Wikipedia Takes Coventry/Report

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By the numbers
  • Photographers: 51
  • Hours: 5½
  • Photographs uploaded: >2030
  • Cost per photo: ~£0.07
  • Press coverage: On the radio!
One of the goals for the event was to show people parts of Coventry they hadn't seen before. The building above is Ford's Hospital, nestled among the modern architecture of Coventry city centre.


Wikipedia Takes Coventry on 1 September was the most unique, and perhaps risky, of all the Wikimedia events we've organised so far with Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry. This was the first time an event like this had been held in the United Kingdom. Coventry is often renowned for its being a concrete jungle and one of our main objectives with this event was to show people otherwise.

Britain Loves Wikipedia had laid the groundwork a couple of years ago but this was uncharted territory for the UK. Would the event work in a smaller city? Would there be enough to photograph?


The first Wikipedia Takes... events were held in Manhattan over 4 years ago. Since then the format has been copied all around the world to great acclaim. Nevertheless, this was the first time a Wikipedia photo scavenger hunt of this scale had been held in the UK. Suggestions for such an event were made when Wikimedia UK v 2.0 was set up but nothing ever came of them.

The 2010 Britain Loves Wikipedia events in several participating museums across the nation were similar but were not held on a single day or over such a large geographical area.

The main purpose of the event was to get good-quality photographs of important and historic buildings in Coventry (of which there is a surprisingly large number) for use on Wikipedia and elsewhere, but also to teach people about Coventry’s long and varied history.


Planning – or at least brainstorming – for the event began a little before WikiConference UK 2012, in London, where the idea of the event was floated around and discussed with some attendees. Several in-person meetings and a very large thread were of email correspondence led up to the day.

The Wikipedia Takes Montreal presentation at Wikimania 2012 in Washington, D.C. was also very helpful in providing best practices and things to avoid when running the event.


Advertisements for the event went out to Coventry secondary schools and a large number of local photography clubs. We also worked with Visit Coventry and Warwickshire (although not as closely as we would have liked) to promote the event through their social media channels. The latter two proved relatively fruitful.

Despite initial fears about too few people coming, the day before the event there were almost 60 people signed up, with promise of more. A more manageable 50-something turned up on the day, which was about physical and organisational capacity.


Due to various items being donated in-kind (such as the venue) the final budget for the event stood at a little over £300 (from which there was underspend - events like this don't have to be expensive!). The main items on it were prizes and refreshments for participants from the café (to which the museum is contractually tied).

On the day

Through contacts at The Herbert, Harry and Erin had a 5 minute slot on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire on the morning of the event.

Following 2 days at the Wikimedia UK office prior to the event, to print out and collect various materials for the event, event organisers met in Coventry to prepare for Harry Mitchell and Erin Hollis's radio interview on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire that same morning.

Their interview aired at around 08:20; they spoke about the event and Wikimedia UK’s ongoing partnership with Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

Due to not being able to set up the previous day, we prepared the space donated by the museum for the event. A "sign-in" desk was set up; when people entered they would either be ticked off on a copy of the registration list or fill in the registration form. They would then be invited to take a whiteboard on which to write the reference numbers for "reference photos". After a brief introductory presentation, participations left at 11:00 to take photographs.

Best practice: In addition to having a sign-in desk, have someone on the door to direct people over to it.

A few photographs of participants taking photographs were taken on a camera belonging to the museum, to make sure that such images would be available for documentation later on.

Best practice: Make sure you have images of people participating to use in documentation. It’s a great way of illustrating the event itself and is fantastic for press stuff.

During the day, we prepared the "goody bags" for the participants, with materials to do with Wikimedia and The Herbert and also some merchandise. These proved incredibly useful later on while participant were waiting to upload photos; they had something useful to read.

Some people returned quite early to upload their photos to the Toolserver tool designed for this sort of event. We had access to a computer suite on the first floor of the museum while others uploaded their files in the main room on the ground floor, where they used ethernet connections or the brand new WiFi (which proved to be quite unsatisfactory). Feedback later indicated that the physical distance between these two spaces was the biggest problem (both for participants and for us as organisers).

At the end of the day everyone left retired to a nearby pub for drinks and dinner.


A participant takes a photograph of the Grade I-listed Cook Street Gate.

We received 15 feedback forms 34% of the total number of attendees. There were three questions on a scale, of which answers were scored from 1-4 with 4 being highest:

What did you think of:

  • Information before the event (eg. webpages)
(2x2, 6x3, 1x3.5, 6x4) (Mean) Average= 3.3
  • Information and materials provided during the event (such as target lists, rules)
(1x2, 5x3, 1x3.5, 8x4) Average= 3.5
  • The organisers and help provided during the event
(8x3, 1x3.5, 6x4) Average= 3.43

How did you find out about the event?

Many of these were word of mouth but there were some other interesting results. We worked with event partner Visit Coventry and Warwickshire on advertising for the event; they have a high-profile social media presence and as a council department have good contacts in the area.

They publicised it on their Facebook page and Twitter feed. This then led to other local groups (such as the group for Coventry) advertising it through their networks and others hearing about it and publicising it further. Although, signups were slow at first, the number of those signing up increased exponentially.

Best practice: Don't undervalue the importance of working with outside groups to publicise your event. It can lead to a pyramid-like effect, with people sharing information.

What did you enjoy most about the event?

The following wordcloud is made up of responses given to this question:

WTC wordcloud (What did you enjoy most?).png

What could have been done better?

There were two recurring themes in the answers to this question: lots of people made comments to the effect that there were too many targets to get in the allotted time; evidently misunderstanding the point of the event which was not to get as many photos as possible but to get good photos. One participant called the organisation "slightly hap-hazard", especially the uploading session at the end of the day where we did indeed have significant problems with Internet connections.

Any other comments?

The last question allowed people to leave any comments. I think these are worth sharing, just to give an idea of how much people enjoyed the event:

  • Had a lovely day and learnt a lot
  • Very fun
  • A great idea, a positive project to be part of
  • Enjoyed it
  • Would be keen to do this again


"Thank you all for [...] Wikipedia Takes Coventry, we enjoyed it very much and it was great to be back out as a family doing something creative! It's been a while."

– An attendee

Wikipedia Takes Coventry was the largest Wiki event organised in Coventry and one of the largest supported by Wikimedia UK, to date.

The main, if not only problem, that we encountered was to do with uploading. We had a computer suite, four Ethernet cables and the museum's WiFi to upload photos with but the sheer number of photos being uploaded. It ended up that most people uploaded their photos when they got home. This in turn led to us losing the photos of at least a couple of teams.

The number of photos speaks for itself. But a big part of the event, for us, was the stories; it’s about the community. It’s about the IKEA manager who let 4 participants round the back of the kitchen to take a photo of the Coventry skyline. It’s about the families who participated in the event with their children and the people who came from miles away.

Third prize winner Julia wrote up her experiences of the day:

The Martians routinely checking their surveillance equipment directed at the Herbert Museum, Coventry, UK on a Saturday morning in September would have been annotating the log with “"observed dress code: denim jeans". Undaunted by finding myself in a room full of people mostly around half my age, but glad of that last minute decision to don denim jeans. I adopted the other prevailing attribute, a purposeful expression, and set off happily with my companions into the characterful old streets of the city centre to photograph its heritage buildings, as they glowed in the late-summer sunshine.

What better way can there be to see and to learn the beauty of an old city than to wander round in search of photographic inspiration, an activity that can be almost a meditation. An impressive array of equipment in use by many of the participants bore testament to the seriousness of this concerted quest to provide images for Wikipedia, and hinted at the high standards that would be on show later. When I reached the intensely moving Reconciliation sculpture in the ruins of the old cathedral I slowly circled it several times to find the exact position that I needed. I wasn't consciously thinking about it, just feeling, until I simply pressed the button. I'd had an odd sensation that the two figures were real and that I needed to respect their privacy. To my great surprise and pleasure this photo won a prize that day.

I am old enough to hold a senior railcard. I am a Wikipedian.