The 2015 Mega Meet Conference "Care Kids at 18+ - what happens next?"
A few days after the conference finished an open letter was sent out by 7 former "care kids" from the Newcastle area expressing concerns about almost every aspect of the event. None of the seven had attended the conference and in four out of seven cases neither Ella and I had ever had any previous communication from the writer.
Concern #1 - The conference should have been held in Newcastle as promised to them in November 2014 and that the decision to move the venue to Birmingham was taken by a "unrepresentative clique".
Our response - We are not aware of any promise being made to hold the conference in Newcastle and the "Newcastle Seven" don't say who made this promise to them or under what circumstances. What Ella and I do know is that in October 2014 the three proposals from Birmingham, Blackpool and Newcastle were circulated to every person who had asked to see them and that the deadline for comments was December 15th 2014. I wonder if an over-optimistic prediction by one of the Newcastle Organising Committee was misinterpreted?
Over 100 people voted on the decision as to where the conference should be held. The counting was done by a mutually agreed person with no close friendship links to those directly involved. Newcastle came third out of three (easily) with 18 votes. We don't know how the process could have been any fairer or more transparent than that?
Concerns #2, 3 - These can be taken together because they are so closely linked.
I don't agree that the catchment areas for Birmingham and Newcastle are "fairly similar" either in terms of area or population. Worcester to Newcastle is about 4 hours and Birmingham to Newcastle is over 3 hours so using their own figures of 90-120 minutes as an ideal maximum travelling time I don't think most of the 2015 delegates living south of Leeds would have driven up to Newcastle.
Concern #4 - This was the only concern that was directed firmly at Ella and I. The claim is that we used the sponsorship we had obtained to convince "anybody who would listen" to hold the conference at our choice of location, that is Birmingham.
We worked mega hard to obtain £5,000 worth of sponsorship. So yes it would have been disappointing if a venue had been chosen that was too far north for us to travel to BUT we made it 100% clear than none of the sponsorship was conditional on a particular venue being chosen.
I strongly suspect that almost every voter supported their closest venue and that those who didn't vote at all would not, or could not, have attended any of the proposed sites.
General Points -
If the "Newcastle Seven" want the 2016 conference to be held in the north of England then I suggest that Leeds would be a better bet than Newcastle. It is entirely possible that the Blackpool and Birmingham sub-groups would support a bid from Leeds and those of us within a hour of Birmingham to the SW, S or SE would probably make the effort to attend. But it is also possible that other bids will be made, I think that a joint Bristol and S Wales bid is being discussed so nobody should assume that Leeds would be the automatic victors.