London Montage

Archives for April 2012

Biodiversity in London and The First National Park – Yellowstone

The National Geographic Traveller Magazine for April/May 2012 caught my eye recently in the dentist’s waiting room with an article relating to Yellowstone Park being the first national park. My thoughts turned to 17 May this year; a London PA Network talk about Biodiversity in London with Valerie Selby, Principal Parks Officer,  Biodiversity & Parks Development at Wandsworth Council.

London has a wealth of open space and habitats for wildlife which we often forget. This year with the London 2012 Culture Festival will present  a great opportunity to showcase London’s green credentials which would not have been possible without the foresight of the pioneers who created the very first national park albeit far across the Pond.

The world’s first national park, Yellowstone,  reaches its 140th birthday this year. Back when it was created in 1872 conservationists would have struggled to imagine that Yellowstone would become the worldwide model – in the US alone there are now 58 national parks.  While Yellowstone is today arguably the icon of protected wilderness areas, it wasn’t always so.  Some native American tribes living in the parklands were thoughtlessly displaced during its creation. Today’s threat to wildlife, however, comes from nature itself. The park sits on a volcano that, according to some predictions, is due one almighty bang in the next century.

Although London’s many parks and gardens are not under threat from a volcanic eruption, I am sure Valerie will be providing tips on protecting these assets with a fascinating insight into how conservationists are working to ensure London continues to plan its diversity and educate us all in how to preserve and co-exist in harmony with the natural wonders all around us.


Anne Marks

Diary of a Games Maker Part 1

London 2012 describe ‘Games Makers’ as follows:

“London 2012 volunteers are called ‘Games Makers’, as they are helping to make the Games happen. Up to 70,000 Games Makers will take on a wide variety of roles across the venues: from welcoming visitors; to transporting athletes; to helping out behind the scenes in the Technology team to make sure the results get displayed as quickly and accurately as possible. Games Makers come from a diverse range of communities and backgrounds, from across the UK and abroad. The vast majority are giving up at least 10 days to volunteer during the Games.”

The whole process started with initial registration by October 2010. By early March 2011 they had received about 250,000 applicants for the approx 70,000 jobs and had interviewed about 3500 at that stage (300 per day were being interviewed at the Excel Centre).  In mid-October I was invited to an interview, which I attended on 28 October.  There was some general information to start with, including an Eddie Izzard film with hints about how to approach the interview.  These were conducted in a friendly and relaxed manner, mainly by interviewers who were volunteers themselves.

After some e-mails saying in effect “you had not been forgotten”, I had an offer to become a Games Maker in January 2012.  In fact I only received the reminder e-mail, saying I had 7 days to decide whether to accept or reject the offer!  I don’t know what happened to the original e-mail.

Events moved a little quicker after that, as I went to one of the Orientation half-day sessions at Wembley Arena in early February.  Fortunately I went on the Saturday afternoon, as the snow started to fall just as we came out of the arena and were heading for the train home.  I understand that many people had difficulty getting there on the Sunday.   We often do not give much credit to our weather forecasters but they were accurate almost to the minute in predicting the start of that particular snowfall!   I did some supermarket shopping on the way home and then had to wait almost 30 minutes for a taxi – they were all busy and/or had gone home because of the snowfall.  Just as well the Olympics are being held in the summer!

The Games Maker journey will continue with role specific training, uniform collection and on-site training at the venues and finally in carrying out the allocated shifts.

Enhancing Education by Elaine Howard

In 2009 on the formation of London PA Network Elaine Howard was the ideal person to be the organisation’s Educational and Training Adviser. Elaine has vast experience in the profession, initially as a PA in a variety of high profile roles and then as founder and owner of Kudos Training in 1988 to present day.

Those who know Elaine have great respect for her as a mentor.  She also has a high reputation in the provision of educational and training courses, as well as being inspirational, understanding and encouraging. Elaine promotes education in its very widest sense through encouraging access to the rich and ever-evolving London scene, and enabling like-minded people to meet, network and support each other.

These things present a great chance for London PA Network to continue to evolve and grow and we certainly welcome innovative and enthusiastic members.  Clearly being a part of this organisation will naturally widen and enhance knowledge and experience, in your work and leisure hours. Elaine looks forward to providing news, updates and information in business and educational fields and very much hopes to have the opportunity to meet you all in the near future.

An Observation on an Olympics 2012 Journey

According to a 1989 edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, the main definitions of “journey” were distance travelled in a specified time, act of going to some distance, round of travel.  These days most of life’s events tend to be described as a “journey”, whether you‘re appearing on the X-factor or competing in the Olympics.   So to find yourself welcomed to your Games Maker “training journey” is probably less surprising than it would have been back in the day!

Not quite “trains and boats and planes” or indeed a rollercoaster, but one aspect of being involved in the interview process and training for the Games Makers has been the actual distance travelled by bus, train and tube to attend the various events.  So far, these have included the Excel Centre in Docklands, Wembley Arena and Hackney College (actually located in Hoxton).  Next stops will be to somewhere in West Ham for uniform collection and on-site training at Wimbledon, my allocated venue.  At least the latter route will be more familiar to me but it has been interesting going to different parts of London.  The day of my interview I also went up to the View Tube (Pudding Mill Lane) overlooking the Olympic Park.  I forget how many modes of transport I used that day but it included the DLR, overground, underground and bus!

Website Launch

Before starting the project it was essential to ensure the branding was right and to consider the unique selling points. This started me thinking about some of the great marketing statements used by supermarkets and big brand names. Whilst we are not in that field, it was important to establish these factors, which don’t come quickly! A specification was produced giving the requirements envisaged for the web design and the next step was to find the right person to guide us along the road to the end product. Research, time and patience proved valuable. I am absolutely delighted with the support provided by our web designer, freshSPRING, in not only challenging my thinking but also their limitless patience with our many questions and nurturing us to, I hope you agree, get a great result.

At our first meeting Nick asked many probing questions which completely challenged my thinking and threw up more questions than answers at that stage! This proved valuable in thinking about the audience London PA Network wished to attract. Other meetings followed. To begin with the appearance of the site was very bare, making it very hard to visualise how it would eventually look, and what content was required. Web writing proved very different to my ‘layperson’s’ initial idea before these discussions.

As time moved on, Nick threw into the equation ‘Social Networking’ and the importance of utilising such sites as a great marketing tool. At this time I was feeling rather ‘overwhelmed’ but with his encouragement my fears soon disappeared, enabling me to concentrate on the task ahead.

Nearing the end of the project now, there are still one or two more questions for our Web Designer team plus checking and double checking the final product. At a recent London PA Network event, Lucy Brazier, Publisher and Editor of Executive Secretary mentioned in her talk to members, the importance of utilising the free’ marketing tools ‘social networking’ provides and how right this has proved to be – thank you Lucy!

This has been a challenging but exciting project which has taken considerable time and energy but I am grateful to my colleague, Brenda, who has been a great support and help in proof reading and bouncing ideas off.

Anne Marks