Bart’s & Queen Mary University Science Festival

20 June 2018

I arrived at the Octagon just before 9.00am and met Paul Bowers Isaacson who was in the process of erecting the Trials Connect stall. I knew that there would be a very technical reason why we had been unable to erect it the previous day. There was! We had the base upside down even though it was clearly marked! 

After Paul had accomplished the highly specialised task of putting the base right side up and then quickly erecting the stall we moved our display boards, put up our posters and set out our stall. As usual Paul, had done a very professional job with the posters and display boards which showed previous years’ questions and attached answers together with a fresh board for this year’s questions. 

I then saw Jane Bachelor and gave her the survey sheets I had hurriedly run off the night before. She asked me to man the doors to greet and welcome our visitors when they came in, which I did before coming in to man our TrialsConnect stall. We had a large influx of schoolchildren and I don’t think we had a single seat left unfilled apart from those reserved seats at the front when the welcome and introduction speeches were given.

This year there was a difference in format for the Festival in that the time for the talks had been reduced to 15 minutes and only three speakers and the schoolchildren were allowed to circulate from stall to stall from the beginning. I believe this was in response to requests made by the exhibitors for more time for the children to visit all the displays. This would help to further justify all their hard work in preparing and attending the event for them. 

I obviously have a vested interest but I thought our TrialsConnect stall did very well this year and I was quite surprised at the good response we received from the schoolchildren. They seemed interested in what we had to say and asked some interesting questions although not all of them were about clinical trials as such and good responses were given by Paul and other volunteer patients Iris and Patrick (and dare I include myself in this?). Excellent answers, of course, were given by David Collier, Clinical Director of the William Harvey Clinical Research Centre, on the difficult questions.

One thing that stood out for me. I saw a young girl at our stall hanging back from her friends and looking as if she wanted to ask something and didn’t like to. I spoke to her and asked if we could help and did she have a question. She said, “No!” but pointed to a poster we had on our table and said, “That is my mum, she does this, she visits people in their home and helps them”. This charming young girl was obviously very proud of her mum and how she helped other people and was pleased and surprised to see her work being promoted here and she thanked us. I suppose technically this was not part of our display but Jane had obtained these posters from one of her contacts and agreed to put a few out to promote their small community event. I thought this was a charming example of how a small act can have an unexpected result and this young girl’s thank you should be shared with everyone. 

Fengjun He of the Wolfson Institute of Medicine gave our first presentation that I knew from the previous day was a most interesting talk on Salt and how in China children were treated like Emperors or Princesses (or Kings and Queens) because of their government’s decision to allow parents to have only one child. This led to the parents taking notice of what their children said. The children were taught the dangers of salt and how important it was to reduce consumption and they got this message over to their parents and grandparents very successfully. I hope she will forgive me for truncating her far more interesting presentation.

The TrialsConnect team of clinical trials patients and a clinician spoke next and guess what? We had the very great benefit of having an ex-teacher with us. There was no danger of us not being heard. Thank you Paul!

Paul read out questions posed by visitors to our stall and we took turns in answering these and the audience seemed to enjoy and appreciate our answers.

This year I had the pleasure of meeting Iris once again, a lovely lady who also has an educational background. She was a Headmistress before she retired. It was also a pleasure seeing Patrick again. He is always good fun and manages to make everyone around him smile or laugh. Both are always a good asset on stage and stall.

The final speaker was Emm Johnstone of the School of Business and Management at Queen Mary University who gave an interesting, amusing and affirmative talk, telling how her book characters Captain Chemo and Mr. Wiggly came into being and were developed and used in children cancer work. The story of the young cancer sufferer coming up with the idea of Captain Chemo and the graphics showing the character with a bald head (because of their chemotherapy) was moving and inspirational. The presentation went very well and I don’t think the audience had any problems at all with taking in Emm’s talk.

I broke off my duties with TrialsConnect for a short while a couple of times to help escort some of the schoolchildren to and from the Curve where they could sit and eat their lunch. I returned shortly and then returned to help escort them back again a little later. 

As the afternoon progressed the audience diminished and we were able to network and visit and say hello to our fellow exhibitors, ask how they fared and experienced some of their games and displays. This interaction and exchange of information was most enjoyable.

The Science Festival appeared to me to be very successful with perhaps one aspect to assess which we can discuss at a later date as part of our brief to measure success and to seek ways to improve our events. If memory serves me correctly this is something that we are all being encouraged to do in everything nowadays.

My personal measure of success on this occasion is not very scientific but is based purely on the nature of and noise level flowing from the schoolchildren. The sounds I heard were very obviously the sounds of children thoroughly enjoying themselves and the sound levels which were high at times, seemed to me to be typical of children who were engaged and interested in what they were seeing and hearing from all our exhibitors. There was a real buzz of excitement around the room and it seemed to me that we had a whole bunch of kids whose attention had been grabbed and minds excited. If nothing else this must be one of the aims or hopes of our Science Festival. Hopefully the things they saw at our event will have sparked an interest in things scientific, medical and applied science.

I know that Jane received a good response from our survey forms and I am very pleased about this. It is good to have documentation as proof of the success of an event.

After everyone had packed up and left Jane and I finalised the tidying up, gathered the rubbish and left it in a central position, whilst IT did their thing and we then waited for the stage erectors to arrive to dismantle the stage and security to lock up. Jane and I got away just before 5pm.

TRIALSCONNECT has worked alongside

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