Leaving the Brits in the shade

Leaving the Brits in the shade: Tuesday February 18 saw two high profile events on the UK calendar. Both had a superb venue, both had a stellar cast of “performers”, both were celebrating significant birthdays, and both had an appreciative audience, many of whom had travelled considerable distances to attend.

But while the 40th anniversary of The Brits, at the O2 in London’s Docklands, experienced its fair share of drunkenness, swearing and miscellaneous bad behaviour, the 10th annual Dennis SISIS Seminar at the Emirates Riverside, home of Durham County Cricket Club, was conducted in impeccable style and there was no need for anyone to resort to the mute button to shield the audience from fruity language.

Leaving the Brits in the shade

Leaving the Brits in the shade

The weather was superb, ironic as Storm Dennis had wreaked havoc in many parts of the country but Seminar Dennis seemed to be blessed, fitting as host for the day was Durham CCC Head Groundsman Vic Demain, the man who had approached Roger Moore, of Dennis SISIS, 10 years ago to float the idea of a cricket-focussed seminar.

In 2020, with an audience of 130 plus and a list of speakers out of the very top drawer, the Seminar has come a long way since that first event in Uxbridge School back in 2011.

Delegates and speakers gathered the night before at Lumley Castle Hotel, overlooking the cricket ground and under the stewardship of the Dennis SISIS staff, Roger, Alison Pickering and Ewen Wilson, everyone enjoyed a superb meal, sharing the sort of tales and gossip which wouldn’t be surfacing in the more formal environment the following day.

Ewen and Vic kicked things off with the latter introducing Marcus North, the Durham Director of Cricket and a former Australian Test batsman. Marcus talked of the need for a strong relationship between the Director of Cricket and the Head Groundsman and how best results were achieved through establishing such a relationship and keeping their respective office doors open.

Following Marcus was Dr Iain James, of TGMA, who spoke on the Construction and Maintenance of a Cricket Pitch. Ian was followed by Ian Powell, the IOG’s Regional Pitch Advisor, who discussed Decision Making for Pre-season preparations.

Among the messages delivered was that good groundsmanship should always be tried before pitch reconstruction and that waiting was invariably a sensible option before undertaking tasks because the addition time often allowed the pitch to dry out even more.

Groundsman’s Corner preceded lunch. Hosted by Vic, an illustrious group comprising Karl McDermott, Head Groundsman at Lords; Sean Williams, Head Groundsman at Gloucester CCC; Gordon Gill, Head Groundsman at Bath Cricket Club as well as two rugby infiltrators, Jim Dawson, Head Groundsman at BT Murrayfield, and Keith Kent, Head Pitch Advisor to Rugby Groundsmen Connected and former Head Groundsman at both Old Trafford (football not cricket) and Twickenham. They talked about how they had entered the profession and shared best advice and best practice with the audience.

The afternoon session was launched by Barry Glynn, who expressed his well known frustrations of a Groundsman. Barry, now retired and based in Brighton where he plays three rounds of golf a week, is such a well regarded speaker that he has been booked to speak at the 150th birthday of WG Grace’s very own cricket club.

Barry was on safe ground and the nods of recognition and guffaws from the floor when he highlighted a perennial gripe made for an entertaining talk.

Keith Kent then took to the floor and he pointed out the synergies which exist when it comes to maintaining cricket and rugby pitches and how often, because a rugby field becomes a cricket outfield in the summer, special care was needed to ensure rogue bounces were avoided as much as possible from a well struck cricket ball.

He also reminisced about his time at both Old Trafford – complete with a picture of him playing for the Manchester United staff team – and Twickenham, where he and his small team were responsible for everything green – with the exception of the seats!

The question and answer session which closed the day was one of the highlights and covered everything from avoiding inadvertently offering information which could be used by illegal betting gangs, to the latest information on worm eradication.

Sponsors for the day included your very own Turf Matters, Limegrain, Poweroll, CricketWorld, Boughton, Fleet, Thomas Sherriff, Headland Amenity Products, SIS Pitches, Stuart Canvas Products and Facility and Sports Club Development.

Big thanks to Vic, Roger, Alison and Ewen for all the work involved in pulling such an event together, and for putting those Brits in the shade!