We take it as given that events serve a huge variety of purposes and in some cases, the ambition is to genuinely change lives. It could be directly through inspiration, skill development or networking, or it could be indirectly by creating experiences that engender value of the topic at hand. It is the latter that we have had the privilege to be involved with at the end of March.
The Bridgwater Way is a network of new and renovated cycle and walking routes around Bridgwater and the project events and activities seek to engage the local community in supporting the project as well as influence their behaviour by encouraging them to cycle and walk to work and school. This is inevitably a challenging brief to respond to and it being funded and managed by Somerset County Council means that there are a number of due processes to comply with. However, we are working closely with the Bridgwater Way team to create and deliver a programme of events throughout the year that raise the profile of the project as well as getting people to think about active travel and this presents a more significant creative challenge.
How can we as event managers create experiences that influence people sufficiently to change their current ways of travel?
I believe that this is best achieved within a programme of events, rather than trying to be all things to all people in one single event. A programme enables us to raise profile with press-friendly, interest sparking activity such as the Neon Bike Ride as well as offering opportunities for people to explore the concept of active travel at their own pace (no pun intended!) such as through the Treasure Hunt coming up in April or the Explore event in
June. With the Neon Bike Ride, we had 42 riders with rider and bike dressed in neon and lights cycle through the town at 6.15pm to create a spectacle to make people stop and stare! Sparking their interest is a key part of getting them to find out more about the programme and promoting the next phase of event activity. We created a film of the event which demonstrates the initial impact of the event and this is being used now to promote the programme, generate interest and raise the profile, particularly online and
via social media.
All the usual event management aspects still applied to this – schedules, risk assessments, co-ordinating resources, liaising with stakeholders, promotion etc etc – but for this very specific purpose of getting the press and word of mouth promotions working for the project to support the general public in Bridgwater to take advantage of the infrastructure investment and travel to work or school by bike or foot. Time will tell if it has this impact but feedback so far has been great!
Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events