New is Good For You

Steve JobsI attended the AEME conference hosted By Mackerel Sky’s Claire this week and had the privilege of sitting in on a key note speech by Dr Jen Otter Bickerdike. The conference, and Jen’s talk, was themed ‘Creative Risk’.

I really liked the sound of those two words together despite the fact they could be seen as polar opposites; one suggesting innovation and excitement whilst the other, well, scares the living hell out of most of us.

Google tells me that ‘risk’ literally means “a situation involving exposure to danger”. This alone is terrifying – why on earth would anyone willingly expose themselves to danger?! ‘Creative’ means ‘To use imagination or form new ideas’. So for me, the two words together are a perfect union and bring about a whole new meaning, that is; Embark on the new. New thinking. New action.

It is not a revelation that new is what drives business forward. New is what makes sales happen, connections form, careers develop, businesses start and grow. Every new step is arguably a risk, moving from the comfort of where you currently are to where you haven’t been before with absolutely no guarantee that things will work out (oh hi danger part!) But what Jen outlined in her speech is what is key here – Things don’t work out… ‘as you planned’ but they always, always work out. The risk becomes then a challenge to trust that the new will leads you to places you simply can’t imagine… and that’s ok. What’s the worst that can happen?

There is a youtube clip that made a real impression on me a few years ago and inspired me to take a significant risk in my career and personal life. It’s a fifteen minute video of the late Steve Jobs addressing Stanford University at their graduation ceremony. He speaks of, amongst other wonderful things, how the worst things that happened to him in in his career (*getting fired by apple) led to his greatest achievements (*starting Pixar… and then being re-employed by Apple!) He talks of how you can’t connect the dots between events in life looking forward, only looking back – and I love that. I bet there are situations or experiences you can look back on now and say ‘wow that was painful/risky at the time but my god I’m glad it happened because it lead me here’. Maybe you met someone, started something, did something amazing as a result of that experience.

Taking a risk is scary. Risk is putting yourself, your ideas, your business out there. The danger is fear of the world rejecting or criticising you, or it all going wrong. But what if we viewed risk creativity and realised that staying the same could actually be more dangerous to us either personally or to our businesses. What if we take away the concept of fear (the danger) and see risk as a creative action to invite new experiences and opportunities into our lives and trust that it will lead us to places we simply can’t imagine.

Taking a risk doesn’t have to be as grand as starting Pixar but it can be something that puts you out of your comfort zone. Writing this, my first ever blog post to go up on my new employers website, is utterly terrifying but this is my new, my risk. SO, here’s the challenge for you today – do something that scares you and put yourself out there; pick up the phone to your dream client, send that press release, go to that networking event you’ve been putting off. Take a risk. Be creative. Somewhere along the line we may realise, when we look back to connect the dots in our lives and careers, that the ‘dots’ are in fact when we’ve taken creative risks.


Joey Hulin, Business Development Manager



Can You Help?

Our friends at Climate Vision need your help with a Crowdfunder campaign … over to them to give some more details on what’s involved and what it’s for …

“In 2009, the Footsteps Project took place where networks of climate activists and scientists in Truro delivered a behavioural change campaign to support local and national delegates involved in the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (COP15). We asked individuals and communities to think about the carbon cost of their lifestyle and to pledge easy and realistic carbon cutting actions. In only four months, the campaign enabled 4488 individuals and organisations to adopt low-carbon and sustainable behaviours such as buying local, saving energy or researching climate change.
We are now looking to calculate the carbon cost of our campaign in order to show to COP21 delegates that behavioural strategy solutions can be effective to achieve carbon reduction targets. We also want to show that they can compete with risky and more expensive technology such as carbon storage and capture. Finally the carbon cutting pledges added value to the local economy, building resilience and enabled communities to engage with climate change.
To make this happen we need your help. We aim to raise £5k through a Crowd funder that started May 1st, half will go on data analysis to provide a Cost Per Tonne, half on publicity and getting the story from Cornwall to Paris.
We would also like to invite you to visit our Crowd Funder page to pledge to help and be a part of this solution.

If you want to hear Sundays BBC Radio Cornwall interview, listen in at 2hr 28 mins in Many thanks”

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

Sustainability – say it, do it, mean it



I learnt this week that sustainability has actually been built into the events industry for centuries….the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851 was one of the most sustainable and successful mega events ever.  There was no energy requirement because it was all glass so no lighting required. And it was hot so they used cracks in the floorboards to generate convection ventilation! The glass building was in fact designed around a coppice of Elm trees that has to be protected and preserved. Over 6 million people (a third of the UK population at that time) attended and the profits that they made went to fund the V&A Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

What a fantastic example of triple bottom line sustainability with positive social, economic and environmental impacts. I’m sure there were issues and challenges but the outcomes provide a valuable learning point for us now. If we consider the Olympics and the pseudo-sustainability that they propagated, then perhaps we as an industry are taking a step backwards?

Green events are on the increase and this increase in awareness of sustainability in both the industry and the general public is of course a positive development. I cannot take credit for this insight – James Kennell (University of Greenwich) was speaking at a conference this week and his presentation opened up this line of thought.  He noted that this driver for sustainability is coming from customers, from attendees and particularly those under 25. But their priorities are focused on integrity and doing the right thing right. Not accreditation or certificates.

Events offer a unique opportunity to engage those audiences in making the difference – like Glastonbury’s Green Team. Sustainability offers us the opportunity to take responsibility as Krippendorf (1987) discusses. He postulates that responsibility is about being infectious, creating an experience and offering freedom and events can fulfil all of these aspects. What an opportunity!


Keep inventing, keep exceeding


Last week in an interview with the Director of Goodwood Festival of Speed, BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans asked how he keeps the festival fresh with changing content each year. The response was simply that this is what the audience require and they must be doing something right as it keeps selling out. This resonated with John Fox’s (founder of Welfare State International and godfather of large scale community events) guest lecture at Falmouth University a couple of weeks ago where he said that an event becomes a tradition after 3 occurrences. That’s all it takes – 3 years of an annual event to make it a feature of the events landscape, 3 years to make it something unmissable, 3 years to create a legacy that has a life beyond its often small beginnings.

When we create a tradition, an event experience that people of all kinds want to be part of, it can be easy to sit back and happily capitalise on the positive audience response. However, as Goodwood demonstrates, we event managers simply cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We must continue to develop and invent and create to meet the ever increasing expectations of our ticket-purchasing, event-attending public.

For City of Lights, the largest switch on event in the UK outside London, this has never been more true. We have been a lantern procession since our small community beginnings 17 years ago and it has grown and evolved and expanded to become the cornerstone of festive celebrations in the South West. It is a complex logistical challenge in itself with lanterns, school children, bands and over 25,000 people in the audience and, although it is a tradition and a rite of passage for many of the children particularly, we cannot just do that. We are now exploring how we engage digital technologies in terms of production, distribution and marketing, going beyond simply posting on Facebook, and this will present new challenges that will enable the event to continue to grow, will develop the artform of spectacle, and will enable new audiences to engage with this wonderful event.

Adapting to changing circumstances and creating new event ideas are vital for the ongoing sustainability of our events and festivals across the triple bottom line – we always need to find new creative ways to generate a sustainable income stream for event projects; we constantly need to reduce our waste and minimise our negative environmental impacts using mechanisms such as SAVE and ISO20121; and we need to continue to engage the imaginations and aspirations of our audiences. Their expectations of the event experience are ever increasing and it is our responsibility to meet and continue to exceed them.

Claire Eason-Bassett
MD of Mackerel Sky Events and Event Cornwall