To Derby, for the sixth in the series of "Involvement Events" hosted across the East Midlands by the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership. Dee (from LCIL) drives Taherah (from TREC) and me through from Leicester. We leave just after eight and would have got there in double-quick time if Dee's sat nav hadn't thrown her off when we arrive in Derby city centre by telling her to take the third turning off a roundabout that doesn't appear to be there.
Today's venue, The Spot, is very "clubby". There's no natural light, the air conditioning is noisy and the place is festooned with posters for appearances by the "UK's number 1 tribute act!" (self-proclaimed, methinks) for a variety of turns: Calvin Stardust, Mylie Minogue, Rake That (I might have made those names up, but you get the picture). A great night's entertainment plus a three-course meal for only £22.95. Well, at least the venue is central and should be easy to find, but the whole place is fraught with roadworks and the venue itself appears to be in the middle of a building site, like an unfinished Spanish resort hotel. The sound of drilling outside occasionally intrudes on our presentations and discussions.
We have 10 attendees from the Voluntary and Community Sector when we get underway, a few minutes late to accomodate those delayed by the roadworks. I'm chairing the morning session. Dee's presenting the Beginner's Guide to REDP and Ian (from the LGBT Centre) is operating the slides. His is the hardest job in the first session, as Dee does a fair bit of extemporising. She has much more historical knowledge related to this project (particularly knowledge about a number of failed attempts to do something similar across the region in the past); well, she just has much more knowledge about this, full stop. She's the best known of all of us who make up the core partners of REDP; she can speak with authority and experience, but not necessarilly to the running order of the slides!
I haven't said much about the workshops that form such an important part of the progrmme at these events. We've been using this "world cafe" model for workshops at these events, where participants are invited to write or draw on the paper covers we put on the tables they sit around. If you've ever taken part in a workshop where you've felt that your views aren't being recorded (and felt that means your contribution has not been respected) then the world cafe approach is an antidote to that. You get the chance to write down your own thoughts and feelings there and then. There's an REDP staffer sitting in on the discussions on each table as scribe too, so hopefully, just about everything gets recorded. These paper table cloths and notes are being compiled into one set of notes, for sending out to all those who have participated in these Involvement Events once they're over. All very good and well, but then, there's the pens ... we started using some alcohol-based pens, in a variety of bold colours, but we got complaints about their intoxicating properties when working with them so close up for the hour or so that these workshops take. At our event in Loughborough, Laura nipped out to buy some non-intoxicating pens, but these older ones refuse to die, and keep turning up, no matter that we think we've chucked them away!
The questions to be considered by each of the workshops are:
"What should REDP look like and what model best fits the needs?"
"How do you ensure engagement of all organisations?"
"What are the natural organisations that could sit on the core reference group to not only represent your views but also work in partnership?"
"What do you think are the key issues that should be considered at a regional level for your area?"
Mind you, we all know what Alexei Sayle said about anyone who uses the word "workshop" who isn't connected with light engineering, don't we?
We have the services of two palantypists today, who keep a full record of the day's proceedings, although the person for whom we'd booked them doesn't appear at the meeting. Gill Croft's website is http://www.gillcroftpalantype.co.uk/; Georgina Ford can be contacted on email@example.com
After lunch (the first hot one we've been offered on any of these events) we're joined by another ten people from the public and private sector, making this the best attended of these events so far. Ian takes over the chairing. Carolyn Pascoe presents her "Profile of Derby" based on published statistics. She gets more vigorous interogation today then she probably has at any of the earlier events, but rides the wave in her usual confident and professional manner.
Next up it's me, presenting half an hour on the Equality Bill. Since we have to use a hand mic today, I feel that makes me a little more awkward and a little less natural with the presentation. The projector (provided by the venue) blacks out halfway through my presentation. I prefer not to use PowerPoint and can happily cope with that; but if it goes off halfway through, that's not quite so easy to deal with. Still it gets done, though having to move into the audience with the mic for questions is also stiff and awkward - especially if people actually shrink from me when I approach them with the microphone! At the end of my presentation, Dee takes the opportunity to emphasise the importance of Carolyn's stat-based presentation and clarifies how that aspect of REDP's work will become more of a two-way process.
There's a question why so much time is being given to the Equality Bill, when surely we're preaching to the converted on this topic. An assumption's being made that everyone who attends a meeting such as this will know the Equality Bill inside out, but that proves not to be so. During the break in the afternoon session, two attendees (one from the public sector, the other from the private) confess to me that this is the first time thy've been onb the receiving end of any presentation on the Equality Bill, that their employers, although they have clear interest in it, have not provided any kind of briefing on it.
For the second time in this series of events, Vidar Hjarding is our guest speaker, bringing proceedings to a close. Vidar, who is blind, is Diversity Manager for ITV News Group. There's some interesting discussion about the relationship between diversity and equality in the context of Vidar's work. You can read a profile of Vidar at: