Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Event Horizon

In meetings on April 4, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Going to, and looking forward to, events has always been important to me. On those occasions that I glimpsed the possibilities of groups drawn together by a common interest, something ignited inside.

The first regular events, that I elected to participate in, were sports-related. Living close to Highbury Stadium, before the spate of incidents that forced football stadia to control access, provided ample opportunity to indulge in the fix of fixtures. Back then, we [friends] could get in free to the stadium at half time. Jostling towards any confrontations that were brewing hinted at other possibilities from these gatherings, and provided relief from the boring football on offer.

Days going to Twickenham were memorable. The adventure was in travelling to strange parts of London. We could slip the gate a few pounds to get into the (equally boring) rugby internationals of the early-eighties. Even venturing to White Hart Lane (to watch more interesting football) was just a precursor for the passion that was to follow.

The epiphany happened one summer in Ireland. Our family went every year, and the summer of 1983 looked set to be no different to any other. Until the day an older cousin asked if I wanted to go along to a festival in Dublin. I was 15 and bored at being stuck in the countryside: and so jumped at the opportunity. Off I went to my first gig – Anvil, Motorhead, Twister Sister and Black Sabbath at Dalymount Stadium.

That gig changed my life. Back in London, I dragged my best friend to a virtuoso performance by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. We lost half a stone in sweat each that night – and he wound up working for a record label. It wasn’t just me that was caught up in the possibilities of the event experience.

The next ten years were focussed on getting to gigs. Being much more focussed on urban gigs than the festival scene, I developed many strategies around getting access to live music. It wasn’t necessarily expensive: getting to know the bouncers at the university venue was rewarding in many dimensions.

With age, it became less urgent to be at the right gigs. And then it started feeling akward – being at he front of the crowd was no longer important, and the sense that something important would be missed was plainly mistaken. The wilderness years occurred when my daughter was born. Going out was less important. Being there for her is what is important. But time passes, and we all move on ….

The passion was rekindled with the organization of a few tech events – things I’d like to see happen and couldn’t wait for someone else to organise (such as XMLOpen in 2004). Then I took my daughter to her first gig (Yassou N’Dour in Lucca, Italy). Suddenly I was reminded of what it was that had enthralled me for so long.

Then unconferences became commonplace. Suddenly I could indulge my interests without having to feel indebited to an employer. Perhaps not as focussed as some of the paid conferences I’ve been fortunate to attend; they nonetheless provide opportunity to discover what is really important to you. I’ve learned more about myself at these events than at weeks focussing on obscure technologies in distant countries.

So now I spend much more time thinking about how I’m spending time. Events are as important to me as ever, but I’m no longer looking to recreate the last buzz. What’s important now are the opportunities afforded: to learn new approaches, meet new people, and to think new thoughts. The type of event is just a constraint – and one that can be deconstructed by those attending.

I’ve just booked tickets for Womad in Charlton Park this July and would love to hear from anyone interested in doing something a bit different while we are there.