Hello all, it’s been some time since I updated you properly on what’s been happening. Now that the OggCamp dust is beginning to settle though and life is moving back towards normality ( or my version of it anyway), I can afford to reflect a little on how things went. I’m not going to get into a detailed breakdown of every day events for the last 3 weeks I’ve missed, that would be like torture, for you and me both. So I’ll just concentrate on telling you my story of the OggCamp weekend itself.
The week leading up to OggCamp was very busy as I welcomed Fab and his party of four Germans to my home. We managed to find room for all the guests fairly easily with almost every room in the house doubling as an emergency bedroom, apart from the bathroom that is, nobody had to sleep in the bath but it was close. We even had an extra guest as Anna arrived the next day. It was nice to have a house full of people and everyone seemed to enjoy it, but I must confess it’s nice to get your own space back too after a week. I prepared for the Rathole Radio gig by practising with the band in between other jobs. On Friday 30th of April I headed over to Liverpool with my mate H and a car full of audio gear. He brought his decks to DJ at the gig and was a great help overall in setting things up. We dropped the kit off at Bad Format, did a little prep work and then headed on to meet Andy (another old friend and partner in crime) at the Everyman Theatre. He kindly lent me a lectern for OggCamp and we loaded that into my little car then took it to The Black-E. Now, the weather had been nice 2 weekends in a row leading up to this and I’d already given up any hope of it being sunny again, but I hadn’t quite expected the torrential downpour we had on Friday. As we tried to move the lectern from the car into the Black-E it was already filling up with water. I joked to H “If this rain keeps up we’ll have to turn this into a canoe!”. From there I dropped him back at Bad Format and ran backwards and forth with various kit throughout the afternoon and evening. I was also planning to check into the apartment we’d rented with friends for the weekend. Luckily Kevan managed to take care of this though and it took a load off me. A very nice place I must say and I enjoyed staying there, a large city centre apartment on two floors with plenty of beds and a cool open plan kitchen/lounge. It made a great base for a few of us but I still don’t understand why they could only give us one key to a 5 person apartment. We toyed with the idea of going to Rapid and getting some extras cut, but didn’t really get time in the end.
Back at Bad Format I met Attila The Stockbroker on his way into the club and we had a good chat. David Rovics turned up a little later and we got everyone sound checked and ready for the gig. Adrian McEwen and Andy Goodwin were helping me with the technical side of things. I’d been promoting the gig as and interactive online experience and we’d put a lot of effort into that side of things, even making a little robot audience member to interact with people. Adrian did some amazing work with an Arduino and some other components. There was however one slight problem. The club only let me know a few days before the gig that their phone line had been cut off, and with no phone line there is no Internet, great! I tried to arrange to hop onto the university wireless next door, that failed. I talked to other neighbours in the area but in the end we were stuck using a 3G connection by the window. Adrian and Andy tried really hard to get all this working and by about halfway through the gig we had a connection thanks to them and JonTheNiceGuy. I was so busy that the audience bot fell by the wayside as I tried to hold it all together introducing bands and generally being host. The Reflect Harmony Group were a brilliant opening act and I really enjoyed performing a song with them at the end of their set. Up next I introduced Attila The Stockbroker and David Rovics who did their thing for about 90mins to the delight of the crowd. During that time I was still trying to fix up the Icecast stream, video camera and other things. We got the radio stream up and many people heard it later I’m pleased to say. I played a set with my new band and that went down really well. We all enjoyed it and hopefully we’ll take the band a bit further and do more gigs, I’d really like that. Time will tell. I’ve released some of the audio from the gig in a special episode of Rathole Radio which you can download from the website. I hope you enjoy it.
After the gig I went out with David & Attila to show them to their hotel and sort out a few other things. This took a while longer than I’d expected and sadly the battery on my phone died at the same time. I had the key to our apartment, my friends were back at the club unable to contact me and wondering where I was. Luckily they managed to get into the apartment by talking to the people at the desk, but I was still gone a couple of hours. I didn’t realise but this really worried them quite a bit, leading to all sorts of crazy theories that I’d been killed or mugged and other such things. I was perfectly fine though and once I got back I convinced them of that. I know Liverpool pretty well and that’s not to say that something couldn’t happen to me here, but I keep my eyes open and I know the people and places to avoid well enough. I was sorry I’d scared them but the phone dying at a crucial moment was just bad luck. I collected some of the stuff from Bad Format before they locked up for the night and headed back to the apartment for some sleep.
Bright and early the next day OggCamp work began. I started at 7:30am I think but can’t really be sure as I only went to bed about 4am. We all headed to the Black-E just up the road and began sorting out everything for the day. There were lots of people running around and plugging things in, setting up stalls, testing projectors and much more. The main stage was pretty much ready to go which was great, I picked up my crew radio and proceeded to run around putting out various fires and seeing that things went well. We got a wireless network set up thanks to the wonderful folks at The Linux Emporium. There seemed to be a healthy number of people queued up outside by the time we opened the doors at 10am. Simon Phipps kicked off the event in style with his keynote about digital rights in the modern world. The speech was entertaining and well received, it led into many more great sessions across the weekend on various stages. I didn’t get to see many of the talks myself as there was always something to be done and a crew radio blaring down my ear. That’s one of the things you learn in organising events though. You don’t really get time to enjoy them, it’s about making sure things run smoothly and the people who attend enjoy it. Having said that I did get to moderate a panel discussion on the main stage in the afternoon which was a lot of fun. Sadly Ian Forrester from the BBC was ill and couldn’t make it. As he and Simon Phipps were lined up to be on the panel we had to quickly fill the slots with some excellent people. I roped in Ade Bradshaw and Chris Proctor of LugRadio fame, along with Samantha Bail and Brad Pierce they did an amazing job. Finally, to close the first day we did a raffle on the main stage. There were so many great prizes it was hard to keep track of them all in my mind. Here’s the ones I remember: we gave away some Viglen machines, a Aleutia fanless PC or two, a 1.5 TB MyBook external hard drive, some Ubuntu backpacks and a stack of books from Apress and Wiley amongst other things I’ve forgotten. Last but not least it was my great pleasure to give away the amazing cuddly Ogg cushion made for us by Beccy Newborough. For me this was by far the coolest prize, and I said so on stage. It’s gone to a good home and I hope we’ll see more people creating them from the pattern Beccy made.
After a brief trip back to the apartment it was off to Studio 2 at Parr St for the evening festivities. A very cool venue indeed for any party and one of my favourite bars in the whole town. I was delighted we were able to get the place and while we didn’t have exclusive use we certainly took it over with OggCampers. It’s part of a working recording studio where many gold and platinum discs have been recorded over the years, I think a few people were impressed by that. I had a great time catching up with friends and I also tried to get around the tables and do my bit for the community. I wanted to get people’s thoughts on the event so far and make time to chat to them all for at least a short while. It’s hard to do this with a large group though and remembering everyone’s name isn’t always easy. I think I’ve become better at that and being in a room full of people who know your name while you’ve never even met them before is quite an experience. Everyone seemed to have fun and I left at about 1am to get back to the apartment with my gang. I believe some of the others were out much later but after working on the gig Friday night I was happier retiring to the apartment for a quiet drink and chat with friends. I forget what time I went to bed but it was much earlier than Friday I’m pleased to say and we had some amazing laughs in our little luxury pad, Will, Anna, Kevan, Alistair and I. The TV only seemed capable of showing one channel but it really didn’t matter as we had no time to watch it anyway.
Sunday didn’t start quite as early, we left a lot of the stuff set up from the previous day. I collected my crew radio again and got to work making sure all the rooms were functioning. We couldn’t use the 3rd stage for a couple of hours in the morning as there was a martial arts class booked in there. I had agreed to this in the rental but I’d been told it was Tai Chi which is quiet and these guys made a lot of noise, they had very big swords though and I decided it was best not to upset them. The day went without a hitch and everyone seemed to have fun. I think the venue worked out well and despite some minor disagreements about covering up artwork we managed to settle in nicely. The event culminated in a live show from ourselves and the Ubuntu UK crew. I was late as usual and I arrived in the room to chants of “Dan! Dan! Dan!!!!” in a very Alan Partridge fashion. I suspect people think I was trying to make some kind of grand entrance but it really wasn’t that calculated. I was just late because I’d been working downstairs cleaning up the other rooms. The live show was fun and we will have the podcast ready for release later this week so you can all hear it too. At the end of the event we packed everything away in a surprisingly quick time, this was largely due to the amazing crew of helpers we’d been blessed with. Every one of them made the event possible in their own way and I’m really grateful for the support. After everything was packed away I was off in the car to unload it all again at home in my garage. Everyone else headed back to Studio 2 for post-event drinks. I had some dinner at home and then joined them later on. No rest for the wicked hey.
Overall I think the weekend went really well. It was the result of 4 long months work for me but it was all worth it just to see people having a good time. I was also pleased that quite a few people who’d never been to Liverpool before realised there’s so much more to this town than stereotypes would lead you to believe. It proved a great host city, as I always knew it would. I’m proud of this place and I certainly don’t try to hide it. We did have a lot of loud stag and hen parties around town for the Bank Holiday weekend but I don’t think they disturbed OggCampers too much. I’ve learned a lot of things from doing all this but I think the main one has to be not to run two events on top of each other. One event at a time is quite enough for anyone. The gig went well but the technical problems and other hiccups could have been fixed if I’d had more time to spend on it. I also think doing this on a Bank Holiday worked against us in the long run. We had a good crowd don’t get me wrong, but originally I thought we’d get more people because it was a holiday, in fact I think it meant we got less. People tend to have family things planned on holiday weekends and it also pushes hotel and travel prices up dramatically. You live and learn though, and I always learn best by my mistakes 😉 Thanks to everyone who came along and particularly all those who helped us out. Leave your thoughts on the weekend in the comments below if you like, I’d be interested too hear them.
This hasn’t been a regular Weekly Rewind but I’ll still try and fill you in on what I expect to happen in the coming week. We should release the OggCamp Live podcast episode and another episode of Linux Outlaws we recorded reflecting on the event. I’ve edited a new Software Freedom Law Show this weekend and you should hear that soon. There’s a Liverpool Tweet-Up on Thursday night which I should be attending, I might see you there. At the weekend there’ll be another new Rathole Radio at 9pm (UK) Sunday 16th May. I also have a lot of new Linux distro releases to catch up on now that event madness is calming down. I want to get into reviewing and testing some of those as soon as I can. I’m meeting up with the band on Wednesday night and we’re gonna try and learn some new songs. We’ll also try some original stuff I hope and it’ll be good to get more gigs, I’ll keep you informed when I report back next week. If there’s one thing that remains to be said in the aftermath of OggCamp I think it has to be this… PHEW!
See you all soon, take care out there,