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:




Let Us Eat (and Bake) Cake!

cakeI have always thought that the value of cake in business is underestimated.
Whether it’s celebrating a birthday or celebrating work well done, whether it’s fuel to energise the team or a focus for a productive meeting, cake is a means to bring people together and a means to mark the moment. It may be bought from a shop, or more importantly, possibly made by someone’s fair hands with effort and time invested to create something tasty.  The Great British Bake Off is perhaps the most public of means to showcase this investment and and has drawn thousands of us (including me) back to the kitchen to bake and make.

Inspired by this, a group of third year event management students at Falmouth are running the Cornish Cake Off in May. The event is a combination of baking, produce, cakes and bread with activities, tastings and inspiration from bakers and cake makers from across Cornwall and will be taking place on Events Square as part of the Fal River Festival. They have designed the event as a fundraiser and celebration as their final event within the course and as a means to showcase their event management skills.

As well as yielding great results, the process of baking requires focus and attention which perhaps is a suitable metaphor for project management. If we focus on getting the right ingredients in the right balance, and if we follow the right process that ensures all the elements (including people) are incorporated into the project at the right moment, then we should have a project that rises as it should and definitely doesn’t have a soggy bottom!

To Andie, Liv, Sophie and Jill, our cake inspired students from Falmouth, we suggest that you combine your project management skills with your bake-ability and wish you all the best for the Cornish Cake Off!
Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

There Should Be Space for Arts and Science

TZ_Weight_and_Height_ScaleEarlier this week, Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary, said that studying the arts holds people back, that it doesn’t give them options and doesn’t offer any long term job prospects. I couldn’t disagree more!

As a lecturer in a non-science subject, Creative Events Management, I passionately believe in the value of what we teach and the skills and abilities of our students. More importantly I believe that the greatest value of all is about how we teach it. That is, we teach from a basis of active business practice so that we are supporting students to become useful contributors to our economy and our culture.

The arts and the skills that are needed and used within the creative sectors are not only a critical part of our culture but are also a significant proportion of the UK economy. The skills of creativity, production (making ideas a reality), high performance teamwork, collaboration, problem solving, research, critical appreciation, reflection and social engagement are developed to a high level when one studies an arts field. To a level that is significantly higher than that supported in STEM subjects. I say this as a maths graduate and a STEM ambassador.

The point is that we need STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) to create balanced, engaged students and ultimately productive citizens. In fact, I would be more satisfied with a model that included business, humanities and languages as part of a rounded education. None of these should be excluded as each engages different capacities of the brain and the soul.

And this is where the argument for the English Baccalaureate begins….and I have a problem with that too as it doesn’t necessarily give room for specialisation and depth of learning.

Even in the most scientific of classrooms I would suggest that creativity should be one of the primary skills in the pursuit of scientific endeavour. As Ken Robinson argues, creativity (a core artistic skill) is part of what makes us human and is a skill that enables us to develop and invent and innovate in any sector of work.

So Nicky Morgan, how can you say that the arts hold you back when they are actually the key to success?


Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

Step back and look up

swissarmyknifeWhen you are running a business, it goes through a number of phases from the initial idea to the research to the implementation to selling and then to worrying about the next sale and the next new product or service to keep growing.  It’s easy in the first few years to be so busy doing business that you simply don’t have time to think about strategy or direction, let alone research & development. That’s normal but it’s also the downfall of many start ups.  For some, the idea just isn’t robust enough, for others it’s so successful you can’t manage it, for yet more it’s just really hard work.  And that’s why it’s so hard to look up and beyond next week into what your next product might be.

One of the modules that I lead at Falmouth University on the BA(Hons) Creative Events Management course, is Innovation in Events.  It’s a second year module and in which we build on standard management theory and content to develop creative problem solving skills, innovative practice and feasibility evaluation.  The students have to write a business plan for a new (or evolved) product or service related to the events sector in some way and then they have to evaluate each other’s plans.  The business ideas vary from apps to festival vending machines to new events to start up organisations to not for profit projects to inflatable chairs to custom made cocktail carts to waste management solutions and the list goes on and on and on.  The ideas are often founded in personal experience or identification of some gap or problem that needs solving.  Some students love this module and others hate it – I think because it is challenging and it requires a different way of thinking.  And therein lies the crux of the problem for business owners, leaders and managers.

It’s not just about doing more of the same, it’s about thinking completely differently and we all need time to change our mindset and frame of reference to get our heads into thinking R&D.  So we could make excuses about the urgency and quantity of workload, the pressures of our lifestyle, personal challenges, the ‘I just can’t do it’ or more likely, ‘what? I need to think about another new idea?’, but the simple fact is that we can’t afford not to generate new ideas and to keep moving our businesses and ourselves forwards.  This is why it’s included in the course at Falmouth – it’s a core part of doing business and therefore a valuable skill to develop as far as employers of our graduates is concerned.

But for those of us who aren’t studying a degree course, help is at hand!  Future Skills has just been launched – a skill development and support programme led by Cornwall College Business and Unlocking Potential.  It’s designed to engage businesses and individuals at start up, management and director levels and it is entirely tailored to individual needs and wants.  It’s all about having a positive impact on your business through increasing ability and capacity.  It leads to a qualification and it’s funded by Europe so there are some hoops to jump through but the team have designed the programme so that it’s relevant and appropriate yet not too arduous or complex.  The training is free too.  It’s a means to creating that space to look up and get a chance to change that mindset to find out what the next big thing is for your business, what the next development is as well as building on what you already have.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events

A Big Ol’ Brazen Thank You For Another Fantastic Fashion Show!

MSE_FashionShow2014One of the best things about what we do is the people we get to work with. I am so fortunate to work with some of the best in the business and the most wonderful quality in these people is that they are prepared to muck in and help out to make the project happen to the best level possible.

Last week, we worked in the NCP multi-storey car park in Truro for the Falmouth University Fashion Show and the site team there were flexible, accommodating and very tolerant of the madness that events include – we brought so much kit onto site including over 1,000 blocks and 200 planks to make rudimentary seating, tech kit, catering, heras fencing and the fashion collections themselves, and we could only get low-top transits into the car park so nothing is easy!

It is not only that access was difficult but that this kind of event can’t be rehearsed in advance. There is only so much planning one can do with so many unknowns and, as shown in our experience over the last few days, suppliers don’t always read the rig schedule and most have arrived late by several hours. 

This is inherently a stressful project with high risk, logistical challenges and high stakeholder investment and suppliers running late and access issues have only raised the stakes further. At this point, we are completely reliant on the team and by this I mean us at Mackerel Sky, the work experience and volunteer team, NCP Truro and JH-AV (our tech providers). Not one of the team stood back but rather all stepped in to help and get the event to a stage where it is ready to go for the students arriving to rehearse and run the shows.

This team spirit and support is one of the best elements of working in this industry and the value of it to us individually as well as the project as a whole is immense. Events that are as complex and challenging as this one simply would not happen without it. It is one of those unspoken elements of the industry and yet is vital.  So a huge thank you to each and every individual who was been part of getting the Fashion Show ready to go and sorry for the stress but it wouldn’t happen without you!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

It seemed like a good idea at the time …


… Because it was! Sometimes I come up with brilliant ideas. Sometimes I come up with brilliantly impossible ideas. Sometimes I haven’t any ideas at all. About 7 months ago, I had what was at the time a brilliant idea of holding the Falmouth University Final Year Fashion Show in the upper floors of a multi-storey car park. Amazingly, the rest of the team bought into this whole idea and it’s snowballed!

You see after the team at the University got it, NCP got it, then the suppliers, particularly JH-AV, got it and now we are but two weeks away with this brilliantly impossible idea actually becoming a reality. The impossible part of this is that the multi-storey car park venue means that we can’t get any vehicle bigger than a low-top transit up to the floors where we are holding the event. So all the seating, screens, power supply, signage, bar, clothes, tables, make up, toilets, fire extinguishers, catering, programmes, lighting, sound and projection all has to be carried or ferried back and forth from the ground floor.

Not an insurmountable problem but combine this logistical challenge with a very tight budget and it’s an even more ambitious concept to pull off.  I have to say here that it is only viable because the Fashion team at Falmouth get why this venue will not only give us the increased capacity that we need for this event but also will showcase the 3rd year collections, the Fashion courses and the university as a whole. It is not only Fashion students who are being promoted here – we have high quality input from Graphic Design, Creative Events Management, Fashion Photography, Fashion Marketing, Film and Press & PR Photography – and it is this collaboration of professional suppliers and service providers matched with the growing skills and abilities of these Falmouth students that provides a melting pot of positive impacts for all involved.

Because this event is so challenging, the core values of the University are never more prevalent – Creative, Connected, Courageous. We are proud to be creating and delivering event ideas that hold to these values and proud to work with and for an institution that is, in this event, genuinely walking the talk.

Claire Eason Bassett. Managing Director, Mackerel Sky