I call today’s first-ever London Spring Pen Show, hosted by the London Writing Equipment Society (LWES), a great success. Or at least, I had a great time.
Partly it’s because I think I’m getting the hang of this pen-show lark. I followed my own advice:
- Go for the early bird entry at 9.30. The place gets insanely busy and hot by mid-morning, but if you go in early you get a nice quiet browse, time to chat — and the best bargains. We managed to get in by 9.15am and we were out in the cafe by 10.30am, went off for lunch and a visit to the British Museum, and came back around 3pm for another browse. It worked perfectly
- Have a plan. This year I really wanted to see which bargains Lime Internet had (more on that later), check out Onoto, pick up a few inks from my wishlist, and drop off a pen for a nib replacement for a friend. Having a list of objectives on your phone makes it easy to avoid getting overwhelmed.
- Take cash. I took a decent amount, even though card payment was more widely available this year.
- Travel light. I brought a ton of pens to show and tell, but that was it. I dressed light, and put up with being cold on the walk to the venue. The aisles can be narrow and the room gets hot.
A step up to a more modern pen show
I’m thrilled to see how the pen show is evolving in terms of the breadth of products on show.
I remarked after my first show that it was sea upon sea of vintage and rare custom pens, and those vendors are still there, for sure, represented by the likes of “one man pen show” Sarj Minas and St John’s Pens.
But this show marked the first appearance for Stu’s Nero’s Notes, so there was a good place to buy paper, pencils and Nock cases, alongside the William Hannah and Leuchtturm tables I remember from previous years.
KWZ was there with an ink testing station, directing customers to the stalwarts from Pure Pens for purchase. My daughter had an amazing time picking.
Jon’s Pensharing service was on hand with ink samples and giveaways to help those new to the hobby.
We had more makers and manufacturers there too: not just John Twiss and Onoto, but ASC pens too (I was missing a visit from Conid, alas).
For those on the hunt for a bargain, Regina Martini and Lime Internet had some amazing discounts. And I felt the welcome presence of general pen retailing, with cheaper pens like TWSBI rubbing shoulders with more expensive offers at Write Here, the Writing Desk and Pure Pens, all on site at last. Izods didn’t make it, unfortunately.
In general, the show felt more accessible and more modern than ever: card payment was pretty common and the merchandising was better.
One thing that hasn’t changed from previous years is just how welcoming the show is to younger people. I went with my daughter, who again was absolutely good as gold and put up with me chatting away and pointing out yet another pen. She looks like an angel, and apparently she can mesmerise people into giving her pens. She walked out with FIVE free pens. Everyone was enchanted to see her. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any other kids, which is a shame. But apparently my daughter had such a good time that she asked to LEAVE the British Museum to come back to the pen show. I was surprised, pleasantly!
It’s all about the people
As I spend more time in this hobby, the more people I know. I probably spent more time in the cafe with Simon, Dave, Gary, Jackie, Nick, Rupert, and Daniel, and chatting to vendors and acquaintances in the aisles, than I did actually shopping. That’s a stark contrast to my first pen show experience, where I hardly said a word. My daughter is a great icebreaker, too, so that helps.
What did I buy?
Spoiler alert: I spent too much money.
As always, Lime Internet ambushed me at about 9.15am with an unmissable deal. I held off for, ooh, five minutes before coming back to the table and paying for it: the Visconti Medici Oversize, with a PERFECT medium nib.
I had planned to check out Onoto’s range, particularly some prototypes that they’d teased on Instagram the day before.
A deal was done, and I’m waiting for a lovely blue chased model to be delivered with a medium gold nib and the extra barrel weight option. I loved having the opportunity to try out the pens, and to ogle some of the special editions — like the new range inspired by the roof of the British Museum.
I had been considering a Conway Stewart, and there were tons about, but I decided the Onoto would do for now.
From Write Here I picked up a bottle of Sailor Sakura-mori for my daughter — it’s a gorgeous blossom pink. And from The Writing Desk I got her a bottle of Lamy Amazonite and myself a bottle of Sailor’s Souboku. From Pure Pens I got her a bottle of KWZ Menthol Green and (at last) a bottle of Walk Over Vistula to commemorate my trip to Poland. It’s amazing, may I add…
From Nero’s Notes I got some of Pebble’s Tomoe River pocket notebooks, a new A5 LIFE notebook, and a Clairefontaine pocket notebook for my daughter.
The final purchase was a Lamy Charged Green rollerball for a fiver.
I could have spent thousands more.
The most painful pens to walk away from were the Wahl Eversharp in brilliant turquoise…
and the prototype Scribo in midnight blue.
There were a few things that I didn’t get to lay my hands on. There were no Sailor Studio inks on hand to try — I really wanted a bottle of 123. Aurora’s new Nettuno edition of the 88 wasn’t released yet. Regina Martini didn’t seem to have any Grafs on hand, which put paid to my idea of getting a Macassar Classic for cheap.
But frankly, given my amazing scores and the great conversations I’d had throughout the day, I couldn’t have asked for a better show. I can’t wait until October. My only real regret is not taking better photos!