On the first day of April Danny Smith and I delivered a walking tour of the ‘back end’ of Birmingham city centre as part of the Still Walking festival. Ben Waddington the genius behind the festival asked for something that played with the city’s memes and myths, so that’s what we tried to do.
(photo by Simon Brettell)
As a result perhaps of the date not everyone was sure how true all of it was, but I can assure you the nuclear comms bunker with a billiard room is really there.
I’ve been supporting the Yes campaign for an elected mayor in Birmingham, and one of the big issues is awareness that the referendum is even happening (one poll said less than 40% knew) and especially when you think of younger voters. So it was really cool of local culture guide Area magazine to let me write an article for the April issue. I tried to keep it funny, neutral and relevant. Did I succeed? Have a read here:
Yesterday, I tried the Twitpanto method on “the greatest film ever made”. As part of ‘Yarn presents Five Stories High’ at Flatpack Festival, I re-interpreted around ten minutes of Citizen Kane. It was a tight deadline, so plans to do something really different fell behind just writing a script and getting together a few ‘actors’ I could trust.
In a live setting I was interested in how the audience would understand the language of the Twitter feed just being projected on the wall. I hoped to get heckles and confusing stuff too.
The script, is here. We got ‘moved on’ (for reasons of time I suspect) just before the bit about the principles, which I thought was the crux of it. Never mind.
I’m not sure everyone got what was going on but this quick review from another participant means that at least someone did:
[blockquote]”obviously, members of the audience start tweeting using the hashtag, and it was just hilarious. And silent, and awkward, but in a brilliant way.”[/blockquote]
The weekend’s other Flatpack activity for me was to chair a Q&A with Lawrence (ex of Felt etc), that was both more conventional and a little better received I think. Great fun, and really nice to meet a musical hero.
I like to think I’m an amusing writer, and that I can think quickly. Doing a radio show for a couple of years I think demonstrated that, and I’ve tried my hand at stand-up comedy. But until recently, apart from the odd Twitter witticism I’d not really tried writing topical comedy. BBC Radio Four Extra’s NewsJack is one of the few radio shows that has an open submissions policy, meaning that anyone can send in jokes and sketches and maybe get on and then get paid for them. I’ve had a few near misses that made it to the recording but not the edit, as they’re topical they’re disposable really so I wouldn’t share them. But this one from this week has a little bit of longevity so I thought I’d pop it up here. Hope it makes you chuckle.
NewsJack the Jung Ones
I’ve been advising on Siôn Simon‘s campaigning for an (and to be) elected mayor of Birmingham for more than a year, but with the referendum on whether the city should have one coming up fast the pace of engagement has got to speed up. To go along with a launch of a ten point plan for Birmingham, I facilitated an ‘#AskSion’ video web chat for people to hopefully get information. We were pleasantly surprised with the number of questions and the intelligence of the debate. I was also really pleased that the web-streaming facilities provided by Civico (another organisation I work with) went without a hitch.
My favourite part of the Civco platform is the ability to share not just the whole video, but any sub-section or clip that you select. It’s a facility that I really believe can help people make sense of the vast amount of content that is often in civic meetings, and can really help spread the messages.
Here for example is an answer to a Twitter question about graffiti from yesterday’s session:
Continue reading Web Q+As as a way for politicians to engage
I’ve been experimenting with ebook publishing, once the sheer hellish pain of writing something you’re happy with is over the format, upload and sales part is fairly easy. Well, when I say sales I mean ‘putting on sale’ rather than getting people to buy them… that’s a whole other story.
I’ve got two ‘books’ available at the moment:
Poorly Collected Works 2010-11
A collection of writing from various sources. 20,000 odd words from the last year or so, culled from blogs, papers, mags and Dirty Bristow (the literary magazine I founded and edit).
“Exclusively contains all the grammatical errors and jokes edited out by original publishers. It’s a chance to pay money to read what you can for free if you search it all out individually.”
Concrete and Cocktails: a journey to Birmingham’s glitter-stained independent heart.
Can you drink in all of Birmingham city centre’s independent hostelries in one day? Yes of course, although it might not be sensible.
An unchained psychogeographic adventure from the editors of Dirty Bristow: Concrete and Cocktails: a journey to Birmingham’s glitter-stained independent heart.
Concrete and Cocktails free on iTunes. And free on other formats too.
While revamping this site a touch I was struck by how many of the sites and projects I’d linked to had just disappeared, so I’m going to try to make more of an effort to keep the records myself.
So, here’s me on Radio 4’s Today programme on 9/1/12, talking about Birmingham’s regeneration and how it “‘beats space’ as tourist destination”:
I’m currently knee deep in postcards, books about the seaside and still have sand in my good pumps. It’s nearly six months since I spent two weeks traveling around all of England and Wales’s surviving seaside pleasure piers and we’re about halfway through writing the book. It’s hard going, but fun. Here’s the picture side of every postcard we sent (one of each) to each of our funders—the trip was paid for by around thirty people, all of whom are awaiting publication with anticipation I hope.
But what was it about? Well, we were lucky enough to get the chance to talk to the great Andrew Collins and Josie Long on 6 Music, and that’s as good an introduction as any is likely to be.
Listen to Pier Review on 6 Music
And we followed it up a week later with another slot:
And we’ve also made our secret blog open to all, you can read some behind-the-scenes stuff now.
Find our more and sign up at Pier Review dot co dot uk.
Forever? Lasted about three days.
Map of Birmingham: Inebriance Survey 2011 PDF
Now that is what I call a map. Every pub in Birmingham as available from the Open Street Map XAPI (on 6/1/11), for use as a navigational aid.
Plotted as a mapless map with Maperitive, and text tided up in Illustrator, no data was added or removed (except for duplicate of ‘The Tennis Courts’ in Perry Barr, which is plotted twice on OSM).
Prints available , although you’re free to open, download, and explore the PDF.
Data and icon from and © Open Street Map under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 licence and as such the PDF/image here is too.