There’s a bit of a buzz in the air, an ethereal something, a sense of surreal occasion. The organisers call it a festival and with the Glastonbury weekend only just gone, there seems to be overspill from Somerset to Shoreditch of certain festival-esque possibilities: serendipity, revelation, maybe transformation (if you’re lucky).
The crazy weather helps: sudden downpours cutting through bright blue skies and brilliant sunshine.
No-one’s brought wellies, but there are sideshows, music and tents. There is even a baby crawling around on the grass, in rompers. As if by magic, someone appears with tubs of chocolate ice-cream on the roof. Later, random crates of ginger beer appear.
At the heart of this new media love-in is Steve Moore, standing head and shoulders above everyone else, grinning from ear to ear, booming instructions in his clipped, rhotic Belfast accent.
We’re in the grounds of The Rochelle School, a refurbished Victorian school-house in East London for two days of talks, workshops, brainstorming and networking. The idea behind the festival, 2gether08 (backed by Channel 4 and others – see the full list), is to explore how digital media can solve big, global, problems.
The school is next to Arnold Circus, where the rubble of Dickensian slums lies buried under a grassy knoll. Renaissance and regeneration are common words here so it’s no surprise the demolished slums come up frequently as a metaphor.
There seems to be a genuine desire to listen, learn, talk and collaborate. Maybe because it’s nice not to be talking about target audiences, ratings and eyeballs for once.
Sometimes you feel you’re part of a zeitgeist-y moment, and what’s nice about 2gether08 is that you know the conversations, enthusiasm and sentiments will continue way beyond the festival boundaries.