A workshop that showed social media works

P1070426I’m often asked to talk about social media, and have discussed the subject at conferences, workshops and discussions for the last few years. I’ve never claimed to be an expert (I don’t think there are any, and certainly don’t think there are rules to follow). But social media is very much part of the work that I do, and is wrapped into everything Revolutionary Arts has ever done since we created artistsandmakers.com, which let users set up a profile and create their own content. So I have some practical, grounded experience to share.

But as a social artist, I don’t think just talking about social media is enough. It only really works when you couple the words with some action. Like the Pink fairies say, ‘Don’t talk about it man, all you gotta do is do it’. I’m a social artist because I want to make things happen.

So when long-term collaborator Steve Bomford asked me to come back to Portsmouth for Global Entrepreneurship Week I said yes – as long as we could do more than talk. I wanted to bring together people who wanted to learn more about social media, find out what they had in common, and create a live project by the end of the workshop. So about twenty people, with diverse experiences and skills, came together at Portsmouth’s impressive Guildhall in November.

I thought we might get a Facebook page, or a Flickr group, or some kind of funky mashup. But Portsmouth’s finest creative minds went one further, and used social media to create a one-day busking festival, Southsea Sunday.

The event, just a few weeks after the workshop, focused attention on local shops and cafes in the run up to Christmas, and raised funds for Southsea’s Food Bank.

Even better, the gang that met at the workshop are still working together, and are planning what’s next:

So one afternoon, a good room with coffee and biscuits and reliable wifi, and you can not only learn what social media is and how it works, but test that in action and have some fun doing it. I’d love to repeat the workshop  elsewhere and see what a different twenty people come up with. Get in touch if you’d like that to happen.

2012 – trains, boats and planes

London 2012The year started in spectacular style, standing on the roof of BBC’s Bush House, broadcasting on the world service, and watch the most incredible firework display London has ever seen. And it didn’t really slow down after that.

I’ve visited London (forty times), Brighton (sixteen times), Enfield (five times), Chichester (three times), and Bedford, Coventry, Guildford, Leeds, Lewes, Littlehampton, Manchester, Margate, Portsmouth, Rochdale (all twice). Add time in Amsterdam, Bexley, Eastbourne, Halifax, the Isle of Wight, Rotterdam, Salford, Shoreham, Southampton, Streatham and Stresa in Italy and it’s been a good year for travelling.

I’ve been out of Worthing on 105 days in 2012. That’s trains, boats and planes all covered. I’ve stayed in hotels that are amazing in Stresa and Margate, appalling in Leeds, and lots that are completely forgettable (Travelodge, Premier Inn and the like).

I’ve been to eco-build BedZed, spent a day on a coach trip around the M25, held a birthday party to celebrate 150 years of Worthing Pier, attended the opening of the London 2012 Olympics in a VIP seat as a guest of the Prime Minister, and been to my first football match since the early 1980s (Team GB women, in Coventry. They lost).

I’ve been on the news a few times, in the papers quite a lot, and made a brief appearance on the Antique’s Roadshow with a shepherd’s smock.

I’ve written the introduction to a book for The Caravan Gallery, published Pop Up People, and in sixteen days writing I wrote Pop Up Business For Dummies. I’ve talked about town centres and empty shops a lot, opened pop up shops in Brighton and Enfield with Retail Ready People, launched #wewillgather in the Houses of Parliament, and talked about agile working, frugal leadership, social media for social good and community organising.

Everywhere I’ve been, it’s as the guest of people doing amazing and inspiring things to make the places they live better. Thank you all for inviting me.