Mandy Naylor, member of the UK Community Partner Network, shares her experiences of the Connected Communities Festival.
The Connected Communities Festival took place in Cardiff this year on the 1st and 2nd July at two venues in the city. We were having our first face to face Associates meeting there to bottom out core actions for the Network over the year ahead, based on feedback from partners to date. I was also there to help staff the UK Community Partner Network (UKCPN) stand, and was looking forward to building my understanding of the Network and who was involved: other partners who’d been involved previously were also due to attend, helping on the stand or taking part in workshops.
I had some awareness of the Connected Communities programme before I went, but was really amazed at the huge range of projects supported via the programme and the different areas they touched upon. Iron Age hillforts, storytelling in a care home setting, the music of knitting – it was certainly a diverse mix. Over 40 projects were on show at the conference, split evenly between a city centre venue and the one where we were based down by Cardiff Bay. Several visitors commented on the negative impact of having two venues linked by a shuttle bus, rather than getting it all under one roof. There were dozens of workshops and talks at both venues, so it was hard to juggle times if you had particular workshops to get to or speakers you wanted to hear.
The UKCPN had a good presence at the conference: Sophie (NCCPE and UKCPN member) got the first day kicked off in style with a talk about the UKCPN, followed up by a workshop later in the day run by her and Kim (Community Partner and UKCPN Associate). The workshop, with more than 30 participants, was streamed live as part of the conference which involved a bit of creative movement in the room to make sure everyone got on camera that needed to! I really enjoyed seeing how the workshop was planned: there were lots of activities to get people to share their own experiences of community-university partnerships and it was good to see the amount of networking that carried on after the session ended: people had obviously started to make real connections with others.
We also had a lot of interest on the stand, it was especially helpful that Russell (a long standing member of the UKCPN) was there on the stand throughout the conference, as I gradually got used to the key points to highlight to those visiting us. By the end of the first day, I felt like I’d been part of the network for years.
Did you attend the festival, or pop along to our stand? We’d love to hear your thoughts – feel free to comment below!