Thursday, 11 April 2013

Doing it for yourself

Now then, we said that we're all done with Knit a Neuron. But we met so many people at the Barbican's Wonderseason who were enthused by Knit a Neuron that I thought it might be useful to share a few top tips for running a Knit a Neuron event yourself.

1. Knit a Neuron events are easy to run: you need some yarn, some needles, patterns, a neuroscientist, and a comfy space. A good audience for KAN events are adults who can knit, but we've also had success with families. 

2. It helps if you have a focus for the knitting. Think about where the neurons are going. Perhaps you're going to create an installation in your place of work, at a local charity or school. People like to know that their efforts aren't in vain. Some people like to take their neurons home, but not many.

3. Events can be timed or drop-in. It takes about an hour for a competent knitter to make a neuron. If you are running a timed event make sure it's leisurely eg two hours. Your local Cafe Scientifique could be a good place to start. Drop-in format works well at festivals where people have time to kill and are looking for something fun and interesting to do (we knitters miss our knitting when we are at festivals so relish the chance to pick up some yarn and needles).

4. Not everyone can knit. If you are running your event where you likely to encounter people who can't knit or are a bit rusty it really helps to have an expert knitter on hand. However, you'll likely find that expert knitters join in and will help anyway. Have some knitting Nancies on hand for French knitting. These are great for kids and create lovely axons. Axons and dendrites can be plaited.

5. Market your events in knitter speak. For example you could encourage people to "dive into their stash" to find odd bits of yarn they could bring to the event for people to make neurons. We've found knitters to be very generous with their stashes and their old needles. Charity shops are great sources for needles and yarn.

6. Other people will want to join in too. Think about who might be interested in taking part and market through those routes. Knitters are social beings and like to knit and natter, it doesn't take much to persuade them to come along. Especially when there's something a bit unusual (and knitting neurons is pretty unusual!) - find your local Ravelry or Stitch n Bitch group. Other people who might be interested include folk who have some experience of brains eg friends/family of people with brain injury. Find local support groups and see if they'd be interested. If you are doing this through work - send out the information through your regular mailing lists.

7. Work with a neuroscientist. If you are not a neuroscientist and are asking one to join in the fun then this might help:
  • reassure them they don't need to knit!
  • they are there to talk neuroscience but that won't be the only topic conversation. Encourage them to talk neuro, but they don't need to force it.
  • be prepared for all and any brainy question, be prepared for personal and moving stories, be prepared to hear funny stories, be prepared to speak with a neuro Prof and someone who left school at 16 without a single qualification. Everyone has amazing stories to tell and they will.
  • they might want to bring a model brain or pictures of neurons to help illustrate the conversations
We hope you enjoy running your Knit a Neuron events. Do get in touch if you want any advice - we're happy to help.