Sunday, 22 June 2014

Sunday Times Festival of Education 2014

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Marquees at Wellington College

We have just got back from the Sunday Times Festival of Education - which was very different from any other show we have done.

Firstly it was held at Wellington College - one of the best public schools in the world and secondly it was held outdoors. Luckily the weather was hot and sunny for the whole two days. We actually went down there on Thursday as it is a three and a half hour journey from Staffordshire.

Darren drove and we packed his MassiveMobile with Jigsaw School Apps banners, leaflets, pens,  biscuits and staff and set off for Royal Berkshire. Our phone satnav capabilities got us to the school by 4pm and we gasped as we allowed through the security barrier and drove up the long tree-lined driveway and saw the main buildings. It is a beautiful place with huge grounds including a lake, cricket pavilion and ground and full-sized golf course. It was opened in 1859 by Queen Victoria and names after the Duke of Wellington. It has had many famous pupils - more recently Rory Bremner, James Hunt and Will Young!

This one's ours :-)

We saw lines of white marquees so heading that way we found the Festival office in a Portacabin. Darren handed over the paperwork and he got his official festival badge - although we did not get any for the rest of us! There seemed to be a little confusion - but eventually we were given handwritten ones and we could go and set up our Stand 114 in the marquee.

We got everything set up pretty quickly then went off to Reading to find our hotel for the next couple of nights: The Best Western Moat House It was around 7 miles away.

They are starting up the barbecues!

The next morning we were up bright and early for a good breakfast before facing a long day!
Everywhere was bustling when we arrived
 at Wellington just after 8am. Other exhibitors were setting up their stalls and even a few visitors had arrived. We were next door to the Shakespeare Trust - who kindly traded one of their Shakespeare insult badges for one of our Jigsaw School Apps pens :-)

We were pretty happy to see that we were situated opposite the food tents with their barbecues and hot dog and kebab stands. Not only would we be within easy reach of food when we got peckish - but it would also be a very popular area with visitors too.

The sun was beating down on us and it got hotter and hotter as we talked to people and handed out leaflets and gave demos. Gradually as the day wore on our stand went into shade and gave us a bit of relief. I was certainly glad that I had put Factor 50 sun cream on!

Josh - part of the sales team takes a photo
We chatted to lots of lovely folk - some heads of schools, lots of teachers and even families and children. Also the students from Wellington itself were walking around and many were really interested in what we were doing. Some of the staff came to look too.

It was very different as they had a lot of sessions going on with high profile speakers and guests. This meant that it was only the  breaks in between when people were strolling around the exhibits. So we had quiet times - then sudden bursts of activity!

There was me and Nathan and Darren and his son Josh - so we were able to take a few breaks ourselves to have a look around. D and J went to see Simon Singh doing a session about the mathematics of The Simpsons and N and I caught a bit of Michael Gove's session! Whatever you think of him and his policies - he was pretty brave to face a lot of teachers and answer their questions.

Paul Rankin cooking his burger.

Mr Gove facing a grilling!

Inside the V&A Cafe
We also got to see celeb chef Paul Rankin cooking his signature spicy burger. He spent a lot of time on the food stalls opposite us - when he wasn't up on stage doing his "Omelette Challenge" and seemed to be a very nice chap! He always said hello - unlike one or two of the people I tried to talk to while handing out

Arcade by the Cafe
 It was lovely to walk around the college grounds while we had a break for lunch. We visited the students' V&A CafĂ© for delicious cakes and drinks and their Tuck Shop for chocolates and ice cream. I tried the chicken kebab in a flatbread from the stalls opposite on my first day and a barbecued salmon on chiabatta on the second. N actually had the Paul Rankin spicy burger the second day - and was offered loads of the pulled pork at the end of the second day when they had lots left. They were handing out free food that afternoon - I got a fresh fruit salad and carrot cake!

Leafleting in the sun!

After our first day we hung around the grounds as we'd been invited to a Networking Event  involving  Mexican buffet and live music. It did start a little late as Michael Gove was still in the big marquee as he'd arrived rather late for his session.

How cool is this? Good one TUTE!
We sat by Tute's absolutely beautiful Moroccan tent - which looked so much classier that any of the other marquees. They had the Costa Rica/Italy match on their big screen too as people lay on cushions in luxury!

When we got into the Grand Marquee there was a bar set up and they were getting the food ready. It was actually delicious - a chilli con carne (and veggie version) lemon rice, Mexican salad, nachos, guacamole, sour cream cheese and salsa!

The classiest tent in the show!
It was so good! You could even go up for seconds - but we just about resisted! We didn't stay too late listening to the music though as we were pretty tired and hot - and had another day to go! We went right back to the hotel to sleep!

Come snorkelling with the shark!

Saturday was hotter than ever and definitely a family day. Although as soon as we got there we were inundated with enquiries! It looked like it was going to be a busier day than Friday.

There were lots of attractions for kids - there was a small ski slope and even a pool where you could try out snorkelling. We loved their shark!

Picked up this stress cow from Maxx :-)
Darren was lucky enough to meet one of his heroes - Professor Richard Dawkins. He arrived early for his talk and got to have his photo taken with him. He and J enjoyed the session too.

By 4pm most stalls had packed up - but we hung on until the end. We got away around 5.45 and Darren got us back home before 9pm.  It had been hot and busy  - but the beautiful surroundings were a delight!

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