Project leaders: Sarah Bell, Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering; Barbara Penner, Bartlett School of Architecture and Tse-Hui Teh, Bartlett School of Planning.

The UCLoo Festival was a series of events and exhibitions exploring sustainable solutions to the global sanitation crisis, held at UCL in November 2013. The project team was part-funded by Focus on the Positive.

After the festival, the team came up with a set of Top Tips for people thinking about doing something similar.


UCLoo Top Tips for UCL Festivals

The UCLoo Festival ran 19th November – 3 December 2013. It aimed to draw attention to ecological alternatives to the flushing toilet to make cities more sustainable and to provide sanitation to the 2.5 billion people who currently live without it.

The festival involved the installation of a functioning ecological toilet for visitors to use in the North Observatory, an exhibition of toilets and UCL research in the North Lodge, and a series of events over the two weeks. These included a keynote lecture, walking tours, film screenings, a meet-the-makers event, a makeathon and a book launch. The academic team behind the project was Barbara Penner, Tse-Hui Teh and Sarah Bell, and our research assistants were Charlotte Barrow and Danielle Wilkens. We learned a lot during the process of planning and delivering the festival.

1) Make sure you have enough money
Our budget was £20,000. This money came from various sources at UCL, mostly the Faculty of Engineering and The Bartlett. Think about how you will fund your event. We had a bad experience with crowdsourcing, so don’t recommend it.

We had very good support from various parts of UCL. UCL Museums advised us early on that you cannot design and build an exhibition for less than £4,000. This proved to be a good rule of thumb for the exhibition elements of our festival. Be realistic in your budgeting and fundraising.

2) Hire a project manager
A large part of our budget was spent on hiring a part-time research assistant to manage the project. This was invaluable. Our success and enjoyment of the experience were largely down to having one person who was on top of things, could follow up on all the details and keep us all on track.

We all worked well as a team, but the team needed one person who was paid specifically to manage the project.

3) Hire a designer
Exhibition design is a specific skill. If you want your event to look significantly better than a poster session at a conference, you should pay a professional to do the design. Exhibition designers know lots of things you won’t have even thought of, and will make your event memorable for the right reasons. The cost of our designer was included in the £4,000 per exhibition estimate that we started with from Museums.

4) Build good will
UCL is full of talented people who want to be involved in exciting projects. They are easy to find. Make friends with them. Respect their time and skills. We could not have run our project without support from Estates, Museums, our Faculties and Departments, Development and Alumni Relations, the Office of the Vice Provost (Research) and many others. We needed plumbers, PR people, exhibition curators, public engagement experts, a waste disposal contractor and more.

We started talking to everyone very early in our planning, when we were just throwing the idea around. This meant that people were able to provide us with useful advice at an early stage, and that they could plan their contributions well in advance. It also meant that people wanted us to succeed, which was helpful when things went wrong and we were in desperate need of help.

None of this would have worked if we had just turned up to a stranger’s door and expected assistance at the last minute.

5) Plan your publicity
UCL media people need a minimum of 2 weeks to cultivate a story with their contacts. If you get in touch with them earlier they can help you to develop your story and selling points and point out things to worry about (our slogan ‘do you know your sh*t’ was something we used judiciously depending on the audience we were trying to attract).

6) Be consistent in social media

Developing interest before and during your event can be greatly assisted by a good social media presence. We had a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. These need to be maintained, with regular posts and tweets. It is important to respond to any interactions promptly and positively.

If you have any questions about these top tips, please don't hesitate to contact the project team: Sarah Bell, Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering; Barbara Penner, Bartlett School of Architecture and Tse-Hui Teh, Bartlett School of Planning.

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