Previous Glee reviews:
Glee 2008 - Review - Page 4 of 4
There are several bagged aggregate suppliers at this show, and I usually give them a mention in this annual review, but over the last couple of years I've become jaded with their appalling lack of familiarity with the hard-landscaping installer and their complete and total pre-occupation with the retailer. They seem to have no time for the contractor, so I've decided I have no time for them.
The one exception is Derbyshire Aggregates , who do have an empathy with contractors, designers and specifiers and I like to think this stems from their background as quarrymen as opposed to marketing droids. This background has enabled them to forge valuable links with ancillary industries, such as their impressive and expanding role as supplier of high-quality aggregates to the resin bound surfacing trade.
This role in providing distinctive, attractive aggregates has prompted them to extend their search for suitable stone and the company is scouring the world in its search for new product that will keep it at the head of the market. Alongside the bagged aggregates, they also supply distinctive specimen stones and water features, which may not sound all that exciting, but sometimes a inspired idea can be found in the oddest place, such as the 'on its side' slate water fountain shown here. It's nothing earth shattering, but is indicative of how a little bit of lateral thinking can sometimes come up with a new product.
McMonagle Stone and Romex:
If any product inspires more discussion the Brew Cabin , Pavingexpert.com's online discussion forum, than the Romex range of resin-based jointing materials, it's news to me. Barely a day goes past without someone asking for a supplier or advice on best use, and it does seem to create genuine loyalty from contractors that have used it.
Sharing a stand with the sole Britain and Ireland distributor, McMonagle Stone , a steady flow of interested visitors were impressed with its ease of use as ably demonstrated by Davy and Ray who are largely responsible for its promotion throughout these islands.
However, for once, its mantle as must-see product was usurped by a piece of stone. Uniquely sourced from a single County Donegal quarry, these gently metamorphosed limestone rocks have been skillfully cut and shaped to form truly gorgeous water features, and the colour-enhancement that comes from a steady flow of water was catching more than a few eyes as folk wandered by. The intricate dark banding set in a field of bluey-white emphasises the natural beauty of this rare stone, and if you are looking for a serenely beautiful water feature for either the home, the garden or even the office, I urge you to get one of these before the very limited supply of this rock is quarried out.
The only real competitor to Romex in Britain would be the VDW range of mortars manufactured in Germany by GftK and supplied in UK and RoI through Chorley's NCC Streetscape . Now, if there are any letters remaining, I'll continue.
Since first bringing the GftK mortars into Britain and Ireland a couple of year's back, NCC Streetscape have targeted the products largely at what is known as the 'specification market', that sector of the trade that encompasses civil, commercial and large-scale public works. However, they have also attracted a steady stream of fans amongst patio and driveway installers, so Gary and Ken deemed it worthwhile to exhibit once again at Glee.
I must have tried half-a-dozen times to get 10 minutes with NCC, but each time I called by, they'd be dragged away by the urgent demands of potential customers, so I tended to leave them to it. During my last visit on Tuesday afternoon, they were heavily engaged with representatives from one of the country's biggest paving manufacturers along with the MD of a major natural stone supplier, so despite the assumption that Glee is just for garden centres and small, independent builders' merchants, never underestimate the pulling power of a good product.
Barely a month goes by without some would-be inventor calling me regarding their patented method of dealing with the tricky issue of pointing paving. Over the years, I reckon I've seen them all, so when Alan Welsh contacted me earlier this year regarding his pointing aid, I was understandably non-plussed.
He persisted when others may well have given up, and sent me a set of his clever little aids to try out with a few of my pet contractors. We gave him feedback, and he's obviously taken on-board at least some of what we said, because here he is at Glee, showing off the simple but effective gadget to anyone and everyone.
I gave Alan a quote to use in his marketing: "A great boon for DIYers" , and that, I feel is the key market for this product. It's not the sort of thing that would be jumped upon by professional contractors, but for the weekend builder and the occasional landscaper, it really does help keep the mortar in the joint and off the paving.
Any manufacturers, distributors or suppliers out there who are looking for a neat marketing gimmick to promote their brand and make the job easier for those one-time purchasers, look at all that empty space on the left-hand side of the Point-Rite tool: wouldn't your logo look great there? Tel: 01386 550201
Aaah! There it is. I lost sight of it for a while, but now it's back and better than ever! There's a long and complicated story behind what has happened to the incredibly useful Chambermate gizmo over the course of its relatively short life, but rather than waste time on the whos, they whys and whens, suffice to say that it is now definitely available, and the company behind it would be very interested to hear from potential distributors.
In essence, it's a circular inspection chamber cover replacement. Remove the old cover, pop on the new Chambermate cover, and then fill it as you please, with turf, with planting, with surfacing…the choice is yours and there's no need to endure those unsightly covers any longer, whether they are within a paved area or in the garden. And here's the really interesting bit: they sell for less than 30 quid and take no more than a couple of minutes to fit!
It's often said that the best ideas are the simplest ones, and this has to be the simplest solution to the problem of IC covers ever imagined. It just doesn't get any easier.
Remember: Chambermate . You read about it here, first.
Continuing that notion the best ideas are those that simplify a problem, here's an idea that takes a simple problem and complicates it.
In theory, the EasyPaver should be a simple idea and a potential aid for contractors, but it is, at best, a thingummy for the gadget-obsessed DIYer, because what it does is normally done by a contractor using nothing more complicated than a string line and a straightedge. And that brings us to the second problem: cost.
A length of string and a straightedge timber might cost a fiver. This is 200 quid! Even for a DIYer, that's a heavy investment for what might be the only time they ever lay paving. Whereas the PointRite mentioned previously is less than a fiver and wouldn't do too much damage to the wallet if only used once, EasyPaver is a significant investment.
It comprises a pair of 1.8m aluminium rails, which sit on adjustable legs allowing them to be set to the required height. They can be used as screed rails for calibrated paving, or a string can be stretched between the two as a guide to line or to dip the depth of excavation.
It all looks nice and shiny, but it's too short, it's too fussy, it's too pricey. I'm sure there will be a small handful of landscapers, what we might term 'occasional paving installers' that would find it useful, but it's of no practical use for the professional contractor and too expensive for the one-off DIYer.
Here's another idea that, on the surface, seems like a cracking idea, but when you delve into it, the overly complicated detail and the scary price reduce its potential by several orders of magnitude.
The G-Block from Resource G is a block paver manufactured from recycled tyres. Great idea: we all love a bit of recycling, don't we? And when you see it, the appeal is immediate. It's a good looking block, a tad on the small, but good colours, and it's claimed to be just one-third the weight of conventional concrete block paving. It's also available in different thicknesses to suit roof garden or balcony installations, patios and pathways, and residential driveways. They seem to have thought of everything.
Then the faults start to emerge. The blocks have to be clicked into place on an underlying grid system, a bit like fixing Lego® blocks onto one of the base plates. Why? Because, and I kid you not, it "takes the frustration and difficulty out of manually setting and aligning heavy concrete pavers". All that frustration I've unwittingly endured while placing one rectangular concrete block next to another rectangular concrete block.
This is further compounded by the frankly ludicrous claim that these blocks can be installed 40% faster than standard CBPs? In your fricking dreams they might! How can smaller blocks, with more units per square metre, each needing to be individually clicked into place on a grid mat be quicker than laying CBPs onto a screeded laying course? Nonsense!
And then the real killer: we're looking at 50 quid per square metre, and even more for the driveway version! That's a mere five times the price of a standard paver.
There may well be applications for roof gardens where weight and maintenance are major issues, and there is a possibility of interest around swimming pools where traction can be an issue, but I seriously doubt we'll see these laid to the nation's patios and driveways. The next generation of paving? I don't think so!
As hinted at a mere 12,000 words back, this was not the happiest Glee in living memory. Almost every exhibitor had some gripe, mostly concerning poor visitor numbers, excessive pricing, preferential treatment to some unnamed exhibitors that had threatened to withdraw, and general lack of promotion for the landscaping sector.
The same 'rumours' kept popping up on various stands, the most popular of which was the notion of attending on a biennial basis, missing out alternate years. There was much talk of a stand-alone landscaping event, away from pots and pets, but when, and where and who and how? To paraphrase Churchill, Glee is the worst exhibition we have, except for all the others.
With the withdrawal of Marshalls, the event has lost a major attraction. I have heard all the arguments made in favour of their absence, and I agree completely with almost every one of them, but I still think they should be here. Despite it not being their key market, they do draw in the crowds.
The same, and more, can be said for Brett, who unlike Marshalls, don't have the luxury of a separate garden/patio brand. I doubt Cemex would be interested as I'm not sure they're actually aware that they manufacture paving, but what about a midlands-based manufacturer such as Eaton or Midland Slate & Tile?
One thing that is certain is that the organisers have to do something to get more visitors to attend, and the right type of visitor. There should be far more contractors at this event, but most contractors are totally unaware of its existence.
There's going to be a lot of wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth over the next few weeks and months as inquests are held into what did or didn't happen at this show. Hopefully, the better attendance of Monday and Tuesday morning will generate the leads and the deals that the exhibitors need to justify the expense of being at Glee. The shameless ploy of sending around some "dolly bird" on Tuesday afternoon, and have her cajole dispirited exhibitors into signing-up for next year's show was tactless and offensive. I overheard her threaten one smaller exhibitor that, if they did not sign-up there and then, she would be back in half-an-hour to pester them again. Great sales tactics, Glee!
Turning to what was actually shown, I think it's fair to say that the rampaging innovation of previous years had been reined-in, and what we saw was more considered. Yes: there were hits and misses, but I suspect there were more hits than misses. The ubiquitous riven Indian sandstones were almost completely absent, and not before time, and it seems that Travertine's days as pretender to the throne are similarly numbered. One undeniable fact is the real improvement in build quality. There were far fewer rocking flags, leaning walls, and non-existent jointing, which indicates exhibitors are taken as much interest in presentation as they do in products.
I'm still shocked at how seriously some exhibitors regard the 'awards' distributed at the end of this review. They started as a bit of light-hearted fun some years ago, but from 9am on Sunday morning, I was repeatedly pressed about which would be my best stand, or best new product. One suggestion I did like, and one I may well take up next year, is an award for best stand under a certain size, to give those companies that don't have tens of thousands of pounds to spend a fair chance of being acknowledged for their efforts.
I've wracked my brains over Best New Product . I'm uncomfortable with the fact that it was one of the very first products I saw, and have struggled to reassure myself that its immediate impact did not cloud my judgement regarding some of the other contenders, such as the gorgeous Courtyard Square from Global Stone or the Woven paving from Bradstone. The decision is further complicated by the fact that Mrs Taz has demanded it be installed in our back garden, and the possible suggestion that I'm subsequently biased in my decision, but after much soul-searching, I have to admit that the Celtic Knot Circle from Stonemarket is my winner.
The Flagger's Maul Award for best new paving product goes to ...
Stonemarket for the Cotsdale Celtic Knot Circle
When it comes to Best Stand , the genuine and very welcome improvement in build quality should have made this a much more difficult choice, but from that very first morning, almost everyone at the event has been able to second-guess who should be the winner. There was only one stunner, and while it's easier to create a show-stopping stand when you have a relatively enormous budget, there can be no denying that the Stonemarket stand was head and shoulders above all the others. A few years ago, I raved over a Bradstone stand that I recall describing as feeling as though you were wandering through the brochure for that year. This display from Stonemarket had that sense, too. Rich, without being flamboyant, it oozed pure class and style, it was practically faultless, and it had the perfect balance of showmanship and sophistication. The crisp white walls mirrored the imagery of the 2008 brochure, and the considered combination of gallery-standard display with interactivity, chat areas and the all-important retailer support service was as close to perfection as I've ever seen. You know it's a great stand when you don't want to witness it being ripped apart. Thankfully, the demolition was postponed until the following morning so, for me, it will always be remembered as it was in its prime. Sheer bloody perfection!
The Golden Trowel Award for best stand in show goes to ...
Of course, the really big award, the one that everyone covets, is the Best Brew Award , and it was testament to the fact that Stonemarket were patently going to win the Best Stand award that so many other exhibitors plumped for the Best Brew award. Even so, Stonemarket made a valiant effort in plying me with the amber brew every time I passed within a few feet of their stand, and Pavestone again set a very high standard by using real cups and saucers, but the award has to go to Natural Paving, who employed a full-time tea brewer in the form of the ever-smiling Derek. The Bombay Mix helped, of course, but they almost lost it when Derek went missing late on Tuesday afternoon and Denise O'Gara brewed up a frankly inferior effort, but when all those previous excellent brews are considered, one small error can be forgiven.
The Special Award for Best Brew goes to ...