#campED14: bananas, werewolves and sing-songs…

Cliffe House

Wow. Just wow.

Having taken part in the first event two years ago (#campED12, at Helen Daykin‘s fab mum’s beautiful farm at Oxenhope), I had sent the past few months gradually getting increasingly excited at the prospect of #campED14 – and hoping it would come close to matching it, in some way… but also letting myself remember that it was a REALLY tough act to follow; that numbers booking for the second one had not quite matched expectations; that certain key attendees from the first one would not be with us; that one of the brightest lights of #campED12, Bev Evans, was no longer with us… Dan Bowen reminded us of both on Twitter with his suggested hashtags: #haveabeerforDan and #singasongforBev. Dan: we did both, it’s fair to report!

Once again, Dughall McCormick and Bill Lord had driven the whole event, gradually GoogleDoc-ing the framework into life, as more and more elements fell/were gently bashed into place. Crucial, to my mind, was a sense that we must somehow retain the essential DNA of the first CampED: that is to say, create a scenario whereby like-minded folk of all ages could come together, share a weekend of fun, chat, educational hi-jinks that felt oh-so-very far-removed from the data-driven pressures of “Your Average Classroom” (whatever that is; no answers on a postcard, please)… and crucially, allow for plentiful spaces in between the more organised sessions for The World To Be Set To Rights. Repeatedly. (‘cos it does have a way of spinning back out of kilter if you leave if for just 5 minutes, that blinking World… 😉

The crucial difference between #campED12 and #campED14 was the choice of venue. Don’t get me wrong: I still have wonderful, vivid memories of chipping ice off my tent, in 2012… trudging down to hay-bale seated sessions in the barn… Twitternames in chalk on the barn walls… day-time astronomy… football and ribena with Chris Mayoh… sharing lunch with wandering chickens – and then cooking their delicious eggs to knock up brekkie with Tony Parkin (I provided the Trangia-cooked scramblies, he threw in the sausage rolls)… spending hours looking for John Sayers in his tent, only to realise he had been in the East Wing all along, not in the Library, Billiard Room or Pantry as we had assumed… 😉

And so on. I could keep reminiscing about Oxenhope all day, but this post is trying to be about #campED14 – and Dughall’s epiphany had brought us to the incredible Cliffe House in Shepley, which provided huge amounts of (by us, rather underused) dormitory accommodation, a simply wonderful classroom space for sessions to thumb their noses at the teeming rain, a superb concert hall/bar/dining room for our Saturday evening festivities, and outdoor learning areas which brought smiles to children of all ages… If, as looks likely, Cliffe House becomes a regular venue for future #campEDNorths (more on that new hashtag in a bit!), we could not ask for a better setting. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the fabulous cooked breakfasts provided by the wonderful staff – for all, even those under canvas. I didn’t even dig my Trangia out of the car!

But the vast majority of us did still camp (don’t tell my wife! I’m trying to persuade her to come to the next one!), and one of the indelible highlights of the weekend was watching car after car struggle to make its way back out of the camp field, up Tony Parkin’s lovingly-created new piece of civil engineering*…

Tony P road

[*Irony: Tony himself nearly lost the front third of his car when he made his surge up the muddy slope, oblivious to the waving arms of those on the lookout for fast-approaching traffic!]

A few of us (eventually) made it to Shepley, and the correct meeting-pub, on the Friday evening, but the event really got going on Saturday morning, with a familiarly wide range of organised sessions on offer. The weather was doing its best – and failing miserably – to dampen spirits, but with the on-site classroom at our disposal, indoor activities were on the bill first: extracting DNA from bananas, under the expert eyes of Richard and Jo Badge and their two girls, at one end of the room, and a session on stop motion animation with Martin Bailey at the other, which is where I found myself.

We used a package called Zu3D, run on laptops equipped with Hue HD USB visualisers*, cardboard stages and a whole range of spacemen, aliens, “moonrock” and plasticine equipped with the obligatory googley eyes. After a fantastically clear presentation from Martin, in a matter of minutes, would-be Nick Parks were creating wonderfully imaginative cartoons, and having huge amounts of fun in the process. I can’t wait until Martin emails me my (slightly disturbing) creation!

*Incidentally, I have been using a visualiser like this in my classroom for quite a while now, and find it invaluable. Here’s a post I wrote on it.

As I have previously mentioned, what might at other conferences seem like “dead space” between sessions/meals/etc. is actually the best bit about #campED. The children take the lead, and watching young people aged between 2 and 17 interact, play, laugh, boot a ball about and so on is just wonderful. Hats off to the bigger kids for being such wonderful playmates for the younger ones… I also had several highly interesting conversations, during these “gaps”, with people I had never really had a chance to talk with before, including Tom Whitehead and Ceri Williams, two fascinating guys with whom I hope to work more closely in the future. If only people like that were in charge of education in this country…

The weather improved during Saturday afternoon, allowing many of us to take part in a giant orienteering extravaganza. Despite being teamed up with Tony in what was later called the “Orienteering Dream-Team” (or was it “Bill and Ben”?), we had our bottoms handed to us on a plate by younger, sprightlier teams, squeaking in one minute under the hour after getting 3 of the 20 laminated cards wrong. D’oh! What a fantastic way to get to know the site better, though. It really is a superb place…

The evening saw the weather close in again, but as we had repaired to the roofed-in “Coach House”, by now equipped with café-style tables and chairs, a mobile bar from a local brewhouse and some very tasty food, we simply didn’t care. We gradually cared even less, as the Nook Blonde flowed… 😉 and once Bill’s son Josh (on guitar) and Ceri (on flügelhorn) took to the “stage”, and jammed their way through a few preliminary numbers, the atmosphere was really warming up. BYOD then allowed the musicians to call up guitar tab sites for requested songs, while others accessed the lyrics on their phones. We still managed to make singing look extremely difficult, but our version of “American Pie” will live long in the memory (almost as long as the song itself lasted), and the way “Valerie” lapsed into “Marjorie” was the cause of considerable mirth. I personally would have preferred “Lola” to be about an octave and a half lower, but hey… 😉

And so to “Werewolf”, a superb game compèred with deft skill and not inconsiderable dramatic impact by Drew Buddie‘s son Euan. I won’t go into the detail of how the game works here – but suffice to say, it is great, and Jamie and Dawn Hallybone‘s daughter Phoebe’s contribution will live even longer in the memory… #villageidiot 😉

There was still time for a wee dram back at the house before turning in after a great first day…

Sunday followed a similar format to Saturday, starting with a delicious cooked brekkie in the house, and continuing with sessions dodging the showers. I ran a session exploring a Jacques Prévert poem by using a dual language approach, and eliciting some lovely artwork from the participants.

poempoem 2

Other sessions included what looked like a very entertaining one on algorithms by Catherine Elliott, and once the weather improved a game of Tagtiv8 run by Bryn Llewellyn. I didn’t see it played, but it sounded very intriguing! A group of us meanwhile headed off around the village and immediate surroundings for a walk. The route was beautifully explained – along with a bit of local history – in a map/leaflet we got in the House. Rolling fields, lush woodland, plenty of mud, a cluster of Shetland ponies, a fairly continual view of Emley Moor transmitting tower. All-in-all, a lovely jaunt, which some cut slightly short when the draw of a nice cuppa grew too strong, whilst others kept going, and as-if-by-magic found themselves in a local hostelry watching the last bit of the Rotherham-Leyton Orient game! 😉

Emley Moorwalkers

Sunday evening was pub supper night out for all, and the Sovereign Inn up the road did us proud, with delicious food, good ales and very patient serving staff, having to manage the bill (split about 17 ways)! We followed this with a second game of “Werewolf”, which was surprisingly different to the first one – due no doubt to the fact that almost all participants had already “tasted blood” the previous evening, and played a much more tactical game as a result. Gradually the campEDers headed for bed, with Dughall and Ceri tail-gunners at about 4.30 a.m…

Monday morning dawned with bright sun and blue sky replacing the mostly damp, grey clouds of the past two days. just in time to dry out tents and ground sheets, to provide ideal conditions for pushing cars out of the field, and for relaxed, sun-kissed goodbyes. Little by little, tired pockets of people reluctantly took to the road home. We all know we’ll be back for more next year, though!

Thanks SO much to everybody for making #campED14 such an utterly splendiferous occasion, and particular thanks to Bill and to Dughall for making it all happen. You are both legends. I really hope we can get the word out even better in future… without the event getting unwieldy and too big for its own good. This is a line we will have to tread carefully, I feel.


STOP PRESS: following a conversation with Bill on the Monday morning, I have started the wheels in motion to get a Southern franchise of the #campED model off the ground, hopefully around the 24th October 2014, hopefully at Avon Tyrrell in the New Forest. Follow @campEDSouth on Twitter for more information, as well as the newly-launched Camp ED page on Facebook. Lots of people already on board! Woo hoo!!!!! 🙂



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