I visited the University of Kent at Canterbury on Saturday.
My main purpose was to give a Media training session to some Americans and Canadians, but before I did that, I wanted to collect my Press credentials and to check in at the Media Centre. I was interested to see if the accommodation there was as dire as Ruth Gledhill had originally reported. I had forgotten how ugly some of the buildings are.
The letter telling me where to go to collect my credentials had said:
Your accreditation pass and welcome pack will be available from the Accreditation Desk in the GRIMOND Building, University of Kent at Canterbury, from the morning of Wednesday, July 16.
While waiting in what turned out to be the wrong queue at the GRIMOND building, I met an English bishop of my acquaintance who, when I explained to him what I had come to do, said he thought the CofE bishops might find a similar session useful. Before you ask, he wasn’t NT Wright.
When I went to the right desk, I got my accreditation pass and blue lanyard quickly enough, and also a very welcome free pass for use in either of two car parks on campus. But when I asked if there was anything else I should receive, I got an emphatic No.
Expecting to receive perhaps at least a paper map of the campus (how minimalist can a Welcome Pack be?), I was a bit surprised but tried not to show it. I asked again, just to make sure. Still No.
So then I asked if other material was to be obtained from the Media Centre. Yes, she said, it was. So off I went to find the Media Centre. Luckily I had written down its location before leaving home.
When you get there, it is indeed up a lot of stairs and down a lot of corridors, and the space allocated for journalists seems extraordinarily small for the huge number of them that have been given accreditation. I was told (I did not see it for myself) that the room to be used for press briefings only seats a few dozen.
But on the other hand, it is much, much closer to the main conference venues than the place used for these purposes in 1998. It was at the other end of the campus, but was a lecture theatre with ample room for everyone to sit. And it had been equipped with CCTV to allow journalists to watch the plenary proceedings from afar. Space for journalists in the tent ten years ago was extremely limited.
Anyway, when I got to the Press Office I found Peter Crumpler, and told him what had happened at the Registration Desk. He rolled his eyes and said: “Didn’t they give you a personal ID and login for the WiFi?” “No”, I said, “they didn’t.” Of course, it hadn’t occurred to me to ask specifically for that, in the absence of absolutely any other paperwork.
I really didn’t want to go all the way back to the other building at that point, so I borrowed a login ID from another journalist and tried to get my laptop connected to the University network. I did succeed eventually, but it was not straightforward. I will start again on that trail on Monday morning.
Before I left the Media Centre, I did get from Peter’s friendly staff a copy of the paper Official Programme & Event Guide, which lists all the separate events in detail and contains lots of useful information. Today, I’m at home perusing the Programme Guide to plan my future visits.
But I still have no idea what else might have been in the Welcome Pack.