Outside interests

In addition to our various ‘day jobs’, Sam and I also maintain a number of outside interests including various catering engagements.

Some time ago, Sam began helping with the staff and artist catering backstage at the Cambridge Folk Festival. A couple years ago I joined her for the first time and we were back there again this year. While some of the backstage crew are ‘professional’ (in that they travel around all the festivals doing lighting, sound, etc) most are loyal to the Cambridge Folk Festival and only meet once a year.

Everything starts about a week before the music begins with rigging marquees, setting the infrastructure to cope with the influx over the weekend. We pitched up on Wed when Sam began serving egg & bacon butties from ‘Bob’s Country Bunker’ (a porta-cabin with a hotplate, grill, fridge, and not much else by way of catering equipment). By the end of the day the main catering Marquee was full of the cookers, fryers, hot plates, storage, boilers and serving equipment that is a functioning kitchen; including the kitchen sink! A walk-in fridge and a separate walk-in freezer kept everything nicely chilled, whatever the temperature in the kitchen.

Our routine was then 6am (breakfast served from 7am) until 10pm (last dinner serving at 8pm but people always turned up late); either preparing, cooking, serving, or cleaning up. At it’s peak we served 438 for Sunday dinner in just over 4 hrs (including stragglers).

It wasn’t all hard work. There are four ‘gators’ (4 or 6 wheel drive buggies) that are used to transport the heavier bits of equipment around the site. Tradition is that on the Sunday they hold a fancy dress parade with each of the gators being ‘decorated’ by the Sparky’s (electricians), security, stewards, and artist hospitality teams.

Apologies for the ‘sideways’ view, Qik doesn’t seem to let me rotate the image.

We were also blessed with the. best. toilets. ever.

Update:- someone has asked and no the music isn’t post-production, its piped from the black loudspeaker you can see beside the fluffy hand towel. Without smell-o-vision you can’t tell but the hand-wash was a fragrant lavender.

It’s also worth noting that these are on a trailer, just like other portable loos (only posher)! 🙂

It isn’t all festival food.

My sister was also over recently from Boston with my newly born Niece (7 months old) for her Christening at Mum’s local church. Sam did the cake and constructed the baby from Marzipan & icing, and the lettered bricks from icing blocks and letters piped individually to spell out “Evangaline” and individual “e”s on each of the 70 cupcakes.



Day at the Beach with Flexifoil

(Disclosure: this post relates to my work with Knowledge West, it also doesn’t have that much to do with technology, start-ups etc)

One of the great aspects of my life is working with very cool companies that are doing very cool things and making very cool products. Unfortunately most of my work is around developing their business or helping with innovation so not easily shared.

Last Friday I got a chance to research some of the cool products that a company we’re working with make (ok it was mostly fun). Flexifoil are one of the top power kite manufacturer in the world for quality and performance. The University of the West of England are going to be working with them to get even better.

Easy does it

This was mostly fun, though the difference between even a 2.5m Blurr kite and the traditional diamond with a tail of string and cloth off-cuts was staggering. The morning on Weston-super-Mare’s uphill beach was almost perfect for learning. As you can see from the photo on the right, we actually had sun! The breeze was a bit light but it gave us the chance to play without getting dragged all over the beach if we messed up.

There was plenty of messing up! These are performance kites and they’d started us on the ‘Traction’ range, which even in those light winds was enough to pull you off balance. Getting the hang of the four control lines (2 power and 2 brake) and figuring out where the ‘sweet spot’ was while not getting blinded by the sun was a real challenge that everyone pretty much got the hang of by lunch time.

Getting dragged around WSM
Getting dragged around WSM

Around lunch time it began to cloud over and the wind picked up. I tried out a different kite, a 4m Blade IV. Slightly bigger, more powerful and a bit trickier to handle. The dark line behind me are the gouge marks where I was literally being lifted off the sand and unceremoniously dragged along until I could de-power. The kite is just off camera almost vertically above me.

After lunch we broke out the 3-wheeled buggys and had to learn all about tacking & gybing (which is fine for me) with a ‘sail’ that moves around your body like a windsurf sail (ok, still mostly fine) and moves vertically from brushing the sand to overhead (that bit was harder to get a handle on). Fortunately for me, Sy had shown up and gave me a crash course which got me hurtling up and down the beach in no time. Mostly under control. 🙂

Hanging in there

Whilst we were getting the hang of it Flexifoil’s tame pro-boarder pitched up and began playing. The guy was officially bonkers. He’s actually flying one of the big surf kites, an Aaron Hadlow Pro (at least 7m across). After another couple hours of kite flying it started raining, so he switched into his wetsuit and started tearing up the seafront.

Hanging in there
Hanging in there

A fantastic day with some amazing kit,thanks go to Stephen Batty and the team at RBI for organising. Now if I can just find a spare £1,000 for the gear, some spare weekends, maybe a van…

Carrotmob Bristol an update

Well a lot has been happening and there are a couple of conversation threads so I thought I’d put up a quick ‘story so far…’

Craig Hellen (Pod Chains) brought up Carrotmob at the OpenCoffee meeting on 1 July. We were talking about Seedcamp and various ideas for supporting innovative new businesses across the South West. Craig kind of lobbed Carrotmob in as a thought grenade and since none of us had heard of it it kind of fizzled out until later that evening when I’d had a chance to see the video and twittered it.

Craig and I swapped a couple of DM’s but everything pretty much went quiet until he shared an email he’d just received from Brent at Carrotmob saying what a great thing it’d be to see a Carrotmob campaign in Bristol. That got us going again and I dropped Kevin O’Malley a note at Connecting Bristol to drum up some more interest from the wider readership that he gets. I also got in touch with Bristol City Council as they organise the Harbour Festival and we’d (Craig and I) thought that’d be a great event to put Carrotmob alongside.

Following Kevin’s post and another twitter post lots of folks responded (@Z303, @mikedunn, @emargee, @PeteJ, @wrestlevania, & @bluerocket) so we set up a room in Friendfeed to discuss and share. Then Jacob Park from Carrotmob got in touch and Zoe and I swapped a couple emails with him and that lead to the suggestion that we (Bristol) might work with Carrotmob testing an application to help folks put together their own Carrotmob’s.

Which is all really cool!

The drawback is their application probably won’t be public until October, and it’s now only 10 days to the Harbour Festival (9 by the time I post this).

All of which means we’re still really keen to see Carrotmob come to Bristol, and we’re going to be helping Brent & Jacob specify and test their application, and we’re going to keep building the momentum here ready for a (probable) Halloween launch!

Right now the best way to register support is probably to join the Friendfeed group and/or subscribe to this blog. That way we’ll know you’re specifically interested in Carrotmob rather than my general ramblings, and you’ll find out more information as it becomes available. You can also leave suggestions in the comments for other groups to partner up with to make Carrotmob Bristol really take off.

Also, if anyone wants to take the lead in organising the Bristol Campaign, let us know and head over to the Carrotmob sign up page.

Happy mobbing

Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.