Confessions of a Twitterholic

Tags

, , , , ,

If you’d have asked me a year ago, even 6 months ago, ‘What could you not live without?‘ I’d have perhaps said something like GHD’s or The Smiths or maybe even Cheese. One thing I definitely would not have said, is Twitter. However, ask me now, and it’d probably be my first answer every time. Why? I hear you ask…well, read on and you will be enlightened.

Six months ago is significant for a number of reasons, it was around about the time I started my Masters, I had just started a new job and had also recently moved into a new apartment. Life was good and I was happy with just my daily dosage of Facebook stalking and occasional news bulletin. Then came a pretty big shock in my life…after two and a half years with the same guy, he decided he didn’t feel the same way one night and moved out of our apartment the next day. Around the same time as this, I also found out I was being made redundant. Now I wouldn’t normally share such personal details so freely in the public domain, however I think for the purpose of this article, it’s kinda’ necessary.

Despite all signs pointing to the inevitable fact that I was now going to be miserable for months, after about two weeks, I actually felt alright. I owe this to Twitter. Around the same time as said dumping, I was involved with organising Manchester Twestival – a charity event taking place all over the globe through Twitter. Being new to Twitter, I didn’t have a huge following, wasn’t really sure of all of its functions and capabilities and certainly wasn’t aware of the networking potential it holds. So when I arrived at the event and saw over a hundred people, all active on Twitter, communicating on a personal level and networking with each other, I found it quite inspiring. I wanted in.

Fast forward a couple of months and off the back of Twestival, I had now gained a decent following on Twitter and had started to build up online relationships and rapport with people. At first, I was quite wary about what I tweeted about and who I conversed with, however I soon realised that Twitter would become a way for me to socialise with people with common interests, in similar kinds of industries, all of whom also wanted to network and meet new people. That’s the thing about being newly single, after spending practically all of your time attached to the hip of someone else, you suddenly find yourself at a loss of what to do or who to hang out with. And no, it’s not that I didn’t have friends, because I did…it’s just they all conveniently had boyfriends too!

Twitter soon became an addiction, it’d be the first think I’d check when I got up in the morning, and the last thing I’d scroll through on my phone at night. It had essentially become my new boyfriend. Although this sounds incredibly unhealthy, it was kind of comforting knowing that there was 300 odd people all wanting to follow you and listen to what you had to say. After having a serious knock to my confidence post break up, Twitter was a way of boosting myself up back up again.

Shortly after my birthday in August, I experienced my first real unofficial ‘tweet-up’ –over the last few months I’d started to become really good friends with @sophiebradshaw (the first person I really met ‘from’ Twitter) and had arranged to meet her for drinks. Sophie being the Twitter Queen that she is, had sent out tweets advertising our meet up and got on board a number of other Twitter folk for the ride. This is when I met the two Steve’s a.k.a. @Steve_Worsley + @thathurtabit. Having got on with them instantly, it soon turned into a rather drunken affair and we all went raving. And so #geekslikebeer was born.

Over the next few weeks we started to go out a couple of times a week, meeting up for drinks, pub quizzes, cinema trips etc and more and more people got on board with our #geekslikebeer tweet-up’s. Manchester is lucky in that it has a very active Twitter community, spurred on in part I think, by the amount of digital and creative agencies around the city centre. Over the coming weeks I found myself being introduced to countless web developers, graphic designers and social media bods all of which I now follow and chat to online. I had not at this point however, been to an official ‘digital’ event. This was about to change…

The start of September came and along with it, the famous first Thursday of the month a.k.a. Northern Digitals – an informal networking event for those in the digital and creative industries. The two Steve’s and Sophie persuaded me to come along to what was going to be my first official digital event and I have to admit, I was quite nervous. Although I probably already followed half the people going to the event, I felt like a bit of an imposter being a ‘non-digi’. After half an hour or so in the bar however, I realised that these events were actually a great way to meet people with similar interests and soon felt at ease. I’m not going to lie, some of the conversations were over my head and I did find myself being a little stuck for words at one point when one developer started talking to me about World of Warcraft, however I did also meet some great contacts to help me with my professional life and have been to several other similar ‘digital’ events since.

Not only was Twitter starting to influence my personal life, but now my working one too. Since May, I’d been involved with organising Oxjam Music Festival and relied on Twitter heavily to promote the event and source out help. At the time of writing this, through either sending out tweets or contacting those I follow/met at tweet-ups, I’d managed to source out help with building a website, designing a logo, designing a programme and obtaining volunteers. More recently I have been able to source out journalists and media types and secure radio interviews, online coverage and magazine features for the event without even picking up the phone.

I’m aware that to some, Twitter is not a viable platform and that this post may be quite irrelevant. I think the thing with Twitter, is that it’s not just a social media platform, for certain people in certain industries, it’s a way of life. In the past 6 months it’s helped me make great contacts, meet like-minded people and get me through quite a difficult period in my life.

This may sound ridiculous, but I honestly feel like I’ve become a better person through using it. I’m a lot more confident, much more willing to meet new people and just look at the way I communicate with people differently. In the past I tended to be quite reserved and grumpy when meeting people for the first time and have been known to be a little off hand. Twitter’s made me appreciate the value of communicating with people on multiple levels and really making an effort to make friends. Not only that, it has really helped me combat the feelings of self doubt and loneliness that are so common after a big break up and I feel a lot stronger as a person because of it.

So in conclusion, I would like to thank Twitter and all of those that I have met through it in the last 6 months, I never expected that you would have such an impact on my day to day life and I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months will bring! And for those of you reading this who are not currently on Twitter, I hope this has made you think a little differently about it as a networking platform and realise that it’s not just for 40 year old geeks with no life, but also for young professionals who love life! Get yourselves on there, and put yourself out there. You’ll be amazed at what you find.

You can find me on there @thesophiew :]

I once was a poet…

After cleaning up my hard drive this weekend, I came across my old undergraduate creative writing portfolio…thought I’d share my favourite poem with you all. Predictably, it’s about a band…

The Brazilian Bombshell

The bass throbs and aches.

Big, behind mad scientist synths that swirl

and bleep. The Brazilian bombshell screams,

high off the petrol fumes

pouring from a guitar that looms

tense in the shadows.


Electro beats flow to form

synthesized perfection.  A sweaty brilliance,

with chunky, velcro chords that

swagger like an alcoholic.

An explosion of rocktronica, trapped

in some fairground fantasy.


Intense industrial spirals and

jolted shoulder rolls, with echoes of square lead

to please. Foreign lyrics reverberate round

a glow-stick heaven.

Compressed into a tight ball of

ridiculous energy, she detonates with joy.


A Tribute to Ou Est Le Swimming Pool

Tags

, ,

I was really sadden to hear that the lead singer of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, Charlie Haddon, commited suicide yesterday, shortly after the band appeared at Pukklepop festival in Belgium. This was one band that I really thought had the potential to become huge and had a really good collection of synthy-pop songs that were amazing to dance to.

I loved their first single ‘Dance The Way I Feel’ (featured above) and really connected to the idea behind the lyrics – for me it’s about letting go, dancing and forgetting everything else that’s going on around you or in your life. For that one moment, you’re just free and completely lost to the music. I was really looking forward to their album launch night at the Deaf Institute later on this year – the album title ‘Christ Died For Our Synths’ is now however, a bit too close to home…

RIP Charlie. x

Kendal Called – they want their rave back.

Tags

, , , , ,

I’m aware that it’s been over a week since I got back from Kendal Calling and still haven’t written up anything about it, but in all honesty, I think I needed this time to recover and reflect! What a weekend!

After securing some last minute work for Big Green Coaches at the festival through a mutual friend, we made our way up to the lakes on Thursday afternoon and arrived on site some time later that evening.  The site itself is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, it’s situated just outside Kendal in a big deer park full of forests, hills and stags.

After waiting around for half an hour we finally got directed to the right place and drove round to pick up our passes and wristbands. Once we were in the actual festival site, no-one seemed to know where we were going or who we were supposed to ask for directions. We ended up driving round the small one-way system about 2 hours before we found staff camping, by which point we were ready to go home again! There was a serious lack of organisation on the stewarding front -having done stewarding at a number of festivals, it was highly frustrating.

Once we found the right place, we unpacked and set up camp next to my sister who was also working there for the Warehouse Project who were staffing all the bars for the weekend. We were pretty much surrounded by Mancunians full circle, which was fine by me, but kind of made the pointless small talk of ‘so where are you from’ even more succinct. An hour later we were joined by the lads (again all from Manchester) and we got a nice little camp circle going on. Despite bringing my pop up number, I ended up sharing a tent with my sister and lending my tent to one of the bar staff who ‘didn’t realise she’d need a tent…’ hmmm.

Once all the tents were up, we decided to get straight on it and have a walk round the festival site. As the actual festival didn’t start till the following day, only part of the site was open and there was very little in the way of entertainment that evening. Despite initial thoughts however, we ended up stumbling across an amazing little marquee in the customer campsite playing cheeky drum and bass and dubstep all night – as you can imagine, this made us pretty damn happy. We all crammed in to the tent and danced into the early hours, before making our way back to the tents around 2ish. All in all a pretty successful evening.

The next day was a fairly early start, we were due at Penrith train station at 8.30am for a briefing about our days work and were all feeling a little tired and reluctant. We pulled up to the station and were delighted to see a McDonalds right next door! Despite normally avoiding fast food like the plague, I couldn’t deny the need for grease so invested in an egg mcmuffin. The rest of the day was fairly uneventful…our job basically involved selling tickets for a shuttle coach driving to the festival site and loading people on to the coaches. There was a good bunch of us doing it though, so we managed to fill our time playing epic games of eye spy and talking about anything and everything festival related. By the time 3pm came we were all shattered, despite having little to do I think we all underestimated how tiring standing on your feet all day could be.

We made a quick alcohol stop at Morrisons then made our way back to the festival site – we had to queue for about 45 minutes at the gate to get back in because they’d ‘run out of wristbands’ – the phrase ‘school boy error’ doesn’t even cover it. Having just stocked up on Kopparberg and reduced price Gaymers, we figured we may as well just crack on. So that’s exactly what we did…

An hour later and we were back at the tents again. We sat and chilled out for a little bit then went to watch the main stage for a while. The evening soon came upon us and we were all in the mood for a good party after working all day. We were all in agreement that the best place to be that evening was the ‘Glow Tent’ A.K.A. Dance Stage, so we made our way across to the huge marquee blaring out dirty electro beats. Having started drinking at 4pm, by 9ish I was rather merry and the evenings events have pretty much blurred into one night of uber rave. None of us really cared who was playing, as long as it was good and we could dance to it, then we were happy. Having looked back at the photos from that evening now, it seems we all had an amazing time and had the sweat dripping down our faces to show for it.

Sometime on Saturday morning I awoke fully clothed with last nights make up on and a relatively sore head. We all decided to take advantage of being able to go off site and drove to a local pub for lunch. We sat outside; sunglasses donned and pints of Coke aplenty. Being apparently incapable of making our own decisions, we all decided to copy Tom and have Bangers and Mash – Best. Choice. Ever. An hour or so later we were all feeling slightly less hungover and made our way back to the festival site again. Despite going the same way round the one way system for the last two days, today apparently, we weren’t allowed. We got about 200m from our campsite and were told we had to go all the way round to get in as we weren’t an ‘authorised vehicle’. As you can imagine, we weren’t impressed. After a massive trek around we managed to get back in and paid a visit to the Calling Out Stage where we had the pleasure of seeing Paris Riots play, they were amazing. After that, we watched Wild Beasts on the main stage who were again extremely good live – I think they were probably my favourites of the weekend. We made our way back to the tents and had some food, before getting ready for another evening of rave.

I was really looking forward to the evening’s dance tent line up, namely Mr Erol Alkan. After seeing him smash it at Parklife Festival a month previous, I knew he was worth a watch. He didn’t disappoint. We all raved together again until the tent closed at half 2 and then made our way over to the House Party tent for some more raving. At around half 3, we all left there and sat on a hammock style seat for about an hour just watching the world go by and taking pictures of each other. I sat there in a bit of a daze thinking about what the festival had been like so far. Despite being a relatively small festival (10,000 people), I’d possibly had one of the best festival experiences I’d ever had. I’m usually a firm believer in going to a festival purely for the music, and make my decision about which one to go to based on this fact alone. However, Kendal Calling was really making me question my own behaviour. I hardly knew any of the bands that were playing over the weekend, and was not massively bothered about seeing anyone and yet for 3 nights in a row, I had consistently raved into the early hours to amazing music, met some great people and had the time of my life. Could it be that festivals are actually better when you don’t know any of the bands?!

Sunday came and after 3 nights of raving, I was starting to feel it. My whole body had started to ache and I just wanted to sleep. I think Sunday was probably the most frustrating day for me – we had to stay as we were due to work on the Monday morning, and yet there was nothing we really wanted to stay for. I think this is where the lack of bands really showed. For most people I would imagine Sunday was probably one of the best days for bands, they had the likes of Badly Drawn Boy, The King Blues, British Sea Power, The Coral and The Subways amongst others. We managed to catch a few of them…The Subways were a disappointment, they were good live, but seemed to just play the same song for 45 minutes. Similarly, The Coral were really good live, but I’m just not a huge fan of their music so it seemed to drag a little. By the time it got to 9pm we were so bored we just went back to our tents. Although this sounds massively rubbish, we did have to be up at half 5 the next day to start our shift and there really wasn’t anything that took our interest enough to keep us awake. We just sat up chatting for a couple of hours in the tent before heading to bed…

Monday morning arrived and we opened up our tents to the sound of people raving still all around us. We dragged ourselves down to the meeting point and hopped on a coach to the station. It didn’t take long before we came back again and based ourselves at the festival site directing people onto coaches. We were all reunited again so passed the time quickly reminiscing about the weekends antics and telling each other stories from our reckless university days. It was half 11 in no time and the end of our shift. We said our goodbyes and made our way back down South to Manchester…

All in all I would say that the weekend was a massive success and I’d definitely go again. Working for Big Green Coaches was the perfect way to get into the festival for free and I’d recommend it to anyone. We met some great people, had 3 nights of amazing raves and saw some great up and coming bands in the day too. One’s to watch for the future are Our Fold, Paris Riots and Kathryn Edwards. I hope in the future that Kendal sort out the security and stewarding of the festival because it was appalling and a massive inconvenience for us both as staff and punters over the weekend.

Despite this, Kendal has definitely made me change my outlook on the function of a festival and why people attend – as I’ve said previously I’ve always been firmly in the ‘I go for the music’ camp, but this experience has undoubtedly made me change my mind. I still think bands are massively important and are one of the main pulling points to a festival, however in all honesty, I quite enjoyed not knowing who was playing this weekend and being able to do what I want, when I want, without feeling guilty because I’m missing one of my favourite bands. Compared to something like Glastonbury when there’s probably at least 5 people I want to see playing at any one time, it was quite refreshing not wanting to see anyone!

If you fancy just letting go and escaping for the weekend then I’d highly recommend you pay a visit to Kendal Calling next year…but for now, here’s a few pics from my weekend.

 

Oxjam Comedy Fundraiser: Laughing all the way to the bank…

Tags

, , ,

 

So after months of preparation, Saturday night saw Oxjam’s first fundraising event of the summer: HAHA comedy night at the Soup Kitchen in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. After leaving promotion of the event fairly late due to problems with designers, we were all a little nervous as to whether the event would be a success and sell out. Turns out, we had nothing to worry about! We all got down there early to set up and do some last minute preparations. With the venue looking sufficiently pimped out with Oxjam merchandise and bar staff at the ready, we opened the doors. Within no time at all the venue was packed out and much to our relief, all the comedians had turned up!

Our compere for the evening was Rich Wall – a young guy who regularly co-hosts a comedy night in Stockport, he was surprisingly insightful and really at ease in the spotlight. He cracked out some blinding one liners and managed to really engage the crowd, getting them ready for the first act. The first of our comedians on stage was Sol Bernstein – described by another of the comedians as ‘the Jewiest Jew that ever Jewed’ he’s a legend on the comedy circuit and creation of London comic Steve Jameson. His decidedly old school approach to comedy went down perfectly with the crowd – he brought comedy back to a time when it was all about the gag and didn’t once feel the need to be ‘politically correct’. Plenty of quick, spiky insults were hurled at those in the front row (much to the dismay of my friends who I’d forced to sit there!), but in a time-honoured fashion they were always diffused with an equally insincere compliment – ‘Honestly darling, you’re beautiful’ – before moving on to his next target.

After a roaring applause from the crowd, Sol left the stage and we stopped for a short break, which mainly consisted of me whizzing round the room with a raffle book trying to prize as much money from our audience’s pockets as possible! I think I was fairly successful. After the break we had another 5 minutes from Rich before our second comedian of the night, Neil Bradbury, came on stage. Neil is a fairly new comedian to the circuit, having only really performed at student gigs he was the least experienced of all the acts on the night. However, despite this inexperience he had an extremely endearing quality to his comedy – his nervous shaking was cleverly utilised into a joke about his ‘essential tremor’ along with comments about his distinctly posh southern accent and sickening urge to punch babies faces. His observational comedy was extremely well informed and he’s definitely one to watch for the future.

Next on stage was a late addition to the bill, Dominic Elliot Spencer. From the start of his set his insightful comments about the media’s portrayal of young black men were second to none; ‘This may come as a surprise to some of you but no, I don’t like chicken, 2. I can’t run fast and 3. I don’t have a big willy…oh who am I kidding, I love chicken!’ His cheeky smile, infectious laugh and animated delivery (especially a very effective girlie shriek) made him an instant crowd pleaser.

After another short break we returned for the final and headlining act for the night, Matt Tiller. Matt has drummed up a good following over the years through his online comedy songcasts on YouTube, frequent blogging and Edinburgh shows and I was really looking forward to seeing what he had to offer. His act basically consists of him playing the guitar and offering a running commentary of awkward social situations he has encountered over the years, through rhyming lyrics and relatively catchy bridges. Tiller has a very easy manner and a deal of charisma, but no real material to speak of – after ten minutes of bad strumming and stories about rotten Plymouth hotels I found my attention span faltering and decided to take pictures of the crowd instead. There’s nothing not to like about this guy, he’s extremely nice and easy going – I just don’t think he’s that funny yet. However despite this, he still seemed to go down fairly well with the crowd and managed to get one poor lad from Bolton up on stage reciting his lyrics.

All in all the night was a roaring success, the raffle went down a treat and all the comedians were on top form. As organisers it was great to see everyone having such a brilliant time and made all the hard work well and truly worth it. We managed to raise in excess of £500 on the night, which is an amazing achievement for all of those involved and goes towards helping a great cause. So from the whole Oxjam Manchester team, we would just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who attended or contributed to this night – we couldn’t have done it without you!

If you want to find out more about Oxjam please visit www.oxfam.org.uk/oxjam or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/OxjamManchester. Please also stay tuned for more info about our up and coming fundraising events this summer…we’ve got some cracking events lined up for you all!  

 

Glastonbury: 40 years of mud, then nothing but a heat wave.

Tags

, , , , , ,

When I thought about how to write this blog post I contemplated dividing it into days as there was literally so much to talk about…but on reflection, 4×12 hr night shifts plus massive sleep deprivation has meant all the days have merged into one in my memory! And so, here is my 130 hour day at Glastonbury…

Journey down started early – like 5am early. Taxi to Piccadilly drove past a long line of festival goers all waiting for the epic 8 hr bus journey down to Somerset…sack that. Instead the only public transport I had to endure was 90 minutes of train to Derby where I had managed to get a lift from. So the three of us set off from Derby in the car – we got about ten minutes down the road and spied a Maccy D’s, Sausage and Egg McMuffin thank you very much. After our wholesome breakfast we actually did get on the road and in no time at all we were about 5 miles out and 2 hours away. Yup you read that right…5 miles in 2 hours. I love queue’s. So we sat with thousands of others talking boys, celebs and bands and got chatting to the locals who bombarded us with requests to buy flagons of the funkiest looking cider I have ever seen. I’ll pass on the rocket fuel thanks.

After a couple of hours in the queue we finally made it to the staff entrance and followed a jeep of hot security guards to our campsite. Our camp was located just outside of the festival fence next to the dairy farm and a couple of minutes walk from the dance village. I was delighted to see a port-a-cabin with an actual toilet and sink with mirror less than 10 paces away from our pitch, as well as proper showers and somewhere to charge our phones – for someone who cannot live without her Blackberry, this was a mighty good thing. So then it was time to put up our tents…I had taken a chance and made a last minute pop up purchase and wow what a buy! I had no idea what to expect or how quickly it would go up, so I practically knocked out a passing security guard when I unzipped the bag and my tent leaped out in a matter of seconds! I sat there smugly unpacking my rucksack while the other girls wrestled with their tent for the next 40 minutes…

Registering for our shifts was a bit of a shock – instead of getting the 3x 12hr day shifts all in the same area that we’d been promised by our lecturer, we got told there was only night shifts left, we’d have to do 4 of them, and we were all getting split up! To top things off they only had XXXL uniforms left, so the buff security guards who got there early got to wear body hugging Mediums and we got what may as well have been a bright orange polo dress. I was not happy.

We got the Wednesday night off and weren’t due to work until 8pm on the Thursday evening, so we went for a look round the festival site and got chatting to some of the security guards. As you can probably imagine there was a high percentage of men in our camp – specifically buff men with shaved heads, tattoos and a cheeky swagger. I’m not gonna lie, as 3 single ladies, we had a pretty good view. Now this would not normally be my type at all, I usually avoid chavs like the plague, however I can’t deny there was some damn good torsos walking around! It was just better when they kept their mouths closed.

Anyway, perving aside, we spent the majority of Thursday walking around the festival site, checking out the different areas and sampling some of the overpriced food on offer (my personal favourite was a Belgian waffle covered in nutella and bananas – worth every one of the 500 pennies!) Thursday evening came round quickly and we made our way to the food tent for our dinner. At this point, I really did feel like I was in the army. They had long wooden tables stamped with black writing on the ends, all set out in rows with starving men shovelling platefuls of food into their oversized gobs. We queued up and got our standard chicken curry and sat discussing where our first night shift may take us.

And so we set off to our posts – I was with 3 other people from our group of Derby Uni students so at least there was some familiar faces, or so I thought. As soon as we got to the ‘blue zone’ a.k.a. family camping area/ acoustic + cinema tent we all got split up! I got stationed guarding the kids crew camping field with the most sinfully boring security guard I’ve ever met. I was there for 7 hours. By 3am there were clearly no kids running around, and there was nothing for us to do except listen to the security radio and wish we’d been put in one of the other areas of the site where there was actually something besides sitting on our arse and trying not to fall asleep to do. At this point, my supervisor thankfully decided it was time for me to do something different, so for the next 2-3 hours I went on patrol with some of the lads. This consisted of weaving our way through the sea of tents near the Pyramid stage looking for ‘suspicious’ behaviour, unzipped tents, discarded baggage etc. Amongst other things, we managed to stumble across a rucksack full of Class A’s, 5 guys without wristbands, 3 scousers who’d been thieving and a bunch of jumped up southerners who thought it’d be a good idea to chuck wood pallets on a fire surrounded by tents. After half an hour spent standing around ‘supporting’ the police making an arrest, I was literally shaking from the cold and could no longer feel my feet. It was light by this point and there was a few revellers still milling around and making their way back to their freezing cold tents.

The last couple of hours of my shift were spent walking around our area patrolling and generally trying to pass time before we could go to sleep. By half 7, I was past being tired. Our relief came and we made our way across the site back to camp. The sun was already shining bright and our layers of jackets were shed. The thought of now going back to bed and sleeping in a tent that may as well of been a furnace was really not an attractive prospect. Approximately two hours of constant sweating later, I could literally not stand being in my tent any longer and got up and had a shower. It was 30 degrees outside and I had another gruelling night shift to look forward to later on that evening. The one plus point however, was that it was the first and best day of bands. Today we had such delights as Two Door Cinema Club, Bombay Bicycle Club, Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons, Dizzee Rascal, The Courteeners and Vampire Weekend amongst others. We set off towards the other stage and managed to catch a fairly decent set by The Courteeners – Liam Fray was clearly massively sun stroked however and it unfortunately affected their performance. Not Nineteen Forever was probably my favourite and definitely the biggest crowd pleaser.

I don’t know whether it was lack of sleep, the heat or a combination of the both, but after walking around the site for about an hour I was absolutely nackered. All the bands I had wanted to see were decreasing heavily down my priority list and all I wanted to do was lie down and sleep. That’s the thing about glasto…no matter how much you plan beforehand and if like me colour co-ordinate and highlight every single band you want to see down to the hour, when you actually get there, seeing bands just becomes less of a priority and you just go with the flow. The site is literally so big, that treking from one stage to another can take up to about 30 minutes and despite previously not being able to live without seeing ‘that’ band live…when it involves a mission, you just can’t be arsed. I personally find this really frustrating.

And so, after seeing only one band on Friday we made our way back to the camp to try and get a lie down before our next shift started. Half 7 came around really quickly and another 12 hour mauler was upon us. And then the best thing ever happened. We got told we were being moved to the John Peel Stage for the evening! *cue celebratory dance*. Having seen next to no bands in the day, the prospect of being in one of the best tents all night was pretty damn good. We arrived at the tent and straight away got thrown in at the deep end…or should I say the pit. Three of us were put at each end of the stage guarding the VIP section and making sure no-one went into the pit lane and my friend Emma got put in the actual pit in front of the stage!

We got there in the middle of the Black Keys set and from what I could hear of it through my earplugs they sounded amazing. They’re what I call proper rock and roll. And there was certainly a lot of drugs and sex thrown in there too. The crowd was loving them; heads nodding, lips pursed, bodies thrashing. Next on stage was Groove Armada – having never seen them live and not knowing a lot of their stuff I was looking forward to seeing them play. And wow did they play! The lead singer wore this crazy metallic, sparkly suit and writhed around on stage like we all do in our bedrooms when we think no-one’s looking. I was pleasantly surprised at how many of their songs I did actually recognise and loved it when they belted out a bit of Superstylin’. There were relatively few crowd surfers for this and the pit staff were mainly just handing out water to the dehydrated punters. Groove Armada finished their set around midnight and the crowd slowly made their way out into the night.

The rest of my shift was spent back up in the Blue Zone guarding the kids play area – this was a really strange part of the site, it was set up like a circus kind of feel with a big pink castle, loads of paintings, a sandpit and loads of other weird and colourful structures. I’m sure in the day it’d be an amazing place to let the kids loose, but as we were guarding it from about 1-6am in the pitch black, it just seemed really sinister. Kind of like one of those films where a killer’s let loose in a circus ground with freaky clowns and a hall of mirrors. The rest of the evening is kind of a blur of shivering to death, drinking red bull to stay awake and laughing at drunken idiots walking past.

Saturday day passed by fairly uneventfully, we caught ten minutes of The National’s set on the Other Stage before swiftly making an exit due to their severe lack of talent to perform live. What a disappointment.  I managed to get a couple more hours kip in the afternoon before our shift again that evening. I was really looking forward to our stint in the John Peel tent that evening, being a huge fan of The XX I was extremely excited at the thought of seeing them live. We arrived at the tent just in time for the start of The Foals set – they were epic live. You could tell the band themselves were loving every second, the lead singer jumped off the stage and started to climb up one of the huge poles supporting the roof of the tent – he climbed about ten metres up then dived off into the crowd. From a fan’s perspective, this was probably really exciting and made the performance, from a security perspective, it was an absolute nightmare. He was getting clawed to death by the crowd, chucked around everywhere, mic tangled up around people’s necks and t shirt ripped off. Our team had to drag him back out of by his neck and fight off the adoring crowd. He emerged with gashes all down his chest looking slightly disorientated with a big grin on his face. What a clever boy.

After they finished their set we all took 5 minutes outside to regroup and assess injuries; my boss however, made a b-line for backstage with a furious look on his face. Even rock stars get told off sometimes. With the VIP section full to the brim, and the nation’s press out in force, The XX took to the stage. My mandatory earplugs had been ditched for this set, I wanted to hear every last xylophone drop tingle in my eardrums. I’m not sure whether it was just because of the nature of their music, but I was really disappointed with them live. The crowd became uncharacteristically subdued after the first couple of songs and the VIP’s left hastily. As live performances go, it was by no means the worst I’ve seen at all, but I had such high expectations of them that I guess they were bound to disappoint. It just didn’t sound quite right – a lot of the synthesised noises were off, some parts were extremely quiet and certain layers that stand out on the album just weren’t as prominent live, which ultimately made the songs sound sparse and disjointed at times. The best parts of their set were when they weren’t playing their own songs – they sampled ATB’s 9pm (Till I Come) mid way through one song which really got the crowd going and were also joined on stage by Florence Welch at one point for a version of Candi Staton’s ‘You Got The Love’. This was a really good remix and Florence’s stage presence and performance was excellent as usual. I always struggle with the dilemma of seeing a band you love live and being really disappointed with them – I think on this occasion I’m just going to have to look to one side and accept the flaw like a wife with a cheating husband, some bands are just meant for the studio.

The headliner for that evening was Jamie T and his band of dedicated followers were out in force – there were more people that came over the top crowd surfing during his set than for all the other sets combined that day. And I could see why; he really engaged the crowd and got them involved in his set. He moved around the stage a lot and stood on top of the monitor speakers on numerous occasions so he could be closer to his admiring crowd. Having never seen him live before and knowing only a couple of his songs, I was pleasantly surprised at how good he was. The crowd obviously adored him –  they were crushed up against the front barrier screaming every single word at the top of their voices. His set came to an end and we ushered out the crowd to the sound of crushing beer cans. At this point I was physically exhausted and could feel myself seriously wavering. We had to guard the sides of the tent for half an hour whilst the stage crew packed up and I could barely stand without supporting myself on one of the tent poles. I was just so tired. The lack of sleep and night shifts had really caught up on me and the thought of doing another 7 hours of my shift was just too much to bear. So I bailed. On reflection I did feel bad for leaving but I had to think of myself for once and I knew I couldn’t have carried on without fainting if I’d stayed. So I reported ill to my supervisor and he drove me back to the campsite. I slept in my thermal jacket that night and had the best sleep I’d had since I’d got there – a whole 6 hours!

The next morning I woke up feeling a lot better and slightly more refreshed than the previous day, so got up early and had some breakfast with everyone coming back off the night shift. In the afternoon we made our way down to the football field with thousands of others to watch the England game. The atmosphere was amazing – everyone in their festival gear gathered around the screen cheering the team on and basking in the sunshine. The first half of the game was full of excitement and we all  lived each second of it together – then came the second half. After the third goal people started to leave and after the fourth, well it may as well have been the end of the match. When the full time whistle blew, there was probably about half the people there than at the start and a lot of sullen looking faces. We made our way back to the campsite and grabbed some dinner before heading out for our final shift of the weekend. There was a sense of relief in camp, after five days of slumming it on little to no sleep, everyone was definitely ready for home. And this was the final slog.

My last shift started and ended in the John Peel tent. We caught the last 20 minutes of Broken Social Scene’s set who totally smashed it – they definitely have their set song structure and genre and very much stick to it, but they are damn good at what they do. I was really impressed with what I saw of them. Next on stage was Julian Casablancas a.k.a. ‘that guy’ from The Strokes and my boss wanted me in the pits for it. I stood there trying to look like I wasn’t massively intimidated by the hundreds of faces now staring on at me – despite being excited by the prospect of being right there in the action at the front of the stage, it was bloody scary! Julian got the most press attention out of anyone I’d seen since I’d been there and for what seemed like an age, they all filed in with their cameras at the ready. The attention was not a coincidence – he was extremely impressive live. Despite having my back facing him for most the set, I could see his passion reflected in the faces of the admiring onlookers. He came down to the pits on numerous occasions and interacted with the crowd, holding their hands and singing his heart out. I made a mental note to definitely download him album when I got home.

The final band of the night was Ash and we’d been warned at the start of our shift that we were expecting a lot of crowd surfers and attention from VIP’s, including the whole of Muse coming to watch. The reality was actually quite understated – there was probably about 2/3 surfers for the whole set. Ash were fairly good live; everyone knows their classic’s like Burn Baby Burn and Shining Light so they obviously went down well with the crowd. The tent was only half full though, anyone on at the same time as Stevie Wonder was going to struggle with numbers though I guess. After the last band finished we helped clear the tent and then had to patrol the outsides until the end of our shift whilst the staging crew dismantled most of the equipment. It got to about 4am and our supervisor let us go early. We made our way back up to the campsite taking in the silent disco in the Dance field on our way – everywhere was a lot quieter that night, we’d already seen hundreds of people leaving with their rucksacks whilst on shift and there was a noticeable subdued atmosphere across the site.

Monday morning arrived and we just wanted to get the hell out of there. It had been such a rollercoaster of emotion and experience over our time there – we were all physically and mentally exhausted. My smugness in putting up my tent was not relived in trying to put it down – it took 3 security guards and 2 stewards to get the thing in the bag. It got to about 10am and we were all packed and ready to go, we said our goodbyes and made our way to the staff exit. We were anticipating massive queues to get out and were very pleasantly surprised to see none at all! I still don’t really understand this as we left at prime time but definitely not going to complain. It only seemed fair that we ended our journey the way it started, so when we saw a MacDonald’s on the side of the road at 10.27 we zoomed round to the drive through in lightening speed for another wholesome treat.

However many hours of motorway driving later we made it back to Derby – I said my goodbyes to the other two girls and got on the train back to Manchester. By this point I hadn’t had a shower in 3 days, I’d had about 12 hours sleep since the Wednesday and had worked 40 hours in the last 4 days. I was ruined. I rocked into Manchester Piccadilly at about 5pm and must have looked like a complete zombie. I got home about 40 minutes later and just collapsed in my bed – I didn’t wake up until the following morning.

I woke up the next day and felt really sad – despite the horrific night shifts, unbearable heat and complete lack of sleep, I actually really missed Glastonbury. I’d met some really great people and due to the awful conditions, actually bonded with them more than I normally would have done. The two girls I went down with especially, Emma and Adele – a big thanks goes out to them. They made the experience what it was and gave me some really funny memories and good times to take back with me. After the first night shift we all got asked whether we’d do it again, and I was absolutely adamant I never would. Ask me now, and I think you’d get a different answer. That’s the thing about Glastonbury…despite it kicking your ass at times and draining the life out of ya, you can’t help but wanna go back the following year…

Roll on Glasto 2011!

Blur – Song 2: Live at Glastonbury 2009

Tags

, ,

With only half a week to go till 175,000 people descend on the small town of Pilton in Somerset, I felt it necessary to relive what was probably the highlight of my Glastonbury Festival last year…although I’ll be there this year in a working capacity, I’m hoping to catch a few of the bands and definitely have a wander round the festival site to soak up the atmosphere. Glastonbury really is one of a kind and as an event manager in the making I can only dream about one day organising something anywhere near as good. I won’t say anything else as the video more than speaks for itself, but stay tuned for my Glastonbury review in just over a week’s time! Bring on the carnage…

All The People, So Many People: #Parklife!

Tags

, , , , ,

I am one of the many people in Manchester who lives for those 12 weeks in the winter, when the Warehouse Project takes over Piccadilly and brings some of the finest dance acts to our very own doorstep. So when they announced they’d be putting on a festival in June, I was more than a little enthused and purchased my ticket immediately. However many months of waiting later, the day had finally arrived and I was beyond excited about the thought of donning my wellies and glow sticks for a day of rave.

Anticipation about the event had been building online for a while and it seemed like half of Manchester were attending. It was definitely the place to be seen and tickets flew out like hot cakes. As I donned my flowery playsuit and biker boots, combined with denim shirt, sparkly eyeliner and wayfarers (so pretty much looking like I’d fallen straight out of a Festival Fashion Guide in Look Magazine), I wondered what the day would have in store and revelled at the thought of Manchester’s finest all coming together for the biggest festival the city had ever seen.

And so we made our way to Piccadilly Gardens and along with hundreds of other people, jumped on the bus down to Platt Fields. And then we saw it…at first I thought I was imagining it…surely not? But no, it was real alright – ‘it’ being the longest queue I have ever seen in my life. We got off the bus and followed the snake of people down the road and around the corner…it just went on and on, at one point I literally couldn’t even see where it ended. Thousands upon thousands of festival goers all equally as baffled as to how the organisers had managed to mess up the intake of people so much!

The street was lined with a trail of empty beer cans and every type of spirit bottle imaginable. Everyone there had the same thought – where can I get more alcohol? A mass pilgrimage had began to the nearest off license and there was almost a sense comradary, like we were all in this nightmare of a queue together. We conveniently made friends with the girls in front who had bought us some booze. I could not have felt more like a chav at this point if I’d tried – I was stood on the street with police everywhere, swigging from a bottle of blue wkd in broad daylight. It’s like I’d regressed back to my teenage youth, except back then I didn’t have to queue (or pay!) to drink in the park.

After about 90 minutes we were finally nearing the gate entrance and the thud of Simian Mobile Disco’s ‘I Believe’ reverberated my insides. Ten minutes later we were in. And wow, what a sight. I’ve never seen a higher concentration of hotties in the same place in my life. The last two hours of queuing were all but a distant memory and we quickly made our way to the Big Top Electro tent for some SMD lovin’.

After a good hour of dancing we were all in need of a few beverages and made our way to the bar…or at least as close to it as we could get before hitting the 10 person deep queue. Again with the queuing…it was starting to become a defining feature of the festival. After waiting about 15 minutes and getting to perhaps half way through the queue, we overheard they’d run out of cider and were told to go to one of the other bars on site. Pretty annoyed and even more thirsty, we trekked across the festival site to one of the smaller bars in search of our pint of Brothers.

With our drinks finally in hand, we were able to have a good wander round the site itself and check out the layout and some of the other tents. There were 5 tents in total plus the main stage, a chill out area which included converted bath tubs and sofa’s, an area dedicated to the World Cup with a huge screen for the England v USA game and the standard array of food vendors. I was quite impressed with the scale of the actual site, it was a lot bigger than I’d imagined and fairly well thought out. It did feel like a proper festival and it was almost surreal thinking that in fact, you were actually in the centre of Manchester! The gorgeous weather, combined with the friendly atmosphere and world class music acts kind of made you feel like you were abroad, it was quite strange.

We quickly downed our cider and made our way back to the Big Top for the legend that is Erol Alkan and my god was he good! We ran straight to the front and didn’t stop moving for his entire set. He cranked out a couple of classics putting his own twist on the production and mixed it in with some stuff I’d never heard of before. It was perfectly performed and meticulously crafted, you could tell real thought had gone into every song choice or remix or sync. It was just epic. We emerged from the tent feeling completely disorientated, it was still bright sunshine outside, we had just witnessed one of the best DJ sets we’d seen in a very long time and we were in a park in Manchester. It was amazing.

By this point, we were in need of refuelling and after much deliberation went for some £5 mediocre noodles and caught the last five minutes of Calvin Harris’s set. We then had 30 minutes to kill before Friendly Fires came on the main stage and not being interested in football one bit made our way to the chill out area. There was a small tent with a bar here and some standard DJ’s playing everything from Michael Jackson to Blackstreet. This little tent was a gem of a find, they served actual Jagermeister and there was no queue for the bar! We stayed here for a while dancing and watching 4 guys busting some serious moves to ‘I Want You Back’. Again, this was such an amazing but surreal moment – we’d stumbled across our very own Jackson 4 in the middle of Manchester.

I was pretty excited about seeing Friendly Fires and there was a huge crowd waiting for them to come on. They soon disappeared. We stayed for about 3 songs then left, what a massive disappointment. I don’t know whether it was the EQ or the levels but something wasn’t right, we could barely hear the lead singer and it was coming across as really drab and thin. At least a third of the crowd left and the remaining bunch were definitely deflated. After quickly checking our set listings we ran round to see Fake Blood but to our dismay couldn’t get in the tent! It was surrounded by stewards at all entrances and was absolutely rammed. Everyone had the same idea. So then it was a case of not who we wanted to see, but where we could get in! We ended up catching the last 5 minutes of Kele Okereke’s set in the Now Wave tent and had a little dance to a second-rate version of ‘Flux’. It was half ten at this point and we couldn’t get in to any of the other tents so like thousands of other people just made our way to the bus stop.

Parklife was a great event to bring to Manchester and I really hope it returns next year. There was a brilliant atmosphere on the festival site and Manchester’s most stylish were out in force. I do however, hope that the organisers learn from their mistakes and improve on a few things before it runs again; namely a better entry system, ordering more booze and bar staff and hiring bigger tents (or at least getting an act on the main stage that were actually good live!) I also think it’d be better to start and finish it later next year too so that it goes on through the night – as much as I loved dancing my butt off at 5 in the afternoon I think it would have been even better if we were able to dance into the wee small hours! But all in all, an excellent first attempt for the several promoters involved, a definite success. Bring on Parklife 2011!

The Power of Volunteering

Tags

, , , , ,

As this week is National Volunteers Week, I thought it was appropriate and entirely necessary to share my thoughts on the benefits of volunteering and my personal views and experiences on how it can help develop you not only professionally but personally too.

When people think of the word ‘volunteering’ they have a tendency to think of working in a charity shop, or cleaning up a council estate or even litter picking after an event. All of which, to me, sound rather unappealing and definitely not something I’d want to do after a hard day at work! It’s easy to see why in the past, volunteering is thought of as a past time for the retired, ‘do-gooders’ with nothing better to fill their time. However, in the current economic climate, volunteering is becoming almost a necessary for those coming out of university who lack the work experience employers require. And businesses are starting to recognise this. The number of volunteer positions and unpaid internships has exploded in the last year since the claws of the recession have started to impact on organisational structures. More and more employers are unable to keep hold of paid staff and are instead looking to get help from eager and willing volunteers. So instead of litter picking, you could be working on a marketing strategy for a festival, implementing a social media presence or even working on a sponsorship bid.

As a seasoned volunteer I have lent myself to pretty much anything and everything events related around Manchester and tried to get as much variation as possible in the kind of organisations and projects that I work for. My most recent project has been working with the Hungry Pigeon Festival on their online marketing by promoting the event through Twitter. This involved tweeting both on the run up to the event and then throughout the festival itself, keeping people up to date on what was happening at the various venues. This was a great project to be involved with – I got a free wristband for the weekend, so got to see loads of amazing up and coming bands but also met some great people involved in the organisation, who are good to know as contacts for events in the future.

I’m also currently working as an event planner for the Waterways Trust organising their annual Rochdale Canal Festival. This involves working with councils, canal societies and local tourist boards to put on events and activities for a week long festival at the end of July over a 30 mile stretch of canal, starting in Manchester City Centre and ending in Hebden Bridge. I have to contact multiple venues and organisations, think of ideas for events and help market them. I’m given a lot of responsibility and have a budget of thousands of pounds to work with – not something you would think a volunteer would get to do! The benefits professionally for me are obvious, I’m getting experience at producing a multi-venued event with a fairly large budget and making contacts with lots of high up employees in the public and private sector along the way! And yet at first glance if I told someone I was committing one day a week to organising a canal festival they may question my motives.

This weekend I attended a conference in Birmingham for Oxjam Music Festival, the latest of my volunteering ventures and definitely the one I’m most excited about. My role as Fundraising Co-ordinator involves organising fundraising events over the summer to raise money for the main Oxjam Takeover event in October, as well as getting sponsorship for the event and promoting the event and it’s cause. I’m working with a great set of people and we’ve got some excellent ideas for the events so it’s a really exciting project to be involved with. The conference was a great chance to meet some of the other oxjam teams from around the country and swap ideas about our events. We were lucky enough to get some great guest speakers from the industry talking to us about their experiences and see some amazing videos showing the kind of development work Oxfam are doing in places like Mali amongst others and where the money we raise from the events will go.

So you see, there’s so many great volunteering opportunities out there it’d be stupid not to get involved in them! Whether you want to gain experience within a certain field, make contacts with people in your chosen industry, showcase your talents or even to just meet new people in your area, there’s a volunteer position out there for everyone. With the job market the way it is at the moment, you have to make yourself stand out from the crowd. I for one think that volunteering gives you the opportunity to do this whilst being really enjoyable and worthwhile at the same time.

If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering, a good place to find out about current opportunities in your area is www.vinspired.com.

Generation I-ntergration?

Tags

, , , ,

As part of an event business plan that I am currently writing, I have had to include as with any normal plan, a section on ‘The Target Market’ – a phrase so common in today’s plethora of mass communication that it’s hard to find a brand that you’re not a target of. And yet it led me on to research different ‘customer types’ and the whole range of assumptions and stereotypes (based on market research of course) that are associated with those types. For example, ‘Generation Y’ – loosely defined as those born between 1980 and 1995, the children of the post war ‘baby bloomers’, they make up approximately 15.9% of the total UK population, have an increased familiarisation and acceptance of technology, spend 549 minutes sleeping per day and are much less likely to get married than other adults. I find myself thinking, says who?! And yet already, I can see that I fit nicely into their box.

The latest term to arrive on the scene is ‘Generation I’ – those who have grown up in a world where the Internet has always existed and Apple is King. Although being born in 1987 would put me firmly in the Generation Y category, I can honestly say I can’t remember a time where the Internet didn’t exist. And it got me thinking about what people actually did before it’s arrival in the early 90’s. If I don’t know something, the first place I look is Google. Similarly, if I want to buy a product, or listen to music, or talk to my friends or watch a video…I always use the Internet. But is this a common behaviour amongst others or more to the point, a healthy one? In a world where the Mark Zuckerberg’s rule all, is this lack of human interaction a positive step forward for mankind or a case of technology hindering progression? Are we not just one step away from a robot state?

From a marketing perspective, the invention of the Internet and more recently social media and Web 2.0 platforms have undoubtedly revolutionised the potential for reaching new untapped markets and spreading your brands message across the globe. But how can marketers move on from here? With more and more brands getting on the social media band wagon, a once relatively untapped resource has now become awash with communication strategies and sales pitches, which for the average user becomes annoying very quickly. And yet, if they are wanting to stay in touch with whole generation’s of Y’s and I’s, then this is what they need to continue to do.

A lot of companies are currently favouring an integrated communications strategy which encompasses the use of social media and the Internet but also includes more standard marketing methods such as flyering, PR and publicity, press releases and posters. And I personally think this is definitely what the future of marketing should look like. Brands at the minute seem so focussed on reaching an online market that they’re forgetting about the average punter on the street. The same can be said for personal communications as well – gone are the days of picking up the phone and calling someone if you want something, or relying on anything but your Facebook page to remember people’s birthdays (I recently wrote on a friend’s wall ‘Facebook tells me it’s your birthday’ in sheer rebellion against the lack of social etiquette these days – what’s wrong with a nice card?! I then laughed when I subsequently went to buy a card and found one that said ‘Happy Birthday Facebook (but not actual) Friend!’)

The world just seems to have gone a little online crazy and although a firm subscriber and advocate of the Internet, I think it’s about time young people actually went out and interacted with each other! Instead of finding out your friend’s been dumped via Facebook, or following someone you find attractive on Twitter, why not actually have a real life conversation with someone and step outside the world of introverted communication?

And so in answer to my own tweet – I think the difference between Generation Y and I is that knowing what it was like to not have the Internet, may not be such a bad thing after all! The Internet is a great marketing tool and offers a whole world of possibilities to companies, but I for one am going to make a point of getting out there and speaking to people this summer about the projects I’m helping to market and I’m hoping other’s will do the same!