Well the weeks events finished on sunday 7th June but it is only now I have finally got everything finished. My work started on monday the 1st with a film screenings and a display of environmental materials from more than 20 local and international NGO’s. Films were screened from 12-2pm monday to thursday when I had to move everything to the Eco-Festival venue in Wat Botum Gardens (WBG). Films were also screened each evening at the French Cultural Centre and some were also shown at another venue called Meta House. Unfortunately there was a miss-communication between myself an Nico who runs Meta House and I must apologise to him and his staff for the lack of English subtitles on many of the films. In my defense I only had 4 weeks to re-organise everything and I tended to concentrate on the more public events at the Institute of Technology (ITC) and Wat Botum Gardens.
The main event started for me on thursday afternoon when I had to take down all the displays at ITC ready to move the first thing friday morning. Thankfully I had some help from staff at ITC and from Conservation International. Friday morning arrived and the one thing I was still missing was the letter of permission from the Municipality of Phnom Penh. We had been discussing this event since January yet I still found myself waiting dutifully outside their offices for a copy of the letter at 8am friday morning. As you can probably imagine I was getting a little stressed at this point. I had a great many people asking for this bit of paper, the stage and the tent guys, the security firm and of course the local police. No paper, big problem.
I arrived hot and stressed at WBG around 9am to find everything going quite well, the tents and stage were on the way up and my student assistant had arrived with the display from ITC. I soon discovered that the 8 tents that were delivered for the display area were all 1 meter shorter than quoted so I had to do a quick redesign of the layout to try to accommodate everyone. Unlike the display at ITC there were a number of NGO’s who would be manning their displays.
As the morning wore on black clouds began to appear and by 10:30 it started to rain. This is when it started getting difficult. It turned out the display area tents had a gap down the middle which would be a disaster if we couldn’t fix it. Initially the guy organising it wasn’t very keen to try to fix the problem but he soon saw it had to be done. To make matters worse his electricians didn’t turn up until mid afternoon. So when they had some teething problems there was no time to fix them and we had to delay the events on stage by 2 hours. Thankfully it was all working by the time it started to get dark.
After the initial problems on the friday the rest of the weekend went very smoothly and I was particularly pleased with the numbers of people who visited the display area. The weather couldn’t have been better. The film audience was a little lower than I had hoped for on the friday but saturday went well and sunday was outstanding. I managed to borrow 5 animal costumes from Wildlife Alliance and had some students being driven all over town in cyclos to try to promote the event.
On the sunday I decided to try a new tactic and brought them back to WBG at 4pm where they did a fantastic job of attracting the pubic. I take my hat off to them for suffering in those hot costumes. The students events on stage went very well too, after the problems with power on the friday. I must say they did a fantastic job considering they put it all together in just a few weeks. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the students from the groups KYSD and YRDP for all their help over the weekend, they were fantastic. Also to the French Cultural Centre, Conservation International, Meta House, Free the Bears, EWMI and GERES (special thanks to Elida, Melody and Sacha), who all helped to make this a success.
I think that considering how little this all cost in the end, less than $11,000 including the organising, it was very successful. Many thousands of people visited the display area at the Eco-Festival and the NGO’s and businesses who manned their stalls all felt is was a great success.
I am disappointed that I wasn’t able to produce the big event I had planned for so long, but I hope to remedy that next time. I may just try to do this as a separate event next year, rather than as part of the Environment Week, which was a little disappointing to put it politely. I would also try to do it in the dry season, we were very, very lucky with the weather this year.
Maybe November 2010.