The day started at 08:07 when I parked my little roadster on Eglantine Avenue to attend CreativeCamp Belfast which was being held at Blick Shared Studios on the Malone Road. The event wasn’t to start until 10 am but I’d pledged to supply wireless network access for the group. I’d had a bit of an issue finding it as the Blick Studios web site is all Flash (and no text version) and there was no sign of an address anywhere on the Blick site nor on the CreativeCampBelfast site but thankfully Google Maps knew where it was.
I met Andy and Mairin at the building and discovered problem #1. There were only about 30 chairs. Luckily Mairin had a friend at the Welly Park who loaned us another 30-odd chairs. That still meant the three of us carrying the damn things the few hundred yards between the two places. In the rain.
Once in we placed the chairs and moved desks around and tried to get things up and running. Andy busied himself with the schedule and I got the wireless up and running. Unlike at BarCampBelfast 08, thw WiFi was not a total disaster but then we had very few Windows machines to cater for. The WiFi needed rebooting a few times during the day but I’m reckoning that’s to do with a known issue with Airport base stations – they’re intolerant of BitTorrent. Would it be too much to ask for people turning up to “CreativeCamp” which has a fair percentage of people interested in maintaining their Intellectual Property for money, NOT run BitTorrent applications – because, let’s face it, 99.999% of content on BitTorrent ain’t legal. Nevermind that you’re piggybacking on someone else’s network, that’s just rude.
The talks were of a very high quality – this is something that a lot of people don’t expect from ‘grassroots’ events. It’s not about ‘who’ or ‘what’ really. You don’t need to have an expert. The talk I enjoyed most was Rich Dale’s “Manifesto for a sustainable NI Music Scene” and I continued to talk around that subject for the remainder of the day, probably boring the shit out of everyone I spoke to. The most important thing to consider is the passion of these individuals. Special thanks to Aaron Abernethy and Rich Dale for listening to me waffle.
Lunch was excellent – special Thanks to Andy McMillan for bankrolling it – and thanks to the sponsors mentioned above who will sort him out for the cash. Andy works pretty much tirelessly at making sure these things work smoothly and is a consummate professional at making these things work. Did I also mention he works as a web designer and is also a music promoter.
I had to dash just as Damien Mulley took the stage which was a bit of a let-down. I’d really hoped he would have been talking earlier but as it was I missed it. This is something that’s important for organising this thing – don’t change the programme – it confuses people, makes it look sloppy and, most importantly, annoys Andy!
In conclusion, I’d have done things differently in the end. Blick is a great initiative for what it is but not a good venue for an unconference like BarCamp (or CreativeCamp). There wasn’t nearly enough publicising of it and I guess that worked out well because if the designers I know had turned up, there wouldn’t have been room to breathe. But it’s a learning process and there are lessons that have been learned on this, lessons that can be learned from everything. It’s been years since I organised any conventions but back in the early nineties we were very limited in what we could do to promote our little gatherings. We still managed to get hundreds of people to pay to play games. These days – with modern technology, social networks and the economics of ‘free’, you could really do something spectacular.