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3.9.14

Ice Bucket Challenge: Making a meme

icebucket
The latest viral internet hit is the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ – you nominate someone to dump a bucket of ice water over them – which of course is filmed and posted for your networks to see online. Millions of #IceBucketChallenges later and you have a social media success.
The idea was instigated to support the ALS Association, which carries out research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – otherwise known as motor neurone disease. Why is it a viral success? The answer: it’s a potent meme.
It has all the characteristics of meme-friendly communications:

  • It’s coherent
  • Lives long enough to be passed on to a third party
  • It’s easily copy-able
  • It’s ‘sticky’
Add the ingredients of high social media potency: make it visible, shareable and networkable – and you have a great viral success on your hands.
Where does the idea go now?
Potential future activities could be to link the idea to a specific day – ‘Ice Bucket Challenge Day’ – or to a trigger or prompt, such as when the weather exceeds a certain temperature you go out and mark the occasion with the Pop-Up equivalent of ‘Ice Bucket Challenges’.
One weakness of the meme is that it’s name and activity is not integrated into the name of the charity. So, we will witness more people doing the Ice Bucket Challenge oblivious of, and independent of any supporting charity link.
Perhaps, the originators should have integrated a message into the act of ‘Ice Bucketing’ such as having to shout out, ‘Motor Neurone!’, so as to strengthen the connection between the act and the charity.
What this episode signifies is the potency of powerful memes and the possibility of linking positive messages and acts of kindness to them.
I helped nurture the Blue Monday meme – ‘symbolically, the most depressing day of the year’ on the third Monday of January. Ironically, it depresses the Hell out of me how mental health charities have been slow, or reluctant to seize upon its potency.
I’m almost tempted to throw a bucket of cold water over them!
Maybe that could be another extension of the idea, ‘Ice Bucket Wake Up Calls’. What’s certain if you want to make a splash, cook a meme.

Time to get back on the Clue Train

It’s always good to step back and look at what you’re doing in your business. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the minutia – chasing new business, drafting proposals, billing chasing invoices… you know the rest.
So recently we have gone back to basics and revisited the Cluetrain Manifesto – which is now 12 years old.
For those of you who don’t know the Cluetrain Manifesto is a set of 95 theses for all businesses operating within the newly-connected marketplace that was the internet. The ideas put forward within the manifesto aim to examine the impact of the Internet on both markets (consumers) and organisations. In addition, as both consumers and organisations are able to use the Internet and Intranets to establish a previously unavailable level of communication both within and between these two groups, the manifesto suggests that changes will be required from organisations as they respond to the new marketplace environment.
The manifesto was written in 1999 by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger. A printed publication which elaborated on the manifesto was published in 2000 by Perseus Books under the same name.
The authors assert that the Internet is unlike the ordinary media used in mass marketing as it enables people to have “human to human” conversations, which have the potential to transform traditional business practices radically.
The book and website both challenge what the manifesto calls outmoded, 20th-century thinking about business in light of the emergence of the Web, clearly listing “95 theses”, as a reference to Martin Luther’s manifesto which heralded the start of the Protestant Reformation.
The term “cluetrain” stems from the following unattributed quote: “The clue train stopped there four times a day for ten years and they never took delivery.”
So, offering some food for thought, here is the entire 95 thesis which form the basis of the Cluetrain Manifesto:
1.    Markets are conversations.
2.    Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
3.    Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
4.    Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
5.    People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
6.    The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
7.    Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
8.    In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
9.    These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
10.    As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
11.    People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
12.    There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.
13.    What’s happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called “The Company” is the only thing standing between the two.
14.    Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
15.    In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business – the sound of mission statements and brochures – will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.
16.    Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.
17.    Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.
18.    Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.
19.    Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.
20.    Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
21.    Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
22.    Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.
23.    Companies attempting to “position” themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about.
24.    Bombastic boasts: “We are positioned to become the preeminent provider of XYZ” – do not constitute a position.
25.    Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.
26.    Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets.
27.    By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep markets at bay.
28.    Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what’s really going on inside the company.
29.    Elvis said it best: “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds.”
30.    Brand loyalty is the corporate version of going steady, but the breakup is inevitable – and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.
31.    Networked markets can change suppliers overnight. Networked knowledge workers can change employers over lunch. Your own “downsizing initiatives” taught us to ask the question: “Loyalty? What’s that?”
32.    Smart markets will find suppliers who speak their own language.
33.    Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can’t be “picked up” at some tony conference.
34.    To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.
35.    But first, they must belong to a community.
36.    Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.
37.    If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market.
38.    Human communities are based on discourse – on human speech about human concerns.
39.    The community of discourse is the market.
40.    Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.
41.    Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.
42.    As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company- and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines.
43.    Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But only when the conditions are right.
44.    Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.
45.    Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an intranetworked corporate conversation.
46.    A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.
47.    While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to “improve” or control these networked conversations.
48.    When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the networked marketplace.
49.    Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.
50.    Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.
51.    Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.
52.    Paranoia kills conversation. That’s its point. But lack of open conversation kills companies.
53.    There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market.
54.    In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Almost invariably, the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control.
55.    As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and generate distrust in internetworked markets.
56.    These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other’s voices.
57.    Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner.
58.    If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very few companies have yet wised up.
59.    However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive companies as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from intersecting.
60.    This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies.
61.    Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that rings false – and often is.
62.    Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.
63.    De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you.
64.    We want access to your corporate information, to your plans and strategies, your best thinking, your genuine knowledge. We will not settle for the 4-color brochure, for web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but lacking any substance.
65.    We’re also the workers who make your companies go. We want to talk to customers directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a script.
66.    As markets, as workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual reports and third-hand market research studies to introduce us to each other?
67.    As markets, as workers, we wonder why you’re not listening. You seem to be speaking a different language.
68.    The inflated self-important jargon you sling around – in the press, at your conferences – what’s that got to do with us?
69.    Maybe you’re impressing your investors. Maybe you’re impressing Wall Street. You’re not impressing us.
70.    If you don’t impress us, your investors are going to take a bath. Don’t they understand this? If they did, they wouldn’t let you talk that way.
71.    Your tired notions of “the market” make our eyes glaze over. We don’t recognize ourselves in your projections – perhaps because we know we’re already elsewhere.
72.    We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.
73.    You’re invited, but it’s our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!
74.    We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.
75.    If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
76.    We’ve got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we’d be willing to pay for. Got a minute?
77.    You’re too busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe.
78.    You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.
79.    We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.
80.    Don’t worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it’s not the only thing on your mind.
81.    Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?
82.    Your product broke. Why? We’d like to ask the guy who made it. Your corporate strategy makes no sense. We’d like to have a chat with your CEO. What do you mean she’s not in?
83.    We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.
84.    We know some people from your company. They’re pretty cool online. Do you have any more like that you’re hiding? Can they come out and play?
85.    When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn’t have such a tight rein on “your people” maybe they’d be among the people we’d turn to.
86.    When we’re not busy being your “target market,” many of us are your people. We’d rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock. That would get your name around better than your entire million dollar web site. But you tell us speaking to the market is Marketing’s job.
87.    We’d like it if you got what’s going on here. That’d be real nice. But it would be a big mistake to think we’re holding our breath.
88.    We have better things to do than worry about whether you’ll change in time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?
89.    We have real power and we know it. If you don’t quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that’s more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.
90.    Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more true-to-life than the corporate web sites we’ve been seeing.
91.    Our allegiance is to ourselves—our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also have no future.
92.    Companies are spending billions of dollars on Y2K. Why can’t they hear this market timebomb ticking? The stakes are even higher.
93.    We’re both inside companies and outside them. The boundaries that separate our conversations look like the Berlin Wall today, but they’re really just an annoyance. We know they’re coming down. We’re going to work from both sides to take them down.
94.    To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.
95.    We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.

2.7.14

Doing my bit for Grand Depart in Yorkshire

Standing in a steady down-pour of rain that only Leeds could supply in late May, I and more than 5,000 other Grand Depart Tour Makers marshalled outside the Firstdirect Arena, waiting patiently for a full-sodden hour to be allowed to find out what we had volunteered for.
Pulling my hood over my head my first thought was – “all this just to wear a high visibility tabard”. However, the crowd, which spiralled in neat queues around the arena seemed to be cheerful enough in that dour, resentfully cheerful manner only Yorkshire people can muster. One young woman from Halifax joining the queue with her pal summed it up perfectly: “Cheer up you miserable buggers”.
But still the rain came down.
Later, after the presentations, inspirational videos and talks from Nicola Adams, Leeds' Olympic boxing champion – reflecting on the contribution of the Game Makers to the 2012 London Olympics -  Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, who is widely credited with bringing the Grand Depart to Yorkshire; and the wonderful Brian Robinson, the Huddersfield-born cyclist who was the first British rider to finish a Tour de France and the first to win a stage of the famous race, we all emerged into the blinding sunshine that only Leeds could supply in late May.
So why did I volunteer to be a Tour Maker?
Well, I had been lucky enough to go to the 2012 Olympics at Dorney Lake, near Windsor to witness Team GB take nine medals. As a competitive rower, albeit veteran, with Bradford Amateur Rowing Club, that was thrilling enough.
But what impressed me most was the Game Makers – an army of volunteers who had sacrificed their own time and resources to help make the London Games the success it was and which remains an indelible mark of our Britishness. In particular, I remember a cheerful black man, sat in a tall chair calling on everyone to smile as they entered the sports arena.
So, when the chance came to be part of what will probably be the biggest sporting event to ever run through the Broad Acres of Yorkshire, I jumped.
I was lucky. I was chosen. Many weren’t. The process of selecting a Tour Maker is long and, for the organisers, must be a logistical nightmare. For the would-be Tour Maker it begins with an online application, followed by video ‘interview’ – where you respond to camera to a set of questions. If successful you go to the next stage – again in the age of social media and the internet you complete your training online.
And then more than 5,000 us turn up at the Leeds Arena for ‘orientation’ – I know, I’m not sure what this means either – where we find out what is expected of us. It’s all organised by Asda, one of the Grand Depart’s main sponsors and I, for one, think they did a brilliant job. But this, being Yorkshire, there are some snipers.
Particularly online – the true home of moaners and whingers everywhere. A Facebook group has been established and the official Rendezvous website where Tour Makers can post their views on the organisation of the event thus far.
One, atypical whiner on Facebook complained: “Very disheartened with the whole organisation or lack of it. Still waiting to be told where my stage is, clearly it isn't in Leeds. To top it all I'm now lumbered with an off-route role. I'm just thinking sod it, if I don't have the information to do my role then what's the point?”
Others, frustrated with the complainers, simply posted: “Leaving this group had enough of some of the rubbish posted”. Another said: “Is anyone else finding the negativity on Rendevous disappointing tonight?”
Disappointing indeed! I live in Menston, two miles from Otley and Ilkley and have been assigned an off-route position between Skipton and Kettlewell, North Yorkshire, 30 miles away. Which means I won’t see the race.  Sad face. But that’s fine.
It might mean getting up at five in the morning to get to my roster meeting point on July 5 but I know there is going to be 10,000 of us Tour Makers supporting this event to ensure that everyone on the route, from all over the world, has a grand day out.
My role is Waymaker - there’s thousands of us – we’re here to look after you and make sure you enjoy your day. If you see me, say hello to Iggy, my nickname from school.
And while I am disappointed I don’t have a high-visibility tabard – I hope you won’t miss me in my lime green livery.

Another grand day out at Bradford Sprint Regatta

Hundreds of competitors and spectators from rowing clubs across the north of England descended on this year’s Bradford Sprint Regatta organised by Bradford Amateur Rowing Club (BARC), at Hirst Weir, Shipley.
The 600 metre course, down a gently curving River Aire, is a popular splash-and-dash sprint regatta which attracted crews from across the North including Mersey, Tees, York City, Ancholme, Sheffield and Doncaster.
The diminutive nature of this picturesque stretch of slack water above Hirst Weir means that West Yorkshire’s only regatta attracts a lot of pot hunters and novice crews seeking to notch up their first points. And this year was no exception with 142 crews competing in more than 40 events throughout the day – all in small boats.
The most heavily contested race of the day was the Junior 15A double sculls with several crews from across the north turning up to show their worth. In the event the final was decided between Curt Iles and Rhys Mould from Bradford and the York City duo of Charles Proctor and Alex Howe who snatched victory at a tight finish.
Charles said: “That was a hard close race and we were chased right to the end with Bradford coming back at us. I think they might have caught something in the end which allowed us to get away.”
Another tight finish saw Doncaster take the tankards off Ancholme in the women’s IM3 coxed fours while an inter-club grudge match between Bradford’s masters double sculls Smith and Hoskins and Dunhill and Hobbs saw the Smith boat go through to victory in the final in revenge for being beaten by the Dunhill crew at Tees Regatta.
Mersey, who travelled the furthest to compete at Bradford in a scratch crew in the men’s IM2 coxed four, beat Bradford’s crew by two lengths to pick up a pot. Originally, Mersey had no competition but Bradford likes to give everyone a race so put together a scratch crew to accommodate the Scousers with a race.
In the event the Merseysiders, coxed by Haley Rooney, beat Bradford with Matt Ward at stroke, Andy Coyne, Steve Forshaw and Chris Cheng at bow triumphed over a Bradford crew coxed by Sally Gowitts with Mick Brickley at stroke supported by Mike Gaunt, Simon Scull and bowman Carlo Smith.
Regatta Secretary Celia Hickson said: “Bradford Sprint Regatta is always a popular, cheerful event in the Northern rowing calendar, attracting crews from both the East and West coasts – today we had a contingent from the River Tees and the River Mersey – and always delivers some tight competitive rowing.
“The most far-flung club to attend was Mersey and they have had a great day along with everyone else – we pride ourselves on running a cheerful, friendly regatta and so it has proved today.
“This is my first year as Regatta Secretary and, I have to say, I am delighted how well it has gone – the weather has held good, the feedback from crews has been very positive. There has been a lot of junior competition but it’s been good to see so many mature mixed crews during the day.”
Also attending the event was a team from Hirst Weir Ltd (HWL), a charitable company set up by BARC to preserve the 750-year-old weir at Hirst Mill on the River Aire at Shipley, West Yorkshire set out its stall this.
Hirst Weir is an important historical structure in Shipley and is first mentioned in 1249. Its loss would be a major blow to BARC which has rowed from the weir for almost 150 years.
BARC President Richard Phillips said: “In the floods on July 2012 the weir suffered significant damage and was in danger of collapsing before emergency repairs were carried out by HWL funded by the club’s members and our annual regatta is the ideal occasion to raise funds to secure the future of the weir.”
Working in partnership with the Environmental Agency, HWL is now seeking to raise £600,000 to repair the weir and introduce a fish pass which would facilitate the free migration of fish to the upper reaches of River Aire including salmon, trout and eels.
Full results can be found at bradfordrowing.co.uk and details of the Hirst Weir project at hirstweir.co.uk.

Record entries at 150th York Regatta

As the GB Rowing Team men’s four, stroked by Yorkshireman Andrew Triggs Hodge, battered the competition at the second World Rowing Cup in France, another crew was celebrating in the 150th York Regatta at the weekend.
A women’s novice eight from Van Mildert College from Durham University had their own special victory when they won their first race and put points on their tally for the first time.
Audrey Bellis at stroke – like the rest of the crew - was ecstatic. She said: “That was a great race. We had a really strong start and went away from St Aidan’s College (also from Durham) from the beginning. We were rating an average of 36 but at one point we went up to 40. We’re delighted.”
With its long bend at the start, York Regatta is a testing race for all crews but makes for interesting competition with all the advantage on the Minster side of the River Ouse until crews come under the railway bridge where the race is normally decided, or, at least, balanced.
And so it was for the men’s IM3 coxed four which was taken by York City, beating Durham University’s Trevelyan College by two lengths at the boat house, stroked by Luke Cooper and backed up by Micah Cooper, Sebastian Reid and Paul Wainwright at bow.
One stand-out event was the Masters I quad race between York and Nottingham. The York quad featured local legend Dick Gradley, 82, an Olympic gymnast at the 1960 Games in Rome. Though beaten by the visitors from the Midlands, both crews earned the respect of the crowds who applauded enthusiastically.
Rounding off the regatta was the Challenge Cup, a blue riband event at York for coxed fours, which was captured mercilessly by the host team at the end of a long day.
Stroke, Dan Lewis, Ben Bollans, Gav Campbell, Chris Wright and cox Andy Wilkinson took the trophy from Durham University’s St Aidan’s College by a length and half.
A special mention must be made for Nottingham’s newest club, Devil’s Elbow, whose novice women’s double made an excellent debut and collected their first points.
Afterwards Regatta Secretary Anne Homa said: “It’s been a good day of racing. We’ve had 198 entries which is a massive record for us and very encouraging when you consider we had to cancel this event two years ago for lack of entries.
“We’ve had a lot of entries particularly at the junior level with schools across the region putting in crews. And, it being end of term, we have had a lot of crews from Durham University for their last hurrah.
“Also York is such a lovely setting, with the cathedral in the background, and the fact that the Tour de France is coming here in two weeks has brought a lot of people in as competitors and spectators.

12.6.14

Just so you know...

I am now also Northern Correspondent for Rowing & Regatta magazine - so expect a lot of stuff about rowing on this blog. This weekend I am at Durham Regatta - the oldest in the country...

Bertie's war - you couldn't make it up!

04.21.14 bertie war 2
Only the British army would take a ventriloquist’s dummy on the D-Day landings in 1944!
Yes, it’s true. A British Army Captain, took ‘Bertie’, a ventriloquist doll onto the beaches of Normandy in the first few days of invasion.
Admittedly, Bertie did wear an army uniform - even resplendent, proudly bearing a number of campaign medals.
Just imagine if he had got captured. Imagine the Gestapo trying to interrogate him!
I now have a new creative hero. Capt.E.H.‘Ted’ North.
Captain North landed on the Mike Sector of Juno beach shortly after June 6th.
A Member of the Magic Circle and a ventriloquist, he packed in his kitbag his dummy, Bertie, in uniform, ready for action.
Alongside getting into action, Ted ensured Bertie played his part, combining inspecting the D-Day battlefield and going on to entertain the troops and wounded soldiers to boost morale.
Thankfully, both Ted and Bertie survived the war. Yet, they returned to the Normandy beaches on various anniversaries and continued to entertain audiences of all ages, their last performance at the Harlow Playhouse in 1985, celebrating a partnership of 50 years together.
Ted passed away the following year.
Bertie is now retired and resides at the D-Day Museum, at Southsea, Hampshire, still proudly wearing his original uniform and medals, and still bringing a glow of pleasure to visitors.
Their story lives on however, in a delightful book I acquired at the Royal Warwickshire Regiment Museum. (There to trace my wife’s grandfather’s World War I records)
The book, titled Bertie’s War and published by Ted North’s family, contains absolute gems of the delight and absurdity of Bertie’s Normandy Tour.
Ted’s terrible puns caption pictures of Bertie, in uniform on the D-Day beach. “I’ve found some lovely shells on the beach” as Bertie sits among the spent ammunition is one typical bon mots.
Ted’s family recreated one of the act’s scripts [abridged version].

Ted: Wake up Bertie and get dressed quick, I’m taking you for a surprise trip to the seaside.  
Bertie:  A surprise trip? Do you mean like the surprise trip you had on the stairs last night when you got back from the Officer’s mess.  
Ted: Just put on your battledress and boots because we’ll be wading ashore.  
Bertie: Wading ashore? Gattledress and goots? What, on a nice sandy beach in France? I knew there’d be a catch in it, there always is - and what about my gucket and spade?  
Ted: You won’t be needing your gucket - I mean bucket….This is a very important mission because we are going to help our lads to liberate Europe from Hitler and his armies. Just think, you might even win some medals.  
Bertie: Medals? Really? Me? Well in that case pass me my uniform quick Ted, there’s no time to waste, I can’t wait to get at ‘em and get rid of that nasty old Hitler.

For me, Ted and Bertie still live on as creative heroes. If you are ever thinking down, demotivated, or just need a new strategy or direction, invoke the images of Ted and Bertie and their D-Day landings.
Fantasy Mentors are a brilliant 24 7 creativity tool. Whenever you are faced with a challenge simply pose the question to your role model: “How would Ted and Bertie tackle the problem of…?”
Before long, your mind is taking you instantly in new, sometimes unexpected directions and lines of inquiry. Try it now.
For me, I’m eternally grateful to Ted, Bertie and their generation for the sacrifices they made in defeating that ‘nasty old Hitler.
I’m also grateful for their joining my portfolio of Fantasy Mentors. With a Fantasy Mentor for any situation, I’m better equipped for any battle I face in my life, by being more capable to think flexibly, and think flexibly faster.
Thank you Ted and Bertie.
(Please do buy your copy of Bertie’s War)
04.21.14 bertie war cover

All That Was Left

All That Was Left: The remnants of Bede Company from the Durham Light Infantry
Since 1853 Durham Regatta’s blue riband is the Grand Challenge Cup, which this year garnered a significant resonance during the 100 anniversary of the First World War.
In 1910 a crew from the Durham University’s College of the Venerable Bede won the Grand by three-quarters of a length.
This “excellent” crew – R Wheldon (bow), RH Robson (2), JO Wilson (3), CE Walker (stroke) and cox AW Bramwell), won the cup by three-quarters of a length and were later to join the Durham Light Infantry alongside other students from the ‘Bede’.
‘A’ Company of Durhams were known as the Bede Contingent, comprising more than 100 students from the college. They were soon thrown into the front line trenches on Gravenstafel Ridge during the second battle of Ypres.
The Bedes’ spirit was not extinguished by their first experience of gunfire and the regimental history records that “'through the darkness came the voice of some irrepressible Bede College member of ‘A’ Company as a shell passed over: “Aye it reminds yer of Durham regatta. Now lads, up goes another! All together! Bang! Mind the stick!”  Then someone called “Who’s won the Grand?” And there were rival cries of “City!” and “Bede!”
In the fighting which followed on April 25, the Bede men helped save Ypres, but they suffered grievous losses with 17 killed, 10 wounded, and 31 taken prisoner. A picture after the conflict, shows the Bedes poised rather like a athletes posing for a post-race picture, with poignant message: All that was left.
The Bede men had good reason to wonder about the Grand at Durham - the regatta would have been due within a week or two – and the soldiers would not have been forgotten that the Bede had won the Grand Challenge Cup for the first time in 1910.
Of the Bede crew who had won the Grand in 1910, Robson was killed, Wheldon lost an eye, and the cox Bramwell became a prisoner of war. Only Wheldon is in the photograph.

19.12.13

RIP: Liverpool Daily Post

Today the last edition of the Liverpool Daily Post after 158 years – it’s a very sad day for regional journalism.
The Daily Post, a pioneering newspaper that challenged the decision makers of the city and Merseyside, was my first newspaper where I worked for a while on the subs’ bench for the business desk. Since then I have worked on a number of regional newspapers as well as a spell on Fleet Street.
Back then we thought newspapers would last for ever but even by the 1980s we could see circulations were declining and that strong regional journalism was at risk and then the internet came along and newspaper management were left scratching their heads about how they should respond.
Indeed, many simply ignored the world wide web and were unable to accept that the internet was one of those disruptive technologies which would impact on every industry including newspapers.
The slow, predictable decline of the UK's regional newspaper decline is continuing unabated.
For the 257 regional and local papers that reported stats for the first six months of this year, there was a total year-on-year decline in circulation from 7.32 million to 7.1 million - a drop of three percent. Very few publications had anything very positive to report when to print figures:
15 regionals saw a fall in circulation in excess of 20 percent.
61 suffered a decline of at least 10 percent.
 40 saw a rise in circulation, but only four of those added more than 10 percent.
It's not a great picture, but not a terrible one either. Industry-wide declines of three percent year-on-year seem sustainable for a while yet, even if some regionals are doing far worse than others. The transition from print to multiple digital screens is not an overnight phenomenon.
Among the top five dailies - total circulation dropped more than 40,000 year on year, or 10 percent of the total.
Looking at the sector from the outside – although I speak to journalists regularly – the future does not look good. Management still continue to make swinging job cuts, newsrooms are under staffed and under resourced.
There has always been a traditional of gallows humour in the newsroom. Even in my day when I think the regional press was still reasonably strong – the hacks would hark back to the good old days of boozy lunches, generous expenses and the opportunity to take the time to investigate and write really good news stories which impacted on peoples’ life. 
It’s a sad day for the Post – but I do not think this will be the last obituary written for the regional Press.

25.10.13

New book from my mate Joe Moorwood

Congratulations to my old colleague Joe Moorwood who has just had his first book published.
Joe, a former account manager with GREEN and now a fire fighter in South Yorkshire, wrote The Yorkshire Meaning of Liff.
Inspired by John Lloyd’s and Douglas Adams’ cult-classic The Meaning of Liff, first published thirty years ago, The Yorkshire Meaning of Liff recycles the lesser known place names of God’s own county, and twins them with all things in life there should be words for (aka ‘liffs’)…
John Lloyd says: “After 40 years in radio and television, I think I’m right in saying I have never produced a show, directed a movie or got involved in a book based on a script sent to me out of the blue by someone I’ve never met. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s never happened yet. Until now, that is.
“Joe first wrote to me earlier this year, after hearing an appeal on Radio 4 for contributions to a programme called The Meaning of Liff At 30. Designed to mark three decades in print of a book I wrote with Douglas Adams in 1983, listeners were invited to submit new ‘liffs’ – definitions of ‘things there should be words for’ brought to life by attaching them to a place name.
“Some 400 people responded to the BBC’s call and the standard of entries was impressively high, but one person in particular stood out. He had not, like most contributors, come up with one or two ideas, he had written an entire book.
Here’s some of Joe’s Yorkshire Liffs:
ARKSEY n.
The tilt of an imaginary pint glass to ask if someone on the other side of a noisy pub wants a drink.
BLUBBERHOUSES pl.n.
Holding areas used for guests on The Jeremy Kyle Show.
CROOME v.
To lock eyes with someone inside a parked car in the process of checking out one's appearance in their window.
FYLINGDALES pl.n.
An adolescent male's first attempt at sideburns.
HOULSYKE n.
The high-pitched screaming noise emitted by fairground ghost trains.
NORRISTHORPE n.
The first person in a motorway traffic jam to get out of their car and walk about sighing.
You can buy the book here.

11.9.13

Goodbye to the Bunker


Every day I drive past it in the morning on the way to work, and for many years I worked in it – under a murky glass dome in stygian gloom – and now that it’s going I can’t say I am sorry.
Anyone familiar with Leeds or northern provincial journalism will know the Yorkshire Post building on Wellington Street home to some great regional journalists and one of Yorkshire greatest indictments of 1960s Brutalist architecture. It always seemed risible to me that it was officially opened by Prince Charles The Carbunclist.
The huge joint newsroom – housing the Post and the Evening Post - was often referred to as the “bunker” as it was surrounded by grey concrete with no windows. Later is was known as the aquarium after the management thought it would be a good idea to paint the interior walls aqua-marine – which just seemed to add to the gloom.
English Heritage said in February the building would not be listed owing to the tight integration of the architecture with the building’s use for printing, and the loss of that use diminished “its ability to demonstrate its original function” and had “impacted on the integrity of the building”.
Yesterday it was announced the building in could be bulldozed, after a demolition order was submitted to Leeds City Council.
It was never a beautiful building compared with the old premises in Leeds city centre on Albion Street but it still contains many happy memories for me, especially through old colleagues. Nowhere else have I experienced the buzz I’ve had from a job other than as a journalist but even then back in the late 1990s we knew we were witnessing the last huzzah of good, quality journalism where the work of the reporters, sub-editors, production editors and snappers were still recognised by management.
Serious journalism was still cherished then before the swathe of takeovers and mergers turned regional newspaper journalism in to a homogenous mash of bland and tepid news reporting.
The building on Wellington Street, which used to house 1,300 people, is now empty with bug For Sale signs plastered all over it – which is a neat testament to the decline of regional journalism.
The Yorkshire Post is still there – stoutly supported by a loyal team of journalist determined to do their best during a time of cuts and redundancies. I wish them luck.

9.5.13