Sara Everett, Director of the UK Pavilion describes ‘life’ at the UK Pavilion
As the hustle and bustle of Expo subsides Easy Milano had the wonderful opportunity of meeting up with the UK Pavilion’s Director, Sara Everett. Arriving in Milan only in April, Sara was responsible for running the day-to-day operations at the Pavilion during Expo Milano 2015.
Can you describe your role?
I’m director of the UK Pavilion. My job is to ensure that every visitor has a good experience. It’s about making it all work.
How did life in the pavilion change for the staff over the six months?
The pavilion is a live experience; it’s living the journey of the bee. The visitor has a sensory experience; it’s about seeing, hearing and feeling, not about having to absorb large amounts of information. Some visitors, however, told us that they would welcome further explanation of the science underpinning the hive. Our visitor guides were fully trained in all aspects of the pavilion, so were able to explain this to visitors. But, to help visitors further, we decided to open a small exhibition in our business area with live imagery from inside the Nottingham beehive and an opportunity for visitors to listen to the sounds of the bees inside the hive, the first time the public has been able to hear these sounds. So the experience we have been able to offer visitors has evolved during the six months of the Expo. Throughout the six months we’ve endeavoured to improve, and refine our facilities and the visitor experience.
You were part of THE event in Italy in 2015, what was it like?
It has been a really positive experience. Italy has done an incredible job; everyone has been saying what a great job Italy has done. It’s the world in one place! It’s not just 120 countries to get to know but 20 million people have had the opportunity to experience the world in one place over 6 months.
On October 20th you recorded the 3 millionth visitor to the Pavilion, how does that feel?
Incredible. Our original target was 850,000 and this is pretty good. We have had 4 times the number what we originally expected. You follow the journey of the bee so you are constantly moving. You can spend be 5 minutes or 50 in the pavilion. There has been a continuous flow. This has meant that no one has had to wait for more than a few minutes to enter the pavilion. This was particularly important in the last few months, when queues for some pavilions were so long that visitors had to wait several hours. By the end of 31 October we had received 3.4 million visitors which was very encouraging as the UK Pavilion was one of the smaller pavilions.
With the conclusion of Expo, what will become of the UK Pavilion?
The science is a long-term objective. The research continues. It’s a scientific project that will carry on. We hope that the Hive will find a new home elsewhere. We are working to that end now.
In a few days you will walk away from the Pavilion what are you going to take with you?
I personally have learned a great deal about how to operate and manage an Expo pavilion. Above all I will take with me a network of colleagues and friends who’ve been working together very closely for six months. We have shared an incredible journey and thus have created bonds that will last forever. This is the greatest legacy of Expo for me.
What was the most memorable moment in the life of the Pavilion?
There have been so many. In terms of the Pavilion it was the UK national day. We had the UK Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister: it was a very special occasion. A group of young dancers from across the UK performed contemporary dance to music from five decades beginning with the Beatles in the 1960s and ending with One Direction! It was a great image of Britain’s cultural past and present. It was extraordinary.
There were also moving moments just hearing from our visitors. They would say that standing in the beehive or listening to the bees’ vibrations felt magical. That kind of feedback was very moving.
We also had a visit from former Italian Olympic and Paralympic rowers. Unfortunately the lift wasn’t working (everyone had problems with lifts). The event was taking place on our upper terrace. Four of our staff lifted a former Paralympian rower in his wheelchair up 30 steps and eventually back down another 30. It was an astonishing moment! It showed great human endeavour and determination to make this work.
The last Sunday of Expo we received a visit from a group of refugees, supported by Expo Without Frontiers. I talked to quite a few of them; they were mostly from West Africa. Here we were in the middle of this great Expo celebration of food and farming, hearing of the very difficult journeys these individuals had had to reach Europe. It was a stark reminder of the reality of life. Whilst Expo has been a wonderful opportunity to network and to learn about so many countries, we should never forget that so many people are struggling just to have a decent every day life.