As could be expected, the explosion of what is thought to be a nail bomb in MEN Arena last night may be just one of the episodes in a series of attacks. Arndale shopping centre that you can see in pictures is now reported to be under attack, as people are being evacuated following a loud bang.
As you know, I spent 7 years in Manchester (although I travelled throughout England), so in a way this is a native city where I survived many a memory. So it is deeply saddening to hear about the teracts. I hope the police and citizens show vigilance and remain calm amidst the terror theats.
As it happens in England, the North-South struggle is on again. The closure may come as a way to keep London-based Science Museum open, Manchester Evening News reports. The National Science Group is said to be considering plans to cut funding to Manchester-based venue. BBC has more details.
The MOSI grew out of the old Science Museum and the Manchester Air and Space Museum, both were merged in 1986. The MOSI encompasses several buildings, including the 1830 Warehouse, where a part of exposition was dedicated to the Irish migration to Manchester during 19th c. I went to the museum many times, and it was often used as a venue for various events. In 2005 I was there with a BBC Bus and my old friend Paul as a story gatherer on People’s War campaign for the Beeb, in 2006 I went there for the opening of my first FutureSonic festival, and the first Social Technologies Summit, along with a few exhibitions, took place at the mentioned Warehouse. I did interviews with the artists there, and at one time a gallery assistant suggested us to use a baby changing room that was a part of a female toilet, although I was going to talk to a man. The last memorable exhibition I went to was The Body Worlds by the German Professor Gunther von Hagens. I could not make it to The Da Vinci Genius exhibition, but it was very actively prepared and promoted with the help of Social Media and Networks. On top of it all, this is a good place to practise photography 😉
The figures have it that the MOSI is visited by 830,000 people annually, which is no small number, considering that the majority of overseas tourists still gear towards London. One of my friends also mentioned on Facebook that her friend regularly brings school children from France to visit Manchester and always takes them to the MOSI. The museum is conveniently located towards the edge of the city centre, with a free shuttle bus going past it every 10 mins. Among the closests attractions are the Granada TV Studios, the Roman fort, the Beetham Tower and G-Mex, and the “Deansgate Mile”, as well as the fashionable Spinningfields area with the Guardian offices on Deansgate side and the People’s History Museum on the River Irwell’s bank in Bridge St. Oh, and don’t forget the Opera House in Quay St. St. John’s Garden is practically opposite the museum’s main entrance, having previously belonged to the church built by the Byrom family whose will ensured that the land was never to be built upon.
I don’t even begin to mention the amount of cafes, restaurants and pubs around the area. Suffices to say, there are plenty of things to do, prior or after visiting the MOSI. It has long been one of the main Manchester attractions that did not struggle to attract both adults and children. The story of Manchester scientific and industrial leap in the 18-19th cc. is mesmerising, but there is more we need to consider, than justs costs of running such museum.
Because I fear this is not the only victim of the funding cuts up North. For a literary piece that was loosely inspired by my visit to Heaton Hall and Park in spring 2009 I needed to pay another visit to the place. So when I went there this May I found that the Hall was not just closed for winter – it was entirely shut down. “Closed for the public” is not just the splendid mansion where restoration works helped to restore some of its bygone splendour. “Closed” are a floor-to-ceiling organ by Samuel Green from 1789, the only remaining set of paintings by the Polish architect Michael Novosielski (1750-1795), when he was yet a painter, a set of furniture by Gillows of Lancaster, and a magnificent suite of furniture that previously belonged to the Duke of Wellington who used to visit Heaton Hall and was very fond of its housemistress, Lady Wilton.
This is more than just an old building closing its doors – this is a whole part of history of the English North West, a resource that sheds tons of light on the tastes and habits of its people. Quite important is the fact that the Hall is a part of Europe’s largest municipal park and easy to visit: the metrolink tram station is exactly opposite the park entrance, and so are the bus stops to and from Bury. I did not investigate the reasons why the Hall was closed, but I would not be surprised if it was also due to “funding cuts”.
The MOSI is not in Prestwich, which may only be known in London if you are Jewish. It is in Manchester’s city centre and, as we saw above, attracts many foreign visitors, including children. As much as I love Arts and am not quite a techie person, I would be unconsolable if we lost the opportunity to study the technical and scientific progress of our nation close to our home. The MOSI surely provides this opportunity for the entire North of England, and this is what the London bosses might be trying to tap into. Perhaps, they think that, if the MOSI is closed down and its collection is moved down south, then people from Scotland and the North of England come to London more often. Of course, I assume that Manchester collection would not just be abandoned or sold by piece. But… it’s silly to think that this would increase a visitor flow to London museums. The costs of going and staying in the capital at the time of severe economic downturn are not going to be taken up by many, if any, Northern families.
And at the same time closing one of prominent Northern museums would severely impact the educational prospects. As a venue and a cradle of information and objects that can inspire future engineers and inventors, the MOSI is indispensable. With less things to learn and do, children are more likely to spend time in the streets, getting involved in gangs, drug abuse, and “anti-social behaviour” of all kinds. Instead of a Northern Rutherford or its female “version” we will get yet another drugged Salford guy with a pregnant teenage girlfriend, applying for benefits and living in a run-down council flat that can be taken away from them at any moment. And when this happens we as the society will shake our heads and wonder, at exactly what point the former glory of Britain went to the dogs.
Finishing now, I do not want this piece to come across as yet another helpless outcry. I think we should consider what measures we can take to save the MOSI. I am sure there are many people throughout Manchester who would gladly volunteer to help at the museum, if it struggles to maintain the staff. And if this means bringing the payment back for the time being, then why not? Just make sure it goes to the MOSI coffers, not elsewhere. I think of it this way: if it costs 4 quid to buy a bus ticket that is valid all day, then how much more can you afford to pay on top of that for a single museum visit that can last all day? And there may also be a family ticket, and an option for a child up to a certain age to go in for free, and maybe even a “frequent visitor ticket” or a “weekend visitor ticket”. It’s not something that we’d like to do, of course. However, I have come to believe that, whatever alleviations the government of any country is prepared to give to its citizens, people must not stop helping themselves, including financial help, be that for art venues, civil initiatives, or something else that directly affects their lives.
Last night The Northern has welcomed yet another digital event. In spring the venue hosted a Digital Marketing event (the one organised by David Bird of FaceBookCreep), and now we all gathered there yet again, for the first (but clearly not last) Social Media Cafe.
And wasn’t it great! Over 80 people attending, a great selection of panelists (Craig McGinty, Chi-chi Ekweozor and Martin Bryant) chaired by Sarah Hartley, a load of good questions, and a thoroughly enjoyable communication and networking that ended – for some – next door to The Northern, at Matt & Phred’s. Ideas are already thrown around for the subject for the next get-together, and the whole organisation is a fantastic example of – sorry, folks, getting on an Digital Marketing soapbox for a second – what digital/Social Media tools and platforms can be used to power an event or to create a community, and how. There are now: a Google Group, a Wiki, a Flickr group, a Yahoo! Pipe, a Twitter stream, not to mention all the coverage in blogs and in print (The M.E.N., that is). Read Sarah Hartley’s round-up post that includes a video of the debate.
Some points that I’ve found particularly important or interesting were:
– the importance of a blog’s design on people’s opinion about the site. Apparently, it works very simply as: if you’re using a default template and never did anything creative with it, shame on you and no readership, no matter how good you write. This brought to mind a phrase I have long loved, something along the lines: “when a pivotal moment arrives, a man thinks: ‘what shall I say?’, and a woman thinks: ‘what shall I wear?’” To extrapolate this on to blogging, bloggers, regardless of gender, seem to worry more about the platform and design, rather than content. It would be an exaggeration, of course, to conclude that bloggers have a “female” streak about them, and I obviously realise the importance of a design for brand management and marketing. However, it all comes down to what a consumer (reader) pays for (in their free time, if not money), and it clearly isn’t just the look of one’s product.
– what is blogging about: collaborating or self-broadcasting? This was a very good question, but I was surprised that panelists solely focused on comments as the measure of communication and/or collaboration. It is so to an extent, but – hands up! – when I link to someone’s site or article, I don’t always leave a comment on their site, to let them know. Similarly, I often find out that someone linked to me from my blog’s statistical data or a Google Alert, not from a reader’s comment. The access to this data and its analysis are pivotal in making a blog something more than a self-broadcasting venture. First and foremost, it teaches a lesson of responsibility. Next, some search queries can actually hint at the topics that may be interesting to explore. Also, the conversation about your blog or the use of it may be happening without you even knowing about this. The links to various posts on this blog can be found on Wikio, Ask, Google Books, but naturally, no-one from Google would write to me informing about the link. Finally, some findings can be very pleasant, like in the image on the left. Just this afternoon I followed an incoming link from Alexa, where Los Cuadernos de Julia is currently in the Top 10 Arts Weblogs. But I don’t loiter on Alexa every day, you see.
At the same time I don’t think it is possible to strictly distinguish between collaboration and self-broadcasting, when we speak of a blog written by a single author. In this case the author often not only creates the content, but also represents themselves as a brand, with the necessity to manage it as one of the consequences, hence she or he is also doing their own online PR.
Here also fits a comment from the audience during our night at The Northern: can blogging be seen as just a means to satisfy various human needs, be it vanity, or sharing experiences with people, and so on. It certainly can, but I much favoured Craig’s point about William Blake who is well-known to have published his own books. This didn’t earn him much income or fame in his lifetime, but it was him who had a significant impact on the Pre-Raphaelites. It was the Brotherhood, as a matter of fact, that re-discovered William Blake, just like Surrealists and Man Ray helped to re-discover Eugene Atget. I think there is a need for bloggers themselves to know why they are out there, while admitting that other people may enter blogosphere (and stay there) for their own reasons and needs.
– the future of blogging. I have little to add to the ideas of panelists, those being: 1) GPS and mobile technology; 2) multimedia blogging; 3) data portability; and 4) corporate blogging. But one obvious thought comes to mind: there will be more information, its dissemination, and the problems of its regulation. By the look of it, even now many people don’t know what blogs are, and many are petrified at the prospect of blogging. But what scares them most is not the technical things, but rather the sharing and presentation of information. What can be published? Who can read it? How can they use it? Robin Hamman explored this last year on BBC Manchester Blog, following the Virginia Tech tragedy. Yet people are ready to answer these questions and to really go beyond some blank guidelines in the style of “love thy neighbour lest you be libelled”. So, there will be not only an influx of general information in the guise of our posts, pictures, videos, etc, but also an influx of educational posts or websites that will serve to illustrate the opportunities of blogging and Social Media.
So, it’s looking bright and shiny both for blogging and for Social Media Cafe. I’ll continue blogging about blogging (sic) over at Avidadollars, and keep your eye on The Mancunian Way for the complete coverage. The next date is already announced, and it is 9th of December. I keep my fingers crossed it doesn’t get changed… If you want to attend, head over to #smc_mcr and put yourself on the list.
I have previously been to three print publications (all in Russia), and in England I spent two years at the BBC Manchester newsroom. The impression of the vibe has not effaced, but in comparison to all four The MEN newsroom is living at neck breaking speed. First established in 1868, the paper has now got several formats, including online edition, and works closely with Manchester’s own TV station, Channel M.
Thanks to Sarah Hartley of The MEN, on the evening of September 17th 2008 a group of Manchester bloggers got the chance to visit the site of Manchester’s main print publication. The tour of the newsroom included quick stops by design editor Peter Devine, assistant news editor Paul Gallagher, the chief sub Paul Coates, before we all migrated to an auditorium for teas&biscuits and a Q&A with deputy editor Maria McGeoghan. Throughout the two hours of brainstorming the modern news environment (in all applicable senses) we were guided by the wonderful Helen Read. After that we went to The Old Grapes and spent another two hours debating all things online, though not forgetting of the crossover of the new and traditional media.
I thought of how best to describe my impressions and decided I best blog about the pictures I took at The MEN. You can find them all, some with my comments, in the MEN Blogmeet September 2008 set on Flickr.
The new environment.
The MEN in Scott Place stands just behind the glass Royal Bank of Scotland building, which also houses Wagamama on the ground floor. Although the building itself boasts the fashionable glassy look, its very location is a curious indicator of the position the newspaper occupies vis-a-vis Time. If you face the building, behind it you will see Spinningfields, an uber-contemporary business-cum-residential site in Manchester. But if you are approaching Scott Place from John Dalton St/Deansgate, you are walking past the original John Rylands Library and many old edifices. Turn your back on Scott Place, and in the distance you will see the pseudo-Gothic spire of the Town Hall. The nearest Quay St is again the place for many old buildings, not to mention The Old Grapes pub which nicely reminds one of the Victorian Manchester. The story of being a crossing point for different timelines continues inside, where through the window of a light and vibrant newsroom one can see the brick walls of an old building. The past and present never separate, and The MEN is bridging the two, extending the path into the future. And so for 140 years.
How do you read your MEN?
If you are observant of how people read newspapers, you will have learnt by now that they usually read it either from the first (editorials) or from the last (sport) page. Gender and age don’t really matter, although for men the paper often tends to begin from the end. The sports desk is therefore an extremely important corner of the MEN newsroom, with the majority of coverage naturally focusing on Manchester’s two competing teams: Manchester City and Manchester United. And this was what Helen Read was explaining, before adding that, when joining the desk, one has to declare their “religion”. The question from one of the bloggers followed: “Is it true, would you say, that The MEN is more biased towards the City team?” As you can sense from the picture on the left, the question was very daring, if not outrageous.
However, reports, stories and features are obviously printed before the sports section. Peter Devine, design editor, related a few examples of mashing up the front page design in no time, which topic was later elaborated by both Paul Gallagher (left) and Paul Coates (right). The decision about the story’s focus and length is greatly dictated by the crossover of media and the story’s better suitability to the print, online, or TV format. Last but not least, headlines are the Tantalus labour, and writing them is just one part of the story. Sometimes a mock headline is produced in order to design the page, and so the other part of the story is not to forget to put in the correct headline.
Saving the news.
“Old news is no news” we are told, but the librarians who work on storing the paper archives would certainly refute this. And not only because, by accumulating the archive of paper clippings and microfilms, the paper’s history is thus being created and preserved. Surprisingly, it is easier to refresh the memory of the story by going through the clippings rather than by browsing articles online. The three “outstanding” sections of the MEN library are dedicated to the Moors murders, the Yorkshire Ripper, and the Harold Shipman case.
The library also holds a selection of front pages, and I snapped the monochrome one, from the Wednesday, March 26, 1980 edition. I had only just beginning my life in my mother’s womb. But it was not this that captivated me. It was a front page note of His Royal Highness Prince Philip not going to attend the Olympic Games in Moscow. Somehow the tour of the newsroom turned out to be practically all about sport for me.
Your Comments, Please!
Everyone would agree that the biggest achievement of the online collaboratory media happened to be in the opportunity for the readers to voice their opinion. Voxpop is no longer just a talk to a lonely passer-by on a rainy Friday afternoon. Today it often presents itself in the guise of a reader’s comment on an article, and during the Q&A with deputy editor Maria McGeoghan the pluses and minuses of opening up the comments were discussed. What has just been called “the biggest achievement” can deal a duff hand to the paper, as well as to the journalist, if the two ignore the basic rules of conduct. But readers’ comments can also shed more light on the story, or be the stories in themselves. Even the critical comments are the blessings in disguise, for they keep the paper and reporter in check for errors and, if anything, can drive the excellent results.
I wholeheartedly agree with Sarah that the next blogmeet should happen soon. In fact, the closest one will be the Manchester Blog Awards. In the meantime, thanks a lot to all who responded and attended. It was great to see you all, be that new or old faces. Thanks also to The MEN, Sarah Hartley, and all journalists who volunteered their time to meet with what now seems to be “the sixth power”. And the best to all of us!