I’ve just got back from Nottingham, where I went to volunteer for a second year at New Adventures Conference. I joined the merry band of volunteers last year after Colly kindly invited me to come to the first event for free and I had a Skype conversation with him asking if there was anything I could do. After a little prodding, he said he would like a little help with registration (as I had done the honours at dConstruct for a couple of years) and there was some minor editing to do on the first newspaper if I had time to cast an eye over it. In the end it was quite a lot of editing, as we begin to read the articles back-to-back, and could see how we could bring some of themes of individual articles together but that early preview already told me that New Adventures (NA) 2011 was going to be a special event.
The day itself was amazing, hiccups around queues and the like aside (at one point we had a queue around the block in -4 when everyone decided to arrive at 9.30am!), and come 6pm pack up I was rolling up tubes of branding and already hoping Colly would put on another one. The moment he announced he was taking the plunge for 2012, I signed right back up for more editing and volunteering.
Volunteering at a small (ish!) conference gives you a unique perspective on what it takes to create an event. I saw speakers in the aptly named green room looking a bit sick as they walked towards the stage, and flushed and grinning as they walked back. I saw the Audio Visual team working away like pros. I saw Colly arrive at 7.45am on three hours sleep. I saw newspapers come out of their wrappers and ready to be devoured. I saw volunteers pull on t-shirts and gamely volunteer to swap shifts so everyone could see the talks they wanted to. I saw people taking seats, full of anticipation, chatting with neighbours and comparing notes on the night before.
I saw the amazing team behind the scenes at the Albert Hall conference centre making everything run like clockwork – including one memorable moment when towards the end of the day a couple of guys decided they might try their luck at nipping in and seeing if there was anything laying around to help themselves to. Know that your iPads and MacBooks were defended by one of the security team, who was clocking off at that point, and that he gave chase half-dressed! One of the scallies (to use the regional nomenclature) was half-way to the stage when he was apprehended. I almost wish he’d got there. Imagine 1 scummy thief vs 500 geeks. “Officer, it was the man in the checked shirt wot punched me!”
I saw attendees talking about what they had just seen on stage, about beer, about making stuff together, about being part of a community. I loved being able to give just a small bit back by volunteering. I was assigned the role of dealing with anyone difficult (Colly even had a one-off t-shirt printed just for me with ‘New Adventures in Fuck Yeah!’ on it to denote the level of kicking ass and taking names I was responsible for) but – light fingered outsiders aside – I had an easy, enjoyable day. Colly and Greg had taken a lot of the feedback from attendees, sponsors and volunteers last year, such as my request for first name registration to spread people out more alphabetically, and made it a reality. A special sort of reality that you only get with the attention to detail the two guys put in. Colly was putting in a good number of hours a day in the run-up to ensure as many people on the waiting list got tickets wherever possible, that signs were printed ahead of time, and that the volunteers had everything we could possibly need to do the best we could for attendees.
But, even as a so-called writer, I have to admit that words wouldn’t do it justice. I wanted to show people what it looked like, how special it was to be a very small part of – so, wobbily shot on an iPhone by me and edited beautifully by my husband, here’s NA 2012 from my perspective: