How To Do Ragged University Events by Carrie Newman

Previously Ragged University events were run in Glasgow by a team of dedicated people. The primary coordinator was Carrie Newman who was introduced to the project by business partner and friend David Hughes. They, along with David Newman and Heather Sinclair took to the idea like ducks to water using their knowledge of theatre and cultural events to produce several seasons of talks (approximately seventy five events) which gripped the local imaginations.

Carrie Newman
Carrie Newman


Through their efforts, their knowledge and experience, they came to fundamentally shape the nature of the project teaching other people across the country how a series of Ragged events could be rolled out with a small collaborative team. This post is a series of notes compiled by Carrie Newman (the Glasgow Director) on how to plan the events. 


There were teams of people running Ragged events in London, Manchester and Edinburgh, and each approached the organisation of the events in a way which was relevant to their community, resources and interests. What we learned along the way is that there is no single ‘correct’ way of bringing the project alive, but what is important is that each group shared what they had discovered. What worked well and what didn’t or was not helpful.


Carrie wrote this as a contribution to a collection of articles on how to go about setting up Ragged University events so that others can go about doing the same in their City, Town , Village or Hamlet…



The Basics:

Do not be forceful or over anxious to make things happen! Understand that the project is a free endeavour to be involved in; one that should be mutually benefiting for speakers and venue. It should ideally look like a series of arts and educational events in varied venues across your city.


To Set Up Your Event:

  • Gather together a list of a few interested speakers; we would suggest a bank of at least sixteen with four extra people in reserve. This will give you eight events. Once your talks begin new speakers will be generated from the audience.
  • Meet with the people interested in delivering a talk to find out a bit about them. Ask them to fill out the ‘speakers information sheet’ and keep in touch with them making sure to answer all their questions.
  • Approach the venues with your ‘venue flyers’- these have the information the venue need to make an informed decision on whether they want to become a RU venue.
  • It is helpful to have a quality piece of print that shows you are a ‘bone fide’ organisation which you can show the manager.
  • Ask for the manager. If the manager is not there then ask when they will be back and then revisit the venue. You want to speak directly with the person who makes decisions to avoid any miscommunication from the outset.
  • Be friendly – you’re not trying to ‘get something out of them’ you are trying to create a partnership.
  • Identify the positive outcomes for the venue first and explain that all RU need is somewhere we can talk informally to approx 30 people, with use of a screen and projector.
  • A central part of the RU is promoting the venues as contributors to the community. By doing this we are supporting their independent business or organisation. Make sure they know that you do not expect anything from them except space and a confirmed date.
  • At the end of the meeting, (if its gone well), go through the ‘venue permission papers’ which you should fill out for them …and then ask them to sign. (If you leave it with them you won’t get it back and if you ask them to fill it in you are also asking more of them then they are normally have time to give at this stage). The permission slip asks the venue’s consent to share their profile; image; logo; and interior on our website, so it’s very important.
  • Once you have at least eight venues, begin to assign speakers to venues. Glasgow tried to mix it up a bit and program a scientific with an arts talk in one event. This was David Hughes brilliant idea and it works. It’s a successful formula and promotes interesting questions and conversation. Then contact each speaker with an ‘information request sheet’ and gather a contact list of all their names and numbers.
  • Give them a deadline to return it, otherwise you will never see it again.
  • What you don’t want to do is to nag anyone. If they feel pressured or manipulated into anything, they will walk. We are only interested in actively motivated people who want to do a talk because it will be fun and add to life. If they don’t want to do it, it’s ok, ten other people will.
  • Send the talk titles, dates , venues and speaker information sheets in a word document to our Webmaster and Graphic Designer to create the web information and print materials for publicising. When material is back from Graphic Design, proof it and return with any amendments.
  • As mentioned before it’s really important that you have quality print available as new speakers will feel they can come forward.
  • Speakers need to feel we are an organisation that will be in a position to support them. If you are not in a position to do that…don’t do it.
  • Schedule in a date which is a week ahead of your first talk when you will meet all the speakers to go over their talks and iron out any worries. Always be on hand to talk about any issues. Perhaps but suggesting a date you can meet and chat through any worries.
  • Ahead of each event ask the speaker to elaborate on the information request sheet, so that you can prepare a handout for the audience.



Setting Up The Event On The Night:

  • Arrive at 6pm and introduce the team to the venue managers / staff.
  • Set up the projector, screen and laptop.
  • Meet with the speakers at 6:30pm.
  • Make sure their material works, for example slides , power point etc, and that the handouts are correct.
  • Place ‘speaker invites’ on each table for the audience, and posters on the walls.
  • 7pm (or thereabouts, use your judgement) first speaker begins after a very short introduction from the RU coordinators.
  • The coordinators circulate a contact list to the audience for emails etc.
  • Do not make people feel obliged. This is ideally an active process of people opting into a mailing list.
  • After the first speaker, there are questions and then a break. This is facilitated by RU coordinators who ask everyone to get a drink( if they want) and who reminds them there will be chat after the second talk too.
  • 8pm or thereabouts, the second speaker talks and answers questions.
  • After the talk there’s a quick wrap up from RU coordinators, telling everyone about the next date and talk. They then begin to de –rig the projector etc (encouraging people to gather together to continue chatting and enjoy the hosting venue).
  • Make sure to thank the hosts, the speakers, and the audience for coming along. Before the speakers leave get them to fill out their consent for us “to use their image” and handout etc for our online resource. If the event has been documented, consent is needed to allow us to use their talk in its entirety on the internet.


After The Event:

  • Remember to thank the speakers from the previous event and invite them back. They may have the desire to do another talk or repeat the one they have worked on.
  • Email them to congratulate them on their talk, that you found it enjoyable and insightful and ask if they would like to contribute to the online resources found on the RU website.
  • If they do ask them to send at least four paragraphs of their talk in a word doc to your email address. Any level of contribution is welcome, from A4 to a thesis. Also make them aware of Ragged Publishing and other arms of the organisation which might help them take their work forward.
  • Email everyone on the contact list inviting them to do a talk and attach program flyer.


Marketing The Event:

  • Place in listings in local media such as the Metro, The List, The Skinny, etc. Place listings on web based ‘what’s on sites’, on Facebook, Twitter, and any other relevant virtual resources.
  • Distribute lots of posters and flyers. If money is no problem take an add out in the news media.
  • Always approach magazines and media with the request for support and features on the project. They are interested in this and are generally helpful.


  • Venues we used were:
  • Restaurants
  • Bars and Pubs
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Local parks ( in Summer)

Enjoy it. It’s fun!