In September 2023, I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the Global Geopark Network Conference which was held in Marrakech, Morocco. I’ve had many online meetings with different UNESCO Global Geopark members from around the world prior to this conference, but it was great to finally meet them in person.
The Global Geopark Network was held in the stunningly designed Cultural Conference Centre in the heart of Marrakech. The talks and presentations were divided up into topics with specific rooms dedicated to each topic.
I spent the first two days jumping between rooms, eager to learn about different experiences, cultures and communication practices from the diverse range of Geoparks.
I promoted the conference on our social media channels throughout the few days we were there.
On the Friday of the conference I had my 15 minutes of fame as I stood in front of a room full of experts from all different cultures and disciplines to present on our Geoparks activities. My topic was to discuss how we simplify scientific information to be consumed by the general public.
Of course I had a lot to present on this subject as it is something that we have great consideration for in our day-to-day communications. Subjects I spoke about included: Our Geopark animations, our social media, our print media articles, the Geopark Ambassadors Programme and of course GEOfood.
Sara Gentillini, the director of GEOfood was in the audience and took a photos of my presenting on GEOfood to the room. I was pleased to learn that one of these photos made it into the GEOfood business development plan for UNESCO Global Geoparks.
The evening after my presentation was an evening that I will never forget. We were finishing off a very productive meeting with our GEOfood colleagues from other UNESCO Global Geoparks when the ground started to shudder. As we followed the restaurant staff who had raced out of the building, we realised what was happening. An earthquake! Out on the street flocks of birds were swarming in and out of dust clouds, crowds were shouting and screaming and a wall across from our restaurant was partially collapsing in front of us.
Thankfully we were all safe and were grateful to our colleagues in the Azores UNESCO Global Geopark for directing us to a safe zone. We found out later that the earthquake had been a 6.8 magnitude quake with the epicentre 70km from our location. Unfortunately, the conference centre was damaged and the rest of the event had to be cancelled.