BarCamp North East 4 was quite different in many ways to other digital camps I have attended thus far.
I had been unsure about whether to go, was not at all sure what I might do there, but realised that I could always just leave if I did not enjoy the experience.
It was held in the Star and Shadow Cinema (@starandshadow on Twitter) I have intended to visit one of the events there but not made it, so this was an excellent opportunity to see inside the building.
One of the first things that I discovered was that my barely-functioning Canon 450D considered it far too dark, so I had to switch to getting not great images with my iPod Touch which are more impressionist than realist. Others were taking photos and had better equipment (and even tripods) so there should be some better images of the event around (search for #BCNE4 tag).
Alistair MacDonald had organised this barcamp. As he did the introduction talk, I began to relax. He was funny, made me feel confident that everything would work, and that everyone was welcome. It was one of the best introductions to such an event that I have seen so far.
The space was the most unusual that I have experienced for an event like this – and helped to give it a distinctive feel. The Star and Shadow is run by volunteers, and the building is decorated and furnished by them in an eclectic style with whatever they can get. The overall effect is a very arty and homely ambience. It reminded me somewhat of a cross-between fine art studios and some artists’ homes I have visited. I almost wanted to live there. I certainly wanted to make things in there.
The games corner in the bar was popular throughout the weekend. Even I rather wished I could manage to lie on bean bags to have a go (fear of never being able to get up again stopped me from trying).
The Outside-In Space had football, sofas, cine projectors, and a large mirror ball.
It was the neatest sessions board I have seen yet at any camp. I have to admit that I rather missed the array of colours of Post-It-style notes.
I wimped out of proposing a session. I had intended to, but other people had already put up their cards for sessions that were too close to three I had had in mind. I thought that I would wait until the second day and put forward a fourth suggestion.
The topics for sessions varied more than I expected. A couple that I particularly wished had not clashed with other things were: ‘Antique, vintage or retro: a brief history of women’s unmentionables!’ and ‘High Speed Flash.’
Rather than report in detail all that I can remember (or not) from all sessions over the two days, I am just going to highlight or comment on a few, and one of the evening events.
Harry Palmer showed us some of his digital artwork in his session entitled ‘Flawed technology and art.’ You can see examples on his Scartvideo website. There also is an explanation of the method of production on the About page.
Vicky Teinaki (aka @vickytnz ), a vivacious PhD design student from New Zealand (very exotic in Newcastle upon Tyne), led a session entitled ‘Screw it, let’s do some drawing! (even if you can’t draw)’ and had brought drawing materials with her. It so happened that I had a drawing pad, pencils, charcoal and other drawing materials with me because I had thought that I might draw if my camera were being difficult.
It was inspiring to see people who had not drawn for a long time (one for many years) being prepared to sit down and draw in a group like that. I thought that the results were wonderful and not what I might have anticipated.
I have been thinking for about 18 months that we should have CultureCamp where we do some practical sessions. I am interested in how mixing together analogue and digital people and public sector systems could have the potential for sparking creative approaches to practical problems. I have talked to a few people about the idea already, and Vicky’s session reminded me that I must do some more thinking and explaining.
A couple of the funniest sessions during the barcamp were:from a hole. Ideas + brainstorm.”]
and, on the second day, ‘How to rob a bank’ which looked at very serious digital security issues in a very funny way, and did not do what it promised in the title, but it did have images of cops and robbers:
We had a great fish and chip supper on the Saturday evening. Then we were summoned into the cinema for a mysterious event that we were told would require audience participation. It turned out to be Presentation Karaoke. I had never heard of this before, but if I had known about it in advance, I might have become addicted to looking for appropriate presentations. I was tempted to offer to do one, but could not quite summon up the nerve. I think that I might another time if I happen to be in a group playing it. During those dull evenings when there is nothing on television, I will certainly look out for suitable presentations to suggest in case I do.
It was an enjoyable weekend with friendly people, and I am grateful to Alistair and everyone else who was involved in putting together BarCamp North East 4.
I do hope that there will be BarCamp North East 5.
My snapshots of the event