It’s every aspiring journalist’s dream to set foot inside the offices of a national newspaper. OK, so most of us are hoping to do so as employees, or at the very least doing work experience which we hope could lead to employment. But, for those of us who have yet to advance even that far up the career ladder, the Guardian Open Weekend is the next best thing.
For its inaugural Open Weekend (which, Stephen Moss tells us, we are all to feel nostalgic for when, some years down the line, it has thousands more visitors and is based in the Seychelles) the Guardian has thrown open its doors and laid on an impressive programme for those of us who snapped up tickets quickly enough. Personally, I opted for as many sessions on the future of journalism as possible (even if what I heard struck fear into my heart at times), but it is not just aspiring journos who are catered for. Saturday’s programme included talks on politics, sport and culture, and I bumped into a friend in the lunch break who was raving about the two sessions on crossword setting which he had just attended. And, I have to admit, my final session with feminist sex blogger Zoe Margolis and shoeless singer-songwriter Luke Concannon was one of the highlights of my day.
In keeping with the Guardian’s ethos, there is also plenty of opportunity for the attendees to contribute. Participation is actively encouraged, adding a new dimension to the discussions and allowing readers to challenge editors, writers, and guest speakers alike. And there is plenty to keep the crowds entertained in the gaps between sessions (not that there were many of those today – although we were only allowed to book four sessions in advance, not all of the sessions were full and spare tickets were advertised on a board in the foyer). Outside; various food stalls, a graffiti artist and a floating bookshop. Inside; the delights of the Guardian canteen, an illustration board which was steadily added to, book signings, and an exhibition on the history of the newspaper. But for me it was just exciting to ride the escalator up into the great glass building and pretend that I belonged. One day I’ll be back…in fact, that day will be tomorrow. I can’t wait!