Thank you and goodbye, from SMC_MCR

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.

The first SMC_MCR

The first SMC_MCR

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.

Julian on the mic

Julian on the mic

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.

'Search vs Social' debate at the BBC's (now demolished) Oxford Road base.

‘Search vs Social’ debate at the BBC’s (now demolished) Oxford Road base.

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!

10 thoughts on “Thank you and goodbye, from SMC_MCR

  1. Matt Hackett (@mattorchard)

    A sad day. It definitely arrived at the right time and perhaps, as you say, that time has now passed.

    Social Media Cafe Manchester was the first event I went to after joining Orchard. This was May 2009, it had been established for a few months, and it had tied in with FutureSonic conference and upped sticks to the Contact Theatre. The event comprised of people stepping up to share what they knew about ‘cutting edge’ social media like Flickr, personal projects they were involved with, or just things they’d found out about, or had an interest in. These talks took place at random locations dotted around the venue which at times were had to track down. It wasn’t all relevant or of interest to me personally but, despite the disjointness, what I found was a real community with an interest in learning, sharing and debating.

    I met some great people that evening, and over the last 4 years. I got hooked on social media, learnt some useful and interesting things along the way, as well as some things I never wanted or needed to know!

    No doubt I’ll continue to see many of these now familiar faces at other events going forward that have sprung up over time. Thanks to Martin, Julian, and everyone who got this started, and everyone who got involved along the way to make SMC_MCR what it was.

  2. Tristan Tamplin (@nikon4me)

    It’s disappointing, but there are also definitely more options for groups and events in the community than even just a year ago. The SMC_MCR event during Future Everything last year was one of the first I attended in Manchester, and I enjoyed every subsequent one. I met some really interesting people, and it’s helped to spur me on to learn more about what’s going on locally. Thanks to all involved!

  3. carolynhughes

    Sad times! I met some great people at social media cafe when most people had never heard of Twitter. As @technicalfault said to me recently, just look at all the other events that spawned out of SMC_MCR.

    So thanks to everyone who organised it over the years – good work people.

  4. rickguttridge

    As a team we’ve been fans and attendees of SMC_MCR and learned a lot so thanks to everyone involved. It was always a great opp’ to rub shoulders and pick brains over a pint. Josh even kindly allowed Ben to attend dressed a giant Panda bear one session.
    Who knows, perhaps in a year or so there may be demand for a return or one-off specials at conferences etc?

  5. Tony

    Sad news indeed. I’ve chanced across this blog several times, usually late in the evening with a glass of wine in hand. Shame I didn’t get to any of your get togethers, especially as your venues often coincide my some of my drinking haunts in Manchester. Anyway good luck with whatever future ventures you guys have going.

  6. Martin Bryant

    Thanks everyone! It was a pleasure to run SMC_MCR and we’ll be having a farewell meetup in the autumn. We’ll post about it on this blog when we’ve firmed up the date. Hopefully see you all there!

  7. Dave

    Wow. I think this was the right thing to do, and I say that as someone who still looks back with misty eyes to the good times that were had around SMC_MCR, and how that monthly event brought together an amazing range of people and do-ers around the city. And as you point out, Martin, it’s been instrumental in causing everything that’s happened since to take place. It was an honour to be involved in it, even as the drunk guy at the back. Hope to see some of the old regulars back again for the reunion!

  8. Andy Cheeseman

    I only had the pleasure of attending one event (the perceptive media presentation), but I could tell what you had was something special. Thanks to all involved. Does anyone have any suggestions for a general technology presentation / discussion replacement? I frequent the MadLab, but are there any other haunts I should keep my eye on?

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