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The virtually great scottish spoon hoolie 2021

For avid followers of Green Aspirations, you'll know about our annual festival of everything (wooden) spoon related. Running since 2017, this year was supposed to be our big 5 year anniversary. So what do you do when your festival brings trainers and participants from around the world - but that world is emerging from a lockdown? Make it virtually great, that's what! And given it was such a success, we thought we'd share a bit of info on how we went about it.

Access all areas

The guiding principle of the Great Scottish Spoon Hoolie has always been to make spoon carving, and greenwood crafts in general, accessible to beginners and experts alike. For us, this means providing access to the best trainers around. We know that not everyone can travel to Scotland, even in the best of times, so we saw this year as an opportunity to really broaden our audience. We did this in two ways:

  • First, going online meant we could ask trainers from further afield and be more flexible about what we asked them to do. This meant securing trainers across the United States, Sweden, France, Germany and Israel, as well as right across the UK.

  • Then, with the help of our trainers and volunteers, we were able to share news about the Hoolie in spoon circles around the world. This attracted a much wider audience than we'd ever be able to welcome in Scotland, with participants from Australia, Canada and the United States as well as Europe and the UK.

Another of our guiding principles is to recognise the time and expertise of the trainers by paying them what we can, which – as a community interest company – is often a difficult juggling act. This year, we wanted to commit to doing the same, knowing what a hard time lots of our trainers might have been having. We priced tickets at what we thought represented good value and would enable us to pay all our trainers if we sold enough. Sales started off slowly but, with a collective of people sharing our social media, they picked up closer to the event and we're delighted to say that we've managed to pay all our trainers AND put a small sum of money in the Green Aspirations coffers. This money will go towards the work we do sharing traditional woodland skills with as many people as we can, but in particular young people who struggle with mainstream education.

Get yourself connected

While online conversations and workshops have become de rigueur over the past 18 months, we still had to think about how we would make it all work. We needed 5 workshops running at the same time for 4 sessions over the weekend, as well as having the main room open for in-between times. Director Jo, who uses Zoom for her work, crossed fingers, toes and everything in between in the hope that it would all come together. And it did!

As well as the live sessions, we also knew we wanted to record all the workshops, so that ticket holders could access the information at times that suited them. This was particularly important given our international audience! A group of volunteers stepped up, trying out recording sessions in the week leading up to the event and then joining each of the workshops to make sure it was recorded. With only a couple of hitches, we managed to finish the weekend with an incredible resource of 20 recorded sessions, available to all ticket holders! If this sounds interesting, you can buy access here.

Not all serious business!

A major part of the real Hoolie is what happens outside the workshops – whether that's conversations over a beer with the Spoon Dragon or chatting with the trainers over a coffee by the fire. These informal elements are probably the most difficult to replicate online, so it was a huge worry that it wouldn't feel like a Hoolie. Well, knowing our trainers and participants, there was no need to be anxious! People were chatting away in the main room between sessions, continuing discussions, asking the trainers questions and generally sharing ideas, tips and stories. We were also able to add in more elements to the evenings:

  • We kicked off on Friday night with a session by Emmet Van Driesche, talking us through his approach to spoon form and function. This led to much discussion about what he'd shared, on the Friday night in the virtual bar and throughout the whole weekend.

  • We premiered Tslil and Inesse Censor's movie, Our Craft Journey, followed by a Q&A with the creators. Again, this provided a great range of talking points throughout the weekend.

  • And, in fine Hoolie style, the Spoon Dragon hosted a Saturday night pub quiz for us, followed by drinks in his 'sitooterie', and much fun was had by all!

The Virtually Great Hoolie 2022?

We were asked repeatedly during the weekend - and since - whether we'd be running a virtual Hoolie again in the future, even if the world opens up again. We're still thinking about it – and how it might sit alongside our Really Great Hoolie – but the benefits of holding a virtual gathering were clear. So, watch this space. Logistics have never stopped us before!

PS: We have a few Tshirts and Hoodies left. Get in touch to see if we've got your size in stock!


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