It began as an idea in March of this year when I visited a local support group. One of the members, Dilys, volunteered to help organise a conference where members would be informed of the latest developments in the research programmes the society is collaborating with. And it would also provide an opportunity for members to know of other developments and to meet other members and sufferers.
By June an application for a grant had been made to the Big Lottery.
I continued to meet regularly with Dilys and these meetings provided the opportunity to discuss the finer details of the conference. Who to invite to speak? Who had confirmed their availability? What arrangements were needed for those with special diets etc.
At two of these meetings, one in August and another in early December that I received the phone calls from the Landlord of the Office who informed me that we had been broken into and our laptops had been stolen and that the office was flooded.
Anyway, by the middle of September we received the news that our grant application had been successful and so we needed to work fast to put everything into place for the 10th December.
And it was a great success. I know this because of the kind comments I have been sent, not only from our members but also from the speakers. Comments such as:
“It was the most organised conference I have ever been to”
“I learned so much from the other speakers”
That sort of thing.
One of the most difficult decisions related to the recording of the speakers. I met with the Secretary of the society in September and discussed the options. Either we tried to film the even ourselves (we have a high definition video camera) or employ a professional crew. We decided to hire a professional crew and use the opportunity to record interviews not only with the speakers but with members of the society who would be attending the event and use the footage to produce a more up-to-date documentary. We would upload the footage of speakers so that members who weren’t able to attend would still be able to hear what was said on the day. That’s where we are at now – busy uploading the footage to Vimeo. And they are incredibly large files so it will take a few days.
I contacted five film companies with experience of recording conferences. One stood out from the rest – Solo16, a film productions company based in Swindon. I met with the artistic director and soon became aware that this process was far from simple.
The slideshows used by the presenters could be incorporated into the footage but it was not a simple process. Anyway, we found some money from somewhere and the contract was signed.
The day was a complete success. The presentations were incredibly interesting and from a wide range of disciplines; general medicine, biochemistry, pharmacy, psychology and gastroenterology. Also at the event were several other health professionals including mental health, dentistry and epidemiology. I know of two more research collaborations that came out of the day.
We had ‘delegates’ from the Netherlands, Ireland, Malta and France who were so keen to come to hear what was being said that they made the extra effort to attend. Believe it or not, 24 people had paid for their tickets but didn’t turn up for the event!
So, it was a good day; a long but productive day that took an enormous amount of organising and my thanks go to all those who helped including Dilys and Petra without whom it wouldn’t have happened.
So – what now? Well, like I said, we are busy uploading the presentations. They will be made available to members of the society free of charge in the members area of our website (though we will suggest that a small donation be made to help cover the cost of the editing) and non-members of the society will be able to access the footage on a specially made website for less than the price of a ticket – £15. Keep an eye on the PAS website and our social media for news about the presentations.
What amazed me most about the day, and I know from comments from others at the event that they were similarly impressed was the way in which some extremely complex science was presented in a way that was neither condescending or over-simplified – all of the speakers got the balance right.
Today I meet with the creative director of the film company to discuss how we can use the footage of interviews with members of the society on the day. I think it’s about time I started to write the new documentary.
Thanks again to the speakers, everyone who helped organise the event and for those who attended.