Recently, Julian Tait, Louise Bolotin, David Eaton and I sat down in Common and decided that the time had come to bring SMC_MCR to an end.
I write for a living and rarely suffer writer’s block but somehow it’s taken me weeks to prepare this blog post announcing the news. I honestly didn’t know how to approach it, but it’s got to come out at some point so I’ll just blurt it out.
SMC_MCR was born in the same Edge Street bar, Common, in which it was killed. In 2008, Julian and I met in the comment thread at the end of a blog post by Mike Atherton about London’s Tuttle Club. “Why isn’t something like this happening in Manchester?” we both asked. “Go for it,” said Mike. “Good idea,” we thought.
It turned out that we weren’t alone in thinking Manchester could do with such an event, and around a table a couple of weeks later a group of us, including Sarah Hartley and others, met to hatch a plan to take the Tuttle format and adjust it for Mancunian tastes. It had to be in the evening because we wanted people to not have to worry about asking their boss to go to some weird thing about ‘social media’, it had to offer more than a meet-up, and it had to offer beer.
We figured that maybe thirty people would turn up to our first Social Media Café Manchester event, a debate about whether blogging was dead (a hardy perennial question even then!) and so we were surprised when eighty people arrived at The Northern that evening.
We’d hit upon something – there was a real appetite for SMC_MCR among both the already social media-savvy and those who wanted to learn about Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and the other tools that were rapidly becoming important parts of every day life.
Over the years, the SMC_MCR community has debated everything from online privacy and open data to locative technologies and perceptive media, contributed to a documentary about our Ceefax and Teletext memories, held a major debate about the Manchester’s digital future, a debate about social media’s impact on the Manchester riot of 2011 (which Sarah wrote up on The Guardian website) and much more. MadLab came out of a chance meeting at SMC_MCR as well as being the inspiration of events both near and as far away as Istanbul and Cape Town.
In 2011 we refreshed the format by ‘rebranding’ as SMC_MCR (our hashtag from the start – I remember much debate on Twitter about whether the underscore was a good idea or not). ‘Social media’ was now as regular a part of life as breathing; if we’d stuck with our original name we might as well have held ‘Oxygen Café’ as a sister event.
Although the past two years have seen some of our best (and best-attended) events, it’s also seen a huge increase in the number of digital-focused events in Manchester. In the past few months, a feeling has grown – certainly inside Julian and I – that SMC_MCR was of its time and now it’s time to move on to other things.
At this point, we were going to list all the people we wanted to thank for their help and support over the years but it would be an incredibly long list and I’m sure we’d forget someone important.
So, thank you to every single one of you who helped us make SMC_MCR such a pleasure to be a part of over the past few years – from the bar owners who opened their premises especially for us, not knowing if we’d attract 100 people or 10 people that month (to be honest, we didn’t know for sure either, such are the perils of free events) to the many speakers and participants who have passed through over the years, to the volunteers who have helped us out by handing out name badges, booking speakers and pushing television stands through back alleys in the Northern Quarter at 10pm on a Tuesday night.
I hope we see you all around Manchester and beyond in the years to come, and may the spirit of SMC_MCR live on. Au revoir!