Catherine French from our North of England Network Committee has written this report of the network’s amazing achievements during 2020. The committee will be reporting in person at our 2021 annual meeting on 23 March.
Although 2020 turned out to be a year that none of us were expecting in any way, shape or form, we are delighted to report that, alongside the rest of the IP profession, the NoE Committee adapted admirably in switching a lot of our plans from face-to-face gatherings to online events.
The year began with a follow up coffee morning (face-to-face) in Manchester, which in part was a continuation of those we’d started in 2019 to explore the logistics of bringing people together across such a wide geographical area, and in part to continue the promotion of a North of England IP Inclusive presence to reach a wider audience in the regions.
Although disappointing in terms of numbers of attendees, the coffee morning proved a great success in terms of bringing another committee member on board, Liam O’Connor from Marks and Clerk’s Manchester office. It also allowed us to plan what turned out to be our main event for the year, the Allies Event.
This event originally was due to take place in March, but with the arrival of Covi-19 we postponed it until June and switched it online. We had always intended to mark Mental Health Awareness Week in some way and again we adapted to the challenges of lockdown by running a “Life in Lockdown” call for contributions and publications on the IP Inclusive website in April and May 2020; you can read the results here.
The Allies Event then took place in June with the advantage of an online “invitation” being open to anyone, regardless of geographical location. We are indebted to our speakers:
- IP & ME: Kingsley Egbuonu from Managing Intellectual Property
- IP Ability: Jonathan Fogerty from CFG Law
- IP Futures: David Ewing from BAE Systems
- IP Out: Martyn Fish from HGF
- Women in IP: Parminder Lally from Appleyard Lees
They superbly represented each community and adapted brilliantly to a virtual event, as well as Akvilė Lukauskaite from HGF who managed the Zoom breakout rooms following the presentations, as well as helping with the publication of the follow-up podcast by Joanna Thurston and the summary report for the website.
Such was the level of attendance and interest in the June event, as well as the discussions it prompted, we ran out of time to answer all the questions people wanted to raise about how to become better allies. This prompted us to continue the theme for the rest of the year and to run a follow up “Ask me anything” survey and call for questions which we could then put to a similar panel of speakers in a bid to provide practical guidance and tips on being better allies.
Again a huge thank you to the representatives of the different communities for their time and input in answering some often challenging or sensitive questions which in a different format many people would have felt awkward or inhibited asking: Parminder and Kingsley again for Women in IP and IP & ME, Isobel Barry from Carpmaels for IP Out, and Francesca Rivers from Cancer Research Technology as well as Marianne Privett from AA Thornton for IP Ability.
Again the response was so significant and the questions so wide-ranging that we decided to record the question and answer session with the speakers and divide it up into four videos. The first part was aired as a lunchtime “live” event in October, and the remaining three videos were published as a follow-up on a fortnightly basis on the website during November and December: you can access them all here.
We’re also delighted to report additional interest from Martyna Polenska at Appleyard Lees and Akvilė Lukauskaite from HGF joining the committee. With our numbers increasing, as well as a much wider audience than we could ever have anticipated attending our 2020 events, we’re looking forward to 2021 with renewed optimism and creative thinking!
With this in mind, one of our key challenges, the breadth of our geographical coverage, undoubtedly remains. Whilst the invaluable advances in online and virtual events have solved some of the issues, there remains the significant desire and importance for people to be able to meet face-to-face, share experiences and support each other in person. Once we all have more choice as to how we want to live and (net)work going forward, this will no doubt present a dilemma and many differing opinions as to how we run our events, which we will attempt to address as best we can. As ever, we welcome your input to help us understand how best we can continue to reach and support as much of the IP professions as possible.
North of England Network committee members:
- Catherine French – Sacco Mann
- Abdulmalik Lawal – Franks and Co
- Akvilė Lukauskaite – HGF
- Liam O’Connor – Marks and Clerk
- Martyna Polenska – Appleyard Lees
- Vanessa Stainthorpe – HGF (committee lead)
- Joanna Thurston – Withers and Rogers