Another busy weekend – this time off to the Manchester Festival of Nature where I was running a stall for the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and also doing four talks in the story-telling tent. The festival was one of a series organised as part of the BBC’s Summer of Wildlife, and was the second I have done – and it was interesting for what it did and did not achieve.
It took place in Heaton Park – the largest park in Greater Manchester, and up in the north of the city in an area that has yet to be attacked by gentrification. Part of the reasoning for having it up there was to engage with a different demographic – if it had been in south Manchester (where I used to live, in Chorlton, there is a gorgeous park that would have been perfect) – it would have been flooded (appropriate as it is a water park) by the well-to-do middle-classes who have made the area their home. So would the Heaton Park event do what it set out to do?
To some extent – the weather was not perfect – or at least the weather forecast had been off-putting. The day itself had only a brief flurry of rain. And there was plenty of indoor activities. But there were far fewer people than I expected – despite the presence of CBBC superstar Naomi Wilkinson. And of the people who came to my stall and who came to my talks, there was, on asking, quite a high proportion who had travelled from the far side of the city … so what does it take to reach out into an audience who might not be used to coming to such a potentially fulfilling event?
I am not, for a rare change, writing this to tell people what to do … I am just interested in ways of reaching a working class demographic. Hedgehog-love is not restricted to class! But there are clearly some obstacles to getting people to come to such an event, despite it being free.
That is not to say that I did not have a great time (though someone did nick the clay hedgehog I had made … and only £3 was put into the BHPS collecting box). The story-telling sessions I did were well-attended … and we did eventually (halfway through) reach an agreement with the next door tent of drummers so that the shut the &*%$ up for a while. Loads of clay hedgehogs were made, and I talked to many people about how best to run your garden for a hedgehog’s delight … pushing Hedgehog Street as well.
Oh, and Naomi was a big fan … I had to re-do my ‘How to train your robin’ story as she had missed it … though she did manage to find a way of wriggle out of making her own clay hedgehog …
It was fascinating to see how children reacted to her – she has a magnetic impact on them – are they attracted to her simply because she is on TV? Or does she possess a particular magic? I know that my daughter has been hooked, and that Mati has requested that I get divorced, in order that I can re-marry Zoe and be on the show ‘Marrying mum and dad‘ that Naomi has been presenting! For me, though, her wonderfulness is entirely linked to the fact that she interviewed me on Blue Peter … earning me a Blue Peter badge!