Last week I was going to blog about the workshop I’d booked to attend, as part of UK Knit Camp held in Stirling, Scotland, at the start of August. Alas, my attendance of this event was not to be and I was left with such mixed feelings that I could not articulate properly — hence the lack of a post last Friday. Now, though, I’m going to try.
Back in March I heard about UK Knit Camp and booked on the Nancy Bush workshop entitled “An Overture to Estonian Lace”. Now, I am familiar with Estonian lace and have knitted some swatches in the technique from time to time, but felt that the workshop would be of great benefit to feeding my ongoing obsession with lace knitting. I was so excited and bought the materials I would need, also ensuring I remembered to pack Nancy’s book for a possible signing. I bounced about this workshop for months, telling everyone — whether knitter or not — and dreaming about the day itself and what it would be like, what I would learn, and about meeting Nancy.
The night before I was due to drive to Stirling, I went to the UK Knit Camp site to obtain the final location details for my workshop — only to find that the site was down. However, I knew that the event had a Ravelry forum and so popped over there to see if anyone else knew if the site was down and whether anyone else knew where I was supposed to go on the Tuesday for my workshop. But what I found instead was a cacophony of posts and threads from Ravelry users, all trying to make sense of some last-minute problems regarding the organisation of the event.
After reading through everything, it transpired that the event organiser had not obtained the relevant work visas in time for the tutors who were flying in from abroad (mainly America) and that some tutors had already arrived in the UK. However, due to the complications with the non-existent visas, some of these tutored had been interviewed, fingerprinted and then deported immediately! What’s more, there was talk of the workshops being cancelled/re-arranged and tutors being changed — when some people had booked specifically to work with a certain tutor, not necessarily for the technique(s) themselves — and all this within hours of when I was due to travel to Stirling for the event.
I posted to the forum asking questions, trying to find out what the status of the overall event was and what the plan was for day-ticket holders like myself — for there wasn’t just me asking about workshops or travelling in for just the day or two days, but quite a few people on the forum. Via the forum, I directly asked the organiser for an update, then — a few hours later — I asked again. And again. Each time I — and many others — were ignored. We knew the organiser was online because she was posting on other threads, and responding to other comments. However, none of her posts shared any information about the event changes, website downtime, or anything else — rather, she felt the need to defend herself and repeatedly complained that people were being “mean” to her. This was inaccurate, for all people were asking for was an update. All we wanted was a bit of honesty, responsibility and communication from the organiser as to what was happening. And we got nothing of the sort.
This dragged on for hours; eventually the organiser promised a blog post with all the relevant information, to be posted on the Tuesday morning. In desperation, as my class was due to start Tuesday morning, I posted again with a very simple question: “Will this class be running tomorrow?”. I have yet to have a reply to this question, or to any of the others, from the organiser.
Tuesday morning dawned; no official replies to anything and no blog post as we had been promised. Tempers ran high on the forum; I tried to remain calm and stick to the facts. Inwardly I was seething and trying to find some compassion for the organiser who must surely be feeling the strain — but instead all I could think of was the poor tutors who had been messed around and the poor knitters who had paid good money to attend and yet who were unable to due to the changes in workshops and no information as to which workshops, which changes, when.
Eventually, information began to trickle through — but not from the organiser. Instead, tutors and folk already at Knit Camp were posting to the forum, providing information to the rest of us. The organiser remained silent. The website came back online with a new schedule of workshops — some of which directly conflicted the information being posted to the Ravelry forums. A variety of Ravelry members, myself included, continued to ask questions on the forum, to seek answers. I tried calling the number I had for the organiser; no response. I tried emailing her; it bounced. I posted to the forums again; it was ignored.
Finally, the much-promised blog post appeared. Contrary to what the organiser had promised, it contained no information about what was happening. Everyone was still in the dark. And, what’s more, it became clear that the organiser was in breach of her own terms and conditions, which stated, “7.2. If for any unforseen circumstances we have to cancel the event(s) or any part of the event(s) including specific classes and you have already paid to participate, we will e-mail you as soon as we are aware and will refund you in full as quickly as possible.”
There was talk of refunds; some people were successful — mainly those who were already present in Stirling for the whole week of UK Knit Camp and who could approach the organiser directly. Those who posted to the forums asking what to do were ignored. It soon became clear that anyone attending the whole week were being updated; anyone who held a day-ticket was disregarded. And for those who fell into this category, there was a lot of hurt and angry feelings, disappointment and upset — not to mention out-of-pocket expenses, particularly for those who arrived in Stirling for their workshops knowing nothing of all this and being turned away at the door!
As a company director, workshop facilitator and public speaker myself this whole thing had my back up — above all else one should take responsibility and be honest and communicative when dealing with your event attendees/clients, even if the news isn’t wonderful. It helps garner trust, respect and understanding as well as aiding one’s reputation. Remaining with one’s head in the sand does not do any of these things and instead leaves sore feelings and bitter remorse all round. As I had said on Ravelry at the time, I found it absolutely disgraceful that we still hadn’t had an “official” response to what was been going on. Simply saying “it’s good” on a blog post ignored a lot of the issues at hand and was certainly disrespectful of those of us who had paid good money to attend — only to have the choice of attending forcibly taken from our hands. The fact that the organiser carried on in Stirling as if nothing had happened, and had not bothered to contact any of the day visitors, was crass and undermining.
To this day I am waiting on responses to my questions. To this day there is yet to be a public, official, announcement from the event organiser. To this day I have not had sight nor sound of a refund. I never made it to Stirling, never met Nancy Bush, never attended my workshop. I believe it eventually ran on the Wednesday — because I read about it on someone else’s blog. Apparently it was excellent.