Bristol, Britain and Beyond 2021

  • Siavash Minoukadeh

A week-long festival of talks, run by Epigram, the University of Bristol's student newspaper featuring leading academics and journalists discussing some of the major issues facing us today. The festival's production was led by me.

Across 6-13 February, Epigram hosted Bristol, Britain and Beyond, a digital festival of talks featuring journalists from publications inlcuding The TImes, The New Statesman and The Economist alongside some leading academics.

The programme featured 8 events (although one was postponed due to the guest's illness) alongside an affiliate event. Our original ticket run sold out, as did our second, leading to us adding further capacity.

The festival went from conception to launch in under 4 weeks.
Leading this project, I was responsible for managing all aspects of its production, either carrying them out myself or delegating them to the appropriate team member. The first stage of the proejct involved reaching out to potential guests and inviting them to be part of an event. Having given the team a timeframe for sending out invitations, I worked with them to find what topics interested them and suggested suitable guests, alongside finding their contact information. Alongside inviting speakers for the events that I would be hosting myself, I also contacted a number of other guests on behalf of other team members and wrote a template invitation.

Whilst waiting for responses to start coming in, I began work on creating the graphic identity for the festival. Reflecting Epigram's identity as one of the few student newspapers still printing, I used motifs such as cut lines and printing registration marks and also chose a red colour palette to tie the branding into the main Epigram identity. However, I was aware that Epigram's brand had limited reach and was seen as being somewhat dry so I also broke away from it in a number of ways, most evidently in the image-heavy graphics and new serif typeface to help the Bristol, Britain and Beyond branding have a wider reach. These graphics were all made from scratch on Illustrator and created in a number of sizes to be used across Epigram's social media platforms.

The final aspect of the pre-launch production involved finding an appropriate ticketing system. Working with our business team, I identified the key factors including capacity (including technical restraints of Zoom) and pricing. The final system was both able to provide Epigram's editorial team with free tickets (needed to track the total number of people on the Zoom calls did not go over the limit) whilst also ensuring that this option was not accessible to everyone else. As initial ticket allocations sold out, I worked with the business team to reallocate unclaimed free tickets for the editorial team to students and the general public. In total, we sold 73 tickets out of a maximum of 90.
The final programme was as follows:
  • Novelist and sports writer for The Times, Alyson Rudd on writing for sport
  • Psycholgist and cognitive scientist Professor Stephan Lewandowsky on misinformation and conspiracy theories
  • The New Statesman's International Corespondent Ido Vock on international journalism in 2021
  • A webinar organised by a student group on journalism career advice, marketed by us
  • ITV's Director of News Michael Jermey on reporting on the COVID pandemic
  • A panel discussion with leading academics on English identity
  • Bristol 24/7's Editor Martin Booth on the city beyond the student bubble
  • The Economist's Public Policy Correspondent Hamish Birrell on the state of British policymaking

There was also an event scheduled with BBC Journalist and editorial assisstant Hannah Price on entering journalism and covering sensitive topics which has been postponed due to illness.

Given the short timeframe and the need to have the programme relatively confirmed before launching, marketing for the programme only began a few days before the first event. In order to make up for this lack of time, we ran an intense cross-platform campaign, which would appear to have been relatively successful given the ticket numbers.

An article was published on the Epigram website listing the full programme, with a ticket link, allowing us to send people a single link with all the information they would need. This article was then shared across Epigram's Facebook and Twitter pages. On Twitter, a separate thread of tweets was also created allowing us to tag the guests, creating further engagment. For instagram, a similar strategy was used with custom graphics made for both posts and stories to maximise the visual impact. This cross-platform approach continued throughout the festival with a content calendar created to ensure that the appropriate events were shared without overwhelming our audience with posts.

Alongside this, I also created Facebook events for each event, allowing those interested to receive further notifications. Being able to see which events were popular also allowed me to focus more on those which had receieved less attention, including promoting them in the other events. Non-social media marketing included asking suitable student groups such as subject societies or other journalism societies to share our programme as well as having relevant university admin teams including the careers service and humanities school send out a blanket email. As the festival progressed, the marketing changed to reflect that many events had passed, with more attention being paid to the fact that ticket holders could also watch back most of the events they had missed.
During the period of the festival itself, alongside the continuing marketing strategy, I also produced the events themselves. Having set up an appropriate system on Zoom to ensure that only the guest and host could be seen and heard, I ensured that both the hosts and guest were set up and ran a sound check before going live. During the events, I also set up a system to communicate efficiently with the host, using a Google Sheet to give time checks, notes and send any audience questions.

After most events, I would then edit the recording, adding in appropriate branding and cutting out any dropped connections before uploading it to YouTube and giving ticket holders the link. I also created short teaser videos in a square format with captions to promote the festival almost immediately after each event.

I also hosted two of the events in the programme myself. One, with Ido Vock was not recorded (as agreed in advance) while the recording of the other, the panel on English identity with John Denham, Tariq Modood and Alex Niven can be found below.
A full playlist of the recorded talks can be found here