A day in the life of a campaigner at a Party Conference

The Guide Dogs campaigns team attended all three of the main political party conferences this year. We took an exhibition stand which we used to talk to delegates about the Talking Buses campaign – a campaign for all new buses to have audio visual (AV) technology. Find out how Senior Campaigns Officer (and first time Exhibitor) Helen got on with this account of a typical day at a party political conference.

Guide Dogs Campaigns Officers dressed as Gameshow PresentersThis is my first year attending the party conferences with Guide Dogs and the first time I have ever been on an exhibition stand at one. I have been looking forward to attending  so on my first day I volunteer to open up, although as I pass through Security, one thing is worrying me - we are wearing fancy dress... a sparkly waistcoat, bow tie and bowler hat.  I feel a bit sheepish as I wait for the exhibition hall to open, glittering under the lights. The outfits are important though – they help attract attention, and by dressing as Gameshow Presenters, we also demonstrate one of our key points – for too many people, getting on the bus is like a game of chance!

Once the hall opens, I am for the first half an hour, perhaps over enthusiastic asking tired delegates if they want to have a go on our card game. A few knock backs doesn’t hold me back and within a couple of hours a number of MPs and other delegates have taken part in the game and heard about the Talking Buses campaign. Lots of MPs come to the stand because they had received an email from their constituents asking them to pop by – thanks to everyone who took the time to email their MP and ask them to come and visit us!

The Guide Dogs campaigns team has been running exhibition stands as party conferences for the past few years and our reputation precedes us. People come up to see ‘what we’re up to this year’ and comment on our creativity and some passers-by sing ‘razzle dazzle’ to us as they appreciate our glitzy outfits. It’s a great talking point and generally once people find out we are dressed up they want to understand more about the campaign.

To ensure our stand sticks in the minds of delegates we are asking people to take part in a memory game, challenging people to step into the shoes of a bus driver without AV and see how many passengers they can get to the right destination. It’s a card game similar to memory games I played as a child.

At lunchtime I go to the Transport Hub to hear a fringe event which is being run by Living Streets called ‘Too good to be true? How walking friendly places can save our high street, health and cut the costs of living’. There is a panel discussion and a lot of issues are discussed including pavement parking (following a question asked by me!) – all the panel agree that something needs to be done to bring an end to problem pavement parking.

When I get back to the stand the Leaders Speech is taking place. There are less people coming to the stand and we take the opportunity to record an audio tour of the stand for Audioboom. I also meet with Andy and demonstration guide dog, Natalie, who have given a number of people at the conference blindfolded walks around an obstacle course.

As the exhibition hall empties I am exhausted after a full on by enjoyable day. Time to rest my feet so I can do it all again tomorrow!

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