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Jenni Lloyd

First Friday – a good thing that came to its natural end

Goodbye First Fridays!

Way back in the mists of time (well, 2011 actually) I’d been along to a whole load of great, different, lovely conferences up in London – Playful, Interesting and The Story. I loved those experiences, the lightweight, fun approach, the eclectic mix of speakers from very different backgrounds and I wanted to find a way of replicating it regularly a bit closer to home and in a way that created brainfood for the team as well as opportunities to invite our community into share with us.

So I started a monthly speaker programme, cunningly named First Friday as it was always on the first friday of the month. I was keen not to get stuck organising it every month so I created a shared spreadsheet and invited the team to populate it with speakers they’d like to hear from. If you invited the speaker then the event that month was your’s to host – with Lou ably assisting in spreading the word and and Leesa making sure there were enough beer and crisps to go round.

We had a fantastic run of speakers and welcomed in people from all around to share in what we learnt – as well as the beer and crisps. But a little while ago I realised that it was slowing down, that some months there was a last minute scrabble to find a speaker and difficulty in getting people to come along. It started to feel like a hassle, an obligation.

It might be easy to feel like it failed. But one of our values here at NixonMcInnes is fulfillment. And if we’re not enjoying something then its a chance to take stock and evaluate whether this is an initiative that has simply run its course – that the need that it originally served either no longer exists or is being served by something else.

When I reflected on the needs that First Friday had been meeting for me I realised that newer initiatives and associates were providing me with brain food and that Matt’s Friday improv drop-ins were catering for the community aspect. And also that listening to other people speak is less satisfying for me now than actively sharing my own ideas with others – either by speaking at events myself or working directly on things that make a difference.

With all this clear then it was a no-brainer that First Fridays had come to a natural end. We celebrated the final one on Friday 7th November with a talk by John Varah of Same Sky. And now we’ll see what new things emerge having let go of the old.

I’d like to thank everyone who came to share their ideas and experience with us over the years – and everyone who came along to listen to:

Matt Pearson aka Zenbullets who showed us his generative art in February 2011
John Cremer who ran an improv workshop in April 2011
Benita Matofska who recruited us into her People Who Share initiative in May 2011
Alexis Kennedy of Failbetter Games who talked to us about Storytelling in June 2011
Artist Tracey Moberly who introduced us to her book Text Me Up! in August 2011
Jack Hubbard of Propellernet who discussed Search & Social in September 2011
Paul Sloane who talked about facilitating innovation through lateral thinking in October 2011
Artist Nick Sayers who showed us the spheres he makes from scrap materials in November 2011
Designer Richard Wolfstrome who discussed how he uses wayfinding to connect people to the places they inhabit in December 2011
Musician and activist Chris T-T who talked about underground music, social media and post-capitalism in February 2012
Georgina Voss who opened our eyes about stigma in the US adult entertainment industry in March 2012
Lynn Thomas who discussed mental health at work in May 2012
Aden Davies who asked ‘Why is Online Banking So Shit?’ in June 2012
Dave Boyle who talked to us about community cooperation and the CoOp movement in August 2012
Graffiti knitter Deadly Knitshade aka Lauren O’Farrell who took us on a journey through her battle with cancer while making felt butterflies in September 2012
Audio archivist Will Prentice who showed us the intricacies of his trade in December 2012
Toy hackers Exploring Senses who got us cutting up toys and putting them back together again in February 2013
Actor and coach Simon de Cintra who taught us some of the tricks actors use in March 2013
Leila Johnson who guinea-pigged her talk about the Technology of the Terminator on us in April 2013
Richard Kassir of the Communications Workers Union who helped us understand the role of unions in the modern workplace in May 2013
Giles Palmer who told us the behind-the-scenes story of how Brandwatch emerged from Runtime Collective in June 2013
Nick Sayers who reappeared to show us how to make a spirograph from a bike in July 2013
Liz Barnes who told about how to build a learning culture in September 2013
Mark Walker of AbilityNet who discussed digital and disability in October 2013
Emma Whitehead of the Guardian Digital Agency who explained infographics as data storytelling in November 2013
TED speaker and creator of the Happy Planet Index Nic Marks who demonstrated the value of happiness at work in December 2013
Artist Rachel Mortimer who explained her pioneering work with dementia patients in February 2014
Organisational upstart Liam Barrington-Bush who introduced his book ‘Anarchists in the Boardroom’ in March 2014
Kevin O’Sullivan of SITA Lab who let us play with his Google Glass and talked us through its use by Virgin Atlantic to enhance the First class passenger experience in April 2014
Ruth and Amy Anslow, founders of ethical supermarket hiSbe, who told us their story in May 2014
Will Cottrell of Brighton Energy CoOp who described the grassroots effort to develop local renewable energy in June 2014
Paul Richards of the charity Stay Up Late, who spoke to us about the right of peopel with learning disabilities to choose their own lifestyle in September 2014
And last, but definitely not least, John Varah of community arts organisation Same Sky who last Friday 7th November 2014 picked our brains about how to sustain Burning the Clocks as a community institution.

Compiling this list has left me immensely proud of NixonMcInnes’ diverse interests and network – and grateful for all the excellent people who do so many interesting things and are willing to share so openly. Thank you.


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