Catherine McColl visited Boring 2011, an event celebrating the mundane, the everyday, the over-looked and the obvious, which contrary to expectations attracted over 400 people and even managed to sell out.

boring event 2011

What better way to spend a bright autumnal Saturday than attending a conference that promised to cover – in no particular order – the pitfalls and pressures of tweeting in Nando’s, which London Underground tube line is the best, Britain’s finest toilets of 2010-2011 and the various complex noises made by vending machines.

The purpose of Boring 2011 was to take a light-hearted look at our austere times and try to find humour and entertainment in present-day consumer attitudes and behaviours.

Some speakers added their own spin. Documentarian and writer Adam Curtis compared our current climate with the era of stagnation that marked the Soviet Union from the mid-1970s. He countered that Brits currently can’t see a way out of their dire economic situation. And with funds tied, our imaginations are freezing and we have been reduced to celebrating – and trying to find some amusement in – ‘the boring’.

On the other hand, comedian Matthew Crosby had a more positive take, applauding Boring 2011 as “an attempt to counter the overhyping and dishonesty” that marks our ad-heavy, visually saturated world.

Can ‘the boring’ be made interesting?

Touching on a good handful of Inspire’s trends, the line-up was made up of professional comedians, journalists, academics with each segment limited to 15 minutes, perfect for today’s Snack Society audience.

Each speaker addressed their chosen topic with child-like wonder, a powerpoint presentation and a liberal sprinkling of Venn diagrams.

James Ward – the conference’s chair – kicked off the day’s proceeding with a spirited talk on the evolution of the empowered consumer’s bible, Which? Magazine,from its humble beginnings in 1957 to the present day. As an early example of our Guiding Choice trend, this publication was a turning point for the everyday shopper baffled by the array of new time-saving gadgets and inventions flooding the post-war market. No longer would consumers have to decide which electric kettle or breakfast cereal they should purchase on their own. Rather, new products and appliances underwent rigorous testing. In one example, ballpoint pens were hung upside down in an oven overnight at 90 degrees in order to expose any potential leakage issues before being sent on twelve separate trips in an airplane. Whereas this sort of in-depth research would have once been deemed only interesting to a certain niche group, the growth of internet review sites has turned this desire for proof into a mainstream trend.

Finding beauty in the minutiae of modern life, “Hand Dryer’s: a Beginners Guide” touched upon our insatiable need for speed as well as our growing obsession with hygiene – combining Totophobia with FSTR HYPR while introducing the audience to a range of aesthetically diverse models (Italians win for style). This segment also exposed the world of hand dryers as one brimming with deceit and intrigue – “to be honest, it’s an epic battle of corporate greed and jealousy” speaker Tim Steiner revealed. Apparently, the machinations that drive hand dryer manufacturers towards a sub-five second wet-to-dry solution know no bounds.

Meanwhile, our Locavore trend cropped up in Dr Galit Ferguson’s “The Question of Budgens”. This centred on Budgens Crouch End and its attempts to create a more sustainable and fun store for local shoppers. In the past eighteen months, it has started selling delicious native squirrel at its meat counter as well as growing fresh produce on its roof, attracting raised eyebrows from local shoppers and a visit from the Mayor of London. Although at face value these schemes may seem a bit wacky, it’s an example of how something as unexciting as a local supermarket can stand out on its own as radical and independent.

So aside from helping us look at our everyday life a little differently, what was the point of Boring 2011? Rather than leaving consumers to wallow in their own ennui, brands should be looking to harness the fact that ‘boredom’ is fast becoming a watchword and help cultivate excitement in the everyday; whether creating stimulating events and product launches that help create buzz or taking a more active role as a social facilitator.