9 pieces of good comms from Yorkshire


Commscampnorth is an event for public sector people wherever they come from.

It’s an unconference which means the agenda gets shaped on the day by attendees. It’s a formula that means bright ideas are shaped and connections are formed.

The 2019 event on 23.10.19 will take place in Bradford after being held in Manchester and Sheffield in previous years.

We thought it would be a good idea to take a look at some of the great communications that’s emerged from the broad acres of Yorkshire.

Who better to ask than some bright Yorkshire public sector people?

#1 Yorkshire is a name that resonates

The county name itself is a piece of communications, says Yorkshire Housing interim manager Hannah Jowett.

The place name inspires some things to be proud of.

“Yorkshire is an inspiring brand. Think majestic landscapes, thriving cities, cultural diversity and  culinary delights from Yorkshire Pudding to curry. It has Olympic and cycling heroes,  or cricket on a green. Yorkshire mixes ‘traditional’ England with modern progress to produce a  brand as authentic and friendly as its people.”


#2 A Yorkshire Tea campaign with Sean Bean on brand

Yorkshire is not just a place but a mindset and an approach to life that’s ‘proper’, web and creative services business partner at Doncaster Council Rob Jefferson says. He’s chosen the Sean Bean Yorkshire Tea campaign.

“It doesn’t get more Yorkshire than Yorkshire Tea, where they make ‘proper brews’. In their recruitment campaign, Sean Bean plays a member of HR inducting new staff to the company. Why does it work? It’s relatable, stirring and humorous, spilling out into the twitter replies too. My cup of tea.

#3 A video that seeks to break the mould

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s ‘My Mum, the Firefighter’ video selected by Siobhan Dransfield, marketing communications manager, Wakefield Council.

This is content that starts with the target of recruiting more female firefighters and then creates bespoke content that is targeted.  

“South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue have established themselves as creators of innovative, out-of-the-box comms.

“Their use of video in particular has been effective and ‘My firefighting mum’ was no exception.

“It’s a simple idea – children talking about what makes their mums great, followed by a moving montage of them with their firefighter mums. They deliberately avoided branding so it can be used by anyone – genius!”

#4 A charity with a human Yorkshire voice

NHS charity EyUp! was selected by Jude Tipper strategic communications lead, NHSD Digital.

It’s an approach that sidesteps the NHS branding template to be a bit more creative and human.

“EyUp! is an NHS charity that brings health and happiness to Yorkshire folk.

“The EyUp! brand uses a touch of local dialect to promote generosity for a local cause.

“It pays for the sort of stuff our NHS can’t always afford – the bobby dazzler ideas that make a proper difference.”


#5 A hashtag to celebrate community volunteers

The photo campaign with the hashtag #floodheroes led by Calderdale Council working with the Environment Agency was chosen by Defra communications specialist Catherine Seal. 

The images highlighted vital work in improving how the community was preparing against future flooding three years on from the 2015 Boxing Day floods.

“Not only was this an effective way of encouraging more people to prepare for wetter weather & do their bit to protect their properties – it was also celebratory of the amazing community spirit in the valley & a way for organisations to thank them.”myth

#6 Making visitors to Yorkshire welcome

A hashtag that started in the county and then snowballed has been chosen by Georgia Unsworth, senior communications officer at NHSX.

The #WeAreInternational hashtag that began in Sheffield seeks to celebrate difference.

“#WeAreInternational. Established by the University of Sheffield and its Students’ Union, it celebrates diverse university communities and the benefits they bring. It’s all about loud, proud messaging and content – supported by an army of stakeholders. In these divisive times, a campaign that celebrates unity and inclusivity couldn’t be more welcome.”


#7 Barnsley Council’s straight fly-tipping campaign

Direct content and a direct approach have impressed South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s Alex Mills.

“Yorkshire folk are known for being straight talking and bold- which is why I loved Barnsley Council’s #EverybodyThinkcampaign to cut fly tipping in the town.   From a publicity stunt where they dumped rubbish on the steps of the town hall, to using video of fly tippers vans getting seized and crushed the comms and marketing team thought big, showed bravery and delivered a campaign which packed a punch.”


#8 a risque calendar that helped upend attitudes

A group of women who posed nude to raise money showed spark and spirit and changed attitudes says inCommunities Housing’s Caroline Chapman.

“My quintessential comms is the Calendar Girls. With a simple rethink of an existing idea they raised over £5 million pounds, revitalized the image of the WI and inspired a film and a musical. They remind us to be brave, be creative, don’t be afraid to ask and have fun.”


#9 West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership get 45,000 people to look out for their neighbours.

The ‘Looking Out For Our Neighbours’ social marketing campaign saw the NHS and councils team-up to get people looking out for each other, says Karen Coleman comms and engagement lead at the NHS’s Harrogate CCG.

“As demand for health care increases, we need to see more people in their communities driving community change. There was an opportunity to create a Partnership campaign – the first of its kind – and make a positive impact.”



Picture credit:

Yorkshire landscape: Tim Green / Flickr

Ribblehead Viaduct: AndrewBone / Flickr

#commscampnorth: Why Bradford?

Having been to both the Commscamp North events in Manchester and Sheffield, I’m am now helping to bring this fantastic public sector comms event to Bradford, a place with much to offer.

The Bradford District is one of the largest local authority areas in England with one of the fastest growing economies. Over 537,000 people live in the varied and diverse Bradford District and Bradford is one of the youngest cities in Europe. 29% of its population is under 20 and nearly a quarter is under 16.

As well as the city of Bradford, the district includes several popular towns and villages and large beautiful rural areas with lovely countryside. Among the district’s towns and villages are the World Heritage village of Saltaire, and Haworth, which gave the world the Brontë sisters.

Saltaire, a World Heritage Village

The world’s first City of Film

In 2009 Bradford was named the world’s first UNESCO City of Film. You might be surprised just how many films or TV programmes have been filmed in the Bradford District. To name just a few, Peaky Blinders, Downton Abbey, The King’s Speech, The Railway Children, Emmerdale, Funny Cow, Gentleman Jack, Billy Liar, Victoria, Official Secrets and Coronation Street have all used settings in the Bradford District as filming locations. Continue reading #commscampnorth: Why Bradford?

A love letter on how the cake table will work at #commscampnorth


by Kate Bentham

Dear #commscampnorth attendee,

It’s heading towards #commscampnorth, which coincidentally is the same day that it’s OK to eat cake for all your main meals and any snacks in between. You’ll love it. It’s like when you get to eat chocolate for breakfast on Christmas morning.

Some might say that #commscampnorth is all about the comms, but those people would be wrong.

It’s more than that. It’s about the pitches, the ideas, the sessions, the photos and videos, the friends you’ll make, the people off Twitter you’ll finally get to meet, the networking, the sponsors, the pre-event curry and most importantly the CAKE! that really makes it #CommsCakeNorth more than anything.

Where cake comes from

The term “cake” has a long history. The word itself is of Viking origin, from the Old Norse word “kaka”. Impressive enough, but that cannot rival the cake table at CommsCamp, within a long history, dating back to 2013 when the first CommsCamp was held in Birmingham.

For those who haven’t been to a CommsCamp before, let me fill you in on the main points you will need to know about the cake table.

What you need to know about the cake table

  • The cake table only works because of the lovely people who bake cakes and bring them along for others to share. If you can, please bake a cake. It doesn’t have to be a show stopper, a simple traybake or a dozen fairy cakes will be appreciated. It’s amazing how conversations and networking improve with a bit of lemon drizzle.
  • If you do bake you will be entered into the CommsCamp Star Baker competition. It’s a fiercely fought contest and there’s no surprise in that, the prize is amazing.
  • If you’re not a cake baker, don’t worry, there’s no shame in bringing along a shop bought cake, we appreciate them too. All cake is welcome at the cake table.
  • We also need cake eaters. We ask those that can, to make a donation to charity in return for a slice of yummy cake. This year all money from the cake table will go to MacMillan Cancer Support who offer emotional, physical and financial support to the millions of people, and their families, who are affected by cancer. This is a charity close to our hearts and chosen by our very own Emma Rodgers so please look out for the donation bucket and please give generously. Just think how much you’d pay for a slice in one of those fancy coffee shops and give it to a good cause instead.
  • Since CommsCamp started our lovely attendees have raised over £1,500 for various charities. Proof, if proof were needed, that comms people are kind, generous and massive fans of cake.
  • If you donate for cake, be sure to take a raffle ticket. This will enter you into the end of camp tat raffle, where you will amaze yourself with a sudden desire to win chipped figurines, obscure LPs and jigsaws with pieces missing.
  • As an experienced cake eater, my cake table tips include a visit to the gym the day before to help ease any guilt, wearing baggy or elasticated clothes, and bring the big coins to donate to charity.
  • And remember, scientists have proven that all cake calories consumed during a CommsCamp don’t count. Bonus.

So, happy baking, happy eating, happy CommsCakeNorth. See you with your baked goods at the cake table on October 23.


Kate Bentham or Cake Bentham as Dan Slee once introduced me as.

Official Cake Monitor

(best job in the world.)

Picture credit: cake at commscampnorth, 2018 by Nigel Bishop


#commscampnorth: It’s Bradford’s time to shine

CCN Bradford date

Ladies and gents, there will be a commscampnorth and it will be in the glorious West Yorkshire city of Bradford.

It will take place on 23.10.19 at Kala Sangam in the city centre.

The event will be an unconference.

This means the event will be free, not for profit and will be run and organised by volunteers.

But it will be fired with the graft, spice, tea and bright ideas of Bradford and people from across the North. You want Northern Powerhouse? You can have it.

Why Bradford?

This will be the third commscampnorth and as with the others we are rotating it across the region. We’ve been to Manchester and to Sheffield and really, they were just a warm-up for the big one.

I was chatting to Albert Freeman about the requirements for an unconference. A big space with some smaller spaces off them. Tell people about it and then trust the process.

Why Kala Sangam?

Talking to Albert about he need for a city centre venue he had a moment of clarity. The arts centre in a converted Post Office sorting depot right on the edge of the city centre. So, together with Josephine Graham we looked and were impressed.

Who can come?

We want comms, PR, marketing, digital or frontline people from the public sector – or third sector – who are doers, tryers, makers, experimenters or who know there’s a better way of doing things.

We want people who would like to learn and would like to contribute who can bake a cake and can encourage new ideas. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever been to an unconference before. We leave our job titles at the door and what you think is just as valid as someone who has been doing the job 20 years longer than you have.

When do tickets get released?

The FIRST public ticket release for public sector and third sector people will be at 1pm on 17.7.19.

A SECOND release is at 9pm on 25.7.19.

A THIRD release will be at noon on 6.9.19.

After this a wait list will operate and tickets will be released directly.

The link to eventbrite is HERE and will be password protected until they go live.

How can I beat the ticket stampede and become a volunteer?

In return for a pledge of some of your time you can register as a volunteer and we’ll send you a ticket before the public release. We’d love to see you and we’d love the extra pair of hands. Warning: there will be cake and a feeling of inner warmth.

Who can support or sponsor?

Anyone. Chat to Dan by email dan@danslee.co.uk.

What is an unconference?

This video explains it.


Who is behind it all?

There’s a range of volunteers who are part of the wider team and are helping on the day. The include Dan Slee (freelance comms person and commscamp co-founder), Albert Freeman (Bradford City Council), Josephine Graham (Bradford City Council on secondment to NHS Digital), Bridget Aherne (Keolis Amey Metrolink), Kate Bentham (Shropshire Council), Eddie Coates-Madden (Sheffield City Council).

I’m sure we’ll see Emma Rodgers on the tea urn on the day even though she’s taking a sabbatical from organising events this year.

On the day, everyone who turns up makes it.


We’re having a fallow year for commscamp in 2019 but we’re be back in 2020



by Dan Slee

Ladies and gentlemen, cut yourself an extra piece of cake and try to be brave… there will be no commscamp in 2019.

There will be no cake stall by the canal, no fresh ideas will be crafted in Digbeth and no new friendships will be struck in the sunshine eating an ice cream.

Stop the clocks.

Muffle the bells.

We’ve decided to take a fallow year for the Birmingham event after six straight years to let the cake bakers recover.

But wipe those tears away….

But the good news to help you wipe away your tears and blow your nose is that planning is already taking place for commscamp in 2020 and we’ll be back refreshed at the Bond Company on 15.7.20.

And we’re also making an announcement imminently about #commscampnorth our touring event for those in t’north for people as call their tea a brew and who y’know, speak to each other on buses.

Why a fallow year?

Someone once said that commscamp appears effortless but the truth is it takes some planning. My colleague and good friend Emma Rodgers was always going to take a 12-month sabbatical this year and be back in 2020. I was ill earlier this year and my time allocated for planning was lost. Rather than chuck something together it made sense to take a year off.

I’ve held off announcing this just to see if anyone would notice and the touching truth is they have. There’s been a number of messages which has prompted plans for 2020.

The place for commscamp…

Is there a place for Commscamp? It’s a question we ask ourselves each time we run it. The event is deliberately democratic. Anyone can pitch an idea and if you’re public sector comms you can come. It’s also free and it is blindingly important that it remains so.

I’ve no interest in charging for the event and we don’t really have to mount a year-long campaign of getting in people’s faces to flog tickets. I’m really glad about that. When its commscamp time we’ll tell you. Otherwise, go about your business. We even only have sponsors who get the event and who we like.

While there’s a need to come together in an informal way compare notes and find a better way of doing things we’ll still do it. When that ends we’ll pack up.

I’ll be watching my daughter’s leaver’s school assembly this year

As fate would have it, days after we decided to take the year off my daughter came home from school with a letter. The letter gave the date of her leaver’s assembly as July 10, the day we’d earmarked for commscamp.

So, this year, I’ll miss being with people by the canal in Digbeth but I’d have hated to have had to miss out on my daughter’s last assembly at junior school.

Stay in touch

Don’t miss out on commscamp and commscampnorth news. We’ll update this site and keep you posted with our commscamp email bulletin. You can sign-up here.

Picture credit: Nigel Bishop.

Video credit: Steven Davies and Sophie Edwards at filmcafe.


What a commscamp first timer thought


by Illesse Uppal

Having never attended a Comms Camp – or unconference – before, I gingerly made my way over to the giant foam finger waiting for me at New Street, my brain buzzing with thoughts of ‘what will it be like?’… ‘Will I get anything out of it?’… ‘What if I suddenly forget how to network?!’

My nervous energy began to be dissipate however as I was met with friendly faces and an air of excitement as we made our way over to the venue. I even made a few friends on the walk over.

Having no idea what to expect, the day exceeded my expectations and reminded me exactly what I love about working in comms.

From the innovative ideas flying back and forth, the open and honest atmosphere surrounding the talks and the eagerness to get back to the office and try out some of the ideas.

Over a week later and I am still on a high from the event. Networking with likeminded individuals not only gave me various campaign ideas to use back at work, but also allowed me to have meaningful conversations with people who share the same passion.

I have renewed zeal in my day job, and I am looking forward to putting forward some of the ideas I picked up on the day.

With just over two years in comms, I felt a bit inexperienced compared to others, however it was clear that it didn’t matter as long as I brought an open mind and enthusiasm to the table. I walked in to Comms Camp some what of a novice and walked out feeling like a Comms aficionado.

It’s safe to say I am already counting down the days until next year’s event.

Illesse Uppal is is marketing advisor at West Midlands Employers.


Why I loved Commscamp 2018


I know, I know. I had hoped to write a really insightful post about some of the thought-provoking, debate-filled sessions at Commscamp but the truth is that as an organiser you sadly don’t always get the chance to go to what you want. So instead I’ve opted for a yippee post that celebrates a few of the best bits for me this year.

190 folk came

Yes you read that right – 190 PEOPLE took a day out to come. It was the biggest Commscamp ever and given it’s the sixth one, we’re pretty darn chuffed about that. Some events come and go but going by this last Commscamp, it still feels like one of most valued and embraced comms dates of the year. Given the positive vibes that poured out of attendees it also looks long set to continue.

Nearly 80 per cent of attendees were new

Nearly 80 per cent of the 190 people at Commscamp were new. That’s what makes the event rocks. Enough regulars who already know how good Commscamp is mixed with a huge number of people who have never been before. It’s an explosive combination of buzz, energy, new ideas, and good stuff shared.

An unconference works

I went to Commscamp pretty tired. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and working long hours. But at Commscamp that all got forgotten. An unconference means you can tailor your day exactly how you want and the law of two feet gives you carte blanche that if one session isn’t floating your boat, you can get up and go to one that is. It’s also a little odd to get your head around but the unconference approach really, really works.

There’s an ice cream van

The fabulous Polly’s Parlour saw Commscampers queuing across the car park. Hardly surprising – the flavours are to die for – and the socialness that came with it was just lovely to watch.And did I mention that the couple who run Polly’s Parlour love Commscamp too?

Doddle therapy

One of the sessions I was lucky enough to lead was doddle therapy. The lovely folk at Touch Design gave us paper and we had sharpies galore and a handful of themes. It was so great to let off steam and really have a chuckle. Who knew that drawing a picture of what gets on your pippin could have such a positive release? And also big up to the attendee who drew the most amazing picture of flies on food. Sounds totally random but it was ace and summed up the type of session that makes Commscamp go with a bang. I was only gutted to not take a picture.

The different parts of the sector that represented

At the beginning of Commscamp, Andy (@pigsonthewing on twitter) asked attendees to say which part of the public sector they were from. It felt like the most diverse Commscamp ever. Housing, health, emergency services, central government, local government, voluntary sector and more. The list went on and on.  I love that. I love that it happened in 2018. More industry comms people are coming not less. I think that’s awesome.

The film and the photos

The film and the photos that are taken at Commscamp are the best. That Nigel Bishop, Steve Davies and Sophie Edwards really are talented people. This year saw Film Cafe produce the first drone video (it was pretty darn cool) and the pictures that captured memories and good times in abundance really do reflect how ace it is. If you haven’t already seen them you need to check out the facebook group to see the best bits of this year.

Commscamp keeps on giving  

Finally I love that Commscamp just keeps on giving – the friendships, the blog posts, the connections, the learning, the laughter, the therapy and the solutions. So it’s pretty darn fab that 10 July is booked already for next year.

Thanks to everyone who came, volunteered, sponsored and who were generally ace. You are what makes Commscamp amazing. Until 2019.

Emma Rodgers
Commscamp co-organiser


Our pre-event curry now has a dash of football in it


Our pre-event social has been the stuff of legend as a chance to meet people ahead of the event.

We’ve gone for the same approach of a trip to the pub and then curry… but we’ve also added a special screen in the curry house so people can follow the England v Croatia World Cup final.

Let no-one say we can’t do emergency planning here at commscamp.

So, the plan is still to meet from 6pm at The Anchor, Bradford Street, Birmingham, B5 6ET. This is a real ale pub that’s a short walk from the city centre.

Next up, at 6.45pm we’ll head to Manzils, Digbeth, (the street), Digbeth (the area), Birmingham, B5 6DT. This is a curry house that first started trading in the 1960s so has the badge of a good place to eat.

The lovely management have allowed us to bring in our own special screen and projector just for us so we can watch the big match.

The eventbrite for the event is here.

See you there.

Picture credit: Your Best Digs / Flickr



A Cake Table is just a Table without the Cake


It’s very nearly CommsCamp, back for the 6th year in its homeland of Birmingham.

I think it’s widely known that CommsCamp wouldn’t be CommsCamp without the famous CommsCamp cake table. So, the good news is that the cake table is back.

But, a cake table is just a table without the cake – and that’s where you come in. The cake table only works because of the lovely people who bake cakes and bring them along for others to share. If you can, please bake a cake. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, a simple tray bake or a dozen fairy cakes will be great. If you’re not a baker, don’t worry, shop bought cakes look equally good on a cake table and will be just as welcome. It’s amazing how conversations and connections begin with a bit of lemon drizzle.

If you do bake, you stand a chance of winning the top prize of star baker or one of the three runner up goody bags, so dust off those cookery books.

So, now we’ve got a table covered in cake, we need some lovely people to eat all of the cake, and I know just the group – Comms People.

We ask those that can, to make a donation to charity in return for a slice of yummy cake. All money raised from the cake table will go directly to the CommsCamp chosen charity of the year The Sick Children’s Trust,   who provide free accommodation for families with children on intensive care wards. This charity runs entirely on donations so please look out for the donation bucket on the cake table and give generously. Just think how much you’d pay for a slice in one of those fancy coffee shops, and give it to this amazing cause instead.

Over the years, the money donated for slices of cake has raised over £1,000 for charity, proof if proof were needed, that Comms people are lovely, kind, generous and massive fans of cake.

So, happy baking, happy eating, happy donating, happy CommsCamp. See you with your baked goods at the cake table on the 12th July 2018.

Kate Bentham, AKA Cake Bentham

Official Cake Monitor

(Best job in the world)


The 9 types of session that take place at commscamp


Always, the build-up to commscamp has been exciting and this year is no different.

At commscamp, there is no agenda. This gets set on the day and it is always fun to see the ideas emerge.

Of course, what gets kicked around ahead of time is not always what appears on the day but it can be a good indicator.

When commscamp first started in 2012, the focus was on platforms and tools. As time has gone on, this has shifted.

What types of session are there? Here’s my take.

The channel session

These focus on a particular channel and trying to understand how to use it better. Home to the old favourite: ‘Is anyone using Snapchat? Because I don’t even begin to understand it.’

The channel sub-genre session

Not content just to be using a rarely used platform this session fits around a real desire to see how a particular platform can be used for a particular audience.

Like: ‘Can we work out how to use Instagram for dog walkers who don’t pick up after themselves?’.

Or ‘Can we use Twitch for realtime CCTV monitoring.’ (Answer: probably not).

But I always think the four people who congregate around a particular topic are among the happiest of campers. They’ve found their tribe. It may only be four. But they have a love that endures and we will never understand.

The therapy session

This one is a belter. It is the AOB of commscamp and exists to be a safe space for venting your chest. Chatham House rule applies. If you are in it, it feels so much better to unload about an issue that’s bothering you and know that others have been in the same boat too.

The horizon scanning post 

This session sees a discussion around something new and different. Most people won’t be up to speed on the topic but it deserves some of your attention as you’ll find out about something. Going back a few years, I first heard about WordPress as a website and infographics at one of these sessions. We did virtual reality last year. I try and go to at least one of these to expand my knowledge.

The sharing the sweets post 

This session sees someone do something quite well and share how they did it. It’s rarely a 45 minute spell of someone holding court. It often starts in one direction and moves somewhere entirely unexpected.

The punch-up

Some of the best sessions I’ve ever been to have involved borderline raised voices and tempers. It’s never quite spilled over into a discussion on the car park, I have to say. The session about press releases being over from one of the early commscamps was a thing of beauty.

The specialist session

These sessions are run by experts in their field and can cut through months of anguish. I’m thinking here of David Banks, the media law expert. Or Andy Mabbett on wikipedia.

The plea for help session

These ones start with a request for all hands to the pump. The session proposer is bailing out in a sinking boat and wouldn’t mind a hand. These can bring surprisingly good results as people rally round. In the early days of social media, the plea was often to try and understand it, which feels slightly archaic.

The non-digital session 

While the focus for commscamp has been digital we’re not against the idea of people talking about some good old fashioned analogue issues. Like should we have a council newspaper. Or whether posters are always a good idea (A: not always, but they can be.)

The corridor session

These are gems. These are what makes commscamp beautiful. The chance conversation that leads to a wider discussion with someone you may or may not have met. They can take place in the corridor, during a lunch break or sat by the pool (actually, the canal).

Qualifications you need to pitch for a session yourself at commscamp

You need a ticket and a pulse.

That’s it.

We find that anything more just complicates things.

You can see the ideas emerge for sessions for commscamp in our Facebook group here.

Picture credit: Nigel Bishop.



Unconferences for public sector comms people