Vanessa McAlpine, Crufts Show Manager, contemplates 30 years on the management team,
half of those as Show Manager. Note the two unopened champagne bottles,
just waiting for Vanessa and her team until after Best in show has been judged..!
CRUFTS SHOW Manager Vanessa McAlpine this year celebrated her 15th year as Show Manager – and her 30th year as part of the management team at the world’s most famous dog show.
A smiling Vanessa managed to spare me a few minutes out of her hectic schedule on Day 2.
Seated at her desk in the Show Office she looked calm and relaxed - every inch the consummate professional that dogdom know her to be.
So how had it all begun for Vanessa all those years ago?
‘I was on the staff for Crufts in 1977,’ recalls Vanessa, ‘I started as Secretary to Bill Edmonds, who was then Assistant Show Secretary for Trials. After that, I progressed to working on Field Trials and Working Trials. I became Assistant Show Manager at Crufts in 1988. I suppose I mist have done something right, because they made me Show Manager in 1992!’
Looking back on all the Crufts shows at which she has officiated, Vanessa says that the excitement and adrenalin rush of the event always buoys her up. ‘When you’re working from 5 am until 10pm every day for four days and on days either side of the show, you learn to cope with it, become part of it,’ she says.
Of course, during her tenure in the show office, Crufts moved home twice, from Olympia to Earls Court in 1979 and then to the NEC in 1991. Did Vanessa find the NEC was a better venue?
‘It’s certainly bigger. I can’t say it’s better, but its different,’ she says tactfully. ‘I do miss the atmosphere of Earl’s Court with its balcony where you could look down onto the show, but it became apparent during our last year at Earl’s Court that the venue was far too small for everything there – dogs, stands and people. Nowadays, health and safety would never allow it to take place under those conditions!’
Another change that Vanessa has seen over the years is the growth of overseas entries. Does she feel that this has been a good thing?
‘The overseas dogs and visitors certainly add a different flavour,’ she observes. ‘Of course, you have to remember that the overseas dogs are still a very small percentage o the overall total entry. But they’re all very enthusiastic and it’s certainly worth them, coming and many do very well. It is the most famous dog show in the world, of course!’
And what does she think the late, great Charles Cruft would have made of the show that bears his name, here in ther21st Century?
‘Oh, he’d have loved it!’ exclaims Vanessa. ‘he was an entrepreneur, a great showman – he’d have loved the media attention, the overseas angle, the sheer number of people. It is a truly wonderful show.’
Vanessa points to two bottles on champagne on her desk. ‘They sit there throughout the show, then after Best In show is judged on Sunday evening and the crowds are leaving, we crack them open; they’re just for us!’ she chuckles. The rest of the staff in the office nod eagerly. ‘This is wonderful team here,’ adds Vanessa, ‘I’m blessed with a great team and we all pull together to make the show work.’
Did any particular Crufts over the years stand out in Vanessa’s memory?
She smiles and says diplomatically: ‘Every show has its own flavour – peculiar things happen at different shows and you have to handle them. Above all, you have to have a sense of humour. I think I’m still smiling after all these years!’
And long may Vanessa McAlpine continue to keep smiling at the helm of the World’s Greatest Dog Show! And popping the champagne corks after Best in show, of course…