Saturday, 18 July 2009

An annual outdoor pilgrimage (inside)

As I type, I’m sitting on the Berghaus stand at the OutDoor trade show in Friedrichshafen, in the south of Germany. The event takes place in July each year and sees all of the major outdoor brands gather under one very large roof to showcase their latest product developments. I tend to wear several hats while out here, but spend the majority of my time meeting journalists on the Berghaus stand and giving them an overview of the spring/summer 2010 collection.

It’s been a very busy few days and there has been plenty of interest in the new clothing, footwear and rucsacs. Highlights include a comprehensive collection of base layers, a great selection of low cut outdoor footwear and some really exciting new daysacs. And the colour palette across the range is fantastic – it’s really vibrant and perfect for summer.

One of the other big stories for Berghaus in 2010 revolves around some significant anniversaries. Next year will mark 25 years since Sir Chris Bonington reached the summit of Everest. It will also be 60 years since the first successful summit of an 8,000 metre mountain, when Maurice Herzog climbed Annapurna, and the 50th anniversary of Chris’ own first ascent of Annapurna II. And Chris will be 75, in a year during which he is heading back out the Annapurna region to lead a trek to commemorate all of the above.

Sir Chris features prominently in Berghaus’ communications plans for 2010 and even appears on some really nice ‘heritage’ t-shirts that the company has designed. His association with Berghaus goes back to the early 1980s and he is the living embodiment of the brand, still exploring unclimbed peaks and new areas over 50 years after he started to make a name for himself in the world of climbing.

During the show, I have also been talking to journalists about developments at the Outdoor Industries Association. Since her appointment as association director, Louise Ramsay has made a big and positive impact, and is delivering some dynamic plans that will really help the OIA achieve its long term objective to effectively represent and promote the UK outdoor sector. The latest step has just gone live, with the launch of the new OIA website. It already looks great and there’s much more that will be added to it in the near future, as it develops into an essential resource for outdoor brands, retailers and other businesses.

Finally, I took the chance to introduce a few of my contacts to the Adventure Generator for North East England. Interest in this great online activity break planning tool is building fast. Recently, former Olympic athletes Steve Cram and Allison Curbishley gave the Adventure Generator a spin and enjoyed a range of activities across the North East. And now, several of the outdoor magazines that I met at the show have expressed an interest in featuring it.

All good. Right, I’m leaving the show this afternoon and travelling back by boat, train and airplane. So, I need to go and catch a ferry.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Olympic Adventures in North East England

It’s been a hectic few weeks at Press Ahead towers (a familiar refrain). The pace has been hotting up on the Outdoor and Active front, very literally in some ways. As I type this, a thunder storm is skirting by Sunderland, but we’ve had some very decent weather in the North East lately, and people have been getting outside in large numbers. The region’s Adventure Generator is there to help people discover some great outdoor activities across North East England. It’s even got its own page on Facebook – become a fan and you could win a great prize when we launch an exclusive competition there very soon.

Now that we have this great application, we thought we’d seek out some willing volunteers to put it through its paces. Step forward Olympians Steve Cram and Allison Curbishley. Steve and Allison spent some time with us trying out a few of the adventures that can be found on the Adventure Generator. During an action packed journey around the region, they got on their bikes and the boulders at Summerhill Visitor Centre in Hartlepool, tried a spot of kayaking at Sunderland’s Marine Activities Centre, went for a stroll and picnic with a ranger at Causey Arch in County Durham, and finally took to the treetops at Go Ape at Matfen Hall in Northumberland.

Steve and Allison thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we captured some great photos and film footage of them in action. It will all start to appear on the Facebook page and on
very soon. Meanwhile, we’re working hard to encourage people near and far to try out the Adventure Generator, and we’re busy arranging visits for journalists who have agreed ready to experience some great outdoor activities in the region for themselves.

Our first guest arrives this week, with more to follow soon. A warm North East welcome awaits all of them and anyone else who heads here for adventure.