The Groundsman

January 2015

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LIFETIME AWARD WINNER 27 the Groundsman January 2015 Visit for more information and digital editions IOG man But 'retiring' from work per se was the last thing on Derek's mind. Already embroiled in IOG governance – Derek is a past member of numerous IOG committees and the IOG board of directors, plus he has had stints as national chairman and president of the IOG – he had become involved with the operations of the SALTEX show, being one of an army of IOG members who each year give up their personal holiday time to ensure SALTEX is staged successfully. It's a practice that remains to this day – and it is this 'team' that Derek refers to whenever there are accolades concerning the show's smooth running. Taking responsibility for all operational matters at the event, Derek would regularly spend 20 days onsite, sleeping in temporary accommodation, to ensure he is the first to arrive and the last to leave from well before exhibitor build-up until the final day of break-down. He has fulfilled the role of SALTEX site manager for almost 40 years and, unbelievably, his sacrifice of holidays and spare time to the show amounts to a total of over four and a half years! Derek has also regularly written, lectured and broadcast on all matters relating to turf care - including for five years running lawn clinics for the general public at the BBC Gardeners World Live exhibition and for 10 years at the Chelsea Show, as well as being a Green Flag judge (part of the Britain in Bloom competition) for five years. In 1991 he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his services to groundsmanship. Committed to SALTEX However, it is for Derek's long-standing and voluntary service as the SALTEX site manager that he is perhaps best known by many. His resolve for attaining excellence in event management has justifiably earned him the nickname of 'Mr SALTEX' and, indeed, this year his non-stop dedicated won him the Unsung hero award from the Association of Event Organisers. Commenting on his lifetime achievement award, IOG chief executive Geoff Webb, says: "Derek's award is richly deserved. He has shown unswerving dedication to the success of SALTEX and for the benefit of all of the show's stakeholders. I know this focus will continue next year as the event moves to a new location at the NEC, bringing with it a new set of challenges which Derek and his team will undoubtedly be prepared for." Derek is characteristically looking forward to the new show. "There will be lots of changes, of course, being that the show is moving indoors. For example, I'll be on-site for five days instead of the usual three weeks, and because the event is indoors I will not be waking up every morning praying that the rain has held off. Also, I'll be managing five contractors instead of 22, while also overseeing stand build-up with fewer (or no) vehicles in the hall compared to previous years." But the same ethics of SALTEX's organisational efficiency will prevail, he assures. "My same team of IOG volunteers will be in attendance at the NEC, and that's important. It is crucial to every one of the show's stakeholders that the IOG is present, ensuring everything goes smoothly and maintaining that unbroken link between the IOG and the trade. I am totally confident that SALTEX 2015 will be a great success." Great achievements Talking of success, Derek steers (again unsurprisingly) the conversation towards the achievements of the IOG; the progress made in the last 40 years by the institute in increasingly gaining public recognition for the groundscare profession, in more recent times not least by the annual Industry Awards and the IOG's ongoing and successful collaboration with the sports' national governing bodies, he says. "I remember when we had TV cameras at the Wimbledon training ground and I approached the programme producer and suggested that groundsmen should receive more accolades for what they do. He told me that TV/media 'needs a strong hook' for any story, and I replied that he would have a great story if all the groundsmen went on strike and no sport could be played. His response was 'Well, you're never going to do that, are you?'. "Ours is an industry that effectively is responsible for the safekeeping of every player and there would be an outcry if those pitches weren't good enough. "Groundsmen are truly the men behind sport and the fact is the public don't realise what really goes on – they see the groundstaff out on the pitch at half time, but they don't really understand what we do. The IOG is increasingly helping create much-needed awareness of the profession." Away from the world of horticulture and grass that he loves, Derek likes to spend time watching sport, eating out and visiting historical sites. "But SALTEX is there all the time – it's always on my mind, and I often wake up in the early hours thinking about the show, worrying if this, or that, has been done." That, if you ever needed it, is another reason why he's called 'Mr SALTEX'. l Derek (third from right) with some of his SALTEX team at Windsor in 2010

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