All posts by Steven

Environmental Considerations for Future Events

We’ve been putting a lot of thought recently into how we can make events more environmentally friendly. Both in the sense of the suppliers we use and what we actually do ourselves. The supplier issue is reasonably straight forward, as if they have a green policy and we do a little due diligence, we can easily select appropriate suppliers.

It becomes a little more complex when addressing our own environmental impact. We have found companies who can do assessments on our behalf, however there is a significant cost associated with this and, in many cases, we need to become certified and then go through a renewal process each year. For a one off event this simply isn’t feasible.

So we have decided to focus on what we believe are two key issues in the coming year, water conservation and reducing our carbon footprint.

Reduction in Water Usage

To reduce the amount of water both used and wasted, we are small water dropimplementing a number of strategies. These are dependent on staff, stewards and attendees cooperation and help to make the most of them. They are as follows:

  1. Signs will be put up in front of sinks wherever practical to encourage people to turn off the taps while washing their hands.
  2. Vehicles are to be washed at a carwash instead of washing them at home, as they recycle the water they use as opposed to it running away down the drain.
  3. Reducing the electricity we use. Yes, I know that one surprised me too, however I wasn’t aware that power stations use thousands of gallons for cooling purposes, so by reducing our usage of electricity we are also saving water.
  4. Leak detectors are to be installed at various points around the buildings. These will be a permanent fixture and benefit the campus long term. We have contacted Envirotech about these as they can assist us with the specifications and their leak detectors are simple to install so can be done by the maintenance team.
  5. Whilst we don’t believe there are currently leaks within the grounds, this can be pressure tested to make sure there is no drop in pressure which would indicate if a leak is present. We are also speaking to the leak detection people about this to see if their equipment can do this for us, saving us having to call a company in to do so. Obviously if leaks are identified, further investigation will be required to find the source of them. The funding for this is still in discussion and we hope will be agreed in the coming weeks.

Reducing Carbon Footprint

  1. The first and probably the factor with the biggest impact here is in selection of suppliers.  We intend to use local suppliers wherever possible and those who use local produce for the catering. Where this is not possible we will however have to make some allowances, but these should be minimal.
  2. Speakers from the UK will be given priority to reduce the number of flights we are responsible for.
  3. Attendees will be encouraged to use public transport wherever practical. In addition we are looking into running a private bus service from popular locations. Many people tend to arrive alone in cars, so any documentation will encourage them to car share if that is the only option available to them.
  4. We are also in discussion with the campus to install power saving light switches, while it’s unlikely these will be in place for the next event, they will benefit from them in the long term and an assessment is underway to justify the cost savings.

 

 

What is a festival?

How can a science event be a festival?  This is a question which I’m asked quite frequently.

The answer is what do you think a festival is? Usually the reply is based around a music festival such as Glastonbury, Reading Festival or even Burning Man out in the desert in the USA (which I don’t mind admitting, I’d jump at the chance to attend!)  But this, although being the most popular type at the moment, isn’t what a festival is.  If we take a look at the two most common definitions which appear on my screen as I search for a definition, the first is:

“a day or period of celebration, typically for religious reasons.” OK so it may be “typically for religious reasons” but not always. I like the “day or period of celebration” part really, as that leaves it wide open for any type of event….. Even science!

The next is from the Cambridge Dictionary, who define it as:

“a special day or period, usually in memory of a religious event, with it’s own social activities, food, or ceremonies.”

I feel that this one sums it up a bit better, activities, food and ceremonies do feature in a science festival, albeit awards ceremonies.

tent stalls at festival

To be fair, we do actually have quite a bit in common with music festivals too, we have to manage parking, have marquees erected long beforee the event, so the exhibitors have plenty of time to install their stands, stalls and exhibitions.  We also have to feed and water a small army of staff and volunteers in adition to all the guests. Of course the biggest task is organising the acts and speakers in the main marquees. Lastly, we have to clear up again after everyone has gone, then it’s time to start planning forr next year. Pheww, I’m exhaustedd just thinking about it!

Of course, certain aspects of the event just need to be booked and paid for, but for example, the marquee hire company bring everything they need with them, including a small army of men to put the marquees up and take them away at the end of the event. They are usually the first people on site and the last, so it’s vital to have a company big enough to provide a number of marquees of the right size and put them up and down in a timely manner. I’ve learnt over the years, theres a big difference between marquees and tents!

marquee set up ready for event

Likewise the catering can be simple if you book food vans for the general public, they can also feed the staff on site for the event.  The problem here is that this gets very expensive, even with preferential rates, say £5 per person, per meal, with 100 people to feed 3 times a day, over a 3 day event.  So we usually use the in house catering at the venue, usually being a university, or college for around half this price.

The other similarity which springs to mind is the promotion of the festival, it’s all well and good having your marquees up, bands or speakers booked and staff, but you need people to turn up! It’s not like a wedding or private party where you invite people and they tend to come, when you’re selling tickets you need to adveertise and promote the event.

So, after all that, yes we are a festival.

Amazing Claims

I’ve been looking at a few of the more comical, or should I say amazing claims which have been made by people for injuries, so thought I’d mention a few of the most unbelievable ones. Now don’t get me wrong, if someone has had an accident which was genuinely someone elses fault then they should be entitled to compensation, however you decide if you think the following examples fall into that category:

Young Boy Hit By Car

OK on the surface of it, this sounds like a plausible and justified claim. However, the reality was that the boy walked out into the road without looking and ended up with a fractured ankle when he was hit by a car, he received £11.5k for that. So watch out when you are driving, you could be blamed for something which is totally unavoidable! No a good enough example? Ok read on…judge

Go Karting Accident – £15k payout

A man had an accident when Go Karting and suffered a head injury which meant that he ended up being demoted at work, so gained a payout of £15k in compensation from the operators. Sounds fair enough? Yes, it does until you discover that he was on a stag weekend and drunk at the time! Still not amazed at what people can claim for? How about the next example…

One from the Nationals

I expect everyone’s heard of N-Dubz, the UK rap artists from which Tulisa of TV fame originated. However her original counterpart in the band, Dappy was ordered to pay £4.5k for spitting at someone in an argument late one night in a petrol station. I remember talk of people spitting all the time at old punk rock gigs, it’s a good job nobody made a claim back then! Still not amazed? OK one more try…

UK Teachers £150k Payout

A teacher from London lost her voice shouting over a particularly riotous class of children and consequently lost her voice (not permanently I might add) and received an unbelievable £150k compensation! Now if that isn’t an occupational hazard I don’t know what is!

There is a huge growing culture of making no win no fee claims in the UK with numerous specialists all around the country as can be seen here, and regardless if you think it’s right or wrong, this is the way our culture is turning, it’s becoming more aligned to way things work in the USA. I just really hope that in certain circumstances the judge takes a more balanced view of why the claim is being made. For example in the Dappy situation mentioned above, was it possible that the other party knew that any actions would be caught on camera in a garage forecourt, but probably not what was said, so an argument could be instigated with someone who clearly had the money to pay out. I’m not for one minute suggesting this was the case, but it’s a possibility.

Interestingly the UK government has recently changed the law about no win no fee type claims. It used to be a case that win or loose you wouldn’t have any solicitor or court costs to pay, however these days it’s been controlled so you don’t have any fees to pay if you win the case, so as a result I expect less of the cases which are a bit dubious are being followed up just in case they loose.

 

Time for an Update

Times change and things move on, therefore so must we. The site has been around for quite some time now and while it has served it’s purpose over the last few years by enabling us to post updates, we have come to the conclusion that MKScienceFestival needs a bit of an update, with a new focused approach and appearance. As a result we are planning to completely overhaul the website in the near future.

There are a few considerations before we make any decisions. Firstly are we to remain with the WordPress platform, while it is robust and offers many enhancing features, to be fair, we use very few of them on here. There is also the website security aspect to consider, in the same way that attacks are much more common on Microsoft operating systems than say Apple, the same is true of WordPress, where although the security is constantly being updated and additional plugins can enhance it further, there are far more security issues with it than other platforms, or just reverting back to html.

web designer
No, this isn’t me, just in case you were wondering

Next is the appearance of the site, and to completely contradict the implications of the previous paragraph, WordPress is a dream for actually adapting the appearance of a site, simply installing a new template, adjusting the colour scheme and making a few changes through the control panel can completely overhaul the site, so to be fair this is where we are leaning, simply from the perspective of ease.

On the subject of colour schemes we are planning to stick with blue white and black, as this provides a professional look and keeps the site readable due to the contrast of the lettering on the pages.

I’m fortunate to have a friend john who runs a web design agency in Cornwall called Sharkfin Media, so I will undoubtedly be tapping him for some advice and guidance on the whole subject. I do quite like the overall design of their website with a large font and sliders on every page, they also have a nice menu structure with a different colour scheme for the pages under each main heading, you can see it here  although I am perfectly aware that being a web designer by trade means that the world and their dog probably ask and expect free advice, so I am aware that I can’t push my luck. I suppose it’s a bit like people asking me science related questions when I’m down the local on a Friday night.

I sit at my computer most of the day so don’t really want to do the work in my evenings and weekends, however I don’t work right through the Christmas period, so I’m planning to get working on the redesign then and have it ready by the time we all get back to work in the new year, so you can expect to see a sparkling, fresh new website in 2014 with possibly some new sections (although they may come a little later). The web science trust has a nice site, so perhaps we could make it along the same lines with the tabs and section the site out properly.

The aim is for the new website to be simple and easy to navigate with lots of images, I understand that we are now able to lift the images from other websites provided we give them the credit for them, so that could be very helpful, especially seeing as most science related graphics are copyright in books.

I’d appreciate any feedback or suggestions, or even better if you are an expert in web design and have a little time you could spare, some advice/help/do it for me (delete as appropriate) would be great, OK I’m joking about building the whole website for me, but the advice and help would be good.

Giveaway Ideas

Running events is quite a strange thing, when you start the initial planning and sorting out of ideas it’s quite relaxed, then once a date is set the real work begins, then finally you have the mad rush and stress of the event itself, followed by the assessment of it and starting the planning process for the following year. For the attendees it’s a simple case of deciding if they will attend, buying a ticket, turning up on the day and then, all to often, forgetting about it again. So the question is, how (if at all) can you keep it fresh in peoples minds after and leading up to the event?

Firstly lets be realistic about this, they aren’t going to be as enthusiastic about it as the event organisers no matter what you do. But there are certain things which can be done to keep it fresh in peoples minds.

Firstly a promotional idea is to have bags with the show or event literature in them, these are very handy for the attendees, because they then have somewhere to put all the brochures and leaflets they pick up as they work their way around the various stalls, plus they are very cheap and reusable. Pens are a common one too as it means that people keep your brand at the forefront of their mind, at least until they are lost or chewed. A good idea are mouse mats, while not as cost effective as pens, they can last for literally years and do have a higher perceived value. The beauty of mouse mats is that if you have a good design they actually make peoples desks look better, while keeping your logo, telephone number and email address right in front of them for much longer, one of the reasons a lot of companies had them out to their customers. there are numerous companies who will make them to order, or do a quick web search for examples of systems where you can design your own online.

Your website can also be a great tool to make sure people don’t forget about the event. If you incorporate some useful tools on there which people need to use on a regular basis they will keep coming back to use them, particularly if there is a website address on the mouse mats or other promotional merchandise. But it needs to be something which is really useful to keep them coming back, then you can have updates down the side of the page, so there is no avoiding seeing what’s coming up at the next event and then eventually ticket info for the following years event.

Networking

As with any business these days, one key way of getting business, or in this case keeping yourself in acting work is to network at every opportunity. When I say networking I don’t mean attending organised networking lunches, I’ve been to a couple of those and it was full of sales people all expecting to walk out the door with orders in their hand, Oh well, you live and learn. I mean making industry contacts, in the acting world that is just as important as any other. Yes keep going to auditions, but the more you socialise with people in the music, theatre, TV and film industries, the more opportunities are likely to audition for musicalcome your way. Just because you met someone at a production or gig which you didn’t get the role in, still make sure you have their details, and more importantly make sure they have yours.

I had, well, still have a good friend who you will have probably seen on TV from time to time, he’s no A Lister, but he does get a fair few scenes these days in quite a wide range of TV shows, from comedy to drama and even as an extra in a science documentary scene. Anyway, he loves to tell the story (so I’d better get it right in case he ever reads this) about the time he was after a part in a local theatre production and he lived pretty close to the theatre back in those days, he went for the audition and didn’t get the part he wanted, but did get friendly with a couple of other people who were there on the day, I forget if they were cast or crew, but certainly were not involved in the casting. Rehearsals had begun and just before the show was due to open, someone got hit by the proverbial bus, it turns out that someone he had been talking to about 2 months prior remembered that he had played a very similar part before and still had his contact details, passed them on the the producer and in no time he had the job. It was for a part in a stage show which then toured the country for a considerable time, so he really landed on his feet.

So how do you make sure you are always networking in the acting world? Firstly you need to know your own objectives, do you want to do odd extras work, is your passion to tour the world in a theatre company or would you like to be the next Ian Beale in Eastenders (OK probably not the best example, but the actor Adam has been in it for a very long time and will most likely continue to be). Make sure you are able to articulate your objectives in a clear and concise way. So you need to always make sure that if there is a show opening that you could get an invite to, you do, is there a film festival you could attend, a music event, or perhaps even just the opening of a gallery, whatever it is, be there, socialise and don’t be a wallflower.

And don’t forget bands off all sorts have auditions for new musicians too you can find plenty of them here, they don’t have to be a famous band already, but if they have potential go along and audition. they could be rock, pop or a local party band like my mates band Pop of Ages, but regardless, it’s all good experience of playing in a group.

That being said, don’t just rely on networking, especially at the start of your acting career, you absolutely must continue to attend auditions, scour the industry press for any suitable casting calls and television auditions you can apply for if you are to find suitable acting jobs. The To Be Seen site has audition listings for many of the major cruise liners, bands and musicians and TV channels including the BBC, Sky and ITV.