Creative Mornings, an international monthly morning lecture series, offers an invaluable opportunity to network with like-minded folk while eating cake. The main draw though is the brain candy. Whether the speaker spends their working life creating virtual worlds, delivering soft skills training or playing with algorithms, expect a thought-provoking hour of talk – in English (usually) and completely gratis.
Founded by Tina Roth Eisenberg in New York back in September 2008, Creative Mornings has grown from a humble coffee and chat meet-up to a worldwide phenomenon, sponsored by big names like Google and run by local volunteers. Events are now held in numerous cities across the globe; in July 2012, the first Creative Mornings happening took place in Prague.
“In the beginning, we were not sure how many people will come. Will there be a hundred people? Will our friends come or, will we have a nice breakfast as a team?” local organizer Lada Brůnová remembers. Her fears proved unfounded. “We sold out all tickets in one hour, received great responses and people spread the word next day. We built a community.”
I went along to my first Creative Morning in August, the largest Prague-based event so far, held this time at the National Technical Library in Dejvice. My reward for making it by 8.30am was great coffee, koláčes and savory muffins – not forgetting, of course, the chance to network with other creative professionals. With this aim in mind, all participants are given a name label to stick on themselves on which they also have to give their answer to a icebreaker – in this case, what would be your secret weapon of destruction? (In case you’re curious, I chose my sharp wit.) The atmosphere is informal and there’s ample time to mingle, munch, and chat before the talk itself begins.
Our lecturer was Adam Gebrian, a well-known Czech architect who, in his own words, would rather speak than build. His main theme was public space in the urban environment: how essential it is to the quality of life of city dwellers – according to Adam, too much public space is never enough. A lively and engaging speaker, Gebrian made the topic accessible to a general audience through multimedia like the timelapse videos of growing urban centres like Las Vegas, Shanghai, and Dubai and pertinent local examples.
Prague came in for provocative criticism. It’s hard to disagree with Gebrian’s view that opportunities for making the most of the Czech capital’s public space have been overlooked. What’s the point of spending money putting grass on Hradčanská’s tram rails when no-one will be able to sit there? How can Stromovka function properly as a park where you can hang out all day when it has so few public toilets? All in all, the result is, in Adam’s view, that Prague is a city for looking at, not living in. Food for thought, indeed.
After the talk, the audience was let loose on the refreshments in the foyer again. I made a couple of new contacts and touched base with some old ones. Gebrian led a guided tour of the National Technical Library – one of his favourite buildings in Prague – which was just as interesting as the lecture and also free. The library, which I’d never properly explored before, has lots of quirky features such as walls decorated with cartoons and is now on my radar as a good spot to take my laptop when freelancing.
This particular event really did take almost all morning – l headed home at about 11:30 – but I left feeling stimulated, refreshed, and well-fed.
So what’s next on the menu for Creative Mornings? September sees the Prague chapter welcome its first ever guest to fly across the Atlantic especially to participate, Ron J Williams. Ron’s area of expertise – algorithms – might not seem to be the sexiest of topics but this self-confessed social data nerd is brimming with smart ideas and brilliant ways of hooking up the right people online. Ron is the force behind SnapGoods, a sort of AirBnB for stuff where you can rent out your belongings for cash and Knodes, a tool that facilitates targeted sharing in social networks.
This time, the event will be held in Letná, at the former Czechoslovak Expo 58 pavillion, on Friday 20th September. “Creative Mornings will be outside on a terrace as we truly believe in an Indian summer,” explains an optimistic Lada.
Registration opens exactly one week before the event on Friday 13th September at 8.30am; places should be reserved through the website. If you don’t manage to secure a ticket, you can still follow the talk via live streaming at Google Hangouts On Air: just go to the Creative Mornings Google Plus space. And if you’re curious to see exactly what went down in other cities, you can access the video archive of lectures: at the time of writing, there’s a back catalogue of 600 to browse through.
So why should we should drag ourselves out of bed for a lecture – even if there’s cake?
“The goal of Creative Mornings is to inspire, to take people out of their daily routine and wake them up, differently, creatively and with love,” says Lada. “Our slogan is: ‘We serve monthly food for thought, breakfast included.’”
The next CM event takes place Sept 20; reservations are open now