Michael Coad, Frank Sabella, Frank Kane and Geoff Corish at the celebration dinner after the Bichon Frise Club of GB championship show at which Frank Sabella judged
When a group of exhibitors from the UK attended a Bichon Specialty in America in 2000, they returned home inspired by what they had seen. In the USA most breeds hold National Specialties bringing exhibitors together from all corners of a huge country. ‘Nationals’ run for 2-4 days and usually feature a formal dinner where practical and pocketed attire is exchanged for the elegant.
Showing dogs in a carpeted ballroom beneath glistening chandeliers adds to the sense of occasion and creates an ambiance very different from the usual marquee, field or sports hall.
Chris Wyatt of Bobander Bichons talked to Michael Coad about the idea of putting on such an event in the UK. Michael immediately saw an opportunity to bring the Bichon community together, which was much needed at the time. He quickly formed a committee drawn from the wealth of enthusiasts in our breed and asked the Bichon Frise Club of Great Britain if the event could use their tickets as a base for the show. The Kennel Club gave their approval and Rita & George Morgan were approached to act as show managers leaving the committee free to compete. With their combined talents, Rita as Secretary of a Canine Society and George as one time Chief Steward of Crufts, they were the perfect choice. Frank Sabella, a highly experienced and charismatic judge from the USA, was invited to judge. The stage was set for United Bichons in the UK 2004.
How could Michael pull off this US style event? How would he get people from to work together? And how would breeders, exhibitors and enthusiasts view the prospect of a 3 day event in a smart London Hotel? Michael’s unrelenting enthusiasm and energy overcame a few teething problems and initial doubts.
Finance was the next hurdle. In the US hosting events on this scale is commonplace. It is a different story in the UK and the finance needed must have seemed daunting, but gradually people rallied to the cause. Over the next three years funds were raised by individuals, through raffles and events and Michael secured valuable sponsorship from Pedigree Masterfoods. He was advised and supported throughout by Karina Le Mare, Glynn Payne and, of course, Geoff Corish.
At the Thistle Hotel near Heathrow the UB in the UK kicked off on Friday 12 November with an evening buffet giving everyone an opportunity to chat and meet the many overseas visitors who came from Canada, USA, New Zealand, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Finland and Norway.
I was pleased to see attendance at our event from well known judges including Ferelith Somerfield, Patron of the BF Club of GB, Tom Mather, its President, Frank Kane who provided his usual fluent commentary, Andrew Brace who conducted a live interview with Frank Sabella, Terry Nethercott, Brenda Banbury, and Jean Lanning. It was also nice that Majorie Ransom was able to join us.
The Championship Show, which drew an entry of 112 bichons, took place in an elegant carpeted ballroom. The layout was excellent and the fine decor enhanced by stunning flower arrangements put together by Dominic Browne. The atmosphere was special and everyone pulled out all the stops; exhibitors dressed up more than usual and I have never seen such a high standard of presentation of our bichons.
There was hearty applause as each class entered the ring and I was particularly pleased to see our Veterans so well received. This is very much in the US style which I love. The show was followed by a Black Tie ‘Awards Dinner’ with just over 100 attending. After a very good 5 course meal Frank Kane put his microphone talents to good use and helped raise almost £800 at an auction of various interesting items
On Sunday morning Andrew Brace interviewed Frank Sabella. Everyone was fascinated to hear how our judge started in dogs, his experiences through the years and insight into his judging techniques. I believe most of us could have listened to him for hours.
Margaret Moss of Mamose Bichons gave an improptu speech thanking Michael, Maureen Reynolds and her hard working committee for bring the event together which received a well deserved ovation.
So what did this special weekend achieve? As an exhibitor I feel that in today’s highly competitive dog show world it is all too easy for rifts to occur. These can often get out of hand and unfortunately ill feelings can fester for many years with the original cause of the rift forgotten.
This weekend saw a camaraderie that has been missing; many bridges were built and, as a breed, we have certainly benefited. If only part of that camaraderie is carried into the 2005 showing season our bichon community will undoubtedly be a better and happier place.