Hull Geological Society
Humberside Geologist Online

Humberside Geologist no 14

 

 

Yorkshire Geology Month 2005.

A personal report by Mike Horne.

In October 1992 Paul Ensom of the Yorkshire Museum organised a Yorkshire Geology Week (Horne & Boyd 1992). I remember taking a Hull Geological Society display to the Museum with Felix Whitham. I also remember Eric Robinson of the Geologists' Association leading an excellent walk around the York Cemetery; I have a press cutting, from the Yorkshire Post, which includes a picture of Eric pointing at a gravestone with me in the background!

In 1999 the President of the G.A. , Dick Moody, contacted me and subsequently came to Hull to talk about a organising a Yorkshire Festival of Geology for 2004. I remember telling Dick that I thought the central festival should be part of a broader series of public events across the region. In my opinion the geologists should point out the geology in our local environment rather than just ask the public to turn up at a single meeting. At Dick's request I started to ask my geological contacts if they would support such an event. This eventually turned into the Earth Alert 2 event held over the August Bank Holiday weekend in Scarborough in 2002.

I was still keen though to see some local public events being organised by amateur geologists. So in 2003 and early 2004 I started making informal enquiries with Chris Darmon (publisher of Down to Earth), Pete Rawson (then the new president of the Yorkshire Geological Society, who had hopes to make changes), Will Watts (organiser of the Dinosaur Coast Project in Scarborough which was running lots of successful events for the public at the time) and others. The replies seemed favourable. So I decided to have a go ...

I knew that there was an 'audience' out there for geological events - on occasions huge numbers can turn up if the event is picked up by the local press and radio. I really enjoyed leading these events and knew that others in the Hull Geological Society did so too. There were also other amateurs and groups doing similar good work in other areas. Could we add extra energy and "feel good factor" by all doing it at the same time?

I arranged a meeting with Will Watts, and Camilla Nicholl and Stuart Ogilvy (both from the Yorkshire Museum) in York on 1st June 2004. We formed an informal committee and agreed our aims and plans. As we had no funding I tried to keep the organisation as simple as possible, using e-mail and the World Wide Web as much as possible to keep costs down. Later the Society agreed to contribute a small sum towards postage.

The British Association for the Advancement of Science holds an annual Science Week in March and the Hull Geological Society has taken part on occasions. But I have always thought that the weather in March is not the best for field trips so we tend to be restricted to indoor events. As the aim was to show the geology to the public I chose May so that there would be better weather and lighter evenings for YGM2005. But the Committee eventually realised that the schools half-term follows the Bank Holiday at the end of May, so we included the first week of June in our "month".

The original simple aim of Geology Month was to create events for the public run by local geologists. A secondary aim was to bring those geologists together into an informal network to further co-operation and promote Yorkshire Geology to the public. We also tried to create links with other sciences and geology-related industries, and emphasise the contribution geology makes to society. The whole thing was run on an informal and voluntary basis, without any constitution or rules (though Will Watts was hopeful of obtaining grants towards costs and publicity).

For YGM2005 to work we first needed geologists to volunteer to lead events. In August 2004 I sent out a formal invitation to all my Yorkshire contacts by post or e-mail, I also wrote to geology-related groups and companies. I asked for the help of national geological groups such as the Geological Society, the Geology Curators Group, and the G.A. to spread the word; in fact I tried to contact any geological organisation which might have members living in Yorkshire. Chris Darmon kindly put a piece into the free geological newspaper Down to Earth asking geologists to contact me.

In September, I sent out a second letter to those who replied to the invitation. As we did not want the leadership of YGM to become exclusive we also invited groups to join the organising committee. The Leeds Geological Association agreed to send representatives and Tony Benfield attended our second committee meeting in York on October 8th 2004.

In December I distributed "event forms" to the supporters, with suggestions of the types of events they could run. By the time of the 3rd planning meeting , held on 7th January 2005, we had pledges of support from sixty geologists and groups, and details of ten out of 25 promised events. We had also had definite plans for a follow up "gathering", at which all the supporters and event leaders could meet each other and do some 'bonding'. We never did think of a catchy title for this final YGM2005 event. I also created a 'web-community' which Yorkshire geologists could join and use to share information without having to communicate through the committee.

The collation of event details was quite simple in theory! In January we asked event organisers to send the details in a set format and this was then pasted into the website and poster. This meant that the event organiser had control over the content. But some event organisers didn't follow this system and then complained that information had been left out of the website.

Will Watts organised some regional press releases and produced some generic posters as part of an organiser's pack. Generally though event organisers were encouraged to do their own local publicity.

Details of events kept coming in until the Month started, we did not reject any events even if the details arrived after the deadline. In the end 65 organisations and individual geologists agreed to support the Month and 41 events were organised and took place. Two events were cancelled and five promised events never got finalised.

Here is an indication of the distribution of some of the events and the number of people attending based on feedback provided by organisers:

Area

No. of Events

Events reported

People attending

Huddersfield

7

7

110

Hull & East Riding

9

9

230

H & ER Roadshows

2

2

>320

Leeds

4

4

108

NEGT

4

   

Scarborough

1

1

ca 40

Sheffield

2

2

16

Whitby

1

1

16

YGS

1

   

YWT

2

2

31

Given that Yorkshire Geology Month had no money to pay for organisation or publicity that is quite an achievement! The grants we had originally hoped for never materialised. I created a web site to list the events and produced a full listing, which was sent to all the event organisers.

The Month was publicised in some sectors of the geological community. The Yorkshire Geological Society created and sent a YGM2005 leaflet and sent it to all their members and listed the events on their web site. The Geological Society added links from their web site and published notices in Geoscientist. Chris Darman printed short articles in Down to Earth.

The success of the events themselves was largely down to local publicity, which is always very unpredictable. Sometimes a press release will catch the imagination of the local newspapers resulting in substantial public interest. The other way to really 'take geology to the people' is to have a Roadshow in a location where people are walking past, for example: in the middle of a shopping area!

The organising committee put a substantial amount of time into the running of the month (I estimate this was over 300 hours) and received a little help with the cost of printing and postage. We have also made contact with several geologists and organisations and have established a good starting database to work from in the future.

Given more time and some funding we could have achieved more. Here are some things that could have gone better and should be considered if Yorkshire Geology Month was to take place again:-

To sum up -

Did we achieve our aims? I think that the answer is "yes".

Could we have done better? Yes, if we had some more time and funding.

References -

Horne M & M Boyd 1992. Notes and Comments. Humberside Geologist 10, 7-9.

 

* - notes for table:- Huddersfield - Huddersfield Geology Group and West Yorkshire RIGS Group ; Hull and East Riding - Hull G. S., East Yorkshire RIGS Group, East Riding of Yorkshire County Council ('Dinostar' exhibition not included) ; Hull and East Riding Roadshows - at Hull and East Riding Museum and Hornsea Museum; Leeds - Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, Leeds Geological Association and University of Leeds; NEYGT - North East Yorkshire Geology Trust; Scarborough - Dinosaur Coast Project; Sheffield - Peter Kennett, (Sheffield University events not reported); Whitby - "Natural Wonders"; YGS - Yorkshire Geological Society. YWT - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at Rifle Butts SSSI and Wensleydale .