Just back from the Euprera Congress, held in Carlisle, and run by Julia Jahansoozi and colleagues at the University of Central Lancashire. There was a lot of good stuff, but the PR presentation that caught my eye was outside the body of the conference. On Friday night delegates were taken by coach to the Rheged Discovery Centre for a gala dinner, preceded by a big screen showing of a film, Rheged: The Movie.
Projected on a screen said to be the size of six double-decker buses, it was pretty spectacular stuff, lots of swooping helicopter shots of the Lake District, held together by a narrative that featured a boy searching for his roots with the help of a book and talisman handed down by his grandfather, and guided by a gypsy girl.
Hence lots of flashbacks to epic battles between club wielding Angles and Saxons, a bit of pillage, and rather curious intervention from William Wordsworth. Maybe my education is lacking but I had never heard of the Kingdom of Rheged or King Urien (pictured), and nor, for fairly obvious reasons, had most of the delegates who had gathered from all over Europe.
The trouble was, by the end, they had even less idea of the history of the region than beforehand. Brendan Quayle's script veered from pseudo-documentary to children's drama, and I spent quite a portion of the evening struggling to answer questions about its historical accuracy.
The film was intended as PR for the Lake District, and with so many images of spectacular countryside to draw on, it could hardly fail to impress. So why, then, create a narrative and myth that willfully blurred truth and fiction? Presumably the feeling was that for today's audiences history needs to be interpreted and amplified - and anyway it was good, escapist entertainment...
The Congress focused on various aspects of strategic communications but, for me, the movie offered some interesting insights into PR effects.