Playgroup Festival eFestivals review 2012

Another brilliant year at Playgroup Festival near Tunbridge Wells. It has it all. The food. The fun times. The friends. Even the weather didn’t bring it down. I did another review for eFestivals (but also check out last year’s review), and took some more Kodak moments, mostly of all the brilliant costumes from the fun lovin’ crowd. Read the eFestival review here and look at most of the picas some of the on the eFestival’s website and well as my personal favourite snaps on my own Flickr.

If you have never been… next year, just go 🙂

Playgroup Festival 2012 - Pippi Longstocking

Playgroup Festival 2012 - Purple Monsters

Playgroup Festival 2012 - Face painting a tiger



Helsinki alternative travel guide for Hound magazine

More wordy goings on from  me. Back in May I went to Helsinki for a sight-seeing weekend away, and I loved the city so much that I wrote an alternative travel feature for Hound magazine. The mag is aimed at discerning young creative types, packed with musical interviews, reviews, fashion spreads, illustrations and features. The mag is free and distributed mostly in Brighton, but you can also read the publication online.

I provided some words and the photography, although there was also a lovely illustration by Ryan Humphrey. Time to pack your bags and go to Finland!

Helsinki Travel feature page 1 - Hound magazine



Helsinki Travel feature page 2 - Hound magazine

The Death of the British Festival

Bloc Festival - Horseman

Last weekend I had my heart broken.

It wasn’t a boy that I loved that hurt me. Or a friend that told me my outfit was shit. It was a brand that broke my trust. A brand, that brings people together from around the world, to make them happy through the form of music. After several years of courtship and then a blissful elopement to Butlins last year, I thought were going to be lovers forever. Everyone I met during our relationship was united in our love. You might think I am just talking about Bloc, an electronic dance music festival that ended in calamity (but not disaster) when it was shut down due to overcrowding at 12.30am on Friday 6th July. But when I was walking around the Pleasure Gardens site, soaking up the hurt and bitter disappointment felt by many of my fellow revellers at the never-ending queues, the night for me didn’t signify the end of Bloc, as whatever happens, the company will get renamed and restart, ticket refunds or not. But really, for me, signified the end of the British festival.

Festivals used to be big business, but last year it’s estimated 30 festivals went bankrupt. Let’s take a look at the festival season this year; The Big Chill was cancelled in January, Truck Festival has gone bankrupt while Isle of Wight was a complete muddy washout. Just today The Hit Factory concert in Hyde Park festival was cancelled to the ruination of the Hyde Park site due to this weekend’s Wireless festival. The market is already over saturated, the founding father of festivals, Micheal Eavis, said last year that festivals only really have another 3/4 years. You can blame the recession, you can blame the weather, but with high ticket prices, rising travel costs, we need to prioritise what we want out of our summer. And lets be honest, this year, it’s been an absolute washout.

But that’s the big picture. I think communication and online PR has a big part to play in all the continuing death of the British festival. Fair play to The Big Chill, who said early in the year that; “Sadly, the artist availability and confirmations we were achieving led me to conclude that I couldn’t risk going ahead with the event this year.” Biting the bullet early meant the brand lost no respect. People will probably come back next year. But other festivals have not done the same. The Isle of Wight Festival did a poor job communicating how the weather issues were affecting the site, leaving many travelers stranded along the way to the site, sleeping in their cars. Bloc also chose to ignore while thousands of people were lining the streets trying to get into the East London Docklands venue, instead tweeting that everyone inside was having a good time. We weren’t. Bloc was even more silent after the eviction, which was announced by the Pleasure Gardens online, but then Bloc took over 36 hours to apologize via a second statement, and is now collecting information from revelers to ascertain what happened. Bloc defiantly made the right decision in closing the festival early, but unfortunately their online behavior only served to knife Bloc’s own jugular from very respected promoter, to a perceived greedy money sucker that needed a bigger boat.

But there were positives gained from this PR disaster, where the Bloc community used social media in a positive way. Many of the artists that meant to play at Bloc got together to play at venue all over London, many free to wristband holders. Where social communication works it is collaborative, grassroots and for the people. Other festivals taking place during the rest of the year should take note to communicate misfortunes to revelers early, with empathy, understanding, and respect.

Maybe I’m getting old. But I have been to far too many festivals over the last two years where I felt my money was taken from me not for my pleasure, but for corporate greed. And as my disposable income becomes less and less, like many others I think I might choose to spend my precious time and money abroad seeing the world rather than be stuck fenced into a site with tents far too close together, music bleeding into each other, and overpriced donkey meat disguised as beef burgers. For now, I’m all about the gigs, and the sun loungers. Oh, and taking Kodak moments of short-lived festival happiness.

Bloc Festival 2012 @ London Pleasure Gardens

Henry Jenkins on Spreadable Media

Jelly Jam on Bread by Roger's Wife

Jelly Jam on Bread by Roger’s Wife via Creative Commons on Flickr

This is not a blog post about Facebook on toast. Thank the lord. But rather a summary of some interesting points raised by Henry Jenkins on the topic of his new book, Spreadable Media. A well-respected professor of Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his latest research looks into what all internet marketers have striven to find in a magic formula, how and why certain forms of  digital media goes viral on the internet. Less of a masterclass and more of an exploration, here are some of the main interesting points I picked up from his recent talk at the University of Westminster on social media and sharing on the web.

  1. What is Spreadable Media? It’s exactly how it sounds. For Jenkins it’s a study of how media circulates around the web. Some bits of content are ‘sticker’ than others, some get spread far and wide, some stays in one place. One obvious and major example was the  Kony 2012 Youtube video by Invisible Children, with over 1 million views in just 4 days, second only to ripped footage of Susan Boyle, which took 7 days to attain the same number of hits. At time of writing this video was a little shy of 90 million views in a little over two months, the fastest spread video ever online. Why was it shared so much? Because there was a call to action at the end; “Above all, Share this movie online.It’s free.” The act of sharing allows people top put their own personal viewpoint on the content; a personal message in agreement or disagreement, and the contents status changes as it moves through the online space. Sharing is a stepping stone to other politically charged commitments, and socially engaged people are more likely to take part.
  2. Think like a  Dandelion.  Drawing on the ideas of science fiction writer and blogger Cory Doctrow, Jenkins notes if producers want their ideas to fly out into the world, we need to stop thinking like the mammals that we are, who keep their ideas close and are reluctant to share. But if we made our work easily copied and shared, those ideas will spread into the eyes who find it pleasing, and may eventually end up into the right hands where a commercial relationship can begin. Traditional exchange economies are not so valid for artists any more, and must look for other revenue streams.
Mike Arauz - Facebook Friends via lynneluvah creative commons on Flickr

Mike Arauz – Facebook Friends via lynneluvah creative commons on Flickr

  1. Grass-roots communities and Astroturf: Spreadable media to a group is like a grass-roots community, sharing content they are passionate about with each other for a shared experience and want. The first spreadable media form was the ‘zine from the traditional printing press over 150 years ago, sharing homemade fanzines via the post, which is still popular today. Personal opinions on what people think is good and ‘like’ has currency and has gained much ground. Web 2.0 isn’t as participatory as these analogue forms, but rather the friction between producers and users around what is wanted/needed from media that has produced this participatory culture. And what of the new ideas for Facebook users to be paid for sharing content with their friends on the web? Jenkins called this Astroturf, a fake sharing experience which is a sign of a struggle.
  2. Democracy Struggle: For the first time in history, people are able to fully reciprocate and get their voices heard. But it’s a preconception that the new media revolution will create a democracy that we have all been striving for. Instead, as referenced by the ideas of John Fiske, this new freedom is creating new struggles as we try to negotiate and understand this new media landscape. While there are 10 million active  Twitter users in the UK, more than are buying newspapers, there is still a participation gap; some people don’t have access to it, and some are still not using it meaningfully.
  3. A better education: Ending on a point that is often made by academics, Jenkins said that a better education is needed to make people, especially the youth, understand the best ways to make use of these new forms of communication. However, there are many barriers in our way. In thousands of schools and colleges in the UK, many social media sites are blocked to increase ‘productivity and learning’. Children are then forced to learn how to learn to communicate in these online spaces on their own, without any guidance, mentoring, or safe practice guides, which makes them vulnerable. Students need to be encouraged to be participatory online.

Now, when I make some new content, new questions will be in my mind to make me think about how it will be shared around the web. Why would people want to share this? What value can people add when sharing this? Can this idea be developed into something new? All good creative food for thought, which most importantly I’ll have to remember; ‘If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.’

Thoughts of an Apple Hater

Today Apple are releasing another product, probably an iPad 3. While everyone is making their predictions, I penned this piece about my hatred for anything mac. This post has also appeared on The Huffington Post.

Mac in the Bin - by nathan makan via Flicker

Mac in the Bin - by nathan makan via Flicker

It’s no secret to my friends and family that I loathe Apple and their products. From the evangelical store openings, to the product rumor mill dominating the online space prior to launches, their extremely smart PR campaigns promote Apple as probably the best at what they do. Which is, in my honest opinion, producing shamefulmoney pits. Once you buy an iSomething, you have to buy compatible accessories, you can only buy certified apps, and you better hope water never meets your new baby so you don’t have to kiss goodbye to your warranty. But they do look so good. A lifestyle lubricant for the 21st century, no self facilitating media node would be such a fashionable dickhead without one.

I am fully aware that they are well designed and technically brilliant machines. My boyfriend and I argue about this religiously. ‘Your life would be so much better if you had a Mac!’ he wails. My life would be so much better if people stopped telling me I need a Mac. You want doesn’t equal I need. I now get introduced in social circles as ‘The girl who hates Apple’, which as you can imagine as a lively conversation opener as mentioning the BNP.

“Why do you hate Apple?! What’s wrong with you?” I am met with a look of confusion and terror that I have seen many times before.

“I don’t feel need to prove my importance by walking into Starbucks with an iPad under my arm. There are much less expensive ways to look like an idiot.” This comment is always generally agreed with. One person has once unashamedly confessed to me that he has stuck a Apple logo sticker over the top of a Dell logo to maximise his respect points.

“But you work in online? How can you do your job without working on a Mac?” This generalisation never fails to stagger me.

“I work perfectly fine on a PC thank you.” This statement is always particularly hard to admit, as I do curse repeatedly about working on Windows. But I would rather say this than rant for the next 10 minutes about how fast it is, or shown off my latest Scorsese digital masterpiece on Vimeo, or produced some sound that when processed through some digital synth sounds like an elephant farting, and before you know it I have had my ear bent on how I am totally wrong and they are very right. An unsuspecting loiterer (probably a mac user too, as they always hunt in packs) ask to join the conversation. “Rosie was just trying to convince me how a PC’s are better than Macs.” Errrr, WRONG! I can’t get a word in edge-ways in between your big head and your even bigger Apple shaped ego!

I know crap PC’s can be, and I am not defending them. But when you buy an Apple product, you also buy a special pair of apple-tinted spectacles, that makes you believe that there is no other digital product worth having. I refuse to buy into that cult. They get cracked, they break, and they get bugs and viruses just like any other technological object. It is also bad for people to assume that everyone else as bought into that cult. It’s very painful for digital marketers to admit teenagers phone of choice is the Blackberry for it’s messaging system, not the iPhone. If people are creating content with one demographic in mind, they will run the risk of bypassing certain minorities and alienating in favour of another product that fits their needs better.

So in short, I probably will one day buy a mac book pro. When the market has bottomed out, the price-tag has been slashed in half, and the hipsters have levitated to the next big thing. But until then, show off your Apple love to someone else, cos this Apple-hater don’t wanna know.