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Author:  Catherine [ 20 Oct 2012, 12:34 ]
Post subject:  Gathers

I'm posting this here so that those who don't have access to the Gather threads have an opportunity to post comments, if they so wish.

First and foremost, this post is not, in any way, a criticism of any person who has organised any Gather or any activity at any Gather. It takes a great deal of organisation to allow these Gathers to happen, I know, and it’s very much appreciated.

Having attended the very first two Gathers, I have not managed to attend a weekend Gather until last weekend. The main focus of the gather seemed to be knitting which, to a non-knitter, was quite hard. It may be that knitting as an activity at a Gather has become more and more popular and as a non-Gatherer for the past few years, I hadn’t realised that. It has made me muse on what people may want from a Gather. Is it to knit and chat with friends? Is it to do CS themed activities? Or both? Or something entirely different? And should the Gathers we have be continued only in their current format and current locations? I suspect that it is mainly the same set of people who attend Gathers with some attending both Robin Hole and Milton Keynes and some only ever attending one or the other. There are a huge number of people who post on the CBB but only a few who attend these big gathers – is there anything that could be done to interest more people in attending?

Liss made the suggestion that next year’s Milton Keynes Gather could be mainly a day Gather which is perhaps more flexible. Is this a route that could be explored more in the future – with the flexibility to allow those travelling from a distance to stay overnight if they wish? Equally, if they prefer, people could choose to stay in other accommodation and only attend for the day.

Another suggestion is that perhaps we could base some Gathers based on another CS activity – that of exploring new places. Perhaps a weekend in Guernsey? Or perhaps a day spent exploring a location (connected to the CS books or otherwise)? As above, people could choose to make a weekend of it, staying in a Travelodge (prices tend to be per room so opting to share with someone would reduce the expense) or somewhere suited to their individual preferences –- but the focus would be the actual day, perhaps splitting into groups but meeting up for lunch or afternoon tea or an early dinner. This would also mean that the location could be varied, giving us all more opportunities to mix with others.

I’m not suggesting it should be one kind or the other – there’s no reason why traditional Gathers shouldn’t continue but perhaps a different kind of Gather might appeal to different people and could be put into the mix.

These are just my thoughts and as I said above, it is in no way a personal attack on anyone, so please don’t take it that way or take offence at anything I’ve said. I thought long and hard about posting this and my main worry is that someone will be offended but that really isn’t the point of this post. If everyone thinks differently, I will just crawl back into my corner and hide.

Any constructive comments would be welcome.

*runs away to hide*

Author:  Alison H [ 20 Oct 2012, 13:05 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

This is my take on it - again, apologies if anyone's offended, it's not meant as any sort of criticism and I know that organising the Gathers takes a huge amount of time and effort, which is very much appreciated. I'd struggle get to the Milton Keynes Gathers because I can't get the time off work to go on the Friday and the trains are useless on a Sunday, and I seem to've had a run of bad luck with the Robin Hole gathers clashing with other things :lol: . It's impossible to find a date that's going to suit everyone, even if you're only trying to get a few people together, so there's no way round that! I've been to day gathers, though, and I take your point about knitting :lol:, but there've also been quizzes and drabble-reading and, of course :D, food, though, and that's all been great, and many thanks to the people who've organised those.

I like the idea of meeting up in a GO/CS location, though - that would be something different, and more directly CBB-related. Please, please don't anyone take offence at this, but it seems to me that a lot of the people who regularly attend Gathers are people who rarely post on the CBB these days. Please don't anyone take that the wrong way - you are all lovely people and have made me feel very welcome at day Gathers - but I wonder if newer members may feel that they'd be meeting up with people whom they hadn't had the opportunity to "meet" on the Board, if that makes sense, and that something more directly based on the CS world might help to attract new people.

I hope that's come across OK - *runs away to join Catherine*.

Author:  LucyP [ 20 Oct 2012, 18:03 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

'Takes a deep breath and plucks up courage' the moment, I am full time caring for my parents and am not able even to do whole day events...but in the fulness of time, one of the things I would love to do is a Gather. But, I've read all the threads about the Robin Hole gather, and I noticed that the post-gather posts (what a clumsy phrase) said how nice it was to see everyone AGAIN. This made me think, well if everyone knows everyone else then I'd feel out of place anyway. Which says more about my personality defects probably, but there you go.
And since it could be a while till I'm able to attend a Gather, feel free to ignore totally the ramblings above.

Author:  cestina [ 20 Oct 2012, 20:05 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

I've never yet managed to get to a Gather but have always wanted to - I'm trying to make sure I am in the country when the MK one happens next year.

My main reason for going would be to meet more of the people who post on CBB (though I am doing pretty well with "private" meetings :D ) So I was a little taken aback to read in Alison's post that the majority of those attending Gathers are rare current posters. It would still be nice to meet them but I can see Lucy's point about feeling out of things perhaps.

Where I really would feel out of things is if there is truly a focus on knitting! I used to love to knit but arthritis in my hands now means that I can't and there is nothing more frustrating for me than to be faced with a row of happy knitters!

But if there are quizzes and so on that might make up for it :D

Author:  Alison H [ 20 Oct 2012, 20:24 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

I didn't mean the majority - I just meant that there are a fair few people who regularly attend Gathers (and they're all very nice!) who were active posters in the past but aren't around on the Board much now. Please rest assured that you'd meet plenty of current posters too!

(There has to be a better word than "posters", but you know what I mean!)

Inevitably, when there are people who've met each other many times before, someone who's never been to a Gather previously may well, as Emma and Lucy said, feel a bit nervy. IMO, having a focus on activities which are mainly related to the CS and the CBB might be the best way of making everyone feel included, but obviously other people might totally disagree :D.

I'll shut up and go and watch The X Factor now ...

Author:  Sugar [ 20 Oct 2012, 20:51 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

I think part of the problem is whatever the Gather organisers do, we aren't getting new people attending and Gathers aren't just about those who post on the board.

And this latest Gather wasn't very much like the usual Gathers, for a variety of reasons. A few of the organising committee have had huge problems in their personal lives and we were all conscious that this would be the first Gather without Aunty Pat and knew that most of us would find that incredibly hard. So some of the activities didn't happen.

There does seem to have been rather a lot of knitting, possibly more so than normal, but a lot of the knitters were knitting Aunty Pat's bears. (For those of you would don't know AP knitted bears for kids in Cambodia and someone suggested we knitted some in her memory) Knitting isn't the focus of the Gathers (and shouldn't be in my opinion) so not being able to knit shouldn't put people off attending. We've had progressive games, quizzes, dressing up, group drabbles, murder mystery and team games in the past so there should be something for everyone.

Lucy, we love having new faces at Gathers and although some of us know each other - none of us bite and we are welcoming and none of us bite, but after nearly a decade of Gathers some of us do know other Cbbers very well.

Personally, I love the idea of going off exploring somewhere CS in real life with like minded people but I also like the current Gather weekend locations.

Author:  Clare W [ 20 Oct 2012, 21:58 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

I love the Gathers and I always love meeting new Gatherers! I don't mean any offence to Gatherers I have met before but I love putting faces to names of Gatherers I haven't met before! I get really excited about this before the Gather!

At next year's Milton Keynes Gather, (I guess that is the location), I don't think it is just a day Gather as it is the Anniversary Gather. I am waiting in great anticipation for the date to be announced! I suggested about a year ago that the Gather had sheepdogs assigned to new Gatherers to make them feel welcomed etc.

I can't knit very well but I do enjoy chatting to everyone - my SLOC says these Gatherers are a good excuse to natter.

Author:  jmc [ 20 Oct 2012, 22:21 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

Personally I would love to go to a gather but it is just a little bit far to go. But I am hoping to go to the UK next year and if it coincides with a gather then I will be trying to make an appearance. I don't care what the activities are, I would just love to meet some people who like CS books.

Author:  Kate [ 20 Oct 2012, 22:21 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

For new people: I've attended two big gathers and the first time I knew absolutely nobody in RL. The second time I only knew a few people. I do have to say that at all times I felt 100% welcomed and involved. I didn't have a chance to feel shy or lonely. And my knitting skills aren't good! I do remember lots of activities and fun. And yummy food.

I can imagine that the last one wasn't altogether typical, due to Pat's death.

I do like the idea of mixing it up though. Although, it costs a LOT for me to come from Ireland though, so I don't see it happening in the near future.

Author:  Spoot [ 21 Oct 2012, 01:23 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

If it makes new people feel better, the first Gather I attended I knew no one (I think it was only the second gather). As I stood in Heathrow waiting for Kathye to pick me up (yup, getting into a car with someone I only knew from online), I did wonder if I were insane, but it all turned out very, very well (even if, apparently, I was nothing like people expected me to be).

Author:  Liz K [ 21 Oct 2012, 07:29 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

I've only been to one Gather and that was MK just for the Sunday a few years ago.

And I remember meeting up with Elle and Jennie and 3-4 others in Peterborough one day, going for a coffee and then going on to Peakirks. Excellent day, that, I think Elle put some photos on here.

Author:  Liane [ 21 Oct 2012, 11:52 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

I'd never met anyone before my first Gather (Robin Hole) but everyone was lovely. And I love when people gather who haven't done before!
There are usually more things going on than happened this time, but to me it's the company that's the main thing not what we do. Personally I enjoy the Gathers at Robin Hole and Heron's Lodge but I can see that kind of thing might not be for everyone and mixing it up a little may be a way to go (depending on finances :D)

Author:  Kathy_S [ 22 Oct 2012, 04:38 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

I've also only attended two Gathers, given that air fare is prohibitive – it takes years to save up. Obviously for me, the longer the Gather the better I can justify the visit – popping over for a day would be a little too insane. (Yes, I told my colleagues the first one was a convention of book collectors.)

For the first one, I was pretty intimidated, and might have backed out if I hadn't volunteered for the organizing committee and already roped a non-CS-reading friend into preparation of a large number of lime green neckerchiefs for semaphore and other activities fitting the CS in Camp theme. This also meant I had a role (teaching turk's head woggles etc.), which I find less scary than trying to fit immediately into the conversations of a group of people who already know each other. It also helped that I was lucky enough to meet first with a few welcoming individuals with whom I'd spoken extensively on-line rather than jumping right into the larger group. There were a LOT of activities that weekend, ranging from the very active (rounders, country dancing) to sedentary.

The second was a Milton Keynes Gather, which certainly did include some knitting (Not by me) and chatting, but also featured such things as a CS murder mystery and CS-themed skits (They weren't called skits, but the name of the British TV show escapes me.) And excellent food!

I still hope to join in a Robin Hole gather one of these years, though they are usually during term time. Maybe if I make it to retirement?

I love the idea of visiting some bona fide CS sites with fellow enthusiasts. Maybe we could even revive the idea of getting a CBB tour group together to go to Austria? Guernsey also sounds fascinating. (Just would need it not when I'm teaching or too broke. Dratted real life.)

Author:  Nicola [ 22 Oct 2012, 14:39 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

I love the idea of a Guernsey trip as a one-off! I don't think such expeditions could replace the weekend gathers because the cost would be prohibitive to so many people, which is why we've stuck to the same basic accommodation for several years (there's nothing to prevent people booking into a travelodge or B&B nearby if they don't like the option of a bunk in a dorm...)

There wasn't a huge amount of organised CS activity at the recent Robin Hole gather, but there were quizzes, a caption competition, and the option of writing bedtime drabbles available (and relatively few gatherers chose to participate, although there was fierce debate over Dawn's evil puzzles!)

There were a couple of group activities that the organisers had planned for Saturday, but which didn't take place, as so many people wanted first, to be out on the moors on a beautiful Autumn day (very much in the CS spirit, I feel! especially when we left the fruit behind and had to telegraph for help...) and later to visit the bookshop. As there was nobody new in the group to consider, it seemed reasonable to go with fewer formal CS activities, rather than drag less than enthusiastic gatherers in to participating.

Author:  Dawn [ 22 Oct 2012, 15:24 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

I’ve been attending gathers since I think the second year they started and over that time there have been definite requests for less organised gathers. This Robin Hole, despite advertising on the CBB there were no newbies coming at all – in the past I’ve pm’d local-ish board members who from posts have appeared to be interested to try to find out if they would like to come and what would make it more/less likely and have had little response. Because there was not going to be anyone who didn’t know at least a majority of the people there, those who were involved in the planning felt there was less need to have everything structured. Apologies from me at least if this was read wrongly.

There is an issue with booking Robin Hole in that the Leeds Guiders who run the site are now meant to give preference to Leeds Guide groups and Guiding Groups in general. However if we book early (ie when I hand back the key and pay them) they have so far been ammenable to our continued booking and I’ve already requested an october booking for next year.

I have very vague memories of someone trying really hard to organise a CS visit, possibly to Austria and it all petering out because of people not commiting themselves – apologies if my memory is totally false on details! I would love to have a gather at other CS venues but the cost I suspect would be a lot higher. The total cost for Robin Hole was under £30 this year. We are lucky that it is a very cheap venue and booking train tickets in advance or car sharing helps to keep costs down. I certainly couldn’t afford to pay for foreign travel or even a weekend of eating out and staying in a travel lodge – I would assume that even with early booking and room sharing (and I would have accessibilty issues as well as not all TLs etc are disabled friendly when it comes to twin rooms) the cost of a weekend like that would be at least £100.

I personally love meeting up with the CBBers I already know, but would also love to meet some of the people who post on here and don’t do gathers – I would love to know what we can do to encourage you to come and join in and PLEASE don’t be shy about voicing concerns or what you would like to do at a gather.

Apologies for not replying to the thread earlier, as I think quite a few people are aware, I’m having elderly mother issues and the last few days it’s all gone downhill again.

(eta - oops Nicola posted while I was writing out post and getting lunch - apologies for overlaps)

Author:  Alison H [ 22 Oct 2012, 16:03 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

Would people be interested in having more regional day Gathers, which is what FOCS do? They have the obvious limitation of being restricted to people in the area, although there'd be nothing to stop someone from Plymouth going to a Gather in Aberdeen if they were willing to make the journey :D, but it'd reduce the issues of time and cost, and the need to commit yourself well in advance because of arranging and paying for accommodation. There'd still be the problem that it'd be impossible to find a day on which no-one was working/on holiday/going to their cousin's wedding/whatever, but there's no way round that, and if it wasn't far to travel then people could arrive late or leave early if they had other commitments.

Dawn - hope your mum is OK.

Author:  KathrynW [ 22 Oct 2012, 16:08 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

Speaking as someone who has been involved in organising a couple of gathers, there are a couple of points I want to make/reiterate comments made be others.

I realise that Robin Hole and Heron's Lodge aren't perfect locations but there are very few places where we can get the space and accommodation that we need for the price. I spent a lot of time researching potential new venues for next year's gather (and asked the board for suggestions and got none) and I couldn't find anywhere that was close to a train station, had proper kitchen facilities and had room enough to sleep 30 for £15 each (which is roughly what 2 nights in HL is).

The cost for the weekend gathers, excluding transport, is generally about £30 including food, drink, activities etc. I recently went to a non-residential weekend of similar activities that cost £300. I can only speak about the gathers that I've helped organise but we have tried so hard to keep the costs reasonable. I love the idea of a trip to Guernsey but I can pretty much guarantee that it will cost more than £30.

In terms of the activities, I think it varies from gather to gather and as Dawn said, we had a lot of requests for less activities and more social time which we have tried to do. I can guarantee that I've always had an excellent time at gathers despite never going near any knitting needles! We are always looking for people to help us organise gathers and plan activities but our pleas are normally met with silence which is why the same group of people tend to organise them year after year.

There is also nothing to stop people setting up their own day gathers - we went through a phase of having regular London meet ups and I know other parts of the country do the same and I'm sure more gathers, whether big or small, would always be welcome.

Oh and I've been brewing up some kumquat liqueur for next year's gather so we're *bound* to all be friends after that...

Author:  Joey [ 22 Oct 2012, 16:14 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

I've never been to a weekend Gather. When Milton Keynes and Yorkshire were more accessible I couldn't possibly afford it, and now that I can afford it, they're not particularly accessible. There also never seems to be much notice of when the Gathers are going to take place. I'm interested to hear that you have to book a year in advance, Dawn, as it's lack of notice of Gathers that is one of the things that prevents me joining in these days. We only ever seem to be given the date a few weeks in advance so I'm usually fully booked. With a bit more notice - say six or nine months - I might be able to consider it for next year. I do appreciate that this is one of the headaches for organisers, though, and quite possibly more people find less notice easier to work with!

I have attended and organised Gathers, which are a very different kettle of fish but perhaps have some of the same issues. My first Gather was a day gather in London, and I organised one (or was it two?) in Cambridge. I've been in Scotland four years now, and have attended four Gathers, one of which I hosted and one I partly organised. I imagine that some of the issues that occurred to me will also be considerations for the organisers of the larger Gathers. Are there any new people? Are we all new? If some of us know each other and there are some newbies, how do we make sure everyone feels welcome? Do we want a quiz or competition or will people just be happy to chat? Once people have met a few times there is definitely an element of Gathers being a meeting of old friends as much as a chance to make and meet new friends. We even have one Scottish Gatherer who doesn't post any more, and a couple of people who post quite rarely.

I too love the idea of a locational Gather. I've always wanted to go to Guernsey and Hereford / the Marches are an interesting part of the world. SLOC and I are going back to Achensee next year so I probably wouldn't join in with a Gather there. However, since there are people within the UK who find the cost of travelling to Milton Keynes or Robin Hole prohibitive (although £30 for a whole weekend seems like excellent value), let alone those from further afield, I suspect such a trip would be an organisational nightmare for whoever took it on.

I'd just like to end by thanking everyone who has ever organised any kind of Gather, whether it's a large weekend affair or a smaller day Gather. They are an excellent way of getting to know people, and I met two of my dearest friends in the world at Gathers, as well as many other friends. Since people still attend and enjoy the Milton Keynes and Robin Hole Gathers it seems there is definitely a place for them, and the threads in the Gathering forum attest that meny people attend and enjoy the smaller local Gathers, too.

Author:  Nicola [ 22 Oct 2012, 17:08 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

I agree that plenty of notice is helpful for those of us with busy diaries. I think it depends how far in advance organisers are able to confirm bookings with the venue. The last Robin Hole gather was first posted on the board back in February, but reminders and sign-ups tend to be about 6-8 weeks ahead.

Author:  Joey [ 22 Oct 2012, 17:42 ]
Post subject:  Re: Gathers

Nicola wrote:
I agree that plenty of notice is helpful for those of us with busy diaries. I think it depends how far in advance organisers are able to confirm bookings with the venue. The last Robin Hole gather was first posted on the board back in February, but reminders and sign-ups tend to be about 6-8 weeks ahead.

I don't remember seeing it in February, but I will look more carefully in future! I'm usually booked up 8 - 10 weeks ahead, so eight weeks' notice is pushing it and six is unlikely ever to be possible. I do know that I'm only one person, though, and I don't expect people to change the way they do things for my convenience.

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