There’s something very special about ‘firsts’. First love, first car, first trip abroad. Comms Unplugged will be a first for all who sail in her. Join us on the journey…

by Chris Elias

In 2012, TV and Radio producer Chris Evans gave up bread for Lent. As if he wasn’t busy enough, he needed to do something more to help keep him away from the breadbin. He thought of all the things he loved, was passionate about and invented the very first CarFest that would help raise funds for BBC Children in Need.

Remembering hearing how it was seemingly cobbled together day by day on the radio, appealing to people to help get this dream off the ground was fascinating. First starting with a venue, then a date. Then with some real sketchy details about what would actually be there aside some of his own cars and those of his friends, it started to get some traction.

He had a clear vision about what he wanted to achieve – a real fun, family event that hadn’t been done before that would be loved by people that shared his passions. As soon as he added food and music to the already great petrol head theme, I was hooked.

I was lucky enough to get tickets to that first event. Very lucky. The 20,000 tickets sold out within just a few minutes of being launched.

As we listened to how the event was being planned, how he was appealing to likeminded people to give up their time and generate ideas, have their say, including us, the listeners, it really created a sense of togetherness and ownership for everyone. It was our event.

When my family and I drove to Laverstock farm in Dorset, tents and camping stuff in the boot, we really didn’t know what to expect. As we got there it was clear that it really was as it had seemed on the radio. It wasn’t planned to finest detail, it wasn’t slick and 100% professional, but the important things were there. The right people to greet us who were as excited to be there as us, they created a vibe. A vibe that said “let’s work together on this.”  They didn’t have all the answers to everything, much of it was being made up on the spot and people didn’t mind, it was honest. But you know – that’s what set the tone.

We parked the car and took our stuff to the camping field where loads of people were equally happy, excited and engaged with what was happening. Everyone was helping each other out determined that it’d be a success. And this feel of inclusivity went on throughout the whole weekend.

There was a backbone structure to it. The essentials were there. Health & Safety, facilities, lighting and so on. But everything else felt natural.

Chris himself regularly drove around the campsite on a golf cart asking people what we should do, what was good what was not so good. Stopping for a beer with some families and just taking it in. There was no divide between celebrities and us common folk, there were no bodyguards or security – it was just, simple.

Sometimes things didn’t happen on time, sometimes things happened that weren’t meant to happen just because it felt the right thing to do. Everyone was in it for the cause and did what was best to help achieve the vision – to have a great time and start something brilliant.

We were so impressed that the next year, as the tickets were announced, our family got all our devices pointing to the ticket website, frantically refreshing to get tickets to go again. We were lucky again!

It was more planned, better organised and was still great but had lost a little of the ‘charm’ because of this. The third year we did the same. It was even bigger, even better planned but we felt very much like guests – we’d lost the feeling of being ‘part of it’.

So the point in me telling you this story, is that it occurred to me. The feelings I’m having about the very first CommsUnplugged are very similar to my CarFest journey.

Before it even had a name, CommsUnplugged was a mad idea. It still is. But with a really clear vision based on something that’s important to you, a belief that with the right company we can achieve something brilliant – it will happen.

And like CarFest, I’m sure it will be a success. It will be a success for the same reasons – likeminded people, creative communicators, all clubbing together to make a break from the old routine and do something completely new.

I think it will have the same vibe. I think people that are there for the first CommsUnplugged will remember it the way I remember the first CarFest. You’ll be in it, part of it. I’m sure it’ll be the first of many and it will grow – but as it does, it’ll get bigger, better and slicker.

Here’s the important bit – It will also lose the special feel you can only ever get by being part of the very first one. We can’t ever recreate that.

So here’s your chance, be part of it.

Follow @CommsUnplugged, sign up at, book out your diary, borrow a tent and be part of something that will probably be the work event highlight of your year.

Chris Elias is Head of Internal Communications at the Intellectual Property Office and an organiser of Comms Unplugged.

You can follow him on Twitter here.

image via History in Moments

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

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