6 June 2012 by Jennifer

Probably most people reading this will know by now that I’ve been working this year on a little festival… and it’s about to happen, this coming Saturday! But just in case anyone hadn’t encountered that news elsewhere on the net, I thought it’d be good to mention it here.

The link to its home page: Wovenfest

Looking back, looking forward

As I write, there’s still lots on my to-do list for the event (not least get some extra sleep – that’s been in short supply, I keep waking up about 5am with a head full of plans). But I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the journey so far.

Looking ahead to Saturday, my most important wish is for the people who come along to have a lovely day! And in that sense I’m hopeful that it’ll be a beautiful success. The variety of “things to do and see and hear” that we’ve got lined up, for all ages, is one of the aspects I’m most pleased and satisfied with.

Financially, I suspect I’d be lucky to break even this time. It was always going to be a risk, because I wanted a wheelchair accessible, central venue, with good public transport links and some outdoor space, and they don’t generally come cheap. That’s something I had to accept from the start in order to embark on the adventure at all.

I’d still like to make some money out of it… but more likely, I think, is that I could if I were to run a similar thing again. I’ve learnt enough from the experiences of this one that if there were a next time, I could both spend a bit less money on it and (more importantly) reach more people.

Possibly I’ve added to the risk by deciding to have “set your own value” admission – but possibly not. Evidence from “set your own value” other things suggests that people who can afford to pay more generally do, if they love what you’re doing. And “set your own value” definitely allows more people to come in. We’ll see!

Zine learning curve

One of the most rollercoaster-y learning curves has been the making of the zine (as in tiny magazine) that I used as part of the promotion of the day.

[Edited 7 June: I had second thoughts about the long list of very varied feedbacks I’d put here. I started to feel it might be read as a sort of satire because of the way that some of them are so contradictory to others. I do see an element of comedy humour in it, not least in my predicament of trying to draw any conclusions from the total! But I also feel appreciative of the people who took the trouble to tell me their thoughts. So I don’t want to suggest that anyone’s response is invalid just because someone else thought the opposite or something very different.

Instead I’ll just sum up by saying: some people loved the zine and felt really welcomed… others felt it was offputting or scary… some said they’d found it useful… others suggested it was patronising or “preachy”.]

The interesting puzzle is… is all of the more critical side a function of mistakes in how I presented the information? such that if I wrote it differently, or gave similar text to people in a different context, some would be more able to hear it / less scared / less put off?

Or how much comes from discomfort with the ideas I’m talking about, so that some people wouldn’t like the result however I phrased or framed it?

I already know for sure that some is from the way I wrote it. Since the rewrite which produced Version 2, everyone who’s seen both has said it’s better (or at least as good); nobody’s preferred Version 1. So that puts some of Version 1 into the category of “mistake, and now I know”. I’ve since heard more feedback and had more ideas, so that if I wrote a Version 3 now, I’m confident it’d be better again.

But I don’t think it’s ever going to be: one day you communicate about these ideas in the perfect way and everyone likes it. It’s only ever an evolution of “who doesn’t like it and why? can it be improved for them without making it less welcoming for someone else? who’s at the pointy end of whatever goes down about this? who’s the intended audience?”.

Anyway, what with all that to process and ponder, it’s probably not a bad thing that there’s no time left to rewrite it again in haste before the day. A few months’ time would put me in a much better position to assess the relative importance of all those perspectives on it, and produce another iteration… if, you know, I ever had occasion to ;-)

Other learnings

The zine is only one dimension of my recent learning curves. I’ve also talked to a lot of people over the last few months, and some of those connections have borne beautiful fruit, and others not. So if I were to do it again, I’d be starting with a huge advantage over where I was this time, in terms of “knowing where to start” and “knowing whom to tell”.

Plus there’s the way that, having done something once, you can say “It was like this”. Or, better still, there’s a cohort of people who were there and remember how it worked in 3D. This first time, I started off with an incomplete blueprint in my own head, and for the first few months, I was really fishing for how to talk about it at all. “It’s like X… except not.” “It’s like Y… except not.” “It’s like Z… except not.” When it comes together in reality, you start to be able to say “This is what we did”. That is a big difference!

And I’m sure there’s more I’ve learned, as well, I just don’t have time to think & write about all of it now.

So, how I’m feeling about it just now is: almost regardless of what happens on Saturday, it’d be a waste not to do it again some time. Or to do something else entirely, which built on what I learnt but expressed it in a different way. Of course I might invent some different mistakes next time :-)

But before embarking on “the next thing”, I plan to have a rest :-)

Appreciation, criticism & new ideas all welcome...

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