Thanks to all those who responded to the survey questionnaire about the 2019 festival. In general, feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we are so glad people enjoyed the event. A lot of hard work goes into it and giving up our free time to the organisation is only worth it if people like what we do.
We would say that everyone is different. Some people express a strong opinion in favour of something while someone else says the exact opposite. If we don’t take on board your specific suggestion, that may be why. For example, one respondent requested that we stop providing water bottles as they don’t like the taste of plastic and ‘everyone has enough water bottles already’. In contrast, many people say they love receiving the bottles and they are only ones they have. Same goes with the talks – what appeals to some people totally turns other people off. Some people want more technical talks, others want more introductory talks. Some people want more sessions about far-flung destinations, others wants more on cycling in the UK. Some people loved the informal meet-up sessions we introduced this year, others said they needed more structure. Our job is to sift through the responses and try and organise a festival which works for everyone.
Saying that, we wanted to respond to some specific points, so here goes.
- Capacity: we know the rooms were very full this year. We will cap numbers slightly lower next year. Most speakers want to show slides, and so we haven’t been able to put them in the marquee as it’s too light in there. We’re looking into options for this next year, so we can make better use of the marquee, as a bigger space.
- Repeating sessions: a few people have asked if we could repeat some sessions each day. The timetable just doesn’t allow for this – we had very few spare slots this year and it was already a struggle to fit everything in. It’s also sometimes hard to predict in advance which the most popular sessions will be, and which would merit repeating. A final reason we don’t do this is that all our speakers are volunteers and asking them to repeat a session twice is a big ask, especially for those who are more nervous. Sorry if it means you have to choose between different talks, and miss out on some things – it’s a testament to how many great speakers we have.
- Making slides or talk recordings available online: I’m afraid we have no plans to do this. It would take time and manpower to record talks and sessions and upload them. We’re happy to upload slides or information sheets onto the website, where speakers provide these to us.
- Environmental issues: we are continuing to work hard on reducing the festival’s environmental impact. Things have improved a lot over recent years and Waddow Hall have been very receptive to our requests to provide eco-friendly food packaging and to stop using disposable glasses in the bar. However, things could be improved – we want them to mark recycling points more clearly and reduce waste even more.
- Talks and sustainability: thanks to all those who have suggested we focus more on cycle tours without flying. This year, for the first time, the need to reduce ecological footprint through flying less seems to have come onto people’s radar with a bang. We are very pleased and will definitely be incorporating this into the programme next year.
- Food: we are considering making the festival entirely vegetarian next year. We have noticed an increasing demand for vegetarian and vegan options over the last few years and it would make catering simpler if it was all vegetarian.
- Bottles (and other merchandise): many people love the bottles, one or two people have said we shouldn’t bother. The bottles we offer are always BPA free and it means we don’t have to provide glasses (disposable plastic or otherwise) as people already have a drinking vessel. We won’t stop providing them completely, but may make them optional if we can work out a simple way to do this when people buy their ticket. We’d love to offer other festival merchandise, such as t-shirts or enamel mugs, but simply haven’t had the time to do this up to now. If you want to take charge of this for next year, get in touch.
- Noticeboards: several people have requested noticeboards where people can post questions and answers. We have tried similar things in the past but will definitely look at them again for next year. We will be looking for a volunteer to take this on.
- Meet-ups: these were informal sessions on particular topics. In general, they went down well but we think they could be improved. We will try them again next year, and will be looking for a volunteer to co-ordinate them.
- Venue: we appreciate there were issues with showers this year and have passed this on to Waddow Hall. We have already arranged for an extra campsite next year, as things were getting crowded this year.