The writing on the wall

Posted on May 7th, 2012 by Kate

At the April Reunion event, we posted 5 questions around the walls which were designed to help us with future planning.   Not everybody answered every question, but there were enough responses to help us plan future events.    Just to remind you, we aim to hold two “official” UKHKAN meet-ups per year: one is not enough, but more than two would be too much for an informal social network without resources to organise.

Q1:         Location of meetings  The vast majority of people attending the meet-up were from London/South of England, with a high proportion from West Sussex.  This was reflected in people’s preferences for location of meetings: 17 people want to meet in London/South; 2 in the Midlands; 4 in the North; others wanted to meet in San Francisco, Hong Kong [naturally!] and Tin Bit Tomb – don’t even ask ??!!??

Q2:         Times of meetings  21 people want to meet on Saturday mornings; 2 on Sunday mornings; 4 on weekday mornings.  Three want to meet on Saturday afternoons, and two on weekday afternoons.

Q3:         Costs 

Venue: Our first few meetings took place in restaurants and pubs.  This was fine when there were 8 of us, but 60 definitely calls for a private meeting space.   If we need to hire a room, we will need to split the costs of this between the people attending.  We asked how much people could comfortably afford to pay towards room hire: 17 said they could pay £10, two said they could pay £20.  Nobody marked the £0, £5, £15 or £25 options.

Food & drink: We also asked how much people were able to pay towards food and drink at the meet-ups: 12 people marked the £5-10 option; 3 people marked the £10-15 option, and one person marked £5.

Q4:         Format of meetings  People attend the gatherings for different reasons – many just want to meet with others with whom they feel they have a common bond while some want to discuss serious topics in an in-depth way.  We have no intention of dictating the purpose/s of the group, but hope everybody gains something from attending. Debbie’s aim in starting the network up was to provide a safe and supportive environment for adult adoptees to discuss their adoption stories if they wish.

With that in mind, we asked adoptees who they felt should be able to attend our Reunions, and whether they would like meetings which are mostly open but may include closed sessions for adoptees only.   12 people said they thought meetings should be open to spouses/partners and children; three think meetings should be open to adoptive parents.

We also asked non-adoptees whether they would attend the reunions if they included closed sessions: 8 said yes; 3 said no; one said ‘it depends’, although s/he didn’t say what it depended on.

Q5:         Media presence  There has been media/production company interest in attending our events: 1 person stated they would not attend meet-ups at all if the media were present; 8 prefer not to have media present; 1 is happy to attend provided the media leave him/her alone; 8 were happy to have the media in attendance and to talk to them; two prefer the media to wait until the evening meal or events after/outside the main reunion.

So, what are our conclusions?

 Location – given the geographical spread of people, we feel that it is logical for one meeting each year to take place in London/South.  Out of fairness to those who live elsewhere, we will hold the other event in the Midlands as we believe the further north we go, the fewer people will attend.  These events are for everybody – we don’t want UKHKAN to split into two smaller regionally-focused groups; but obviously there is nothing to stop people organising their own local get-togethers.   That is likely to be work better for people who dislike larger gatherings.  Please do use this website and the Facebook page to post about local events.   Since Debbie is from way up north, and I’m the nation’s heart [;-)], we will appreciate help with finding venues and restaurants for the London/South reunions, and with providing any practical equipment such as PA/AV systems.

Times – as some people travel long distances to attend meetings, we set the start time at 12 noon, with registration from 11am.  This allows most people to travel on the Saturday morning, but does mean meetings go into the afternoon.   We will try to ensure meetings end by 3.30pm, so that, even if people join us for a meal afterwards, they can leave at a reasonable time.   A 12pm start and 3.30pm finish cuts out the need for most people to stay overnight, thereby avoiding hotel costs.  Saturday was the clear favourite, so we will stick with that.

Costs – the responses gave us a clear steer of £10 contributions towards venue costs.  Obviously the more people who attend, the lower the cost will be.     Although we didn’t refine the question, we assume people meant £10 per family, not per person.    We will try to keep the costs of food & drink as close to the £5 mark as possible.

The biggest help you can give us to keep the costs down is to register attendance as early as possible so that we have a clear idea of numbers.

Format of Events & Media – as the majority of people indicated a preference not to have the media present during the main events – including one who would not attend at all if media were there – we will not allow the media to attend.   There is still a significant number who are happy to talk to the media, and therefore any journalists or producers who ask to attend will be informed that they can attend the evening meal.   If journalists/producers are going to attend meals, we will notify you in advance on this website and the Facebook pages, and also inform people at the beginning of the meetings.

We will instruct journalists not to make cold approaches to people, but to allow people to approach them if they want to discuss their stories.

Please do NOT invite journalists or production companies to UKHKAN reunions.   Again, you are perfectly free to talk to the media at your own events or in your own time, but please do not do this under the UKHKAN banner.

As only a minority of people indicated they are happy to invite adoptive parents, the UKHKAN reunions will be open to adoptees, their spouses/partners, children and friends only.

We hope people find our conclusions acceptable.  We have mooted the idea of seeking sponsorship to cover the costs so that nobody is excluded from attending on ground of costs.  If this happens, we may need to have terms of reference for the network.  We aren’t at that stage yet, but if we ever get that far, we will post a message so we can get your ideas.

If anybody has connections with potential sponsors, please put them in touch with Debbie.  We would be seeking either cash to cover costs of venue, equipment and catering or the provision of a venue with these facilities.  Sponsorship in kind would be preferable as we don’t have a bank account, and to set one up would not only require written terms of reference, but also a minimum of two signatories which is a bit inconvenient when we’re dotted all over the country.

Regards to all

Kate Gordon

Footnote – since April’s meeting, Debbie and I have discussed what time of year the meet-ups should take place.  We propose moving one closer to Chinese New Year ie end of January – beginning of February; if the meetings are spaced out evenly, the second one would take place late June/early July which would be a nicer time of year to meet than October.

We very much welcome your responses and further suggestions to all the above.


  1. laura tan -

    Just wanted to say a big thank you to Debbie, Kate, Jessica and anyone else I missed out, for doing all this effective, creative, thinking and hard work, and for having such clearly defined parameters. It’s really helpful, even to me, who hasn’t attended a lot of the reunions, to understand the philosophy, logistics and all that’s needed to make my decisions about how to participate. I also think a lot of individual thinking, collaborative thinking, about the processes undertaken to get to the end result above, must have taken place, and what I’ve just read was probably the result of much more hard work (hopefully pleasurable) than a first glance might assume. So xie xie – it is so appreciated. Laura Tan

  2. Kate -

    Thanks Laura. I’m not sure whether all this thinking is a cause of or a result of insomnia. ( I just had to google ‘inability to sleep’ because the word completely escaped me – not sure if that’s in tiredness or age – lol!) . I have a lot of experience of organising events, so am really happy to use that experience to support Debbie in order to help this network to develop. It’s been really great having Jess doing the techie stuff – I think she basically put a hold on everything she was up to in order to create this website and the HK adoptee portal, then she came up with the fantastic idea of the mirrors about a week before the April reunion. We still welcome input from anybody else, whether that’s help with events or just suggestions.

  3. Debbie -

    Thank you Laura for your observations, I do hope we will see you at our next reunion in Birmingham, the success of this group has been to keep time aside to socialize.
    I am so grateful to Kate who has come on board, her skills as faciliator and as an organiser for these reunions is going to see the future of this group grow, and to Jess our artist/web designer who has given up her valuable time to set our site up, thank you.

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