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Winter 2018

Andrew Denton, CEO of the Outdoor Industries Association (OIA), reflects on the recent Brexit progress, as well as recent events that the OIA has hosted and been involved in

Looking back over the events of the last few weeks showcases the breadth of work that the OIA is involved in, either directly or in a supporting role.

On 8 November, 42 senior figures from the industry met at the Merrell HQ in London to participate in our special Brexit Forum. The event focused on the implications of Brexit on business and featured two highly informed speakers: John Foster, Director of Campaigns at the CBI, and Mark Essex, Director of Public Policy at KPMG and an esteemed expert on Brexit. Both gave extensive and informative outlines of the journey, the current position and some of the future scenarios. Mark’s opening slide was marked not only with the date, but the time to the minute that it was last updated, a clear indication of the extraordinary level of flux in the situation at the moment.

While the Prime Minister has since announced the withdrawal agreement and effectively appears to have ‘kicked the can down the road’ for now, the information and debate certainly helped inform guests as they prepare to build strategic plans for the years ahead.

In addition, Mark Essex has shared details of a couple of useful online resources relating to Brexit:

Also, in November the OIA attended the International Society for Physical Activity’s annual global conference. Health secretary Matt Hancock was there, along with many leading lights in the field of promoting health through activity. As the secretary of state went on to publish in the media after the event, there is a significant swing underway, towards the need to prevent ill health, rather than cure illness. The promotion of activity is one of the primary tools in this fight and the OIA is constantly working to keep outdoor recreation at the very forefront of solutions.

More investment in our outdoor sector will mean more people go outside, which in turn will mean a healthier Britain, leading to NHS savings. The equation is simple and while it’s a message that we’ve been sending for years, it is now gaining real traction, which is translating into public investment too. The government’s own statistics, as reported in Active Lives, show that outdoor sports are experiencing “significant growth”, with walking as the number one activity in the country, and mountaineering/climbing also continuing to grow as we approach the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

If anyone from Westminster had been able to get away from the Brexit bubble for a few days, the recent Kendal Mountain Festival offered a great escape route and a refreshing alternative to discussions about withdrawal agreements. It also provided yet more evidence of the vibrancy and variety of the outdoor community. The annual tribal gathering was a huge success and we were delighted to support the festival, an event that brought together filmmakers, athletes and brands to showcase a wealth of amazing outdoor movies, speakers, art, photography, and much more.

Over 18,000 people flocked to the town of Kendal to make the most of what was on offer and many sessions were sold out well ahead of the event (the launch of the film Free Solo was sold out twice over!). The festival’s Basecamp Village was a hub of activity throughout the weekend and Kendal Mountain Festival has never felt so vibrant – positive proof that the significant growth that national policy makers have started to report in statistics is genuine and reflected in the real world.

But the festival highlights much more than that too – it shines a light on the deep and rich seam of nourishment that the outdoor industry continues to provide for huge numbers of people of every age, and in so many ways. From longstanding enthusiasts to new consumers, our sector delivers endless inspiration and opportunities. Of course, we have always known this and communicated it, but events like Kendal Mountain Festival offer an invaluable reminder of that reality and help support and reinforce our simple mission – to engage with, promote and represent the industry in order to build it for everyone.