Tag Archives: breda

Breda revisiting

A year ago I wrote about the trip I took to Breda in the Netherlands as part of a project to bring some of their students across to Edinburgh for a research project. Now it’s 2012 and the project has just seen its third iteration with another two groups of Breda students heading across to Scotland… some 160 people in total. Quite an astonishing effort given the difficulties I’ve had encouraging my students to spend a day in Perthshire (which I’m sure is nothing to do with my choice of destination).


From one year to the next there have been some changes in the nature of the work the Breda students do during their ten days in Edinburgh, though the biggest change from my perspective is that I’ve taken a step back throughout the project. Nevertheless Napier has been more involved than ever. Colleagues of mine have contributed lectures and workshops on our campuses, they’ve attended guest speakers that Breda have invited in and all are keen to build on this link between the two institutions.


I think this is all great, very rewarding and a creative collaborative effort. It’s also testament to what can be achieved in Higher Education that a small idea a few years ago, which I was allowed to run with so long as it didn’t get in the way of my core job, has become a sustainable annual event that reaches so many people. From this have already sprung: Erasmus exchanges for both students and staff in each direction; the sharing of ideas and contacts; research projects… and lots of good memories and friendships.


Image: ‘Orange fever’ / flickr.com/photos/veneman/4761098876/


Breda on screen.

Following up some recent posts on the Breda project, just a couple of notes on the next stage of the work. A fortnight ago I watched the students’ presentations from the Netherlands, while I sat in my flat in EH11. Breda live stream all their lectures and record them for later online viewing – some examples are here – which made it dead easy to tune in.


What with modern easy familiarity with technology you can probably picture me dialling in to Skype and offering my thoughts, asking questions and otherwise being a part of the event. Watching my face appear where once had been PowerPoint slides and Prezi animations can’t have been easy for anyone, but I resisted the temptation to abuse that highly visible position: think Sir Patrick Moore on Gamesmaster.


The students used a wide range of styles, approaches and technologies for their presentations, populating each short talk with the results of their research, their recommendations and some reflections on the overall project. It was great to see that each of the four chosen venues seems to have given them plenty to work with and scope to make some valuable recommendations. The written reports are in, are currently being marked, and should be available to the venues in a week or so.

Lessons from Holland.

When I was out in Breda I did my best to use ‘the Netherlands’ when talking about the country I was in. Holland is part of the Netherlands, not all of it, yet the man on the Clapham omnibus tends to use the words interchangeably. I asked for a local view… Holland seems to be used in general, but when the Dutch are being serious (or are in trouble) they reach for Nederland.

Being a serious type I kept with the extra syllables.

With a couple of week’s distance since the students from Breda came to Edinburgh here are four bullet pointed lessons to take from their visit and what they value in their course:

  • As a university department, full of staff and students interested in events, there’s scope to develop closer links with local venues in order to support student opportunities to put on work. A more concerted, ongoing effort to encourage student events in appropriate venues could be a great way to further integrate what we’re doing at Edinburgh Napier with successful parts of the city’s events sector.
  • Project management and event design can be built into more elements of the curriculum, providing a framework within which formative and summative assessments can be developed, monitored and built upon.
  • There’s scope for me, in particular, to promote Erasmus exchanges, particularly with NHTV Breda.
  • Structured primary research has a place in the earlier years of the course than is currently the case, in my modules at least.

I’ll return to this post when preparing for the next academic year, but for now these are more thoughts to ponder ??? more grist to the mill. To some extent it’s a matter of degrees, or perhaps a formalising of existing activity, but small steps could yield meaningful rewards.

Breda, day 3: collaborations and communities

Day three of three and perhaps the most mixed of my April trip to Breda. I was pressed into service for a couple more classes: students studying International Leisure Management, a course predominantly taught in Dutch. These were smaller groups and we took the chance to be more interactive, relaxed and reactive to what the students are most interested in. There was time here to go into more depth about the relationships between Edinburgh’s festivals, the nature of the Fringe and work being done by the Festivals Innovation Lab.

Much of what I talked about was in the context of a professionalising events and festivals industry, with more investment, higher expectations and closer examination of the products and their outcomes. Scotland has a great deal to offer here, whether it be the formalised objectives of the central and local governments, the creation of EventScotland or the popularity and diversity of its event management education. From what I heard this isn’t out of touch with other countries, but perhaps there’s something about the size of the country that means this work has taken on additional momentum – not for us the provincial barriers of England’s Regional Development Agencies. Does it result in better events? Do we reach the objectives we are set more quickly, more effectively and more efficiently than would otherwise be the case? Are we teaching people the right things and discussing topics that will benefit the students and the industry? I say we keep asking these questions, developing our research tools, building links between the academy and the industry and continue to facilitate the sharing of ideas between nations and communities.

Now, regrettably, I won’t be able to return to Breda for one such opportunity: the inaugural meeting of the ATLAS Events Special Interest Group, more information here. I shall be otherwise engaged, yet the themes are relevant to my PhD ideas and my interest in events more generally. Here’s hoping I can tap into some of the discussions in some way – maybe someone will blog while they’re there. Needless to say I met several people in Breda who are involved in the conference and I share their enthusiasm for this work.

Shortly after this I met with a student who is coming to Edinburgh on an entirely different project to the one I’m working on; she is one of fiffy, arriving at the same time as the others: there’ll now be 140+ of them in town! I’ll help out where I can, but all this makes me despair at the poor turnout I get when trying to organise a day trip to beautiful snowy Perthshire each January.

My final chat was with Klaus Hoven, who teaches and researches events and social media, augmented reality, communities, capital and similar themes. It was a very enlightening discussion – one of those where I switch from thinking ‘my PhD ideas seem to be pretty innovative’ to ‘what a lot of catching up I’ve got to do’! I hope that I can keep in touch with Klaus and continue to tap into his knowledge, understanding and innovative thinking in these areas.

And now I’m back home where the national narrative has been dominated by the royal wedding: the BBC version and the often (though not always) more caustic Twitter accompaniment. I shall not go into depth on this subject, thus reflecting the degree to which other world events have been given equally short shrift by the media, whether it be broadcast, print, social or otherwise.

Meanwhile, here are some images advertising festivals in Breda and nearby Tilburg:


Got red hair? Head to Roodharigen in Breda!

Breda clearly has the best festival in the world for anyone interested in red hair. From the simple premise that not many people in the Netherlands have red hair comes an event to celebrate the lucky few. The website is http://www.roodharigen.nl/ and the poster for 2007 is below.

September 3rd and 4th this year: 5,000 people are expected!


Breda, day 2: theatres and theory.

Day two in Breda and a grilling from some of the 2nd year students about the different Edinburgh venues they???re researching. For the record that???s the Festival TheatreChurch Hill TheatreStorytelling Centre and the Royal Mile (particularly the High Street). I did my best to answer their questions, although I suspect that for some this project will only fully come together when they reach the Scottish capital and can experience the atmosphere and goings on at their chosen venue.

All the groups I spoke to were organised and professional in their approach (written agenda, minutes, etc.) and although these were supervised meetings with their tutor the students were driving the discussions. Ingraining these operational skills and attitudes early in the degree programme is important and I assume helps set the tone throughout the course. (There were a few disapproving comments from classmates if someone said they wouldn’t be able to make it to the next meeting.) In general though the focus was on engaging in the research process, ensuring validity and reliability in their work and establishing the next steps for the group within the limitations they are faced with.

I also had the chance to present to a different group of students, this time a more ???academically??? focused class who are predominantly Dutch (rather than the international mix on their way to Edinburgh). I fear that I tried to cram too much in, although I warned everyone that this was due to be the case and they let me off. The subject was partly a discussion on stakeholder relationships (drawing on comment from Getz and others), partly an Edinburgh case study, partly a review of some work from Richards and Palmer in their ???Eventful Cities??? text. By discussing these ideas in an explicitly international environment I probably took a more considered approach to how they affect Edinburgh: I couldn???t rely on my audience???s familiarity with the city, so had to do more to contextualise the information for broader relevance. Likewise I also had greater freedom to speculate perhaps: ???This is what works in the UK, what about the situation here in the Netherlands????

Dinner was with colleagues from the university and it’s perhaps reassuring that some of the same themes crop up from one country to the next: feedback, management, academic leadership, student expectations, the learning experience, course design and flexibility, placement opportunities, appropriate technology, primary research and more. Some simple lessons that I’d like to take from this and apply at my institution include…
– doing more to promote overseas placement opportunities to the students
– encouraging a more professional attitude in the earlier years of the course to enhance engagement
– reviewing and monitoring the balance between programme flexibility and academic coherence
– getting a clearer idea of why the students are doing the course and what they really want to get out of it

Meanwhile, some photos of Breda and the leisure/events campus.


Breda, day 1: hello and hospitality.

It???s only a few days since Daniel Turner posted from America about his experiences at a US college, with reflections on the disparity of resources and opportunities open to students on campuses countries. I now have the opportunity to match that after dining at a student-run restaurant in the Netherlands: I was very well looked after.

I???m spending three days in Breda, in the southern Netherlands, as part of a joint project to bring some students to Edinburgh (as flagged in an earlier post). The flight over was very early this morning [last Tuesday], so I???ll keep this post short as I begin to flag, but the connections were all efficient. It???s great to be back in Breda, replicating last year???s visit in the inaugural running on this project. The centre of the city is beautiful, full of history and character.

Dinner was at the university’s very attractive Institute of Hotel and Facilities Management: photos are below, I love a nice neat clean line in my architecture and interior decor. Our visit coincided with assessments for the students, but I got the impression that a tour of the venue and the kitchens is all part of the usual experience. The students are clearly very proud of working in some great spaces, which encourage them to put on events and develop their skills. First year students must complete 80 hours work here in order to progress in their courses, from cooking to waiting to barista work and whatever else needs done. Second year students meanwhile take on many of the planning and development roles (including devising menus, etc.). It???s an impressive outfit in one of Breda???s nicest suburbs; it certainly doesn???t look out of place.

I am therefore envious of the investment that has gone into these resources. It would interesting to see how the addition of such facilities would enhance the student experience at Edinburgh Napier, but perhaps there???s also a need to make better use of the resources that the university already has, but are not put to educational use.

The earlier part of the day saw me deliver an introductory lecture for the students due to come to Edinburgh in a couple of weeks. I employed my usual mix of pictures, unnecessary animations and bullet points to put my points across. It???s a good sign that there were questions at the end: I look forward to following up on similar themes in tomorrow???s class discussion sessions.

Meanwhile, I hope I get more than three and a half hours sleep tonight: I???m not conditioned for such early flights just at the moment.