25 October 2012

A trophy of a different variety

With VISTA 2012-2013 now underway all eyes are on one trophy – the world championship. But a VISTA team from the Volvo Truck & Bus Centre in Milton Keynes, UK, currently claims a trophy of a completely different kind.

As the official logo of one of Sweden’s biggest ice cream manufacturers, the GB Glace clown is a common sight on Swedish streets every summer, however it looks distinctly out of place in a British garage. Yet for nearly 15 years, this advertising hoarding has been the workshop’s VISTA mascot.

It all started in 1997, when Stuart Napier and three of his colleagues from the Volvo Truck & Bus Centre in Milton Keynes, won a three-day trip to Sweden through the Star competition – a programme not unlike VISTA.

“We were out one night in Gothenburg, and walking home at around 4am when we saw this ice cream sign,” recalls Stuart. “We just thought he’d be warmer in our hotel, so we took him back and dressed him up in a T-shirt.”

The next morning, the team decided to take their new friend back to Milton Keynes. “The cleaner left their trolley unattended so we took some black bin bags too. We wrapped him up and checked him in with our luggage. The competence development manager who was travelling with us said ‘if you manage to get that back, I’ll eat my hat’.”

With the challenge set, Stuart and his teammates under went a nervous trip back, waiting to see if they could successfully smuggle the GB Glace clown back to the UK. “From the departure lounge, we could see the clown sitting on top of the luggage trolley going towards the plane, and we all cheered,” recalls Stuart. “But when we arrived at Heathrow and were waiting at the conveyor belt, everything came out, except the clown. We were gutted, but just as we were about to give up and walk away, the clown finally came out. It has been our team mascot ever since and GB Glace is now the name of our VISTA team.”

Stuart has taken part in so many VISTA competitions, he has lost count, but he knows it’s been at least five. “It is a massive learning curve. It can be frustrating, awkward, and very difficult, but with 3-4 of you, you get there in the end. Working together as a team is a huge boost to moral, and good for team bonding.”

So if GB Glace makes it to the VISTA world final, will they attempt to claim another souvenir? “I remember there being a Ronald McDonald statue, which we thought about taking if it wasn’t chained up so well,” jokes Stuart. “But seriously, no. In fact, if we go back to Gothenburg, we’ll take the clown with us and put him back where we found him.”

* The GB Glace team for VISTA 2012-2013: Robert Gray, Stuart Napier, Aimi Neighbour, Peadar Meehan.