Tuesday 24 April 2012

Who Do You Think You Are Live in Scotland?

Scotland's Ancestral Tourism Steering Group has just sent out a letter asking for an expression of interest in exhibiting at a possible Who Do You Think You Are? Live special event to be based in Scotland in 2014, the year of the next Homecoming Scotland event. The first thing to point out is that this is not yet confirmed, and may only go ahead if the interest is there in supporting it.

It is certainly the situation that in its usual home of London, it is the world's largest family history event, with some 15,000 visitors attending over the run of its three days. It is also the case that because it is in London, for Scots it is usually crippling in its expense, not so much for the table hire, but for the associated travel and accommodation costs which can run into four figures for groups. Obviously to have a Scottish based event would change that substantially. For all my chums in Ireland, it is also just a hop and a skip away by ferry, and for my chums down south... Glasgow's lovely! :)

The proposal is for the event to be held at Glasgow's Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (www.secc.co.uk). It has the full support of both VisitScotland and EventScotland, as well as the SECC, and is actively under consideration by Immediate Media in Bristol, the company that now runs the London based event.

From the letter:

What could your organisation do?
Experience from Olympia shows that the bodies who benefit most from WDYTYA LIVE! are those who engage most fully with it. Please consider the following possibilities:
  • take a stand – the most straightforward level of involvement;
  • offer Talks into the Workshop programme – attendees from the general public greatly value the themed Talks, Ask The Expert sessions, Celebrity Lectures and other events;
  • consider holding your AGM, Annual Meeting or Special Conference as a satellite meeting to the show – a chance to bring your membership together at a showcase event

And spread the word!

If you would be interested in participating, or wish to find out more at this early stage, you are asked to contact the chair of the Ancestral Tourism Steering Group, Bruce Durie, at bd@brucedurie.co.uk, and Caitlin Phetnoi at Immediate Media, the WDYTYA organisers, at Caitlin.Phetnoi@immediate.co.uk.

COMMENT: My feeling on this is that if it happens, there will never be a better run event in Scotland that would attract such media coverage, make such an impact for the Scottish public or reap such benefits for the Scottish genealogical community in all of its forms. This would be the first major international genealogy event to be held in Scotland.

Some may not have been to the event in London, and so may not realise quite how big a thing the show is. If that is the case, I would recommend having a look at its website at www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com - you will see a video on the right hand side of the screen that runs for just under nine minutes, with feedback from the last event from its users.

I have also previously written reports on the event both on my old Scottish GENES blog and the current British GENES blog. These reports can be found as follows:





2014 is going to be a landmark year for Scotland in terms of its visitor attractions, including the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, the Bannockburn anniversary and the Homecoming itself, but it is also a year that will focus on identity, with the small matter of a certain referendum to happen later in the year. It will be a year about Scotland and Scottishness, our future but also very much about our past, with all sorts of events to focus on what that holds for all of us, and family history absolutely needs to be at the very heart of that. I'd personally prefer someone to come to an event at the SECC to find out exactly how they are tied to our land than to waste their money in some kilt shop in Edinburgh, so this gets a huge thumbs up from me!

Please do give this some serious consideration, as I suspect opportunities like this won't come along that often.

Alba gu bragh! :) And if it happens - I'll see you there!

(With thanks to Bruce Durie)

UPDATE: Just to add, the SECC also has parking for 2000 cars, Glasgow has a public transport system that works, and the SECC is a ten minute walk from the city centre...!


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  1. Good luck with getting WDYTYAlive to Scotland - still not very convenient for English Midlands!
    I blogged about my day at this years event here http://maddergenealogist.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/sunday-at-who-do-you-think-you-are-live/

  2. It is also the case that because it is in London, for Scots it is usually crippling in its expense, not so much for the table hire, but for the associated travel and accommodation costs which can run into four figures for groups.

    Not half as much as getting to London from the Channel Islands, where even after you pay your fares you can't guarantee the boats and planes will run!

    But you have a point - the London show is big, but a lot of the Midland and northern FHSes never make it.

  3. Well it sounds like a jolly good excuse to cross the border!

  4. Any excuse to visit Glasgow is always welcome. It's a great city - if it had been as great 50 years ago perhaps my parents would never have left.

    But back to business. I think the great attraction of an event at the SECC would be its Scottishness, although hopefully with plenty of input from the neighbours - our histories have been interlinked for centuries, regardless of where the borders happen to be at any given time. The perennial point about the difficulties for northern and midland societies attending events in London is a good one. But when the SoG was running its annual fair in London many people said the same thing; so the SoG tried running an event in the midlands, twice at the NEC, (arguably the most accessible venue on the British mainland), and once at Stoneleigh Park. Unfortunately these shows were never as successful as the London ones. Things might be different if it were tried now, but perhaps part of the attraction of a venue is what the surrounding area has to offer, and like Glasgow has plenty. I'd certainly add on a few days to my stay to see the sights and do some of my own family history research for a change.

  5. One other model might also be to carry it out in the same way that Ireland's Back to Our Past is run - as one part of something bigger. In Ireland it is the Over 50s show, but with a couple of other halls also running events at the SECC's equivalent, the RDS. It provided variety, but my one observation about the Dublin event last year was that although the event was much smaller than that in London, it had EXACTLY the same buzz as WDYTYA Live. It felt very 2011, in the way that some of Ireland still doesn't.

    A possible problem may lie in exhibitors not wishing to exhibit twice - once in London, and once in Glasgow, simply because of a doubling of costs. So a smaller event would probably make more sense anyway. But the brand itself coming to Scotland would certainly be a massive innovation north of the border for the genealogical scene here.

  6. A great idea to go north of the border, but surely they are already committed to Olympia for 2014?

  7. The latest I've heard (last week) is it is not happening.