Tuesday 30 June 2015

Time for my annual rant about Glastonbury

Spoof infographic that even fooled The Guardian!
My Dad once assurred me that if I lived long enough, sooner or later I'd conclue that Planet Earth was a madhouse and all of the inhabitants are seriously bonkers. I was about 14 at the time and I hadn't got a clue what he was on about. He also told me his Dad had told him the same thing when he was a teenager (not that teenagers existed in the 1930's). I'm not altogether sure whether his comment was a result of his experiences in WWII as a bomber pilot or as a result of my teenage (and abiding) obsession with Punk Rock. When I was a teenager, the only people who went to "Rock Festivals" were hippy hippy kids (remember the ol punk motto "never trust a hippy") who wanted to escape their parents and smoke dope. As I watch Glastobury, it seems that now it is the parents who go to Glastonbury to smoke dope and escape from their kids! Even stranger is the fact that a recent poll in the Guardian showed that the vast majority of Glastonbury fans are either Tories or UKIP supporters ( I wonder what my a who was a Conservative would have made of that) (ed note - This poll turned out to be a spoof, but even the Guardian didn't realise! I suppose that tells a story in itself) . It seems that Glasto has morphed into something no one woul ever have dreamed of when the first festival was held in the early 1970's. For many it is the highlight of the musical year, to me though, this is not what music is about.  Let me explain.

If you have the Sky Box sets feature, there is a box set of "So It Goes", the iconic 1976/77 Granada TV show hosted by Tony Wilson (later of Factory Records fame). I discovered this on Saturday night when I'd had enough of watching Kayne West at Glastonbury (in truth after about 3 mins of his show). It confirmed what I've always believed, that 1977 was the pinnacle of music. I've always hated large venues, festivals and overly produced music. There has been plenty of great stuff since then, but in that period there were fantastic bands playing every night of the week in London and the hard thing was choosing which one to go to. Venues such as The Marquee (Wardour St), The Music Machine, The Roundhouse, The Moonlight, The 100 Club and Dingwalls were all hosting brilliant bands every night at affordable prices. Dingwalls had half price booze before 8pm, so if you played your cards right it was a cheap night. The Music Machine would give cut price offers for the next weeks midweek gigs out at the gig. Many of us would go simply for the atmosphere, if the band were crap we'd play pool in one of the upper level bars. At Dingwalls, you'd bump into Lemmy at the bar and he'd honour you by cadging a beer off you. 

Watching So it Goes, you realise just how far PA systems have come, but how stale and sterile music is at the moment. I got to episode 2. I loved the footage of the fight at the Penetration gig, where an arse got a good slap for spraying beer on Pauline. It says a lot that all of the best gigs I saw were in small or medium sized venues with what we would now consider sub standard PA systems and lighting in many cases.

As far as I can tell, the sole reason Kayne West appeared at Glasto was to enhance the TV rights sales for the US audience. Glastonbury is nothing more than a massive cash fest these days, it may be full of Tory hippies seeking their long lost youth, but the biggest smiles are on the faces of the organisers bankers. We need to get past the view that "bigger is better" when it comes to live music. I've no idea where it all went wrong, but it has and it breaks my heart. Watching So it goes just reminded me what we've thrown away.

Monday 29 June 2015

Dyslexia Blog - Is my fear of socialising in large groups of people a dyslexic trait?

For those of you who haven't read my dyslexia blogs before, here is a little preamble and introduction, so you know who I am and what I do and why I write this stuff. For those of you who know the story, skip to the end of the paragraph for todays installment. Let me give you a bit of Background so you know who I am and what I do. I was born in 1962. I didn't start talking until I was 4 years old (at all, not a single word). My parents thought I was deaf. My reading age at eleven was 5. When I was fifteen I started a rock and roll band called the False Dots, the band is still going strong. When I was 16 I started a business called Mill Hill Music Complex (although then it was simply called the studio), a rehearsal studio, as we had nowhere to rehearse. The business has grown into a very successful enterprise, one of Londons biggest and most well respected independent studios. We now have 16 studios and a music shop and also have a photography/video studio and a dance studio. I also have done IT work, mostly on a freelance basis since 1983. In 2012 I also moved into film production, producing two highly acclaimed documentary films, both of which had screenings at the House of Commons. When I was 31, a friend suggested I had a dyslexia test. To my surprise I was told I was moderately dyslexic. This made me interested in the subject. To my amazement, what I have learned over the years is that my lack of educational aptitude, my feelings of anger and injustice and the core of my personality have been formed by the fact I cannot read words in a linear fashion. In 2013, I have set one of my objectives to use this blog to let dyslexics know they are not alone, to suggest that people who think they may be dyslexic to get an assessment and toget people who have dyslexic children or siblings to understand the issues that they face.

Today I had a eureka! moment. Have you ever suddenly realised that a huge part of your character and how people perceive you  is not how you perceive yourself? Have you ever suddenly realised that in fact you are not really seen by others as you actually feel. When you realise this have you ever heard a penny drop and worked out why?

Well today was one of those moments. My wife casually mentioned that one of the Mill Hill Music Festival committee members had commented to her that I was a miserable sod and I never smiled. I am sure that those weren't the exact words, but that is pretty much the jist of it. It seems they weren't being critical, just puzzled as to why I am not the life and soul of the party. At first I was taken aback. Am I really so grumpy and miserable? Part of the reason could be that when I do something like the festival, I see it as work and so I like to focus. But there is more to it. If you meet me 1 to 1 and have a chat with me, you'd probably conclude I am quite a cheerful soul. But I find that as soon as there are more than 3-4 people in a group, my brain shuts down and I become socially inept. I have a mechanism for dealing with this in most situations. At dinner parties I sit at the end of the table, so I only ever have to engage with 2 or 3 people, which is quite managable. But in some scenarios, I am forced to be in social situations, where there are 5 or 6 or even more people all talking at once. I find that this overloads my brain. By the time I've thought of a witty riposte, the conversation has moved on. The easiest way to manage this is to ensure that you avoid these situations, but it isn't always possible and it is always uncomfortable. I realised long ago that my brain works at 2/3rds the speed of "normal" brains for tasks like reading, but it hadn't occurred to me before that this may be also true for talking to people. In a 1 to 1 conversation, it isn't noticable, but in a large group my brain is swamped beyond it's capacity.

Over the years quite a few female friends have told me that for a bloke I'm quite a good listener. It has struck me that this may just be because my brain doesn't process the information quick enough to get a response out very often. I don't consider myself thick, so I do get a response out in the end and when it has been thought about, it is usually quite a sensible response, but in a large crowd this facility shuts down.

I was wondering if there are any other dyslexics out there who have similar issues and if so, is there a strategy beyond hiding? I'd be intrigued.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Songs of Praise in Mill Hill

This morning we had the BBC filming at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Mill Hill. They had come to film a mass of remembrance for Anthony Fatayi Williams, a young Londoner killed in the 7/7 attack on the London Underground. It is ten years since the terrible events. Marie Fatayi Williams, mother of Anthony, received international acclaim for her incredible speech of forgiveness for her sons murderers. At the time Mrs Fatayi Williams said "Hatred begets only hatred. It is time to stop this vicious cycle of killing. We must all stand together for our common humanity". Her inspirational comments, calling for forgiveness and spelling out the senselessness of such atrocities struck a chord with people across the globe. Mrs Fatayi Williams has subsequently been interviewed numerous times for radio and TV speaking out against hatred and violence.  She is a member of the Sacred Heart congregation and has often spoken warmly of the support the parish has given her. The BBC came to Mill Hill to film her at mass and to interview her, to help promoter her message that violence is not the way. 

Like Anthony, I was travelling to work on the Underground that day. I was lucky enough to miss the carnage. I arrived on a train from Mill Hill to Kings Cross, only to find that the tube was suspended. I had to get to Debenhams head office in Oxford Street, so I jumped on a bus. It got no more than 100 yards, when a very aggressive policeman kicked everyone off. It turned out that the bus in front had been blown up in Great Russell Street. As I walked down the Euston Road, I saw people walking up, dazed and covered in detritus from the blown up bus. At that time I didn't know what had happened. I only found out in Tottenham Court Road, when I stopped at a cafe for a cup of tea and saw the news. I've had a few close shaves with bombs over the years in London, most notably the Victoria Station bomb and one in the City. Like tens of thousands of Londoners, these things happen in places we see every single day we work. With the Victoria bomb, I walked across the Station forecourt ten minutes before the bomb went off. As these were pre mobile phone days, I only even started to hear about it at lunchtime. 

What I've come to realise will not make happy reading for terrorists. The truth is that there is no point committing atrocities in London. The citizens are too resilient. They get on with each other. I doubt that there are any Londoners of 100% English stock. We are a mixture of every race and creed under the sun. We work with and socialise with people of all creeds and colours. Only an idiot would think that a few bombs would change that. The likes of Tony Blair and David Cameron will not change their policies because of a few nutcases letting off bombs. They are generally unaffected by such atrocities, it is the ordinary people suchg as Anthony who suffer.

Such terrible events brings out the good in people. Mrs Fatayi Williams is testimony to this. The church was packed and Mrs Fatayi Williams laid on a buffet in the hall after. It was full with people from all around the world. We all get on. It was a lovely service. Fr Noel who said the mass, commented that it would be nice if the BBC could come every week as it had been a lovely mass. That got a laugh. The truth is that our community stands together and it is nice for that to get some national TV coverage.

Saturday 27 June 2015

Network Rail and the big Tory lie

As we approached the last election, like many people, I found myself struggling with a deep dilemma. As I assessed the options I was faced with, it was clear to me (and so it seems to everyone else on the planet if you believe what they say) that I felt that Ed Miliband was not up to being Prime Minister. Back in 2011 I met Ed Miliband at the House of Commons as part of a delegation from the Federation of Small Business, to discuss Labour policy towards small business. It was clear to me within 2 minutes of meeting him that he wasn't up to the job. From that moment I always felt the Labour party were on course for a sound spanking at the polls, unless they faced up to the fact that they'd chosen the wrong man.

Having accepted this fact, I started to take a bit more interest in the likely shape of the new Parliament. Like most commentators, I thought the likely outcome of the 2015 general election would be a new coalition. Whilst I thought the Lib Dems would lose a few seats, I took the view that in the areas where they had MP's they would generally hang on, as I thought they had an effective party machine.

What I didn't consider (and I think most Lib Dems failed to consider either), is just how brutal and ruthless the Tory party machine is. Lynton Crosby clearly took the view that to win a majority, it was the Lib Dems rather than Labour who needed to be targetted. He rightly took the view that this vote was "soft". I have formed the view over the last five years that Lib Dem voters fall into two camps. There are voters who veer towards Labour and hate Tories, who vote Lib Dem to keep the Tories out. Lynton Crosby took the view that these would by and large desert the Lib Dems and make the seats winnable. The other group, I believe the larger group, are the Tory leaning Lib Dems. This group distrust Labour and see it largely as a tool of the trades unions. They are too nice to be Tories, not buying into Europhobia, not supporting deep social welfare cuts and being largely supportive of green policies.

As the Lib Dems had been in coalition with the Tories, this group had been "softened up" to the concept of voting Tory. For Lynton Crosby, the secret of winning the Tories a majority was to convince this group that a Tory vote was not going to destroy the hard work that the coalition had done. A whole raft of policies had been developed that specifically target such voters. Pretty near the top of this list was the program of railway modernisation. This included electrification of the Midland Mainline and the Trans Penine route.

It is quite ridiculous that the countries main rail links are not electrified. The mainstay of the Midland mainline train fleet are the HST fleet. These were built in the early 1970's and are nearly 40 years old. How many cars of that vintage are still on the road? The fleet was originally developed for the East Coast mainline as a stop gap until the route was electrified. They were then cascaded to the Great Western route and the Midland line. Whilst the trains have a theoretical top speed of 125 mph, for much of the Midland line, this speed is unachievable. The Midland route is the cinderalla route of the British railways network. It has been the victim of chronic underinvestment ever since the creation of British Rail. As a result, important cities such as Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby and Leicester have a second rate service. The southern part of the route, as far as Bedford, has been given a significant investment as part of the Thameslink programme, but this has delivered nothing for the people of the major Midlands.

Perhaps even more important for many people in the North was the Trans Penine electrification, linking Leeds and Manchester and creating a Northern super hub. This would provide a massive boost for the North and help rebalance the economy, where the South East is overheating, whilst the North is in semi recession. George Osborne had even received tacit support of many Labour metropolitan councils with his plans.

The promise to rectify this scandalous waste of resources was for many people a deal clincher. I have many friends and business contacts in the North and Midlands and many were terrified that Miliband would get in, screw the economy and cause the cancellation of Osbornes ambitious infrastructure plans. As such many who'd never voted Tory jumped on board, and many marginals in the Midlands that people expected to see fall to Labour, stayed Blue.

But as ever, once the election is out of the way, we find out what a bunch of lying shisters we hav running the country. The plans, so vital for our economy, have been "suspended". It is clear that Osborne new this would happen months ago. In short, the Tories won on a big lie. Sadly, this is a big lie that will eventually cost our economy tens of billions of pounds. These projects would have sparked a mini boom in many depressed areas and helped join the country up. Sadly, the people of the Midlands and the North are being sacrificed, so that George Osborne can give his rich city friends a tax cut.

And to me, that just shows how completely unfit he is to run the country.

Friday 26 June 2015

The Friday Joke - 26/6/2015 - How To Maintain A Healthy Level Of Insanity in RETIREMENT

This one did rather aamuse me

At lunch time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on, point a hair dryer at passing cars, and watch them slow down!

On all your cheque stubs, write, 'For Marijuana'!

Skip down the street rather than walk, and see how many looks you get.

With a serious face, order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat.

Sing along at The Opera.

When the money comes out of the ATM, scream 'I Won! I Won!'

When leaving the Zoo, start running towards the car park, yelling, 'Run For Your Lives! They're Loose!'

Tell your children over dinner, 'Due to the economy, we are going to have to let one of you go....’

Pick up a box of condoms at the pharmacy, go to the counter and ask where the fitting room is.

And The Final Way To Keep A Healthy Level Of Insanity: My Favourite:

Go to a large Department store’s fitting room, drop your drawers to your ankles and yell out, “There’s no paper in here!”


#SaveLondonMusic - support our gig

We are pleased to announce that MHMC in conjunction with https://www.facebook.com/ChandosArmsPub will be hosting a night of live music on Friday 10th July. Confirmed artists are Black Doldrums, The False Dots. Lauren Lucille BossaBandits. Live music from 8pm. Free Entry ‪#‎KeepItLive‬ - This is hopefully the first of a regular event to ‪#‎SaveLondonMusic‬ so please come down and support it.

Bring your details down if you are in a band and we may be able to fix you up with a gig!

If you enjoyed the BBC Elstree Concert Band at The Mill Hill Music Festival, you can catch them again at the Ark Theatre on Saturday 27th June. They will be playing a set as part of the commemoration of VE and VJ day with music from the likes of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller


Thursday 25 June 2015

Planet Earth Calling......

Our planet has been circling the sun for 4.6 billion years
The first single cell life forms appeared 3.6 billion years ago
Life forms first started reproducing sexually 1.2 billion years ago
360 million years ago the first land based life forms appeared
The first Primates appeared 60 million years ago
250,000 years ago the first anatomically modern humans appeared
60,000 years ago the first musical instruments appeared, these were flutes made of bone
4,000 years ago the first drums were produced in Egypt
3,300 years ago the Hitites produced the first stringed instruments
In 1877 Thomas Edison made the first sound recording
The first electrically amplified guitar was invented by George Beauchamp in 1931.

It has taken us 4.6 Billion years of evolution, but now you can pick up your mobile phone (invented in 1973 incidentally) and book a rehearsal in our fantastic rehearsal studios in Mill Hill to make the most glorious rock and roll known to mankind. It has taken us 4.6 billion years.

We hope it was worth the wait!

I don't normally use my blog to plug my business, but you have to admit that as they are the very pinnacle of evolution, it would be rude not to. As my regular readers will have no doubt been aware, we held an extremely successful music festival in Mill Hill last week and we'll be holding another one in two years time. Who knows, if you start a band you may be the star attraction at the 12th Mill Hill Music festival. 

Tuesday 23 June 2015

How to plan a local music festival

Embedded image permalink
Want to run a local music festival? Here's how
Anyone ever wonder what you have to do to stage a local music festival? We are not talking about Glastonbury or Reading, we are talking local with several venues of audiences of 100-400 people in local venues. Having been doing this in Mill Hill for the last 12 years, I guess now is a good time to write down how we did it and when we did what. Of course, this is my take on it. The rest of the committee may take a different view, but here is a rough plan for the ten months leading up to the festival and all of the things you will find yourself considering if you want a successful event. For the Mill Hill Music Festival this year we had 13 events over nine nights at eight different venues.

This is a  rough plan, the dates are approx. We hope this comes in useful for your planning. As you can see, there is probably a bit more to it than maybe you thought. There are also plenty of bits missed out, small details that matter, which I have forgotten!

July 2014 - convene the committee, see who is up for doing it. Ideally you need about ten people on the committee to have enough people to cover everything. We don't have a chair as such, just the following roles which we cover

1 x treasurer
1 x Web/PR/design 
2 x Logistics
2 x Bar/catering
2 x Alcohol licensees
10 x Leafletters
2 x Programme advertising sales person
1 X Insurance and legalities
2 x Ticketing
2 x Mailout
3 x Mailing list verification etc

2 x Technicians 
1x  Carpenter/ builder 
4 x Lugger/roadie/general dogs bodies 

We also decide when we will have it. This is key and it is important to do this before the summer holidays so people can keep the space clear for the following year in outr diaries. The MHMF always avoids (or tries to) major football tournaments, Wimbledon and The Rugby World cup. All of these type of events will mean people are not going out. Having decided to run the festival, the next job is to secure venues. If the venues are unavailable, then no festival. this process start in July but will go on for a period of months. We make up a wish list of venues and then get to work, if we want a specific band for a specific event, we may also start making enquiries. We will roughly work out how many days we want to do and start/end dates.

September. We have another meeting. This is to review progress on venues and to start pencilling in events. We try and work out a draft program and then fill in the blanks. We also start discussing how we will approach publicity and any lessons learned from previous festivals (this is where my festival diary comes in handy).  Another important item is a draft budget. We have a surplus from the previous festival, which pasy for pre festival costs. These have to be managed with available funds.

October. This is another review meeting and one where we discuss deadlines. This is deadlines for venues, acts and publicity material. Dan who does the program and website  likes to get all of this sorted by the end of January, however it often drags into February or March before all details are finalised.

November. By now, artists and venue details should be largely agreed. Often there will be a wishlist of artists and there is hot debate about these. In our festival various members take responsibility for organising particular events. We need to know which events need bars etc, and who will run them,.

 We don't meet in December, so as the next meeting will be January, when the DL program will be required, the following tasks are usually allocated to committee members and deadlines agreed. We also need to agree ticketing details and where/how we are selling them.

- DL programme :
  - get preliminary copy from respective acts and groups  + high res images together
  -  edit copy and crop images for use in DL programme design
  - liaise with all necessary parties to ensure everyone is happy with the copy

 We also need to workout a draft budget and prices for events. To work out prices, we also need to know the artist costs, hall costs and other costs.

January.  The January meeting is largely about agreeing the DL draft based on the tasks above. We will also make a more detailed plan, allocating people to do such tasks as arranging insurance, allocating a committee member to book TEN licences etc. We will also consider the high level logistics of the various gigs. This is more at a level to ensure that we can logistically support the events, rather than detailed plan.

Februrary. If all is on schedule, this is largely about planning the logistics of the advertising campaign. Who will print envelopes to mail DL's, validation of mailing list. Where and when we'll leaflet.  How we'll approach papers etc and when

Agreeing all details for website (largely the same as the DL's). There is also the issue of printing DL's

DL programme.

  - finalise DL programme
  - go through DL programme with printers
  - pick up programmes from printers


- Website:
 - wireframe website
- full design of website
- create and develop website
- add content to website

 This is when we will start mailing DL's to our mailing list., We also hand deliver leaflets to Mill Hill areas. We also start working on other publicity such as posters etc and selling advertising for festival week programme. The website will also be finalised.

- Posters:
  - design and create various posters for general events and individual events
  - get posters printed
  - distribute posters to venues, libraries and other places with programmes

We need to get tickets prinred and the box office sorted. We are lucky to have Mill Hill Wines in the Broadway as our box office. We also sell via Paypal on the website.

- PayPal:
  - set up PayPal sell buttons and incorporate into website

- Posters:
  - design and create various posters for general events and individual events
  - get posters printed
  - distribute posters to venues, libraries and other places with programmes 

Other tasks include
Design and get Tshirts


This is all about logistics. Ensuring nothing is missed and there is a full plan. Items that we need to get in the plan

- Insurance
- TEN licences
- Band riders/requirements (eg piano tuners)
- List of advertisers & draft programme for festival week
- finalised budget
- Leafletting plan

This meeting is all about details. Although much of this will already be ageed in draft, the following must be agreed in May

- who will run PA/Lights
- Who will run bars
- Who will man doors
- Who will Put banners etc up (this alone takes a couple of days of 2 peoples time)
- Who will manage ticket sales thru various outlets.
- Who will liaise with venues in run up and on day
- Who will manage artists site visits
- Which PA system we will use
- Which lights will be used
- Whichvans we require and when
- Who will run raffles and how will we secure prizes
- Ensure any deposits booked
- Make arrangements for any equipment hires
- Send out press releases
- Book hire gear (inc cable ramps etc as required)
- Ensure all staging requirements are identified and covered
- Ensure local listings and local radio contacts identified and press releases sent

The TEN notices need a minimum of 10 working days, so they must be applied for in May for a June festival.

The festival is upon us. It should be as simple as executing the plan! However local press needs chasing up, liaising with venues, watching weather forecasts for outdoor gigs (and making sure gazebo's are available). It is also worthwhile making tactical PR initiatives, such as calling shows such as BBC London, if they are publicising local events.

And that my friends is that. How you plan a local music festival. The actual events are the easy part!
(Thanks to Dan Bleich for his input on this blog)