You could say that this is the next step from Peter/@PME200 ‘s earlier People blogpost, as well as being a little attempt to end 2011 on a reasonably high note. It’s been a bit rubbish for more than a few of us has it not?
Throughout 2011 I organised a series of “Puffles pub lunches” at a pub between Kings Cross and Russell Square close to where I used to live during my London days. Here’s Puffles at one of them with a birthday gift from Frances Coppola. In the middle part of 2011 we would meet once every month, with the number of people coming along being anywhere from 6 to 18, though occupying two picnic benches with six to a bench became the norm during the summer days.
The fluid nature of Twitter as a conversation/social medium was that most of the people already knew each other before they had even met. This reduced the number of awkward “Here’s my life story” explanations that often happens at otherwise seemingly random social gatherings. When I moved to London a few years ago, I found myself in a neighbourhood where I didn’t really know anyone. Hence why I threw myself into every other thing going. The transient nature of London’s population gave some entrepreneurs ideas for “social clubs for busy professional people” – such as the IVC group. The basic business model is that you pay a monthly membership and the people who run the company organise gatherings which you can choose to attend. They sort out the venues, reserve the tables, welcome you and introduce you to new people. You also have the option of organising your own events and inviting people within the network to them.
Although I’ve met people in real life who I first interacted with on things like internet forums, 2011 was the first year where such gatherings more self-sustaining. What was really nice to see was new people that others were familiar with swelling the ranks of those that became regulars, as well as people finally getting to meet those that they had said they wanted to meet in person for some time – such as the female football followers who know more about the beautiful game (and who can link the problems within it to issues within wider society) than many of their male counterparts (especially on the telly) might give them credit for. At such times there can be just as much joy from sitting back and listening to the conversation as there is in joining in. We were given two ears and one mouth in those proportions for a reason!
The Sunday pub lunch gatherings will kick off again in early February 2012, allowing people to replenish wallets after what can be an expensive Christmas for many. For those who travel in from outside London, the cost of coming along to these gatherings can end up being double what you spend in the pub. Suddenly that “day out” is setting you back £50. When I had a season ticket, that cost didn’t even register as the ticket covered weekends as well. But being on a much more limited income now means that every penny counts.
When, where and how?
In 2011 there were three sorts of “Puffles-related” gatherings. The pub lunches I’ve mentioned above. The second was the ad-hoc coffee gatherings with individuals, pairs or small groups of people mainly in Cambridge or London, but sometimes as far afield as Bristol and Liverpool. The third one was PufflesCamp in Brighton – which turned out to be a nice weekender for all those who came along. I hope that the first two will continue in 2012 and that we will also be able to do PufflesCamp again.
On top of all of that though, is the event that in my heart of hearts I want to do – a nice evening reception somewhere, where you can all meet Puffles, myself and most importantly, each other. Maybe it’s just me but I like the idea of going to events and occasions where there is the obligation to dress up smartly and make the effort. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but that in part is a reflection of the diversity of people who follow Puffles. It’s not something that’s going to happen in the first few months of 2012. I’m skint at the moment and venue-wise wouldn’t know where to start. It’s also something that I’d want to save up for, putting money aside for an event that for me reflects the amount of time and effort that I and many others have put into building this phenomenon known as Puffles. I also want it to be an event that also reflects the enjoyment I’ve had in the process – something that would stand it out as being a ‘special event’ for those coming along to it.
In terms of where such an event would be, London is the most likely venue as that is where most of Puffles’ followers live and/or work – hence more straight forward for more people to get to. I have flagged up the possibility of having a smaller more informal event in Cambridge, though the challenge here is slightly different as many of the people locally that I am familiar with are either in the field of politics or creative and digital media. There is also the option of tying something in and around the Culture Hack East event in February 2012 – which I blogged about earlier on some suggested improvements on the back of its autumn event.
Why do all of this?
Because we’re human and as human beings I’d like to think that we are social creatures. I don’t want digital and social media to replace human interactions, I want them to enhance them. One of the biggest buzzes I got this year was watching people getting to know each other at the offline gatherings and seeing how this enriched the exchanges that we all subsequently had online.
Building a fluid community of interests/communities of interest/communities of interests also builds their resilience as well as the resilience of individuals – whether it’s people suffering from depression going through a bad patch in need of pick-ups from their friends, to where people have been physically hurt and/or in need of help while out and about. I said that there was a diverse range of people that follow Puffles. Some of them sit in Parliament while others want to overthrown it. Some of them arrest people while others have been arrested. One received a gunshot wound while abroad, while others may well have treated those who have received such wounds. Most followers have two legs though a few have four and some of those have wings and breath fire. Some followers have the opposite political views of those they share the same religion as, while others share the same political views of those they have opposite religious beliefs to. Some support different political parties to each other while supporting the same football teams – with just as much passion. Some work for the mainstream media, others want to smash the mainstream media. Some hold professorships at universities and are eminent in their fields, while others are still at school, preparing for their GCSEs.
What do all these lovely people have in common? They all started following a baby dragon fairy on Twitter! Actually, it’s far more than that. Pretty much every single follower that I’ve interacted with through Puffles I think has the desire to make the world a place better than it currently is. Wanting to bring as many of those people together to meet each other in once place can only be a good thing…right?