Make your Christmas Party the best yet!

nautical-christmas-cards-659-new-embossed-by-pumpernickel-press-1Christmas is the perfect time to get the team together to celebrate achievements and say thank you for all the effort and input through the year.  Now Mackerel Sky has opened the doors for businesses and organisations to pick their brains to get ideas and support for their Christmas events.

Starting with developing the ideas, the service offers support in sourcing venues, entertainment, catering and all the elements you need for a fantastic festive event.  The team can also help on the day if needed and ensure that everything is dealt with, taking the stress out of it all and enabling everyone to enjoy themselves.

Aside from alleviating the additional workload that the Christmas party can require, the team will ensure that the event is run properly with risks managed and problems solved.

Claire Eason-Bassett, Executive Producer at Mackerel Sky Events, said: “We recognised that organising the Christmas party can be a real pressure and we often get asked to help informally so launching this festive support service was a natural next step.  The responsibilities of party organisers, legal and otherwise, can be significant and we can help to manage that risk and enable everyone to have a great time!”.


For more details on the services, go to


For more information, pictures and interviews, please contact Holly Patton, 01872 888089,


Bite the Bullet

lionMy brother in law rescued a drowning girl a few weeks ago from some river rapids (and I am so proud of him by the way!) but his actions made me think about courage and bravery. People who are fighting to overcome illness or circumstance are courageous. People who help others in dire emergencies are heroes. Someone overcoming a personal challenge is brave (irrespective of scale). If something is difficult, if it has impact on others, if it is unknown, then it requires courage to undertake. Yes?

And I would argue that creativity and business also require bravery and courage. When we create something, we are putting our artistic endeavours in the public domain and this makes us vulnerable. As with setting up a new business, we are opening ourselves to great opportunity and also to great risk. We might fail. We might be criticised. We might succeed beyond our wildest dreams!

Risk is always relative and what is challenging for me would be different for you. When we started Event Cornwall and took on our first employee, I was petrified. How would we cope? And now the pressure was on because our brand new staff member had a mortgage….it was no longer a hobby but a proper business and now I had even more responsibility to ensure that the risks we were taking as a business weren’t too risky!

There have been hundreds of thousands of risks that we have taken since and some are easy risks to take because we are familiar with them and others have been life-changingly big! It can be very difficult to manage these kinds of risks and one can never calculate the full potential impact of any one decision but we can be brave and we can trust our gut instinct. As a general rule, we are not making decisions or taking risks that are of the magnitude of saving lives but that should not diminish their importance.

Being human requires risk. Being in business requires bravery. Being creative requires courage.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events

Roll up roll up! To the Cornwall Variety Show

Variety Show logoAs well as being MD for Mackerel Sky, our very own Claire is often found teaching the BA course in Creative Events Management at Falmouth University. It’s a huge benefit to the course students to have someone take them through the theoretical side to events management but by someone who is actually a highly experienced events practitioner and who bridges the gap between the worlds of academia and industry.

Two great examples of how well this can work is Hannah Williams and Isabelle Compton. Alongside their studies, Hannah and Isabelle are organising and managing another charity event following success with their Cornish Charity Ball last year. Here’s a few words from them on the event itself and how to get tickets – hats off to you girls!


“Although Cornwall is bursting with artistic talent there are very few events that showcase the variety and depth of creativity within the county. Abundances of music specific showcases appear throughout the summer months, niche dance performances and comedy gigs, yet there are no inclusive events where all types of artists are shown together. The Cornwall Variety Show will fill this void by bringing real creative diversity. Whether you want to be enthralled by daring circus skills, moved by enchanting dance pieces or brought to tears by comedy gold, The Cornwall Variety Show has something for you. All within the backdrop of an exciting and glamorous royal circus theme, guests will be mesmerized and amazed at the outstanding quality and professionalism of the show. The Cornwall Variety Show promises to be a true night of entertainment and elegance.

The first Cornwall Variety Show will take place on Saturday 30th May, at The Academy of Music and Theatre Arts (previously known as The Performance Centre), Penryn. The event will showcase a variety of performance acts celebrating the quality and diversity of artists within Cornwall. Acts include comedy from renowned Cornish comedian Colin Leggo, a professional circus performance, musical acts including emerging star Patrick Gardiner and local folk band The Saturday Boys, enchanting dance pieces and many more yet to be announced! The show aims to raise awareness and money for the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust, a vital charity to the Cornish community. Through a royal circus themed evening, guests will be immersed within a romantic and daring performance environment; décor, costumes, photo booth, themed bar, concession stands and multiple other engaging elements will enthral and enthuse attendees.”


Saturday 30th May, 7pm for a prompt 19:30 start

The Academy of Music and Theatre Arts, Penryn

Tickets £10, Concessions: £8 (students, 65+ and services)
All profits in aid of the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust.

To purchase tickets and to find out more about The Cornwall Variety Show visit the event website, follow on Twitter or email:



When Events Get Politically Loaded

churchill-382089I recently watched the Paxman documentary about Winston Churchill’s funeral and I was drawn to the fact that this was event planning on a grand scale which started 7 years before it happened. In 1958, Lady Churchill and the various other members of the project team had their first planning meeting and the project was entitled ‘Project Hope Not’.

Winston Churchill remains one of very few commoners to be given a state funeral. When he died in 1965, hundreds of thousands of people came to pay their respects at his lying-in-state at Westminster Hall. Yet more came out onto the streets to line the route to St Paul’s for his funeral. The procession could be seen as one of the greatest mass engagement events of the 20th century. The Project Hope Not team were not just planning a funeral, but the equivalent of the largest UK festival. The whole population wanted to be a part of this remembrance, celebration and gratitude to a man who had become the symbol of hope and determination through the most turbulent and traumatic of times.

As I was watching the documentary, I was struck by the challenge of the guest list. Highly politically sensitive, limited capacity, high demand….not a task I would want! It must have seemed an impossible task and one that I think Winston Churchill would have hated if he had had to do it himself. I wonder if the Project Hope Not team were aware of their event management practice in planning all this – the logistics, media liaison, security, scheduling, stakeholder liaison, volunteer co-ordination, budgeting and everything else that comes into the event manager’s job description.

I was at the Churchill rooms at Bletchley Park last year and I met the man who had collected all of the various pieces in the collections there. He worked with Churchill towards the end of the Second World War and he spoke eloquently about the humanity of this man who recognised that he had made mistakes but would not let that draw him from his focus on winning the war and leading Britain, simply doing his very best.

I think we as event managers owe Churchill, and all those who serve in our armed forces, and the related support services, a debt of gratitude for enabling the freedoms we have today. Without him, without the collective work and sacrifice of all during 1939-1945 (and beyond), we would not have the pleasure of working in this amazing industry, doing what we love.

Thank you Winnie!

“I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” Winston Churchill


Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

Is £60k a year really “living on the edge”?

Michael Eavis has been reported as taking only £60,000 in salary which is less than his top dairyman. He also said that he takes no funds forwards into the next year, preferring to ‘live on the edge’.

Whilst I don’t doubt that his top dairyman is worth than kind of money, it is not something to really be applauded as a comparator. For the majority of the population, a salary of £40,000 is a massive achievement so why are we celebrating Eavis as some kind of martyr for taking such a ‘low’ salary?  Don’t forget he has the farm income too….

Don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying he shouldn’t earn that kind of money or that he isn’t worth it because I firmly believe that he is but rather I am frustrated that the news has made it into a story.

Now the not carrying any funds forward concerns me more. It is simply an unsustainable model to always be working on a zero base budget and perhaps indicates a complacency within the senior leadership team that they will always sell out. I am sure that their Finance Director ensures that they have sufficient funds to meet the 150-strong payroll throughout the year so really they do carry forward.

Again, the majority of festival and event projects are only working on a zero base budget because, as growing projects, they have to. Most have to employ all kinds of strategies to make ends meet and certainly don’t pay their CEO £60k! It is brilliant that Glastonbury gives £2m per year to charity but remember that the charities also support them with volunteers and staffing.

So yes great that Glastonbury and Michael Eavis are doing good things and that they have the financial wear withal to do so but let’s not make it into something it isn’t. Their situation is not indicative of the industry and as market leaders they should be encouraging good practice, not profligacy.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

Life may be a series of patterns, but let’s keep trying new patterns

A_Beautiful_Mind_1Have you ever heard of game theory?

John Nash? Beautiful Mind? Prisoner dilemma?

Might not mean anything to you…..

But the thing is that you are using game theory every day in every decision that you make.  Game theory is about understanding how we (as humans) weigh up the benefits that we receive by virtue of the decisions we make.  And it’s way more complex than that but presents some basic principles that are useful to understand how we work and engage with each other.

There are various research studies that show the impact of considering game theory and the concept of making decisions that benefit all, not just the individual. What’s particularly interesting is that our decisions are relative.  That is, it depends on the personalities involved but that only influences the degree to which we are prepared to give.  As a general rule, we humans will seek a decision that benefits all involved.

My mum was a research mathematician into game theory and she worked with John Nash during her masters.  She was one of the first people to use computers for mathematical processing in the 1970s.  I am incredibly proud of her and proud to be her daughter.  She has always loved playing games and still does now.  I talk in the past tense because my Mum has multiple sclerosis and she is now in a home where she receives excellent care and support.  She can no longer consider the complexity of game theory and her short term memory is shot to pieces but d’you know what? Ask her about calculus…. it’s somehow built into her brain and she knows it like the back of her hand.  Complex, ordinary, she’s not fussed.  She can still make it make sense and that was always what made her a fantastic teacher.

This post is not some kind of pre-emptive memorial for my mum but rather a recognition of the spark that makes us who we are.  We are capable of so much and yet we understand so little.  Game theory has always appealed to me as the fun side of mathematics and I don’t think I ever really appreciated how relevant it is in understanding people.  If we think about decision theory, critical path analysis and game theory (have I lost you now?), then we are really contemplating how we humans process complex situations and that tells us how we can respond to ensure a productive response.


Game theory will not provide all the answers but it does provide a framework in which to consider the wider network and the impact/response of others in our networks.  If we do x, then what might the y response be?  In order to accurately understand the response of others, we need to get to know them (there are limitations to modelling that can never take account of human nature to be contrary!) and we can then apply game theory to consider their response to circumstances or changes.


There is something in the idea of game theory that is about play.  Our patterns of play can be mapped and can be predictable. Perhaps we need to try different patterns, different responses to  find new perspectives, gain insight, challenge ourselves, face failure, engage success and who knows, enjoy ourselves?


Irrespective of our individual circumstances, and inspired by Playday this week, let’s keep playing games…..just like my Mum!


Claire Eason-Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky


D Day70 years ago, thousands of men launched the most significant attack of the Second World War and started the end of one of the world’s most devastating conflicts.  D-Day (and the D-Days that followed 6 June 1944) turned the tide and pushed back the looming invasion of Hitler’s troops. I am not about to describe the detail of those days as this is not a history blog but rather wanted to recognise the importance of this and other events in what we do and how we do it.

Both of my grandfathers were in D-Day and survived and I am immensely proud of them for being prepared to risk their lives for others, something that I would struggle with from my pampered position as a middle-class UK citizen. More than this, I am immensely proud of all those, in D-Day and in all conflicts, who are prepared to put their lives on the line to ensure peace at home.

From a business point of view, the UK being at war can be a significant influence on workload, on funding and on engagement.  When at war (and I appreciate that war is not the same now as it was 70 years ago), activity, news, money, politics is focussed on the conflict.  The events sector changes too (and again, it is important to note that there wasn’t really an events sector as such 70 years ago but there were definitely events!) with market needs shifting to need more engagement, more community cohesion, clearer cultural identity and encouraging the indomitable British Blitz spirit. However, there is no room for wastage or flippancy or vanity projects that are just about ego.  Many of the large events that we see now would now be possible as they would bring too many people together in one place and be too big a target for terrorists or enemy action.

Funding, particularly with a number of our clients who are councils, would be diverted to the war effort.  If we remember back to 2012/13 when the big government cuts hit home, Somerset County Council made a decision to cut all of their arts and events funding so that they could focus their spend on other priorities including fighting flood waters.  Imagine how out local, regional and national councils and government would respond if we had to double or even triple our UK defence budgets!

So I can only thank my grandfathers and all those who were involved in D-Day for their part in making our society what it is now. I thank them for enabling me to have my privileged position as a UK citizen who is employed in a wonderful but non-essential sector, who has the ability to express herself freely, who lives in a society of tolerance, openness and diversity.  Without them being prepared to give our lives, none of this would be possible. Thank you Grandad! Thank you Granf!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky