One of the great unsung heroes of modern British culture is Frank Cottrell Boyce. I bumped into him at the Hay Festival and asked him to speak at a conference I was involved in at Aquinas College.
He is a terrific speaker and responded really well to questions afterwards. But I really liked his delivery. He has a warmth and generosity about him and a particularly smart way of communicating the simplicity of Christian values and faith. Just what you need for an event like this as the rhetoric can get quite heavy.
Here’s a taster: “Even so, people are often surprised when I admit to being a practising Catholic. Not that anyone’s ever taken issue with it but there is always that moment of surprise that tells you they had an image in their head, and it wasn’t you. And because people are polite you never quite know what that image is: did they think I was going to be St. Francis – poet, environmentalist, genius – or did they think I was going to be Mel Gibson?”
Here is the full text of Frank’s talk and here is the audio recording.
Ear to the Ground asked me to host the first of a series of debates that look into modern fan culture in sport and music. I jumped at the chance, firstly to work with Steve Smith and his team, but also to branch out and bring intelligent debate to culture and sport.
The Fanatic event is seen as a way to discuss the dynamics of fan behaviour with influential guest speakers from the worlds of academia, comms and culture. It’s an open forum to discuss some of the challenges and trends that ‘Fanatic’ our strategic planning department are dealing with on a day to day basis.
The first event was held at the National Football Museum in Manchester and I was delighted to have been billed as “football fashion expert Michael Taylor”. The panel discussion brought together a mixture of academics and leading thinkers, focusing on the psychology of football fans and football fan culture. Luminaries included documentary sport and music photographer Stuart Roy Clarke, academics Professor John Hughson and Doctor Anna Semens, Graham Ball author of ‘Is Football the New Rock n Roll’ and MD of Ear to the Ground, Steve Smith.
Fanatic 001 was a 90 minute discussion which examined the evolving nature of football fan experiences. The panel debated issues around identity, new trends in social media and how clubs can engage fans without reducing them to consumers. The panel delved deeper into the profile of the modern football fan, internationalisation of fanbases and looked specifically at the growing level of female support. The panellists and audience members also considered factors which define support; debating the importance of the live experience and the role of transcendental moments in shaping loyalty.
There’s a whole load of gorgeous video of the event here.
There’s something special about the energy at a Downtown event. Not only because of the levels of engagement and the quality of the speakers Frank McKenna and the team pull together, but a real sense of a team working tightly together to deliver a quality experience.
Not only was there a full programme for the morning, but there was also an exhibition area for people to mingle and talk in between things.
As I said on my blog reflecting the event – it was “an amazingly thought provoking day. It provided members with ideas and connections. But it also gave all of us a wake up call that there is still much to do.”
There are a great gallery of images from the SmartCity event, which seem to capture the excitement of the day. You may notice that some sessions seemed sparsely attended, that’s because we ran the later sessions concurrently – the audience switching sessions and the hosts repeating the session all over again. It seemed to work.
It was also a real pleasure to work with Jim Hancock as the overall chair for the day. Being on your feet all day and hosting, chairing and interviewing can take it out of you, so to have Jim do the chairing for the day gave me and Frank a chance to refresh and regroup while Jim held the event together.
I love the creative friction between investors and hi-tech entrepreneurs. The University of Manchester do too and I was thrilled to be asked to work with them on an event that centred around finance and innovative businesses.
The video clip above shows something of what we did.
For me, as an events host the challenge at this event was getting it all back on time after it ran over in the morning session. The speakers were relevant, urgent and sparked a ton of really probing questions.
A mix of speakers, panellists and ICAEW folk
Throughout the year I’ve been programming and preparing to host two conferences for the Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales in November of this year. We sorted out the keynote talks some time ago, Michael Izza from the Institute did the London one and my contact Barry Nightingale did the Manchester session a few weeks later.
Both conferences went off really well – we decided early on to change the pace of the discussions – to mix up longer educational presentations with panel sessions, one-on-one interviews and Q&As with the audience.
Knowing the subject matter and knowing the people who are speaking comes into its own at events like this. I spent a fair amount of time visiting people, talking them through how we could run the event, and what I needed from them. We still found ourselves with speakers dropping out in the days leading up to the event. I don’t ever like to be in this position, but I do think I can help salvage these situations by asking contacts and friends to help out at relatively short notice.
It’s also great working with the events and commercial team at the ICAEW, they really help their sponsors to get value and work with them to hone their messages – rather than just advertise and sell. And, being accountants, they measure everything. It’s great to see such thorough and detailed analysis of customer response, purchasing, sponsor engagement and marketing effectiveness. A great team to work with.