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Ok confession time. I took too few pictures and I should have noted down what stores/sellers were there as it is under a week later and I am already struggling to remember 😀

Back at it’s regular date slot, but with it being the first time at the Hammersmith Novotel in March. I do like the location. It is large, spacious and airy. Sure it is not quite central London however there is a tube station (London Underground MTR) within 3-5 minutes walk, plenty of bus options, and parking below. The latter needs to be pre-booked through third parties and the prices have risen, however to my surprise I found four EV charger ports there which are free, so I got to top up my car while at the show.

The only downsides are food wise you really need to go out. No different from the previous location, but what the hotel offers is expensive. Just hope it is dry outside as Starbucks aside (which is still 3-4 minutes walk away) you need to go past the station to get to the usual high street food options. Is this any worse than before, not really though in Bloomsbury the shops were slightly closer and I do miss the local pizza place I would hit in those days.

There were plenty of vendors in attendance, it felt like more than before though we were still missing some of the regular international ones plus a couple from the UK. While there was a row of tables empty by the entrance, that could only take 2 stalls, so it will be interesting to see how the show copes with expanding in the future. Additionally the number of people attending seemed larger and the show certainly felt busier than before.

I think the only foreign stores present were Scrittura Elegante from the Netherlands (next time I will grab that walnut Gazing Far TMX pocket pen before someone else), back for a second time, Esterbrook Pens, and Kilk from Turkey. Now the latter I have been watching for a while, waiting for a way to try one of their pens without the costs of postage and taxes taking the price too high. Perfect for me and yes this did result in my first purchase, one of their Novo Baroque range, but unlike on the website, this one is all brown. While the normal model did appeal and also brought back memories of my late father shopping for Meerschaum pipes at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the alternate version appealed to me more and played upon my Turkish heritage (my paternal great grand father was born in Smyrna, now Izmir, and came to Manchester, UK in the 1890s).

Alas, not only can I not remember the names of the two guys who were at the stall, but the actual pen maker, Oruç Gazi Kutluer, was not present as he had come down with COVID. Still great to see them here, was good to chat with them, and I do hope they will be back at another show. Interesting note, Oruç’s colleague in the photo above is actually a professional book binder and a lecturer in that field.

Esterbrook were showing off their wares with a really impressive table and facing them was Cult Pens, who I think may be their only UK retailer. Onoto had their usual tempting produce including the limited edition Hawker Hurricane, which looks a lot better in the flesh than in photos. Additionally they had a show special of their soon to be released Scholarship model. I believe I might be the first person to have bought one of these, though they did sell a few at the show without any real pre-announcement. John Hall was on grand father duties so three of his staff were running the Write Here stand on his behalf and looking like they were enjoying themselves.

It was both good and bad to see Den Pens at the show. Good as Den and his wife and are always good to chat to and they have an interesting range of pens. Bad as they were meant to be moving house instead, alas that purchase fell through at the last minute but I think they may already have found some where else, fingers crossed for them.

It was early on in the show that I discovered my recent busy life has meant I had totally missed the sh*t storm that had been going down in our community over Benu Pens. It led to my writing this article the same evening, which has been far better received that I expected, but then my faith in the community was strengthened with the way one of the bloggers who had received a lot of flack for reviewing a Benu pen, Penultimate Dave was treated by vendors and visitors alike. My faith in humanity was restored and I know he was relieved as he almost did not attend the show. On a side note, apparently to the Pen Boy Roy podcast referenced in my post, Alex from Benu may have been arrested and detained as a result of being at an anti invasion protest in Russia and this could be partly behind their decision to move the company to Armenia.

Months ago I was told off for describing Derek Bambrough of Stonecott Fine Writing Supplies as scary looking, after all he is large and looks like a Viking warrior, something he denies. I was told he is a really nice guy, a sweetie, etc, etc, and in reality it is true. He is a very nice chap and good to talk to you, but I leave it up to you to decide if I am right about his appearance ….

Now I did buy a Benu pen from him, my first, and for those of you who have not read my article on the company and how they are openly opposed to the invasion of Ukraine, then please bear in mind that this was from existing stock Derek had already paid for.

It is hard to write about the show without mentioning Michael Owen, John Twiss or Vince Coates, after all without the three of them the show would not exist in it’s present form and all three were busy running their own stalls. I believe those manning the doors were Michael and Vince’s children. My last purchase was a Japanese three pen case from Vince.

It was great to catch up with many friends, including Dave, Ant, Jim, John, Rupert, Bernardo, Chris & Tony, Ania, Jack, and many more. Only downside was the next evening I got a NHS covid alert and from the comments on the FPUK Facebook group I was not the only one. Fortunately my tests have shown I am fine however at least one of the others has since tested positive.

So pictures of my purchases….

The leather pen roll at the top is part of the packaging for the Onoto Scholarship.