Cake, Cake, Cake, Cake, Cake, Comms

It’s the first ever CommsCampNorth, and for those who haven’t been to a CommsCamp before it’s my job, as Official Cake Monitor, to let you into a secret.

You may have thought that you have signed up to one of the biggest free unconference events for comms people in the country, if not the world, but actually, CommsCamp isn’t really about the comms, it’s all about the cake. There, I’ve said it.

I’ve been Official Cake Monitor since the first CommsCamp in Birmingham 2013 and delighted to be able to take the cake table on tour to Manchester for CommsCampNorth.

For those who haven’t been to a CommsCamp before, let me fill you in on the main points you will need to know about the cake table:

  • The cake table only works because of the lovely people who bake cakes and bring them along for others to share. If you can, please bake a cake. It’s amazing how conversations and networking improve with a bit of lemon drizzle.
  • If you do bake you will be entered into the CommsCamp Star Baker competition. It’s a fiercely fought contest with many underhand tactics trying to sway the judges, there’s no surprise in that, the prize is amazing.
  • If you’re not a cake baker, don’t worry, there’s no shame in bringing along a shop bought cake, we appreciate them too – although please don’t try and pass it off as one you’ve made. You may think that adding a bit of decoration, or taking it out of the packet and putting it into a tin will fool some but we’ll find out.
  • We also need cake eaters. We ask those that can, to make a donation to charity in return for a slice of yummy cake. Look out for the donation bucket on the cake table and please give generously. Just think how much you’d pay for a slice in one of those fancy coffee shops, and give it to a good cause instead.
  • If you donate for cake, be sure to take a raffle ticket. This will enter you into the end of camp naff raffle, where you will amaze yourself with a sudden desire to win a signed David Hasslehoff poster.
  • If you have similar unique prizes for the end of camp raffle then please bring them along. Think tatt, think naff, think car boot sale gold, that’s the sort of thing we’re looking for.
    As an experienced cake eater, my cake table tips include a visit to the gym the day before to help easy any guilt, wearing baggy or elasticated clothes, and bring the big coins to donate to charity.
  • And remember, scientists have proven that all cake calories consumed during a CommsCamp don’t count. Bonus.
  • So, happy baking, happy eating, happy CommsCampNorth. See you with your baked goods at the cake table on the 27th April 2017.

Kate Bentham or Cake Bentham as Dan Slee once introduced me as.
Official Cake Monitor
(best job in the world)

Cakes, me and commscampnorth

My first experience of an unconfernece was a geeky “barcamp” in Newcastle in 2007. It was a two day thing, were we actually camped indoors in the venue overnight. Indoors. with tents.

Unconferences are all about community, collaboration and making things happen to share knowledge. I’d never been to anything similar before and I was apprehensive to what I was letting myself in for. I was a bit shy to speak on anything very technical so decided to talk about something that at work we had started to do in our team – which was to take turns in cooking for each other. I’m trying to think of the title of my talk, I think it was called something like “Banana bread and bonding”.

On day two I managed to persuade one of the sponsors (Yahoo) who had a bit of budget to give me £20 to nip to the local supermarket and get the basic ingredients. I returned with a carrier bag (and a grin) and gave what I will loosely call a workshop, to a load of willing fellow geeks.

The session taught how easy and cheap it was to create banana bread from any old browning bananas, the type many people might be tempted to throw out. My sales pitch was the gross aged browning ‘nanas were the PERFECT ingredient to use. The subtext was about the similarities with coding (combining and crafting), the great bond that our team had created taking turns of making lunch for the team and eating together plus how easy and quick it is to turn ingredients into a delicious treat.

I (in all my randomness) had also managed to source a nearby oven, in the kitchen of the parish priests communal kitchen in the next door building! I remember having a very lovely chat with the victor about the delights of unconferences. So just as the event was drawing to a close I turned back up with bundles of breadyness wrapped in grease proof paper and sealed up with stickers. I think I got a cheer when I was handing out the remainder at the pub for the after party.

Years later a guy at a tech conference recognised me and told me he had taken two pieces and put it in his glove compartment. A week later when him and his girlfriend were taking a trip away then noticed a lovey smell from the car and remembered it was there. Apparently it keeps well. I put it down to the fact it was baked with love and in the ovens of saints.

My heroics on the cake front (I hope) have lived on for years to come … Many will remember me as the tiffin lady at UK Govcamp … Or the feeder local gov camp in Leeds when I managed to kidnap and initiate a number of councillors from Cumbria into the world of unconferences and technology. I was one of the official tasters at GirlGeekCamp in Manchester a few year ago – which had the most decorated and highly coloured selection of baking at ANY event I have ever attended.


And so the appearance of baking has found a firm place in the hearts of the unconference scene. I’ll let you ponder why; and feel free to share your own fond memories of baking!

Last year my treat of choice to bring to CommsCamp in Birmingham was a regional delight from my part of the world a cake in the style of sticky toffee pudding.

So … Will you be joining the “bakers” or the “bring and buy” to this year’s CommsCamp North?

Does it even have to be baked? I’ve seen a few trendy raw entries get the thumbs up!

But the “Table of cake” will be making a strong appearance at our Manchester CommsCampNorth. Square tin or round? Loaf or cupcake? YOU decide.

Your #commscampnorth 2017 ticket release info update

cc2Heard about commscamping? Fancy a ticket to #commscampnorth? Here’s how you can grab the hottest ticket in town.

First, the good news. Tickets are free thanks to our lovely sponsors. YES!

Secondly, we’ll be releasing heaps of them with a view to get 120 people in the room.

What is #commscampnorth?

This is an unconference. The agenda gets set on the day by attendees. It’s been running for the past five years in Birmingham as #commscamp. It’s now in Manchester for the first time as #commscampnorth on April 27 and #commscamp will be in Birmingham on July 14. So, that’s TWO events.

Who are the tickets for?

They’ll be for public sector people. But if you are third sector and you work with the public sector then that’s fine too. So, local government, central government, NHS and that sort of thing? Super.

What if I’m private sector?

There’s limited sponsorship opportunities and we’d love to talk to you. Drop Dan a note on

When will the tickets be released?

There will be three main #commscampnorth releases:

  • FIRST RELEASE:  Thursday March 2 at noon with the eventbrite link posted HERE and also on Twitter via @commscamp. If you miss out add yourself to the waitlist which will come into effect. As tickets are returned you’ll be on the list.
  • SECOND RELEASE: Tuesday March 7 at 9pm with the eventbrite link posted HERE and also on Twitter via @commscampIf you miss out add yourself to the waitlist which will come into effect. As tickets are returned you’ll be on the list.
  • THIRD RELEASE: Wednesday March 15 at 9pm.  This will be a release to people already on the wait list.

You mention the waitlist. How can I get onto that?

Once the #commscampnorth eventbrite page goes live and the tickets sell out the waitlist comes into force. This means that you can log your details on the eventbrite page to be in with a chance to get a ticket if one comes free.

What type of tickets will there be?

There will be attendee tickets and there will also be volunteer tickets. We’ll need a team of a dozen or more on the day lending a bit of time on a number of glamorous jobs. They’ll both be released at the same time.

What’s with the cakes and the pre-loved raffle?

We’d like everyone who comes to either bake or bring a cake with them. There will be a competition to find the best cake. We’d also love it if you brought along an item to raffle.  The level of this is as follows…. a David Hasselhoff mug. A Royal Wedding commemorative plate. A Nana Miskouri LP. Get the picture? Quality pre-loved stuff all of it.

Any questions drop a line to @commscamp on Twitter or

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Announcing #commscampnorth in Manchester 27.4.17

15065009_10154698502615960_562052676_oLadies and gentlemen, there will be not one but TWO Commscamp events this year.

In Birmingham, on July 14 for the fourth year running there will be #commscamp at our spiritual home of the Bond Company in Digbeth.

But we’re beaming wide smiles to announce a brand new date on the unconference calender and by public demand there will be #commscampnorth in Manchester on Thursday April 27. We will be using the rather amazing Ziferblat venue in Edge Street in the Northern Quarter.

The extra event will be brought to you by members of the team who brought you the Birmingham event spiced up with some extra northern grit, charm and style.

What is an unconference?

It’s an event where the agenda is decided on the day by the attendees themselves. No more boring PowerPoint on subjects you’re not interested in.

What will the sessions be like?

They’ll be decided on the day but they’ll be a chance to discuss, question, share ideas and meet like-minded people in the same boat as you are. If a traditional conference is someone saying ‘here’s the problem and how we did it’ then Commscamp is ‘here’s the problem, how do we tackle it?’

Who can come?

This is for public sector people and we’ll hold the door open for third sector folk too. There’ll be space for a handful of sponsors too.

Can I chat about things beforehand?

Of course. There’s a Facebook group over here. Feel free to kick ideas around.

Why do it in Manchester?

Frankly, none of us could wait for the summer Commscamp and we wanted to create an event earlier in the year in a vibrant, busy and dynamic part of the country with some good people.

Sounds great, how do I get a ticket?

We’ll be making making tickets available in staged releases. They’ll be free. We’ll let you know where and when via this site, via Twitter and through the Commscamp mailing list you can sign-up for here.

There will be around 180 tickets for Birmingham and around 130 for Manchester.

Can I sign-up to volunteer?

You can. The event is run by volunteers  in the best unconference tradition. We’ll need some help on the day. We’ll release volunteer tickets as part of the release.

Who is behind it?

Dan Slee of comms2point0, Emma Rodgers of Staffordshire County Council, Kate Norman of Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Kate Bentham of Shropshire County Council and others. This is volunteer-run and not for profit. We do it because we want to learn.

Commscamp is supported by GCS and LGComms.



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