April Fooled

Dunce Cap

Reflecting on the consequences of the Associated Press Twitter account hacking , it occurs to me that there’s still a widespread lack of understanding of the nature of social media among some institutions. And it’s costly.

Even a passing observer of the twittersphere will be aware of the speed at which events are reported on Twitter. Take the Hudson River air crash as an example . Note that the story broke with a photograph taken by a passenger on  a nearby ferry on his mobile phone and that the fake message on AP’s hacked account was only text. Now ask yourself how many people are milling in or around the White House on an average day and how many of those are likely to have a smartphone and a link to a social media channel. In this day and age, the odds are pretty high.

If  (god forbid) an explosion did go off at the White House, there would be multiple messages with photos and video flying around the twittersphere within moments. I won’t add a link to the disturbing scenes captured in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings but I think I’ve made my point.

A bomb has gone off at the White House? Go on Twitter and search the hashtag #whitehouse or #obama or #bomb or anything similar. Use your common sense. If there’s tumbleweed blowing across the desert and the sound of crickets, the chances are, it’s a hoax.

Let’s not blame social media or hackers for the market crash. It was an institutional failure of common sense and ironically, social media had the answer all along.


Now Playing


It’s a sign of my age that I’ve reached the stage where I find myself saying “back in my day”. Ask my grown kids. But unlike my parents, those four words are not followed by something like “people danced properly” or “you could tell the girls from the boys” or “you could understand what they were singing”. You see, I was born in 1960, so imagine what my musical soundtrack has been. Early, fan club releases of the latest Beatles single (my sister Susan was a member), Tamla Motown and the birth of a host of genres; 60’s psychedelia, prog rock, fusion, disco, punk rock and so on. I love the music scene right now and you’ll forgive me, I’m sure, if I can’t help noticing the historical nuances in the music of  today’s artists like Tame Impala and aplaud bands like The Strypes not only for their musicianship but there unabashed respect for the source of their wild, driven, old skool R&B.

My first exposure to pop music was from the radio and from listening to the music my two elder sisters would bring home but from the age of 12, my voyage of musical discovery was guided by regular visits to the local record shop. Come Saturday, I’d happily haunt that place for hours. Flipping through the racks of vinyl records, admiring the art work, looking for new releases and occasionaly buying one. And while I browsed, the record store assistant was playing music; new stuff, stuff by bands I’d never heard of and I loved that. In the early 80’s, I even realised a teenage dream by blagging a job behind the counter of the record department of WH Smiths in Chiswick…now playing ‘October’ by U2.

I do less browsing now because I have @BBC6Music and every hour is like a browse through a cool record store.

The days of the record store chain may be numbered but the independent sector is fighting back. Which is great because independent stores were always cooler and the staff were more knowledegable and passionate. I’ll be celebrating Record Store Day  for all the great music I discovered while browsing the shelves at independent stores in West Bromwich & Birmingham in the 70’s and Shrewsbury in the 80’s, for the happy memories of Chiswick in 1981 and for the great gigs it led me to. Back in my day, people were passionate about music and broke the rules and didn’t care what their parents said. The only difference today is that the parents are telling their kids to “turn it up!”. So, long live the record store!

We’ll take it from here

We'll take it from here

We’ll take it from here

Regular readers (do I have any?) will know of my involvement with the Save The Clifton campaign. At present, five of us are working to save a cinema and adjoining building to create a multi-use community arts centre.

Over the years, I’ve had some involvement in cultural capital projects in my capacity as a local government officer and it would be fair to say that recent austerity has put the kibosh on a great deal of publicly funded cultural investment. But even if we claw our way out of the present mire, I wonder if there’ll ever be a return to the levels of investment we saw a decade ago?

Remember all those ill-fated Millennium projects?

The Clifton got me thinking whether the future is community-inspired, community-owned-and-run projects as the new norm?

Sure, someone has to stump up the money in the first place but isn’t it the case that for the long haul, the sustainable business model – the well of enthusiasm and sense of ownership, the lack of political interference that independent people-power projects provide can offer is the best hope? (that’s quite enough ‘P’s – Ed). In our case, only time will tell but we’re looking beyond the straight out commercial approach to creating a centre where arts are used for community cohesion, to tackle isolation and to offer opportunities to engage in the Arts as a form of, well, therapy. We’ll need to find backers and we’ll certainly be looking at share issues and crowdfunding but if we can persuade the local authority to support us in saving the building, we might just be able to say “we’ll take it from here.”