The last time the Green Party (GPEW) held our Conference in Bournemouth at the end of September 2015, we experienced a heat wave and held a party on the beach; this time around could not have been more different! In the days leading up to this, we were being warned of 'snowmageddon', the 'snowpocalypse' and 'the Beast from the East'...
Transport links to Bournemouth were limited and on arrival there were no buses or taxis running so we had no choice but to walk from the station. Google Maps said it would take about 35 minutes - it took us nearly two hours, trudging through six inches or more of snow along gritless pavements and having to stop every few metres to remove the snow-pile that had built up where we were dragging our suitcases.
The pubs and bars of Bournemouth were doing a roaring trade as people sheltered from the snowstorm, and we did stop ourselves a couple of times to warm up - it was certainly amusing to see the pub-goers occasionally help push a car that had got stuck on a hill.
Eventually, we made it to our hotel and caught up with Louisa Greenbaum, Conference Manager. Over dinner, we made contact with Peaceful Warrior (Conferences Committee), who was driving the van from London with all the materials in it, as well as Ruby Tucker (Events Assistant). They had become stuck on the A road between Southampton and Bournemouth. We also discovered that the rest of the GPEW staff en route from London by train had got stuck in the New Forest near a village called Brockenhurst.
They ended up stranded on their train for about 15 hours overnight. They tweeted pictures of their plight, which made it to the front page of the London Evening Standard! Eventually, they all made it to Bournemouth and went to bed after breakfast, having been up all night.
Louisa, Jenny, Peaceful and I went to the BIC on the Friday morning to nd the sta there digging a path to the door to welcome us and we plunged into crisis management mode. Should we cancel? We decided that the best thing would be to go ahead with the set-up, as social media showed that many people had already set out on their journeys (many had also given up). Our costs would be roughly the same whether we went ahead or cancelled, and for the sake of all those who were already struggling to get there, it seemed the best thing to do was to press ahead.
We spent the day monitoring social media, the Met Office, Dorset travel news and so on, whilst setting up the stalls and putting up signs around the building. We had to cancel the Friday evening event as not enough were going to be able to make it but theday ended with everything as set up as it could be - most of our printing hadn't arrived, being stuck in a warehouse in rural Dorset, but it made it on the Saturday morning eventually.
We had about 600 people registered and, in the end, over 350 made it, and with registrations on the door, attendance came to nearly 400 which, all things considered, was a great turnout! Our sta and volunteers deserve huge thanks for a magnificent effort.
The fluffy snow of Friday had become treacherous and icy on Saturday, but then rain fell throughout the afternoon, and by Sunday it had all disappeared.
The irony is not lost on us that this freak weather event was undeniably caused by climate change.