Last Saturday saw the annual Talk About Local Unconference, or #tal13, arrive in Middlesbrough. The event was created as a place for hyperlocal bloggers and journalists from around the country to meet up and discuss their plans, problems and interests. This year, the event had an arts and culture theme.
As a culture blogger from Middlesbrough, I was excited to see the unconference arrive in my town, the latest stop on their annual tour of the UK’s industrial landscape.
Hosted at mima, the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, the event was packed with hyperlocal bloggers from around the country, plus a sizeable group of local bloggers, artists, lecturers and tourism professionals.
The unconference is designed to be an antidote to the regular boring conference. Instead of a fixed schedule of talks, at the start of the day, anyone who has a subject they would like to discuss stands up and briefly presents it to the group. Each topic is then assigned a time slot and a spot somewhere in the building. Unconference attendees are free to wander in and out of talks as they please, choosing the ones they find most engaging.
For me, the most interesting debate of the day arose from a session entitled 48 hours on Teesside. What begin as a brief discussion of the art gallery at Middlesbrough train station and the beauty of the landscape around the town, quickly turned into a heated discussion on funding and the role of local authorities in promoting the arts.
Later in the day I attended sessions on using social media and how bloggers can work with journalists. These sessions revealed some of the interesting work that is being carried out by hyperlocal bloggers in different areas and how they engage their audience.
Many of the Teesside based bloggers attending the event were interested in how they could better promote all the exciting cultural events that are happening in the area, many of which appear hidden to the general public. This is exactly why I started writing my So I’m a Smoggie series, because I wanted to highlight some of the things that I love about my town and some of the unique events that are happening there.
A perfect example was the Middlesbrough Live festival, which was taking place throughout the event, in and around the venue. With live music acts setting up, children’s art workshops, and a fun fair in full swing outside, culture was the ideal theme for the unconference.