Karl Hansell Head of Marketing and Communications at BIGGA (British and International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association) speaks with The Landscaper Magazine about the membership organisations annual trade event BTME
What is the history behind BTME?
BTME’s story begins in 1989, when the European Turf Management Exhibition was held on 18 to 20 January in Harrogate. The initial event was fairly low-key, but the annual exhibition quickly rose to become the most influential event in the BIGGA calendar.
Key to the success of BTME, as it was renamed just a few years later, is the education seminar programme, which remains industry leading and attracts turf professionals from across the globe.
Speaking at the opening of proceedings in 1989, the Rt Hon Viscount Whitelaw, then BIGGA President, said: “I believe we have very high standards of greenkeeping. We need to make them higher and that is the purpose of this exhibition. That is why you are here this week, to learn how to achieve better standards, better greens and better courses for golfers to play.” That mission remains as true today as it did over three decades ago.
What is BTME’s USP?
Fundamental to the success of BTME is the strength of community that it engenders among attendees. Taking place in the fallow period between Christmas and the start of the new golfing season and located as it is in the centre of the UK – approximately 200 miles from both London and Edinburgh – BTME holds a special place in the greenkeeping calendar. For 30 years BIGGA members and the wider industry have met in the Harrogate Convention Centre’s halls, they have experienced Continue to Learn’s career-defining educational opportunities and they’ve taken advantage of Harrogate’s renowned hospitality – nowhere else in the country will you find thousands of greenkeepers sharing ideas and discussing the industry late into the evening at public houses around the town.
How has BTME changed over the years?
As the greenkeeping profession has sought a greater degree of professionalism, this has been reflected in the show itself in its 34 year history.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some eccentricities along the way, such as Elvis impersonators, appearances by comedians and even a performance by Showaddywaddy. In 2008 we were fortunate enough to be visited by King Charles III, then HRH Prince of Wales, to check out the convention centre’s refurbished Royal Hall in a visit that coincided with BTME.
Although BTME has always been housed within the Harrogate Convention Centre, we’ve utilised various halls over the years as the show ebbed and flowed. Over the years we’ve had some pretty unusual exhibitors too, with one of the strangest being a Golf Ball Toilet that made an appearance in 2010.
Since 2014 we’ve hosted the BIGGA Welcome Celebration on the opening evening of BTME. This free-to-attend event is an opportunity to celebrate the successes of BIGGA members throughout the previous year.
Why has BTME’s Continue to Learn programme become an influential event?
With hundreds of hours of education and attendees from every level of golfing and sporting facility, it has been estimated that Continue to Learn generates more than two hours of learning for every golf club in the United Kingdom. We can’t think of another event in the industry that has such a huge impact on how playing surfaces are managed and we consider BTME and Continue to Learn to be among the most influential events not just in greenkeeping, but the wider golfing calendar.
Key to the success of the programme is that while it provides practical skills and education, the programme has evolved to meet all the needs of modern turf professionals. There are elements relating to all aspects of team and golf course management, such as budgeting, leadership, mental health and countless other topics. These skills are widely transferable, not just to grounds managers in other sports but also anyone working within the industry who has an interest in developing their abilities and making golf clubs, sports facilities and other venues positive and thriving places to work.
Is there anything new for visitors to the show this year to look forward to?
We’re delighted that so many exhibitors have again chosen to build their calendar of key announcements around BTME. There are product launches and exclusive industry news announcements to look forward to, while we’ve also been informed of some incredible ‘special guests’ that will be making an appearance. It’s wonderful that organisations like the STRI choose to coincide their Golf Environment Awards with BTME and we’re excited that the BIGGA Welcome Celebration will also provide a fantastic opportunity to celebrate everything that’s great about the greenkeeping community.
Around the show halls, attendees will experience some fascinating feature areas, such as the Education Hub and the Autonomous Machinery Demo Area. The Sustainability Zone in particular will be the place to ‘see or be seen’ with representation from a number of key stakeholders, all discussing ways in which golf can work towards a brighter future.
BTME will feature the launch of an important new industry publication, there will be announcements that set the industry agenda for decades to come and, as the first BTME in its regular timing since before the pandemic, we’re anticipating a thriving, bustling show as the greenkeeping industry reunites once again in historic Harrogate.
What do you think visitors are looking for when they visit trade shows?
BIGGA – and by extension BTME as our largest annual gathering – is an organisation that is driven by its members. They set the direction of travel and our activities align with the wider ambitions laid out by our members through the Section, Region and National structures that are in place. Our members ask us to provide a platform upon which they can strengthen their professional network and gain the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their personal and professional goals in a tough economic climate and BTME plays a key role in that. Today’s greenkeepers are savvy, highly-educated professionals and they are in turn pushing the industry to keep up by providing quality products and services that are backed up by solid research and data.
But BIGGA also appreciates that not every members can attend BTME and that’s why our network of local events is equally as strong and further strengthened by the introduction of the BIGGA Learning and Development Roadshowslater this year. The BIGGA community is built around supporting every member, no matter their job role, location or the status of the club they work at and we work hard to ensure that everyone has access to the same learning and development opportunities, from the tip of Scotland to the South Coast and beyond.
Check out some of those exhibiting this year here.