Posts Tagged ‘conference’

No Boundaries 2014 – York

Friday, February 28th, 2014

I spent the last two days networking, learning, discussing and eating at the No Boundaries conference in York. The conference was to be a discussion and debate about the role and development of the arts sector within the UK. It brought together a wide range of representatives from the arts industry – from important big-wigs to little artists with dreams. One of the unique selling points of the conference was that it was set in two different cities – York and Bristol – and simulcast live between the two venues. While sitting in the Guildhall in York, we watched presentations on wide screen as they were given in Bristol and vice versa. Plus the entire conference was streamed live over the internet for the entire world to watch. There was an active twitter discussion and regular blog updates with the aim to have no boundaries for people to access the discussion.

No Boundaries – York.

No Boundaries – York.

The majority of the talks were interesting and raised relevant points about the important role the arts play in communities, business,  politics and people’s personal lives. I sometimes felt a little on the outside being a non-UK resident and also someone who is still finding their feet within the arts sector. And my concept of ‘arts’ appears to stem beyond the norm as I was expecting more graphic designers, web designers and professional writers to be in attendance, however it seemed that the majority of the people in the room were somehow involved in theatre. I think it was a shame that there weren’t more people representing the graphic and digital industries as they would have been able to provide some significant insight on the direction of digital production.

There were a few presenters who touched on issues that I felt a strong connection with. Most of the audience was blown away by young 17 year old Sophie who advocated the role of social media and digital technology in our lives. It was refreshing to hear someone talk about digital media with a purely positive outlook and without any negative “Yes, it’s good, but…” attached. People appear to be afraid of the shift towards digital platforms and the use of phones, tablets and computers in our daily lives as providers of entertainment, information and social interaction. Twitter and YouTube are diseases taking over our systems and if we don’t watch out we might all turn into inferior life forms. Or maybe, as Sophie suggested, they are just new opportunities for growth, knowledge and progress.

There were plenty of success stories surrounding new arts developments such as Cast, an arts centre in Doncaster, that opened up a huge array of opportunities to the local community that they never knew existed. I won’t go into detail about each speaker other than to say that everyone offered a new perspective or story that stimulated ideas and thoughts about the arts sector. And all of that was great. The downside was that the preface for the conference suggested it would be a discussion and debate about the arts but the final event turned into more of a sit-down-and-be-spoken-to. There were plenty of breaks to meet other people and swap business cards, but unless you managed to accidentally stand next to the right person while getting your fifth cup of tea, you had no idea who at the conference of any relevance to you.

A few of the other attendees agreed and commented that they hadn’t been able to make any strong networks as they didn’t know who was attending the conference or what field they worked in. There were no group discussions and there was only one talk that involved questions from the audience. We were invited to go into external rooms and generate our own discussion topics, but once you left the main auditorium you missed out on hearing the speakers. Technology was blamed for the lack of audience participation – apparently the need to cross live between Bristol and York meant that having additional microphones roaming around the audience would cause too many technical difficulties. To be honest, I felt there was far too much emphasis on how ‘groundbreaking’ the technology was when really it wasn’t that inspiring. Yes, for a small conference it was perhaps a little bit different, but I don’t think television companies would have been all that amazed.

Amazing vegetarian curry from Manjit's Kitchen.

Amazing vegetarian curry from Manjit’s Kitchen.

I met some very interesting people, listened to some fascinating talks and ate some great food (the catering was fantastic!). My mind wasn’t blown but it has given me some new things to think about. A highlight for me was a printed book that we were given at the start of the second day that was a record of the talks from the day before. Created through a company called Book Kernel, it was quite remarkable to have a physical copy of the talks in our hands. The quality of the print was quite good, too. As everyone else sat judging the level of detail the poor guy who had been rapidly taking notes all day had managed to record, I just said, “Wow! The GSM in this book is actually decent and the layout doesn’t look too ugly!”

A second highlight was the building the conference was held in. While the folks in Bristol spent the two days stuck in what appeared to be a windowless auditorium, us in York sat on particularly uncomfortable fold-out chairs in a beautiful stain glass windowed building, originally constructed in the 15th century. The Guildhall has seen centuries of civil activity and has been the location for various royal banquettes. The sun was shining outside and spectacular rainbow coloured streams of light were cast across the room. I spent of lot of the time staring at the stained glass detailing and wood panelling on the ceiling. Very awesome.

Sunshine through stained glass windows… and a tiger.

Sunshine through stained glass windows… and a tiger.

Exploring Imagination

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

I requested a day off work and spent a long weekend down in London. I took the opportunity to attend one of the free talks organised by the School of Life at Selfridges as part of the Festival of Imagination. This festival comprises a series of talks and workshops that encourage creative thought and exploration of the imagination. The lunch time talk I attended was given by the creative development team, Vitamins, who discussed three of the amazing projects that they have worked on and developed. From a folding wheelchair wheel to a wall calendar, their main focus is solving problems through beautiful and thoughtful design.

My favourite project that they spoke about was a simplified user manual for smart phones. The original brief was from Samsung to find out how to make smart phones more accessible to older users. They developed a beautiful hard covered book which you place the new phone into and that provides you with straightforward, easy to follow instructions on how to install, set up and use the phone. As I watched the talk I imagined my grandmother being presented with this manual and being confident enough to set up her own phone. The research they undertook to get to the final product was fantastic – interviewing and conducting product tests with people of various ages to discover what made smart phones so difficult for older users. The final user manual is beautiful and practical – as all good products should be. You should look at their video for the user manual on their website – genius.

The talk was very inspirational – seeing three young people with such creative ideas and so much enthusiasm for their work was wonderful to see.