En garde! PR socialising returns in the wake of the pandemic with the 2021 Spark Summer Day Out

Dom By Dom

Oooookay, so back in 2019 when I asked “What next year might bring” for the Spark Summer Day Out, I didn’t know that 2020 would see us slap bang in the middle of a pandemic. Still, in 2021 with vaccinations on the rise and outdoor meeting possible, we very cautiously decided that it was time to maintain sanity and open up to socialisation again.

The big question was what form the Summer Day Out should take. Just sitting in a pub all day, while having a certain charm of its own, would get old pretty quickly. And ideally you’d want to avoid being too repetitive, so that would rule out boats, bubble football, vineyards, historic amusement parks, axe throwing, escape rooms, or apparently Diggerland.

Luckily the postponed Olympics provided some inspiration, and we hit upon replicating the IOC-recognised Modern Heptathlon of fencing, picnicking, Connect 4, Jenga, frisbee, croquet and shuffleboard.

You fight like a dairy farmer!

For a group of more-or-less absolute beginners, the fencing tuition was understandably focused on the basics, but gave enough of a grounding that people were able to pair up, face off, and enjoy attempting to impale their colleagues with three feet of tempered steel. Strangely, the number of people shouting “en garde”, humming the Robin Hood theme, or making lightsaber noises was extremely low. Perhaps less strangely, those of us with a tiny bit of prior experience (ahem) ended up winning a medal. And even less strangely, two hours of warm-up and then energetic lunges, parries and ripostes takes it out of you, meaning a healthy walk to Shoreditch Park for a Deliveroo picnic and outdoor games was definitely welcome afterwards.

Every Day I’m Shuffling

Still, much like a pub, you can’t spend the entire Summer Day Out sat in a park scaring off the pigeons. As the afternoon turned into evening, it was time for the final port of call – the London Shuffle Club in Shoreditch.

It turns out that giant-sized shuffleboard is a surprisingly skilful game, and maybe should have been attempted before 3 hours sat in a park with lunch and drinks. Still, Spark as a whole put up a good show, slowly developing team tactics and learning the value of knocking the competition’s discs just far enough to put them into zero (or better yet, negative) points.

And that was the evening: all things considered it was pretty civilised, but a welcome return to socialising – and a chance for a lot of us to actually meet for the first time. With any luck 2022 will be a Proper Event™, but for now we can console ourselves that this was the closest to “normal” we’d been in around 18 months. And appreciate the welcome reminder that after everything we say about this job, it’s the people around us that really make it something special. Even when they’re trying to stab you.