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:
http://www.thecornwallvarietyshow.wordpress.com
@CornishVariety
cornwallvarietyshow@gmail.com

 

 

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Planning for Every Eventuality …

riskassessmentIn this business we ask ‘what if….?’ quite a lot – in every risk assessment, every emergency action plan – and we can apply the same thinking to our organisations. The process of strategic risk assessment is a vital health check for a company and can highlight areas where the organisation is dependent on certain factors.

We start by asking ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ and by exploring some potential future scenarios, we start to identify the key risks that could jeopardise the existence and success of the organisation. It can be a challenging process and can uncover issues and challenges that haven’t been considered previously.

One of the major challenges is considering the key people that the organisation is dependent upon for its success.  This group may include clients, suppliers and staff and the organisation needs to understand how manageable that dependency is. If the company is dependent on one client for over 50% of its turnover, then what happens if that client contract ceases? Perhaps the portfolio needs to be revisited and new projects sought to ensure that the pipeline of work keeps moving and dependency is reduced.

It may be that the company is dependent on one or two key members of staff for managing the organisation (and avoiding some of the financial or operational risks) as much as for producing the company output. It may be that the company is built on the skills, ability and personality of the chief executive or other key individual and so there is a risk that the company’s capacity is therefore limited by the individual, meaning that the
company simply cannot grow. Let alone what happens if that key person can’t work for some reason.

For founder managers, it can be particularly difficult to critique how the company works and to plan for their succession. As much as we are taught that business is business, I would argue that it isn’t. It’s personal, particularly for entrepreneurs and small businesses. So in considering these big challenges for an organisation, we must consider the people affected by and involved in them and how we respond to those challenges also influences how we are perceived internally and externally.

There are some brilliant things we can do to mitigate these strategic risks. We can insure our key people in case of injury or similar. We can create delegation structures that share workload, information and responsibility as well as develop skill and capacity across the organisation. We can talk to other people and get support and advice from sources you trust and respect. For me, I do this by having a non-executive Board including a freelance Finance Director, all people who know a lot more than I and who I trust to advise in the best interests of the company. My Board is invaluable in assessing and managing these strategic risks, keeping me on track and enabling me to take all of those mitigating actions, enabling all of us to work to our best and enabling the company to succeed.

 

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

No man is an island they say

group-01I think we can all agree that, in business, and specifically in events, people are our greatest asset.  This is true but only really so if we manage and develop that team and wider network to play to our collective and individual strengths.

What I mean is that, like any asset, if they are not used they can never be effective. You snooze, you lose! This gauntlet is laid down to all of us, irrespective of job title. Even if you are the office junior or an events assistant, you still have access to and use of this asset to gain support, to learn, to develop skills and to build your own network of useful people. And for anyone further up the chain of command, we have responsibility for this asset. We spend a lot of money on our people in terms of salary/fees, facilities, incentives, our time, knowledge and effort so we simply cannot afford not to manage our teams well.

In order to get the best value from our investment in our teams, we need to understand and appreciate them, their skills, approach, communication styles, needs, wants…and it can seem that all we do is service other people. In fact, that is exactly what we need to do to get the best from our teams. We need to design teams that have complementary strengths and skills to ensure that the client and wider stakeholder groups get the best possible experience.

At Mackerel Sky, we have a fantastic team of Associates with a vast range of experience and a great body of skill and ability that enables us to take on almost anything! Our business model enables us to draw together an appropriate team for each project that ensures that we will deliver to the highest possible standard within the brief and budget.

Internally, we all have individual growth plans that focus on developing the skills and experiences that each member of the team wants to and that are necessary to expand the reach of the company and individual project teams. Each person in the company is supported to undertake training and we plan our workload so that we have the right balance of confidence, skill and experience with learning and development opportunities.

But is takes time and effort and consideration. It also reflects on the value that I place on our team and on their commitment and involvement with the company. It is vital to take the time to notice each person’s work, to thank them, praise them and equally hold them accountable when stuff happens. Not shout and scream but recognise that it hasn’t gone well or that there were issues, and enable the individual or team concerned to learn from it and move on to the next project.

By investing in our teams and taking the time to be present in all of it, we are doing all we can to engage with the individual to gain collective benefit, to build the business and to deliver the event successfully.

 

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

Stretching Ourselves Beyond the UK .. and it’s exciting!

yoga-stretchingWe have just won a contract with Cornwall Council to project manage the Cornish representation at the Lorient Interceltic, a festival in August in France. This is great news and we are really looking forward to getting started but it also poses a challenge to how we work.  This will be the first project that we as a team will deliver outside the UK so our capacity to work over distance and communicate in another language will be tested.

We are of course planning now to ensure that we have the right resources in place (and it’s compulsory French lessons across the team) but this project will stretch us a bit. All within our capability but it’s new and interesting and a different way of working that we are learning to accommodate. This learning is to the benefit of all of us – not just the staff team but also our wider clients and strategic partners as we are developing even more skill and expertise.

It’s a fine balance between taking on new challenges and stretching too far. Perhaps we know how to balance this from our own perspective, knowing our own capacity and ability, but when we consider an organisation it can be more difficult to gauge exactly where that balance is. It means that we won’t necessarily get the balance right all the time for all of the team; some of us may have to learn something completely new, some may find time or resources are stretched and this may take us out of our comfort zone.

But going beyond our comfort zone is what makes us continuously improve what we do and how we do it and that’s where the benefit is for the organisation, for us individually and for our clients. We increase our skills and capabilities means that we increase our capacity, which means that we can improve our development and delivery of projects and take on new contracts that stretch us even further. And there is the virtuous circle but it only works if we learn from every project, continue to stretch ourselves and apply it across our portfolio, sharing practice across our team.

We use Agile management practice to ensure that we gather this learning at every stage, reflect throughout the project as well as at the end, and engage everyone in developing what we do and how we do it. Using these Agile techniques enables us to increase capability and grow as a company of learning experts!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

What Goes Around …

I would like to say thank you to the two drivers who let me out of the junction onto the A39 this morning.  Your consideration is much appreciated.

That junction is difficult in the mornings with heavy traffic in both directions so you really have to pick your moment and most mornings I am entirely reliant on the consideration of other drivers to my plight.  The theme of consideration came up at our Company Gathering last week as well as one of the qualities that we most appreciate and it made me think about how considerate I am in relation to the various roles I play in life.

It is important to recognise that we are dependent upon the consideration of others in almost everything we do – dependent on team members doing their jobs and supporting beyond the job description; dependent on clients being willing to take risks and be creative; dependent on people considering each other at large scale events such as City of Lights and enabling everyone to enjoy the experience.  Considering the impact that each of us has on other people is core to ensuring that everyone can access, engage or enjoy.  This of course applies to organisations and businesses and there is a role for consideration within our decision making as well.

That bit of consideration for the wider impact, that is, the time spent considering another person’s perspective, can make all the difference in the success of our interactions, marketing, events, HR management, motivation and ultimately profit. If we think about launching a business (and I was leading a session discussing this last week with the School for Social Entrepreneurs so it’s at the forefront of my mind), then we could develop a launch programme that includes PR, branding, events, promotions, social media and sales generation.  We could develop a whole heap of activity but without thinking about how it will be perceived and the impact on other people, specifically our target market.  That launch process is vital in creating the future success of the organisation so if we fail to consider the target market (or target clients, or target partners), we are failing before we have even begun.

Similarly, internally, we will only generate a motivated, engaged team by considering individuals in terms of strengths, approaches, communication capacity and abilities and then dovetailing them in the team, supporting them in their roles and providing a bit of inspiration.  At least, that’s the theory.  In practice, people are people and we are difficult animals.  We are inconsistent and emotional and, sometimes, deeply inconsiderate of other human beings.  So for the leader of such teams, we have to have that consideration by the barrow load to enable the whole team to work together.  It may feel like we are prioritising chatting over task achievement but that bit of care and consideration for another person’s situation or view on life can be the key to unlocking a high performing team.

So a bit more consideration all round might make the world a better place!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

Come on the Foos!

CaptureWe are delighted to be part of the team behind the incredible Crowdfunder campaign to bring the Foo Fighters to Cornwall.  This campaign has grown exponentially from just an idea to achieving its target of £150,000 within 53 hours!  Now the Foos are an awesome band but we never expected that kind of response!

What’s particularly interesting in all of this is that it’s so unpredictable.  There are many things we can do to improve the prospects for crowdfunding campaigns with a structured, strategic social media campaign in advance to build up interest and engagement; you can run a press campaign alongside the fundraising; you can get as many interested parties as possible to post on their websites and link into it…..but ultimately, we don’t know how the general public will respond.  It’s the same with marketing campaigns in general terms.  We don’t know what the next market trend will be but we can keep our eyes and ears open, we can develop the ability to respond to opportunities quickly, we can develop our own ideas and take risks but there are no guarantees.

 

There are agencies and thinktanks out there who work on telling the future for businesses of all kinds and there are those out there who are making it happen like artists, directors, choreographers, producers. But even all of these people can’t tell what the next big thing will be.  We also need to recognise that usually, the Foos excluded, these kind of campaigns do not work overnight. So it is a long, drawn out, unspecific, unknown process that involves a lot of risk and strategic guessing and heartbreak if ideas don’t work.

 

So why do we take these risks with new event concepts, new business ideas, new funding campaigns etc etc?

 

A couple of weeks ago, I heard from one of the Directors of LEGO where he was talking about how they innovate and it resonated with a conversation I had with Martin Crump from Evolution Development – it’s a change or die world.  We, both individually and corporately, need to keep on changing.  Our human nature means that we continuously learn and develop so our preferences and interests also evolve and change.  We are like sharks – we have to keep on (mentally) moving to stay alive. When we stop coming up with new ideas or when we stop seeking to understand the world a little more, we lose that spark that makes us human.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

Happy Mondays and Happy Sundays!

happymondaysThis weekend I will be spending Sunday night watching Downton Abbey (well, of course!). Last Sunday night, however, I was at the far other end of the spectrum of entertainment as I was stood at the foot of the Live at Heartlands stage watching Shaun Ryder, the Happy Mondays and the inimitable Bez royally do their thing. And what a night.

It was the culmination of a 3-day festival featuring amongst many many others, the Happy Mondays, Boomtown Rats and UB40 at what was once the core of Cornwall’s mining industry, then an abandoned derelict wasteland. Now, having undergone extensive regeneration, the tin mines and Cornwall’s heritage are preserved and provide a truly unique backdrop for live music.

As is often the way with live music, it’s the crowd and the atmosphere that makes or breaks a gig. And the overwhelming feeling I got from the gig was how refreshing everyone thought it was to find such big names in music right here, on our doorstep and in an area that’s seen better times but most definitely looking ahead.

Mackerel Sky were at the heart of the team behind this event and it was such a brilliant feeling to know that your very clever colleagues delivered it so smoothly and in such a polished way. From having been there and looking through only a small amount of the social media buzz that was created I have a feeling that last weekend will be a highlight for many at the end of their summer. Go team Mackerel Sky!

Helen Rowe, Marketing Manager, Mackerel Sky