Monday, October 24, 2005

More radio days...

I went to a conference all about Community Radio this weekend. It was held at Urbis, the landmark glass wedge shaped Manchester Museum that looks a cross between a futuristic ship and the lid for a cheese board. I’ve been to Urbis a couple of times now and have mixed feelings about it as a space. For all the dramatic styling, it is also rather bland internally with its plain white finishes & shopping centre ironmongery once you grow accustomed to the scale and layout. I much prefer the Lowry Centre with vibrant use of colour and the fact that it is performance space, which I always find more exciting than display space. Not that I am decrying the Urbis museum aspects- the City displays are fascinating on the various levels through the building and it is currently free as well so definitely worth at least one visit. They do encourage you to visit the first floor gallery (that isn’t free) and the motivation for that has to be the contents. It is currently photos and artefacts of the rock scene by a photographer called Nick Rock and only time prevented me on this occasion as the teasers looked very interesting.

Urbis has a conference suite on the ground floor and this was the main venue for CommunityFM 2005. However, the event was targeted at a number of different streams of community radio activists, from complete beginners all the way up to fully fledged existing stations looking to increase their sustainability, so there were a number of parallel sessions billed as workshops. To accommodate this, the nearby Cathedral visitors centre was pressed into use which had four meeting rooms of various sizes. It was a short stroll away from Urbis, close enough to be convenient but far enough to become tedious traipsing back and forth for coffee breaks and the like.

What were my overall impressions of the event? A curious mixture of both elation and despair. Elation, because I met a number of people who I found highly motivating. Despair, because the mindset from the attendees mainly seemed to revolve around collectivism rather than individualism. A session on funding talked at length about various sources but most of them were government agencies or quangos who redistributed taxation according to perceived merit (generally driven by flavour of the month). A strong element of getting a community radio license is demonstrating something called “social gain” but the more you scrape away at the surface of this the more it looks to me like “social engineering.” One session on programming put up a list of people that should be included in Community Radio, which looked like a local authority political correctness sensitivity training course. My flippant comment that we therefore exclude everyone else not listed got a big laugh but some thoughtful looks as well. There was an unchallenged assumption that the private sector were big bad bogeymen out to derail anything the community sector did. Something else I gradually became aware of was that many of the attendees got their take-home pay from the community sector rather than being unpaid enthusiasts and that the volunteers weren’t really in the driving seat.

All is not lost, however. A toolkit was launched with some very sensible advice in it about not getting sucked into the requirements of the various social agencies and turning output into some horrible manifestation of Town hall FM. I met at least one individual who recognised that the cap in hand model to the government wasn’t sustainable and that they would concentrate on fund raising across a range of different approaches. I found out buckets of information about things I hadn’t appreciated or investigated, not all of it what I wanted to hear…

I'll be taking a blogging break for a few days, more of the conference and other matters in due course.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Rather tyred...

I took the motor into an ATS to get the burst one replaced, which was stinking out the boot with cold burnt rubber. (Why do I think of Billy Connolly? Oh yes, his stated objections to Condoms) You will put the new one on front offside, worn one in the boot and check the torque on the wheel I changed? Yes sir, of course Sir. ...By the way, the front offside is wearing down, it is still comfortably legal but you should be aware of it. OK, I'm not too bothered if it is the spare. Yes, we'll see to that...

later, it struck me that the new tyre didn't look particularly new. There was a good reason for that, it was because it was actually in the tyre well in the boot. Now I wonder, did they even check the torque on the front nearside or just put the hub cap back on?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The smell of burning rubber...

I had a high speed blowout tonight on the motorway. Not a crash & burn one, more a bang!- what was that- it can't be the tyres, the handling hasn't changed but I'll ease off anyway hmm, getting a little lumpy! type of blowout.

I was close enough to my exit junction to slowly exit on the hard shoulder with hazards going, but by a few hundred yards I needed to pull in. After having a look (front nearside, I had assumed it was back nearside due to keeping control) I rang the AA & as they said no more than 75 minutes, had a go at changing the wheel myself. Last time I tried I couldn't get the nuts off, but that was alloy wheels, these were more straight-forward. The AA man then rang me as his directions weren't clear, but I was able to tell him he wasn't needed any more. The local tyre change garages were all closing, so it looks like a job for tomorrow.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

War in the North...

I can highly recommend the exhibition at the Imperial War museum North which looks at war from a local (i.e. Northern England) perspective.

Their own description sums it up:

Focusing on the highs and lows of the Home Front, The North at War explores the impact of both world wars on men, women and children living in the north of England. The exhibition starts with celebration and moves on to examine experiences of loss, pain and threat, culminating in the hopes and aspirations felt by many as war ends and peace begins. With an engaging mix of objects and personal stories, this will be one of the highlights in the 60th anniversary commemorations of the end of the Second World War.

The Special Exhibitions Gallery is an extraordinary and compelling space, unrivalled in the UK. One of the largest temporary exhibition galleries outside of London, its unique design provides a powerful setting for a diverse range of major national and international exhibitions.

Of particular poigniancy are the visitor comments written on an old style "clock card" and tied to a frame for all to read. We have added one, it turns out that my Mum in Law brought an unexploded incendiary device into the house from the garden & put it in a drawer...

One downer today- the lift up to the viewing platform on the "air shard" was out of order today, 161 steps up, my thighs still ache!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

also in memorium...

...Coppersblog, that has gone off the air other than a holding page, after massive exposure in the Mail on Sunday last week.

I don't know if the grief is from his ISP, his Bosses or the secret squirrels, but he was bound to be rumbled eventually.

His blog banner says: A Journey into the mad, mad world of the British underclass and the Public sector, where nothing is too insane for it to be written down and copied in triplicate. VIEWS EXPRESSED PROBABLY DON'T REFLECT OFFICIAL POLICY. "This blog will do more to put people off calling the police than anything, other than actually calling the police."

He painted a picture of policing for the dull reality it probably is.. very frustrating at times, careful what you say for all the professional victims, endless form filling, echelons of non-jobs and knee jerk initiatives to jump on Government bandwagons etc.

His closedown will cause waves in the blogosphere, 131 comments on his holding post and counting...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

In memorium...

...I have heard news of two people I knew from the past who have died recently.

The first was Phil Rose, the Factory manager at CCT Theatre Lighting and an old-timer from Strand Electric in the days before Rank Strand. I spent many an hour sitting with him talking about why things were the way they were in the Stage Lighting world, both old and new. Pride of place on the wall near his desk were original lighting rig plans for the London Palladium in the 40s that I recognised as an illustration from one of Fred Bentham's Stage Lighting books. The last time I saw Phil was at Fred's Funeral and we promised to keep in touch, but other than swapping a couple of emails we were both somewhat remiss. Apparently the funeral will be on October 13th near Fleet, Hants and Jim Laws should have the details.

The other person was Bill Furness, the Stage Manager and eventual Chief Projectionist at the Newcastle Odeon who I remember well from my teens, as recounted here. His Son, Roger Furness, tracked me down & left a comment on the blogpost and also took the trouble to email me directly. The funeral is tomorrow at 11am in Blyth.

Friday, October 07, 2005

New studio equipment

The Hesh (standing) and Martin Green (seated) try out the studio...

Another week in Morley...

...we had six new faces to a Morley FM open evening. One of them was someone's mum, though, and possibly doesn't count!

...The Town Council met. I complained about decisions being referred to Council without any significant background information or justification, just a sentence or two in Committee Minutes. Are we supposed to scrutinise ourselves or just rubber stamp everything?

...I also complained about the Mayor deciding to make mini speeches during debate. In his role as Chairman, I feel it is important that he ensures fair debate in the chamber and keeps his own views reasonably quiet. The views weren't anything off have told us we have to stick to ten watts.ensive but I think there is a principle here, it is a position of privilege which could unduly influence others.

All of the studio bits have now arrived from the supplier, we can now trigger the computer from the mixer via a little game port adapter device. We push up the fader and the computer thinks someone has pushed a joystick button!

I am refining my "First kata" at karate. Now that the pattern and the moves are committed to memory, comes the realisation that higher grades are much more expressive and elegant in performing what is essentially a style of performance Ballet.

The Radio station has also had an expression of sponsorship interest from a local double glazing company, an offer of cheap corporate membership from a local gym for our (non-existent) staff, then finally OfCom have told us we will have to stick to 10 watts for our December broadcast. They have very kindly sent an expected coverage map though...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Big Bin Brother...

Last week, Leeds City Council fitted our recycle bin with an RFID tag, a little passive device that spits out a unique number when interrogated electronically. A team descended on the close, following a well ordered drill. The first bloke drilled a hole in the bin with a battery operated power drill, the second popped the device in the hole and the third recorded the house number on a hand-held device with a large aerial. I happened to be out at the time, collecting the black bin when this all happened. Us having two bins caused a momentary problem for them as a) there isn't a house number on it, and b) it appears to be unusual to have two green bins (although the council are happy to let people have as many as they want if there is a need.

We had been forewarned that this was happening by a letter a couple of weeks ago- also giving the reason.

"This is being done in order for us to ascertain the weight of materials being collected and will help with future management decisions."

I thought the phrase sounded slightly sinister, as it might herald taxation by quantity. Will we get chastised for producing too much, or not enough? Will we get snotty letters saying green bin number 2 has little in because we don't evenly distribute the stuff between both of them? When will they trill and fit the black bins?

Of course, these schemes always have unintended consequences. My parents used to put household waste in the street bin as they ran a shop and would be charged extra if the business bin was insufficient (which it was). I can see us distributing garden waste around town down our trouser legs as per the great escape...