Christian Resources Together


Clem Jackson, the Editor of Together magazine
shares his thoughts on the
2016 Retailers & Suppliers Retreat.



An unseasonably warm September day marked the official start of this year’s CRT Retailers and Suppliers Retreat held at The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick (15th-16th September). Around 350 delegates and exhibitors made this the biggest Retreat since its inauguration in 2010.


Over a third arrived a day early to informally extend their time at the Retreat and take advantage of additional time to set up in the exhibition, catch up with old friends and enjoy a screening of the film Risen, courtesy of Kingsway Trust. As more than 60 people packed into the viewing room extra chairs had to be brought in.


The warm weather which greeted the opening of the event seemed to enhance the sense of relaxation and anticipation and there was plenty of good humour abounding by the first lunch.


The exhibition hall took on a real buzz as delegates arrived and began to make their way around the more than 70 exhibitor stands. There seemed to be general accord regarding the new arrangements which saw the Exhibition Hall closed when the events in the main hall were taking place.


Inspiring speakers and prayer


Guest speakers Rico Tice and Rachel Turner encouraged those gathered to be inspired to serve and strive respectively. Rico reminded us that the role of a Christian bookseller is much like that of an evangelist whilst Rachel had the crowd in stitches describing her exploits climbing a rock face and encouraged us all to “remember the vision you were called to”. Sadly, Michelle Guinness was unable to close the event up due to illness which was a real shame as she is always such an encouragement and a great supporter of this event.


Thanks also to our seminar speakers; Ian Higginbotham, Richard Morris and Richard McChesney, who despite being fogbound in Belfast on Thursday morning still managed to deliver his seminar on Friday. Those who attended the seminars were inspired and encourage.


Prayer is of course an integral part of what we do and thanks go to Judith Goodfellow for gently starting Friday with a time of quiet and reflective prayer. Thanks also to Mark Fleeson from Lindisfarne Scriptorium for creating The Sacred Place offering a prayerful and meditative experience.


A ‘buzzing’ exhibition


The fantastic support from exhibitors is also much appreciated and clearly the delegates enjoy their time meeting with suppliers, collecting free product by the bag load. Once again this year the exhibition hall was a busy place and quite noisy at times with all the conversations going on! It’s been said before, but bears repeating, that the cost of attending this event is more than covered by the value of the product retailers can pick up from our generous exhibitors. Thanks also to our sponsors who enable us to keep the costs down to a level that makes coming to the event affordable.


The Quick Fire session, hosted by the Christian Suppliers Group, was also a great success. A lot of information was conveyed in short time, with contributors kept in check - and to time - by Alexandra McDonald and Jon Adams.



A real family feel


The Awards Evening was another highlight with a real family feel about it. Notably even Jon Adams sported a suit and tie to make the presentation for Book of the Year and Eddie Olliffe received a warm and rousing reception as he came to the stage to present the award for Reference Book of the Year. Derby Cathedral Bookshop brought the whole team up for their award and were clearly very excited to receive it.


All the award winners were applauded boisterously and there was a special reception for Alan & Mary Sayers and Jennifer Rees Larcombe who were honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award and the ACW Outstanding Contribution to Christian Publishing Award respectively. Probably the biggest cheer though went to Raymond Banks receiving the Suppliers Representative Award after more than a quarter of a century on the road.


Steve and Mandy Briars once again kept a strong hand on the tiller, moving the event along and providing their usual ‘double-act’ whilst Ali Ceasar and I had the privilege of providing a musical interlude.


Mentioning worship there, it was a real privilege for me to have the opportunity to lead worship at the event and I am enormously encouraged by the many appreciative comments and messages I have received.


I also want to personally thank my guests ‘On the Sofa’; Rico Tice, Ruth Valerio, Graham Dacre, Kate Nicholas and Sam Richardson – or as I described them ‘four authors and a publisher’! They all got into the spirit of the session and judging by the comments afterwards, their contributions were much appreciated.


Authors are a key part of the family too and having so many present is, I know, much appreciated especially by retailers. Once again the support of publishers in organising author signing sessions was very popular given the length of the queues around the main conference hall. As one retailer said to me, “It’s good to meet the people whose books you sell – it makes selling them more personal somehow.”


Friday saw the weather change but spirits were not dampened. There was a good crowd at the morning’s main session and the seminars, and the exhibition was as busy as ever. The only damper was that the afternoon main session had to be cancelled due to Michelle Guinness’ illness but it did mean there was more time to be had in the exhibition. However is did mean there was not an opportunity for everyone to publicly thank Steve and Mandy for once again organising a very successful and inspiring event. So I’ll do it here. THANK YOU STEVE AND MANDY.



Book early – save money


Here’s a very important date for your diary: 13th-14th SEPTEMBER 2017 when the Retailers and Suppliers retreat will once again pack out The Hayes Conference Centre. Don’t be disappointed, book your place early.


I’ll leave the final word to Steve. “Mandy and I have received many warm messages of thanks for which we are very grateful. The overwhelming message being conveyed is that is the best event ever. This probably has more to do with the sense of community that now exists at the Retreat as much as the programme which is the underlying reason for its success. So thank you all for playing your part.”