Craig Mathie is the managing director of Bournemouth 7s, a UK sport and music festival. A qualified and experienced project manager, Craig leads the team responsible for all elements of the planning and delivery of the festival. Craig is a passionate events man and sports enthusiast who has gained a wide breadth of skills and expertise working on some of the UK’s most celebrated and reputable live events.
- What experience can you draw upon to successfully judge the ETAs?
Since organising my first fundraising dinner at school, I’ve always loved planning and delivering events. Through voluntary positions at Cancer Research UK and the Bobby Moore Fund to organising camping villages at Formula 1 Tracks around Europe – I’ve spent a fair amount of time in fields.
I now lead the amazing team responsible for delivering the award-winning Bournemouth 7s Festival having worked my way up since joining the team in 2011. I sit on the General Council of the National Outdoor Events Association and work as a project manager for a select few mass participation sporting events. This base of experience provides me with genuine context for understanding the impact great event technology can have on an event and the time you can waste with pointless systems which solve an issue which doesn’t need solving!
- How long have you worked in the event industry and what keeps you interested in it?
I officially started working in the event industry in 2008 but have been organising events since school! For me, the joy of creating an environment or experience where other people are having a great time is the reason that I do my job each day. Seeing thousands of people streaming through the gates, excited for what their weekend holds is a great feeling and the reason to work in an industry you love.
Concurrently, working with an amazing team which shares the same goals to constantly evolve and develop a successful event is extremely rewarding and something which ensures every day is different!
- Best and worst moments working in the event industry?
My biggest achievements in the event industry have been related to Bournemouth 7s Festival. In particular, seeing the event grow to national acclaim has been extremely rewarding – collecting a UK Festival Award in 2017 stands out as a real highlight.
Like most people in events, my worst experiences are rain-related! Bournemouth 7s 2014 was almost a wash out, it made literally every single task more difficult, however, the sense of achievement at the end was almost stronger than on any other show on which I’ve worked.
- Favourite piece of tech for work and personal life?
Personally, I love spending time on my bike. Staying fit and healthy makes work more enjoyable and allows me the opportunity to get away from the pressures of running events.
Being an analytical person, I love the combination of my Garmin bike computer and Strava/Garmin apps. I really enjoy being able to monitor marginal improvements in performance and challenge myself to improve.
At work, it’s pretty obvious but I could not function without my Macbook (sorry to all developers out there!)
- What’s your go-to piece of tech when working on an event and why?
I love Wunderlist. It’s such a simple piece of software but the simplicity of it is almost the best bit. Creating centrally managed to-do-lists which all of your team can access, amend, add notes to and track.
- What was the last event on which you worked?
I recently looked after a couple of projects for RideLondon, an amazing cycling event across London and Surrey which grew out of the London 2012 Olympics. It’s always great to spend a bit of time on other events and learn how other businesses approach things. You never know what you might take back to your main job and the benefits these could have on your principal project moving forwards.
- From your experience, how has tech been best utilised at an event? / What’s the best way to utilise tech at an event?
At Bournemouth 7s Festival 2019, we worked alongside our friends at Festech to give our Multi-Agency Control room a significant upgrade. From this control room, we were able to see almost the entire event site and monitor crowd movements accordingly. Alongside this, we used various bits of risk and event management software to ensure the safety and security of everyone onsite.
As a privately-owned company, we have to be sensible with budgets. We can’t afford tech for tech’s sake and I’m a big believer that technology has to add value to the event to be included – it can’t just be a ‘nice to have’. Finding good, local partners who are willing to grow with the event has been crucial to our commercial success over the years and would be my number one tip for other event organisers.
- We all learn from our mistakes! What was the biggest lesson you learned from a mistake since being in the industry?
The biggest thing I’ve learnt from my time in industry is that you should never undervalue a simple system which works well and provides the results that you want or need. Overcomplicated solutions or systems should be avoided at all costs, particularly where a large number of people will be using that platform.
I learnt this from a piece of staff management software (which shall remain nameless) which we used in place of spreadsheets and sign-in forms. The system struggled as a result of connectivity limitations and created a mountain of administrative headache both during the event and in the follow-up.
Keep it simple and only invest in tech when the system is better than what you already have.
- What are you most looking forward to at the ETAs?
The awards present a great opportunity to catch up with existing suppliers and meet new ones. I think it’s vitally important to break out of your comfort zone and try to take away one thing which will benefit your business in the long term – a new development from an existing supplier or a brand new piece of kit from an innovative new one.
- Why is it important to recognise the achievements of tech companies?
Technology, like most back-end systems, is just expected to work. Suppliers, attendees and organisers are quick to moan on the odd occasion something goes wrong but very rarely spend time praising or celebrating successful implementation of technology.
The ETAs provide the opportunity to celebrate the thousands of shows where technology enhances the experience of the attendees and streamlines processes for the organisers.
- If you could only use one piece of tech when working on an event, what would that be?
CCTV – Unbelievably useful in monitoring crowd movements and helping to ensure safety and security for everyone involved.