For those of you who don’t know, and given that this blog is 75% focussed on Tech and Investment in Shoreditch, that’s probably not many of you, The 3Beards 11th “Digital Sizzle” took place last Saturday night, and yours truly is proud to have been asked to volunteer with the setting up and smooth running of the event.
The event took place at Second Home on Hanbury Street, an area I know well due to the countless curries I have eaten at restaurants such as the Shampan, and the sadly disappeared Café Raj, with its bizarre 1 meter square outdoor Hookah area!
Times change, however, and now Hanbury Street is home to Britannia House, a sprawling and achingly cool venue in the process of being turned into a co-working space for entrepreneurs and start-ups by Rohan Silva, formerly technology advisor to Downing Street, and now chairman of Spacious, a website listing available office space, and Sam Aldenton, co-owner of a similar space, The Exchange in London Bridge.
The Beards make it their business to know about local business, and are really the pioneers behind the Tech City social scene, via the (in)famous Silicon Drinkabout, a weekly networking event held around Shoreditch on Friday nights, Don’t Pitch me Bro, a chance for early stage companies to get real feedback on their product without the pomp and circumstance of the salesman’s pitch, and of course, the Digital Sizzle.
“Beards in Wonderland”, for it was to be an Alice in Wonderland themed party, was by some distance the biggest event the Beards had hosted, and proved to be a sell-out, with over 600 of the £45 per head tickets sold. For that you got unlimited booze, a free meal, face painting (unless you have sensitive skin like me!), a Mad Hatters Tea Party, private Hookah lounge, croquet, a David Bowie impersonator, breakdancing, fire jugglers, crazy photo booth and yes that’s right, you read correctly, free booze! Including The Beards very own brand of Meantime Pale Ale and Lager, by the way.
When I pitched up on Thursday afternoon preparations were already underway, and soon I was feverishly creating lanyards with fellow volunteers amidst a general sense of bonhomie and camaraderie created by the redoubtable trio of Mike Hobson (massive W G Grace beard), Joe Scarboro (smaller beard but nicely maintained) and Kevin Plattret (chic, continental beard).
Returning in the evening after interviewing the amazing Anne K Scott (read about her below, next blog post down), things got a little more physical, as I hefted a large number of what I believe were old mattresses from one side of the building to the other, and hung velvet curtains to provide a soundproofed backdrop.
Proud of my work as I was, I have to admit that in the time it took me to complete my task, banners were hung, holes drilled, fences painted, lighting erected and a stage built. The Beards, it seems, can handle the big stage alright. It would have made a great time lapse film had somebody not unhelpfully knocked the camera over while hauling some drill cable across the floor. Ahem, sorry about that guys.
More of the same on Friday, plus an injection of feminine wiles and supercool co-ordination from Vicky Hunter; no beard, but the Beards D’Artagnan figure if you will? Graffiti Artists loitered in the cool summer evening air, decorating the newly installed fences as progress continued to be made indoors, and refreshed by pizza and beer, the crew began to apply some of the finishing touches to the sponsors areas, the AirBnB croquet, the Twilio tea party, and the Badoo Hookah Lounge, amongst others (for a full list check out the Beards website).
It was only when I arrived at 5pm on Saturday that I could tell how meticulously planned the preparations had been; the area swarmed with activity as more helpers arrived from Task Rabbit, the online handyman agency, and break-dancers, beat-boxers and Bowie warmed up, all co-ordinated by Vicky, who was so ever-present it was as if someone had hired a band of Vicky lookalikes.
The event itself was terrific and the crowd loved it, turning up in delightful and outrageous costumes (Alice goes to Ascot, perhaps?), dancing all night, storming the stage and consuming, it has to be said, a fair bit of 3Beards Pale Ale and Lager!
At the risk of sounding clichéd, a good time was had by all, but I don’t need to go on about that here as there is photo and video all over the Twittersphere, for you to feast your eyes upon should you wish to. (https://twitter.com/Digital_Sizzle) This was my first experience as a pseudo roadie, and now I have an idea of what my roommate goes through when, having spent all day setting up an Elton John concert, he come home, sleeps for 2 hours, then goes back to the venue and takes it all down again. He needs to lay off the early evening Ciders!
I’d very much like to thank all of the Beards for a unique opportunity to see behind the scenes of a premier networking event, and wish them well in all of their future endeavours. They are a big, important and much-needed presence on the Tech City scene; it’s not always easy to compete with some of the lavish events hosted by multi-nationals and large corporates, but that is exactly what’s needed if the East London Tech scene is to be persuaded to take the red pill, not the blue.
The 3Beards are Michael Hobson; @imhobson, Joe Scarboro; @joescarboro, Kevin Plattret; @kplattret and Vicky Hunter; @vickyhunter24, and they host the Silicon Drinkabout; www.silicondrinkabout.com, Don’t Pitch Me Bro; dont.pitchmebro.com, Chew the Fat: www.chewthefat.io, and the Digital Sizzle; www.digitalsizzle.com They also host events internationally in Europe and America