Author Topic: Students tell the BCA how to attract new, more diverse adherents to our sport  (Read 2305 times)

Offline David Rose

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A very bright bunch of students present some compelling ideas on how to market caving and the BCA to young people using modern social media, and why the sport’s current efforts to make its pitch and become more diverse don’t hit the spot.

Worryingly, having been given assignment as part of their third year course work, none of them found their way from the BCA homepage to the New to Caving website - despite New to Caving having been an official BCA partner for more than a year. Many of their ideas seem to confirm points made by Jane Allen (Pegasus) and others at recent BCA meetings. Details here:

https://darknessbelow.co.uk/presenting-cavings-future/?fbclid=IwAR2bFVfiJvTyssx__OESupyBL66CYiiIJ-1eJ5OEVmWpKl8Sb9kVJ9dxjKQ


Offline BradW

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That's a great article, David. It seems to me that although the BCA might one day have a working strategy, and that would be very welcome, ultimately encouraging engagement will come from active cavers in clubs etc. Every club should take this on board and do whatever they can.

Offline PeteHall

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I was thinking about this last night...

If you ask any caver what they like about caving, one of the first things everyone says is the people.

Does caving attract great people, or does caving make great people? Or is it a bit of both?

You'll never look cool in an oversuit, covered in mud and totally exhausted after a long trip. Likewise, a cave isn't the right environment to grab that extreme selfie for Instagram (unless you want a massive increase in accidents, rescues and damage to caves).

Do we really want to be attracting adrenaline junkies off Instagram?

I agree that we need to improve how we attract new people to our great sport, but I'm not sure I agree with the students approach...
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Caving is a great 'equaliser'.
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Offline David Rose

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I don't think Instagram would only attract adrenalin junkies. And if it did, they wouldn't stick around for very long. However, Instagram and other social media are simply the way younger people communicate nowadays, and if one ignores such means - as the BCA and its constituent parts generally do - then we don't tend to reach them.

But what do you mean, people don't look cool covered in mud and exhausted after a long trip! Of course they do!

Offline JoshW

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I don't think Instagram would only attract adrenalin junkies. And if it did, they wouldn't stick around for very long. However, Instagram and other social media are simply the way younger people communicate nowadays, and if one ignores such means - as the BCA and its constituent parts generally do - then we don't tend to reach them.

But what do you mean, people don't look cool covered in mud and exhausted after a long trip! Of course they do!

In general the current social media platforms of favour for the younger generation is Instagram and Snapchat.

I was thinking about this last night...

If you ask any caver what they like about caving, one of the first things everyone says is the people.

Does caving attract great people, or does caving make great people? Or is it a bit of both?

You'll never look cool in an oversuit, covered in mud and totally exhausted after a long trip. Likewise, a cave isn't the right environment to grab that extreme selfie for Instagram (unless you want a massive increase in accidents, rescues and damage to caves).

Do we really want to be attracting adrenaline junkies off Instagram?

I agree that we need to improve how we attract new people to our great sport, but I'm not sure I agree with the students approach...

I went to Kendal mountain festival to watch the entries into the film festival and the main 4 subjects were:
1) climbing/mountaineering
2) skiing/snowboarding
3) mountain biking/cycling
4) paddlesports

All four of these have the advantage that anyone with a gopro is able to go and produce decent content to share, therefore the awareness of these are at an all time high, whereas with caving, it takes a lot more thought in order to put together content, and therefore there's a lot less of it about - a combination of fewer people doing the sport and even fewer able/willing to put the content together.

When you do see video's about caving on facebook/instagram it tends to be one of a few things:
1) Thai rescue - not necessarily the easiest thing to spin into an advert for caving
2) huge caves out in south east asia - not necessarily the easiest thing to spin into an advert for UK caving
3) caves of small squeezes in the UK - this only plays to the fear of people that UK caving is not type 1 fun

It's an identified problem, but one without an easy solution. I think the CHECC video competition had some fantastic videos that if they were shared around in the way that the above 3 are could definitely contribute to attracting people to our sport.

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When you do see video's about caving on facebook/instagram it tends to be one of a few things:
1) Thai rescue - not necessarily the easiest thing to spin into an advert for caving
2) huge caves out in south east asia - not necessarily the easiest thing to spin into an advert for UK caving
3) caves of small squeezes in the UK - this only plays to the fear of people that UK caving is not type 1 fun

It's an identified problem, but one without an easy solution. I think the CHECC video competition had some fantastic videos that if they were shared around in the way that the above 3 are could definitely contribute to attracting people to our sport.

Fully agree. Went to see Free Solo yesterday and if I had been a newcomer to climbing it would have put me off for life. This is the problem we have with caving videos. The CHECC competition had some really good quality content and we need to make it better disseminated. But we also need to keep making cool videos. The main barrier to this for students is not time, but money. They have the time to learn, but not the money to buy the kit. The exceptions to this were the ICCC video (richest student club in the UK by far) and the Plymouth video, which was produced by someone who makes money from filming and surveying. So maybe the BCA could set up a 'fund' for students/young people to apply to for outreach campaigning?
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Offline JoW

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I don't think Instagram would only attract adrenalin junkies. And if it did, they wouldn't stick around for very long. However, Instagram and other social media are simply the way younger people communicate nowadays, and if one ignores such means - as the BCA and its constituent parts generally do - then we don't tend to reach them.

But what do you mean, people don't look cool covered in mud and exhausted after a long trip! Of course they do!

The BCA (and the BCRA) don't necessarily ignore social media, it's just that, as ever we need volunteers who are willing to take charge of such things...

Offline Alex

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Likewise, a cave isn't the right environment to grab that extreme selfie for Instagram (unless you want a massive increase in accidents, rescues and damage to caves).

Eh people do it all the time in caves. Well most of the times someone else takes the photo but it's people shots that win the prizes. I take selfies underground using tripod and a timer.
Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Online Pegasus

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Already posted here: https://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=24432.msg303759;topicseen#new

However will post again on this thread:

'The current BCA website, they agreed, was dull and old-fashioned, and as a shop window for British caving, mediocre'.  As reported, this is being actively looked at. 

'Worryingly, none of the students seemed to have found their way from the BCA homepage to the New to Caving website, with its stacks of useful information and alluring photos – although the site was designated as an ‘official’ BCA partner more than a year ago'.   :wall:  Google 'caving' and there's New To Caving - not that hard to find.

'As for social media – the critical means of communication for anyone under 30 – caving as a whole, caving clubs and the BCA might just as well be invisible'. Caving as a whole...might just as well be invisible - I strongly disagree, a quarter of the 2700 cavers who follow UKC on FB are under 34 and I'm sure there must be at least one person who's under 30 on the forum itself!  Caving is not invisible on social media - many clubs have twitter, FB and instagram accounts.

‘On the day we checked, the BCA Facebook page only had 841 likes!’  I post on the BCA facebook page regularly (as do others), support BCA and please like the page if you are on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/BritishCavingAssociation/

'‘The BCA doesn’t even have an Instagram account!’  True - and it's something I'm aware of, however there are only so many hours in the day and I do a lot of social media (on a voluntary basis) as it is - volunteers, please speak up now!

'Another common theme was the need to generate awareness that women both enjoy and derive great benefit from caving'. Perhaps if the students had found New To Caving they would have come across Adele's 'A novice caver's experience', seen the many photographs of women caving and spotted the UKC logo. 

'....caving really does have a lot of work to do to attract future generations – and at present, little understanding as to how this might be done'.  I disagree, understanding of the issue is increasing all the time, however implementing changes takes time...and help.


Offline David Rose

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Pegasus, I hope your post doesn't indicate you took the article I wrote on Darkness Below as in any way critical of you, or indeed anyone else - that was not my intention at all.

What I was doing was reporting what these students said. I am deeply aware off the enormous effort you and Badlad make to promote caving, especially among young people, through the forum, CHECC, New to Caving, prizes for student expeditions, and indeed in your general day to day contact with many young cavers. No one could do more, and the caving community should be more appreciative  - and the last thing I would suggest is that on top of everything else, you shouldder the burden of running an active Instagram feed.

The problem is not the efforts you and others make. The problem is that despite these efforts, the message doesn't always get through.

I also know that important moves are underway to try to remedy this, including the BCA's attempt to refocus its vision led by Hellie and your own (Pegasus's) contribution to P&I. Your memo to the last BCA council was a significant document bursting with fresh ideas.

I back these initiatives totally. My intention with the article was to help foster wider awareness of why they are so necessary - and must not be allowed to run into the sand of British caving political inertia. As I did say in the piece, some of the students' thoughts were wide of the mark. And, frankly, they should have found New to Caving. But I do think, coming at this from a generally uninformed perspective, they said useful things which are worth bering in mind. 

Offline al

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I attended the Caving session on the Friday night at the Kendal Film Festival - mainly to listen to Jason's "no holds barred" report on the Thai rescue. But I was very impressed by both the other speakers, Christine and Imo.

Their talks were on different subjects but both contained excellent descriptions of their introduction to and involvement in caving. In both cases, the subject touched on encouraging women to take up caving as am activity - but I thought both deliveries made excellent descriptive and encouraging commentaries on the sport which would appeal to prospective cavers of either sex.

The problem, of course, is that cavers probably made up (almost) the whole audience. The challenge is to get this kind of material "out there".
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Offline Badlad

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I agree that there were some interesting points to learn.  All of us at BCA need to take note and I think many of us are.

I did find it quite ironic though, bearing in mind where this article was published and, judging by the pictures, who else was involved in this event.  The article mentioned taking these young people caving - a trip down one of the Charterhouse caves perhaps  ;) ;D  :spank: :spank: :spank:

Offline alastairgott

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I'm not a photographer, but I've been thinking of an image for a while. The basic premise being a caver in quite a sporting streamway, with several shots cut and photoshopped back into position.

I'm thinking of rectangles the same size all brought back into one image, so a little different from the attached image, but the principle is the same.

https://www.gettyimages.fi/detail/photo/montage-of-male-and-female-faces-high-res-stock-photography/107697750

I have seen the imagery used before in technical clothing adverts for Gill. With the strapline "Friday 5pm, rush hour", I'd guess the image could be recreated in a cave passage.


If I can pull out the poster, I will do. but the image I have seen is not dissimilar to the one on this website, with spray coming out of the side of the boat. but with every segment being slightly different.

 https://coliesail.com/blog/ss3218/


I guess by doing this, you allow the imagery to speak for itself and have very few words. High impact imagery, a strapline and a signpost to who the advert is for, in our example BCA and Newtocaving.


This similar to the angle, https://www.yachtsandyachting.com/news/20697
but this is similar to the amount you can see Nick Thompson in this photo.
 http://www.sailing.org/news/39728.php#.XBIxa_Z2uP8

Offline alastairgott

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A well framed shot in somewhere like climbing Dr Bannisters in Longchurn would probably make for quite a good image. Face covered with a buff to nose and head slightly angled so you can just see the eyes. but spray covering quite a lot of the image.

Not my image but this shows an in cave shot
https://flic.kr/p/aQPyNi

but this one is more like it for a Gill Scrambling image.
https://goo.gl/images/itUKLR

Offline mikem

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That ghyll scrambling pic wouldn't encourage me...

The problem, of course, is that cavers probably made up (almost) the whole audience. The challenge is to get this kind of material "out there".
A couple of my kayaking friends were there & thought the rescue talk was fascinating, but weren't really interested in the others.

Mike

Online mountainpenguin

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well this is a bit of trying to address the symptom rather than the problem.
There is a missing generation to caving.
I am only one of my friends who would have taken to the sport if it were not for the backwards feel.
you *have* to join a club you *have* to have insurance. You have to find a big book and follow byzantine rules to get to go to a lot of places.
We grew up with CROW access to crags. Want to take a friend climbing, just do it.
We grew up with trail centers. Want to take a friend mountain biking then goto a good trail center and they will be able to hire a bike.
We grew up being able to go for a wander on the mountains easily.
We grew up being able to go for a paddle in a canoe with friends.
Non of this has been possible in caving and we feel like we have been pushed out. We would be the ones volunteering for the social media.
I know so many who would have and have volunteered but have left due to the hard / impossible work of dealing with the "our way or the high way" old guard who control access and control clubs.

Offline mikem

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I'm not saying it's right, but it was the same for the previous generation - they formed their own groups & went caving in spite of the old guard - information is much more readily available now than it was then...

Offline Alex

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We grew up with CROW access to crags. Want to take a friend climbing, just do it.
We grew up with trail centers. Want to take a friend mountain biking then goto a good trail center and they will be able to hire a bike.
We grew up being able to go for a wander on the mountains easily.
We grew up being able to go for a paddle in a canoe with friends.

In the Dales, thanks to most entrances being open you can still just do it as other than the caves themselves there is no physical impediment. However, I have been out to a lot more climbing call outs, than I have cave ones, despite my side of the Dales not being known for having lots of climbing. We have Ilkly, Bringham rocks and Almscliff. Yes there is more people climbing, but if people just do it without learning the skills they are likely to get hurt, and it's that reason why I think there are so many more climbing accidents as it's so easy to just do it*.

Caving companies who train people to cave is a good club counter, but not knowing anything about caving and trying anything more than ribble-head could lead to issues as there is so much to consider that the uninitiated would not. Hence why clubs are needed at least early in the caving career, if say 12 months down the line you decide clubs are not for you then by all means go it alone.

* I recognise that lead climbing is more dangerous than most caving, which may account for some accidents. I for one would not do it as I have seen what happens.
Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Offline alastairgott

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MountainPenguin, we could argue with you, but we're talking about bringing people into the sport. From your previous posts I can tell you're not a lone wolf, liking to do thing by yourself, but you do seem to want to just get on with it whether your assisted or not.

This is a fine attitude, many have it. Some of the new generation of Cavers will come from your background, but others may come from a background where they need a helping hand. If you want to bring more people into the sport then any of us might be able to bring in small group of friends.
 One new caver per person a year might improve the numbers, but I don't think it's the "step change" in demographic this topic wants to move towards.

We're looking for ideas, do you have any ideas to pull new people in?

By the way Mountainpenguin, is the same not true for Climbing crags? "You have to find a big book" I don't think you'll find many at a crag without one! The BMC even herelded the "end of the dark ages" last year with a new boulding guidebook for North wales.
https://www.thebmc.co.uk/north-wales-bouldering-guide-review-guidebook

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Alastair's post(s) resonate many previous observations regarding the caving demographic which have been voiced over and over for years. Namely there will be insufficient new blood to sustain the organs of UK caving such as clubs, regional councils and the national bodies. Some may survive, but all will not.

However.

Caving will continue. The internet and easy access to specialised knowledge will see to it.

Offline mikem

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We have Ilkley, Brimham rocks and Almscliff.
Some classic crags there, relatively close to major population centres, but being gritstone, quite hard to protect when leading & known for strenuous routes. Accidents in climbing are likely to increase with indoor wall trained climbers not having lines of bolts to follow when they move outdoors (especially as walls are generally more akin to limestone, which is a totally different style).

Generations of cavers & climbers used to learn their skills outside of clubs, mostly with someone who had a bit more of an idea than they did - but there were more rescues of cavers then.

Mike

Offline moletta

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Mountain Penguin -glad you get to do lots of activities at will. Why would it be so bad to do some trips with a club, gain some experience and, if you enjoy it, start doing some of the easier caves with friends? There are people out there caving outside the club system.

Just remember that rescue for the lost or injured is not an ambulance or helicopter, but is physical effort by experienced cavers over  many hours.
Also are the books the ones with the surveys in which give you a clue about where you are going?



Online mountainpenguin

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Mountain Penguin -glad you get to do lots of activities at will. Why would it be so bad to do some trips with a club, gain some experience and, if you enjoy it, start doing some of the easier caves with friends? There are people out there caving outside the club system.

Just remember that rescue for the lost or injured is not an ambulance or helicopter, but is physical effort by experienced cavers over  many hours.
Also are the books the ones with the surveys in which give you a clue about where you are going?
thanks for the suggestion
I voulanteer as part of CRO already so well aware of whats needed for rescues thanks

Offline Pitlamp

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well this is a bit of trying to address the symptom rather than the problem.
There is a missing generation to caving.
I am only one of my friends who would have taken to the sport if it were not for the backwards feel.
you *have* to join a club you *have* to have insurance. You have to find a big book and follow byzantine rules to get to go to a lot of places.
We grew up with CROW access to crags. Want to take a friend climbing, just do it.
We grew up with trail centers. Want to take a friend mountain biking then goto a good trail center and they will be able to hire a bike.
We grew up being able to go for a wander on the mountains easily.
We grew up being able to go for a paddle in a canoe with friends.
Non of this has been possible in caving and we feel like we have been pushed out. We would be the ones volunteering for the social media.
I know so many who would have and have volunteered but have left due to the hard / impossible work of dealing with the "our way or the high way" old guard who control access and control clubs.

Thanks for your thoughts Mountainpenguin, which I've mulled over carefully since yesterday. I think there's some useful stuff in there.

But - I couldn't help wondering whether you were really motivated to have a go at caving. If you'd have persevered even just a bit, I think you'd have found that things are different from the perception you gained. (That's not a criticism of you in any way.) I should add that my caving is done mainly in the Dales and Peak District; I can't speak for other areas (although I've been made very welcome on my own visits).

I take it you must still have at least some interest in caving, otherwise you'd not have taken the time to share your thoughts above. In which case - go on, give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised.

In many cases, if you want to go caving, you and your mates can just go. You don't need to join a club. If you don't though, you'd miss out on so many other rewarding aspects of the caving scene, which you'd otherwise never have known about. Joining a club also normally gives you access to a bunch of folk who are probably going to do their best to avoid you coming a cropper. There are also any number of good instructors who you can hire to teach you skills - but I'd still suggest getting involved with a decent club anyway for the longer term, as you'll get more from it.

Anyway, this led me on to pondering to what extent we should pro-actively encourage folk to have a go. Or whether we should focus instead on making it as attractive as possible to anyone who shows interest voluntarily. I don't have an answer but I think these are factors perhaps worth considering.

Since typing this I just noticed your most recent post explaining that you're involved with CRO. Yet your words above suggest that you "would have" had a go had you not evidently been put off by your perceptions. Now I'm confused.  :shrug: