Views from March 2013

  1. photograph of prawn sandwiches 13 Mar

    Tourism in York

  2. Global Service Jam 2013 05 Mar

    Jane Wood reflects on taking part in Global Service Jam 2013

photograph of prawn sandwiches

Tourism in York

13 March 2013

"I seem to have eaten a lot of prawn sandwiches since 1992. You know the scenario? There’s a forty minute gap in proceedings labelled ‘lunch’ and you have a numb bum from sitting through six powerpoint presentations on the trot and your brain is rebelling at all that VISUAL SHOUTING. What you want is some grown up dialogue, and in the queue you rediscover the art of two way communication. But then, so keen are you to maintain encouraging eye contact that you end up grabbing the only thing on the buffet table that you can trust to be what it looks like ... the prawn sandwich. With maybe a few crisps. Things have been this way for as long as I have been attending events labelled ‘planning workshop’ or ‘consultation’. These are the intellectual equivalent of modern snacking so no wonder most ‘workshops’ are so ultimately unsatisfying for participants and so ‘samey’ in their outcomes.

"What a joy then, to participate with a bunch of mouthy types from all sorts of jobs and backgrounds, in a no holds barred conversation on tourism in York. It matters that our purpose was to think about a strategy for tourism in York rather than a strategy for the city’s tourism organisation, Visit York. If it is to succeed everyone involved needs to understand and to play their part and that means they have to help write the script in the first place. The first event opens with a call for anyone to say what they think the strategy should be about. No briefing, no statistics, no recaps or reviews of ‘progress to date’: just ‘What is important to you?’. In no time at all dozens of topics meaty enough for a half day discussion were on the table. World cafe-style sessions followed and by the end of the day a tired looking co-ordinator was promising to appear a week later for round two, based on a condensed summary of the first set of discussion topics.

"The second event sounded different – less a roar than a concentrated hum in the room. As Jane Gibson (Chair of Visit York) said, there should be no hanging about for the strategy to emerge. If there was a critical mass to make something happen – then we should just get on with it. Likely projects are:

  • the coordination needed to attract and deliver bigger, better business conferences
  • a concerted effort to fill the gap between 5pm closing and 7pm starts for evening entertainment
  • and the something more needed to celebrate the Rivers Foss and Ouse that course through, and sometimes invade, the city.

"All this needs steering but the vision and, evidently, the leadership are not lacking. Steve Watson, of York St John, who smoothly joined the dots for these sessions, is convening a conference later this month to bring some external views to bear on the city. It’s free to attend, and no doubt will see some more free thinking. At this rate I shall soon forget the taste of a prawn sandwich!"

Chris Bailey
12 March 2013