drapery of bodies in the hotel lobby on Sunday morning is fuzzy testament.
The event is formally Friday and Saturday – with the former reserved for internal greasing and oiling of British Skydiving, before the weekend day upon which the skydiving public are turned loose for a trade show and seminar schedule. If you are good about the time you can attend perhaps a quarter of the presentations, among which you might get to visit the stalls you wish to interact with. Traditionally this event happens at the end of January, meaning that the last occasion everyone gathered here in Nottingham was at the tail-end of the old times. With the dregs of UK restrictions on the way out, things are almost back to normal, signified by just a bit of empty space in the usually jammed hall – left vacant by intended overseas visitors that could not make it through their own unique travel battle.
Industry work happens in different forms. An interesting part of how skydiving works is that we are but a couple of generations deep, and much of the business still has an informality to it. This can both help and hinder progress, with the friends one makes in the sky, and indeed the bar, a crucial part of getting things done. A functioning trade show can produce and curate a lot of positive forward movement – with the trappings of the business world such as desks and microphones and organised seating perhaps lubricating the places where some rust has developed.
For industry types, the impossibility of getting everything done as intended is a well-understood situation, but at the end of the whirlwind chaos of the day, it is hard not to walk away feeling inspired and excited for the year to come. It is an interesting time for an involving sport, and although we have not escaped reflecting upon our place in an ever more complex world, many in the industry have embraced the challenge of ensuring our efforts are safer, more sustainable, and more collectively beneficial than ever before.
Skydiving parties are of very mixed quality, but it is fun to dress up – a thing which perhaps we as a group have more resistance to than most. After the furious box-ticking of the day, the British will proceed to drink even more than usual – and it doesn’t even really matter that the dinner is bad and takes literally hours. The hospitality industry in the city of Nottingham will tell you that this night is the most notorious and raucous hootenanny of the calendar year. Long may this continue.
Industry-wide events like this, when we can all get together in a way prohibited by the structure of our business can be important – where you plant trees in the shade of which you may sit, by and by. The work spills over into Sunday, as those with a still capable brain firm up intentions for the season ahead. Everything you might have missed in the rush can be caught up later, seminars absorbed and media sifted through. For now though, as soon as you are able, it is sunny outside – and for the first time, it feels like Winter might be almost done.