Friday, 26 October 2012

WAcreative NonCon12

Yep - it's been a while since we added a blog post.  Mostly, we forget to do it.  A lot of ideas present themselves and then are forgotten.  I should absolutely start writing things down.  Anyway, this time it was quite obvious what to talk about.

I really wanted to take this opportunity to thank the speakers, staff and everyone who came down on Thursday night to NonCon12.  It was a success it's fair to say.

NonCon came about last year and did well.  It was a stress but ultimately very worth it.  We decided that would be it for "major" events... roll on July 2012 and it seemed like a good idea to take another stab at it.  It, after all, would be better planned = less stress....  Putting together events like this is fun, but is always stressful.  I should remember this.  As I'm writing this, things are getting blurry, I haven't showered for far too long and my hands feel contaminated with... well, I'm not sure.

We ended up heading over to The Palmyra for a couple of Maple Leaves... just go in and ask for one, you'll see.  Heading back over to Manchester with a couple of the speakers, we opted for pizza and whiskey and a 3am finish. Coupled with an early morning logistics run, then an (awesome!) Almost Famous burger in the Northern Quarter.  That's how NonCon ended up for some of us.

Anyway - one thing that struck me yesterday was the involvment of the BBC and I really wanted to touch on this.  As Phil Fearnley kicked-off his presentation and we saw some of the coverage of the summer's Olympics, it really hit home that MediaCity did a great job supporting this, but that the BBC rocks.  Their "product" delivery is world-class and, during a time when they're taking a lot of flak, it's important to remember this.  While there is an ongoing investigation into what happened back then, and rightly so, the support of the BBC Academy for events like this is unique and kudos is due.  Let's not forget the summer that was.

Moving on, we also managed to grab some early stats from the #NonCon12 tag to see how it performed and it's probably worth touching on this too.  Early stats are coming in with around 41,132 accounts hit with the hastag and an exposure of nearly 200,000 impressions.  This is amazing.  Not surprisingly, a lot of this was thanks to Creative Boom.

A great deal of the social activity from the room was around the hashtag, but a lot also used @ messages and resulted in a solid couple of hundred tweets.  For an event like this, that's also pretty amazing.   We saw banter in the room firing from Twitter and real-life connections made.  The conversation was varied and every speaker was well receeieved.  Photos were shared extensively and engagement with Instagram was solid.

It's an interesting world where these electronic conversations take place in real-time, mixing real life with the virtual, capturing moments quickly and accurately.  Given the number of times that the topic of social social media was mentioned by all our speakers, we thought it would be nice to share, very briefly, some early insights into what you were up to in the room.  We'll do more with this soon!

For everyone's sake, it's time to hit the shower.  Thanks for coming and we hope to see you at the next meetup!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Getting started

So, we're pretty sure we've vented about this one previously on Twitter, but we (I should be probably use the singular here),... I... find myself looking at some situations and wondering whether or not this really is the limit of what we (scooping in wider humanity at this point, so I'm happy with the plural) can achieve.

It's tough not to quote specific examples here - maybe that's the future direction of the blog, but for now, let's not.  The people who are charged with looking after Warrington and it's creative direction are a constant source of this frustration.  Yes, it's harsh, but we need some larger vision.  Something more aspirational to really drive home that message of what it's all about.  While local festivals are core to providing a sense of community, can we not think bigger?  Can we not really aim higher?

It's really easy to write this stuff but it's equally easy to get involved.  Why aren't the streets cleaned more often?  Why do we see derelict buildings falling further and further into disrepair?  Who, fundametally, is accountable for all of this?  We're not just taking potshots at Warrington here, this is endemic of Manchester and Salford too at the moment.  These are supposedly beacons of what can be done in the north-west.  Let's start by getting the small things sorted out.

Back to Warrington - we know all that's been going on with the changes to Charitable Trusts takes time, but let's really start to aim for a big bang.  Let's start putting things on the map and see where we end up.

We've seen some awesome successes (and spectacular failures) over the last few months.  And in this case, we're going to take a pop.

Bringing the Stone Roses to Warrington was a massive achievment - no-one can question that.  We had the focus of the nation on us, albeit briefly, with the likes of Radio 1 delivering the instructions for what to do to get tickets.  Good times.

I'm not one who spends hours emailing to complain.  I'm not someone who regularly gets annoyed or frustrated...  However, in this instance, the communication was pittiful.  Follow-up on what was going to be a massive event was woeful.  We understand the need to keep the number of people who knew about the "secret" gig down to a minimum, but the fact that various bar owners were making comments on social-media earlier in the day and were clearly in on the act was just not right.  Especially when WBC had representatives presenting at a creative industries meetup that very night - who had to leave early to work at the event.  Standing up and walking out whilst the second presentation was taking place - not cool.

Where was the follow-up, where was the promotion of creative events in the town and more importantly, where was the message ramming home the fact that people were in the Cultural Quarter?  This was sorely missed and by engaging a select, core, group within the town could well have thrown these questions up earlier and delivered a more rounded package.

If we are to succeed as a town, we need to ensure that polish is applied to every event, regardless of how long we had to prepare. 

Changes in direction across the town are to be encouraged and we've been seeing some truly excellent projects but could we not just focus on the short-term wins.  By working together, we can produce magic.  Siloed working and internal elitism (especially the unfounded sort) is going to achieve nothing.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Where is Warrington?

It's been an odd few months.  As we run towards the summer things always get a little more interesting as people get out and about, make more contacts and generally spend a bit more time with the creative side of themselves.  It just works better in the sun.

So, as we find ourselves on the edge of the summer and heading into a truly digital few months with the Olympics (and associated cultural Olympiad) and the Jubilee, it's an exciting time to be around.  Especially in the north-west where the London Olympics is being digitally constructed and will play a central part over the events that are lined up.

We're continuing to branch out as a group and are trying to embrace the types of technology that are playing a key part of what will be a step-change in broadcast, web and mobile technology.  This is coupled with an instinct to blend with the traditional arts and creative sectors.

Events in Warrington also continue to ramp up, with the Cultural Quarter starting to really come alive.  With a combination of hard-work and creative focus, the bars, restaurants and venues are clearly making progress in putting the town on the map.  WAcreative is bringing a regular horde into the quarter and events like the recent Stone Roses gig have highlighted, on a national stage, that Warrington is a force to be reckoned with.

This force is at its best when the various parties are working together and pushing for the same thing.  We've got an opportunity through the summer to do something special - especially as we've got round two of the Contemporary Arts Festival on the agenda.

As a group, we remain focussed on connecting the various creative elements from around the town in an informal setting.  We are not a traditional networking event and do not have a formal structure.  Each meetup takes around a month to organise and the diverse mix of speakers that we bring in is reflective of the types of people we try to bring to the meetups.  We think this is one of our strengths - so if you want to get involved in any way, do get in touch.

We have some big plans for the next few months planned.  In the mean-time though, we'd really value your feedback about your experiences with WAcreative - so if you could spend two minutes on eight questions, we'll take a look at what your preferences are and try to take them on-board.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Evolution of (creative) species

Warrington's great.  Whichever way you cut it, there's a hardcore group of supporters flying the flag high.  Even geography has been kind, putting it bang in the middle of two of the greatest cities in the UK and on a train line down to London and up into Scotland.  See, great!

WAcreative exists to connect the various creative greatness that exists around the town and, indeed, further afield.  When we stop and look back at a potted history of WAc, since October 2010 we've had presenters from the likes of, Monster, the BBC, Fuzzy Duck, Alexander Mann Solutions the University of Chester and Littlewoods/Very to name but a few.  We've secured sponsorship from the BBC Academy and had a massively successful non-conference back in October 2011.  We've also engaged with local small business and Warrington Borough Council in a way that, as far as I know, has never been done before.

We've also just setup WAspace, OnInWarrington and have started a campaign to unite the businesses around the Cultural Quarter to help promote the arts and businesses to as wide an audience as possible.

This is a big deal.

There is still a tonne of work to do.  Working alongside the likes of WBC, the Gallery @ Bank Quay House, the Cultural Trust and most importantly, local business, is the way to not only create a thriving arts and creative scene in the town, but also to redefine the town itself.

We'll be soon re-focussing on combining the best of what the town has on offer to drive home this message, but we also just wanted to throw down a challenge.  WAcreative offers a great, free, opportunity to network with the best of what the area has from the creative industries and we'd love for more people to be involved, to use these sessions to network, to pitch ideas and to put Warrington on the map for being a hub of creativity in the north-west.

Over the past 18 months, we've seen hundreds of people at WAc events and we've heard talk about ideas following them.  We need to keep this momentum and to start turning out some of the concepts that have been floated.  We need to focus on quality and focus on delivery.  Delivering a quality product, regularly and in new and unique ways is what drives word of mouth referral and ultimately, engagement.

Now is a great time to do this - the various groups are aligning and the vibe is there.  We would, therefore, ask that you do get involved.  Come to a meetup.  Write an article.  Make a difference.  We have a blank canvas to play with at the moment, we can make it something pretty spectacular.

Join us.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Part 3

Back in August or September 2010 in Greenwich I spent a couple of hours in a coffee shop, with a pad and a couple of cockneys.  It was raining and after a while I'd managed to jot down a couple of things that looked pretty interesting.

This weekend, we're getting ready to unveil the next part of the plan.  WAcreative has gone from strength to strength in the town and this is a testament to the people who attend these meetups.  On Saturday we'll announce two new initiatives that we hope will compliment WAcreative and allow us to really drive forward the best of the town.

We've been working hard in the background for the last 12 months laying out a framework and we've started to expand this.   We'll be moving into Newcastle in February with our first event in the North East which we're extremely excited about.  The same goal still exists, which is to create meaningful relationships with businesses in the area and to real showcase what's on offer.

The plan really is made up of five parts, WAcreative being front and centre.  We are extremely excited about the next few weeks and don't normally get the opportunity to dedicate much time to promoting events that are coming up so we thought a timely toot of the own horn at this stage was worth it.

As we head into 2012, we're going to be making a lot of noise.  Bring it on.