Friday, 19 March 2010

Leeds Beer, Cider and Perry Festival

The festival started yesterday and will run until Sunday 21st - I highly recommend people get down early as it was incredibly busy on the first night! My video report can be found on my youtube channel here.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

On Celebrity Reporting

Today*, my fellow students and I discussed the 'phenomena' of Celebrity Reporting, which I have been anticipating with a growing sense of foreboding that was at least partially met. After an entertaining if unsurprising talk from a freelance hack who dabbles in the field – cue anecdotes of the mindless charades conducted by Z-list individuals, faceless PR players and hard-nosed editors – our tutors were curious as to why the known celebrity fans amongst the student body weren't getting involved. In my cynical way, I suspect this is because their entire world is built around someone else being the centre of attention and standing out.

In a rather sweeping summary, Generation X didn't WANT to care, Generation Y CAN'T care. They have grown up in a world where individuality is persecuted, differences are discussed in committee and adopted wholesale, dictated by the cohesion of high-street retailers and mayfly-lifetime music artists.

I have done some of my peers a disservice. Many were angry at what was felt to be a useless and uninformative lecture, where they had no questions to ask – but what could they have asked? They are unable to confront the basic paradox at the heart of spineless rehashing of footballers and singers falling into and out of nightclubs, that they are bored because there is nothing interesting IN their field.

The integral issue is that they are missing the basic premise of journalism, which is to inform, educate AND entertain. They will probably continue to miss it, as well. This generation is comprised of consumers, not contributors. An argument was put forward that celebrity culture fosters a false sense of rightfulness amongst people, that they will not strive to achieve anything when it's clear you can succeed by freak chance or physical prowess or other unhelpful traits that nonetheless put you in a role model position.

The audience wasn't listening, chattering to themselves, unwilling to confront the truth. They were angry that their interests were being decried so easily, but unable to offer any kind of defence. And why should they? In their world, nothing is worth that much effort except Ugg boots and low-slung jeans.

They, as consumers, are not fully to blame. Celebrity culture inspires a sense of community and mutual identification that we do not receive from detached, Byzantine politics, fractured and violent society or maladjusted family, all concepts that have fallen into disrepair in the 21st century. The exact question of Lady Gaga's gender transcends all of these mundane, if important, concepts.

As a test, the tutor threw in Jade Goody's name, igniting a passionate argument about the cult of personality that sprung up around her. Many demanded to know how such an individual became famous? I interjected, describing how much the entire room was vehemently discussing her, and wondered if the same emotion could be attached to Gordon Brown or David Cameron. People with a far greater impact on the world, and much more vision. People who mattered.

The room fell silent, and one voice lamented that I'd described a pretty grim world. I merely shrugged, aware that however slowly, they were grasping the truth at the heart of the matter.

* - Today being Tuesday 16th March

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Royal Park School - Video News

The protest over the future of the Royal Park School was held on Wednesday 10th, and I was able to film it - the edited news short is available online here. Many thanks to all the members of the Royal Park Community Consortium I met, and everyone else who helped out a rookie reporter!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Leeds Sci-fi, Comic and Card Fair

Arranged by Golden Orbit, this event is run every two months and occurs across the North of England, including such cities as Birmingham, Sheffield and Newcastle. It is disconcerting to only discover the website for the event, after you have visited and collected a flyer!

In Leeds, it is held - appropriately enough - in the Crypt of Leeds Town Hall. A generous-sized room, it is laid out in the manner of any market or boot fair and filled to capacity with sprawling dealer's tables.

The merchandise on offer is primarily Trading Cards and back issues of comic books - boxes and boxes fill every available flat surface. Other fare includes autographed photographs, action figures, model kits, novels and 'fandom'-related books such as behind the scenes or actor autobiographies. Trinkets such as Dalek cufflinks and Red Dwarf belt buckles were also available.

The average attendee is middle-aged, male and white, usually sensibly dressed in cagoule and sturdy backpack. A small crowd of children move en masse from table to table, discussing the intricacies of trading and the minutiae of a particular card's merits. Occasional women stand out from the crowd, harassed and incomprehensible mothers or wives, or even the odd female sci-fi fan – and they do exist, stereotypical judgements notwithstanding.
Regulars chat amiably with traders, but for the most part customers move singly or in small groups, eyes always downcast and assessing merchandise, valuing and acquiring in mere heartbeats. The atmosphere is one of quiet busyness, space is at a premium at every desk, and in the narrow corridors elaborate dances occur between the portly patrons and darting children as room is exchanged smoothly if reluctantly.

Golden Orbit stress the appeal of their fair to the casual customer as well as to the determined collector, but I would certainly advise that if you wish to visit, you go in the company of some old-hand fair navigator so that you are not marooned in a sea of old paper, new memorabilia and mid-life fans.

The next Leeds fairs are on April 24th, and June 12th, start at 11am and are held at Leeds Town Hall.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Upcoming Events

Through March, there are events I will be at that I'll cover for this journal.

This weekend (Saturday 6th March) there is a Sci-fi, Comic and Card Convention at Leeds Town Hall from 11am to 1.30pm - there is no web presence for the Convention, so I'll see if I can't track down the people behind this long running event and ask them about promotion, organisation and the like. I'm a die-hard Sci-fi fan, but I only found out about this event by pure chance and a small poster in a tiny nearby cafe - I suspect there's a vibrant Sci-Fi and Fantasy community in Leeds who aren't being catered for!

That evening, I'll be going to Leeds Rios to watch Emilie Autumn. It will be the first time I've done a gig review since my erratic freelancing days for Sandman Magazine.

Sports Relief, the nationwide initiative sponsored by Sainsburys to both generate money for charity and get unfit Britain exercising, is coming to Leeds. I will be in attendance with a group of like-minded twits, to contribute our bit in the form of The Campaign With Disdain for Ubiquitous Sportswear, which basically means we will stroll or saunter our way around a mile of Leeds dressed in the finery of the Dandy age - for an idea of what I'm talking about, please visit the website of The Chap, and then preferably buy their magazine! You can also follow our progress on that inimicable internet Kraken.

Finally, I am required to produce a short news report for Television Production, which I have elected to do on the nearby and contentious Royal Park School, and its future - or lack thereof. I have not heard back from my enquiries, but need to have this finished within the next two weeks, so I hope to be able to link to some multimedia entertainment for you shortly!