At primary school in Melbourne, we learned about the Katherine School of the Air, which connects and educates children across the 500 000 square miles of the Northern Territory, which is the least developed and most sparsely-populated region of the Australia. For most of the year pupils and teachers communicate solely via satellite and internet technology, but when it’s not too hot they all meet together for swimming and teamwork-type activities. Fuse connects and educates across the North East of England which, though a mere 0.0016% of the size of the Northern Territory is the least developed and most sparsely-populated region of England and is, by overcrowded English standards, relatively remote – and in any case, Fuse members do much of their getting-together and collaborating and socialising online, too. However, Longhorsley is located at the same latitude as Novosibirsk in Siberia which means that, despite the Gulf Stream, this week’s Sandpit event was never going to be remembered for its warm evenings.
|School of the air|
I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the three days of the Sandpit. I enjoyed meeting people from across the region and I learned a huge amount from encountering research projects and perspectives and standpoints from across the vast expanses of public health theory and practice, being again reminded how incredibly broad a field public health can be. I loved the warmth of the conviviality of all those email addresses who suddenly transformed into faces and certainly. I loved the spark and sparkle of heated debates which energised and illuminated our groupwork. And I thought that the hot meals and heated spa were wonderful too. But it was nevertheless rather brisk, slightly chilly and somewhat requiring of more clothing than one might usually wear indoors.
And so I would propose that next year’s event ditches the name ‘Sandpit’ and rebrands itself as the ‘Snowdrift’ or ‘Ice sheet’, especially given that one of the projects undertaken was a research proposal into using the telephone to address the problems of cold-weather related winter deaths. Maybe it would attract funding from a refrigeration firm or the Alaskan state government. Maybe we could work on projects around the public health aspects of hypothermia and fuel poverty. Maybe we could have an ice-sculpting competition instead of the pub quiz.
So now that my fingers are warm enough to type, I’d like to thankall of the Sandpit organising committee as well as my fantastically knowledgeable, hard-working and thoughtful team members Emily, Karen, Sandra, Lynne, Leanne and Shelina. And thank you to the senior people in Fuse and the NHS who agreed to and funded the event. Please do please forgive me for taking the mick out of the temperature. Given that turning the thermostat up was the main suggestion offered for improving the event, you can be confident that you have really done something very, very right.