UCL News


Spotlight on Creating Connections

4 June 2014

This week the spotlight focuses on Rachel Leighton (Volunteer Development Coordinator, UCLU Volunteering Services Unit), Laura Cream (Public Engagement Coordinator, UCL Public Engagement Unit) and James Mackie (Camden Shares Coordinator).

James Mackie, Laura Cream, Rachel Leighton

What is your role and what does it involve?

Collectively, and alongside the rest of our respective jobs, we run Creating Connections - a regular networking event that brings together UCL staff and postgraduate students with representatives from community organisations, charities, residents' groups, social enterprises and statutory organisations. We work together to identify hot topics for discussion, find interesting venues to hold our events, encourage new faces to attend and old ones to return - and most importantly, make the networking evenings welcoming, fun and informal.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

We've been working on Creating Connections together for two and a half years -

Before that, James worked at Timebanking UK, Rachel at the University of Cambridge and Laura was based at an arts organisation called Shape.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Individually, each of our job roles are about supporting people to make new connections, outside the usual sphere of reference, and build on the relationships that develop. So it's great to work in collaboration and Creating Connections is genuinely one of the most enjoyable and rewarding projects that we work on; we provide space and time for networking between UCL and the community sector - something which is on the face of it very simple, but also greatly valued by the people who take part and very innovative within the HEI sector.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of you to-do list?

We're busy gearing up for the next Creating Connections event on Tuesday, June 17. We're hosting this one at the Hub, a new Mental Health Wellbeing Centre in Camden, not that far from the UCL Academy. It's always a challenge to see if we can get UCL folk to leave their Bloomsbury stomping ground and roam a little further afield but we've got some really good discussion topics this time round so we're optimistic people can be tempted to come. And we could do with a few more researchers interested in the area of 'crime reduction' if there are any of you out there…

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Film - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Book - Tintin and Red Rackhmam's Treasure by Hergé (not quite a novel but a classic of a kind!)

Graceland - Paul Simon

We'll leave you to guess who picked which!

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Q: Why are pirates called pirates? A: Cause they arrrrr.

Q: What do you call a computer that sings? A: A-Dell

Q: What do you call an illegally parked frog? A: Toad.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

In true Creating Connections spirit, we think we could get some very interesting conversations started with Maya Angelou, Morrissey and Conchita Wurst at the table together…

What advice would you give your younger self?

On a serious level, we're all fully behind the advice of 'Don't have a 5 year plan - travel many paths instead'. And on a lighter note, never ever let your aunt, or any other family member, cut your hair…

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Rachel is a massive Eurovision fan and to celebrate our collaborative spirit we're forming the 'Creating Connections' trio to enter as the UK's song next year. Collaborators/composers welcome…

What is your favourite place?

Central Park, Kew Gardens and Hammersmith Bridge!