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Pete Lawrence - 25 Nov 2019


It's been a busy week, partly spent in Milan at their Linecheck Music Conference. Here are five things I have learned this week, whilst walking the rain-sodden streets of the Italian city:

1 A new model is needed for a live music industry which now has to wake up and call time on polluting tours and festivals

a) "How the music industry -which considers itself to be a progressive movement - is simply another big carbon-guzzling money industry." (As Campfirer @Steve Thorp observed)

b) As Coldplay's Chris Martin says "The hardest thing is the flying side of things,”. Does this mean purely local 'acts' at festivals in the future?  Does this mean the death of 'world music' as we know it?

c) We urgently need to invent the whole model for how we gather outdoors. And this relates once again to a wider societal shift in events as in other aspects of life - a move from capitalism to co-operation. Giving responsibility to communities to make their own gatherings.

Here's my report from Milan:

2 BBC's Question Time leaders 'showdown' should have shifted public thinking, but will it?

If body language says anything, it's clear to see which of our so-called 'leaders' is in the ascendant as we come into the final furlong of this ill-conceived election, born out of political chaos. Studying the aspirants entrances and exits, Jeremy Corbyn comes across as by far the most dignified and even stops to thank the host and shake the hand of an admirer as he exits. Johnson bumbles off like the drugged bear that he is and Swinson almost seems to run offstage, such has been her ordeal at the hands of a razor-sharp, but respectful Sheffield audience (my long-held admiration for the northern city has increased further after this performance). 

Less of an entertainment circus than ITV's lamentable efforts earlier in the week, this format actually showed us the adults in the room and I counted two of them. How anyone can lend any credibility whatsoever to any thought, deed or mumbling that Johnson was able to offer is beyond me as he looked caged, chastened and humiliated by the whole experience, particularly when questioned around his racism. Full marks to Fiona Bruce here for her decisive chairing of the whole shebang. I was left with a sense that certain politicians cannot get away with the mindless dumbing down of sloganeering and the disdain that is implied through those actions towards the electorate.

As Andrew Rawnsley remarked in yesterday's Observer “Get Brexit done” has been the incessant mantra of Boris Johnson from day one of the campaign. He repeated his already hackneyed catchphrase so often during the first of the TV debates with Jeremy Corbyn that the audience was audibly groaning by the end. “Get Brexit done” will be the thumping beat of the Tory manifesto. Yet there is no more deceptive slogan of this campaign. This “Brexit election” is leaving Britons none the wiser about where their country will eventually land."

Despite all the obfuscation, tomfoolery and cheating that has already dominated this election, there is still a sense - hopefully not just a lost hope - that fair play will somehow win the day and that the truth will out in the final outcome. One has to trust that the country will get what it deserves. 

3 Jimmy Wales new 'news-focused' social network declares itself as a challenger to Facebook

This has to be applauded. There is space for many social networks, but I wonder how things will play out for WT:social.  Wales, founder of Wikipedia and a somewhat controversial figure who recently signed an anti Corbyn letter from assorted 'names' calling the Labour leader out over the ever-running sore that is the antisemitism allegation. 

How much does a social network's founder's politics have a bearing on that platform's ability to be impartial and does that matter? I mailed Jimmy to ask and actually received an immediate reply:

 "Hi Pete, My personal political opinions are not very exciting and have nothing to do with This project is not anti-Corbyn. It is true that I'm not a fan, but my political views - as I say - are not very exciting. He's deeply unpopular and yes, some people like him. Just not me. I hope that doesn't dissuade you from participating - the whole point of is to build an intellectual community where people can chew on ideas. The culture of "go to hell if you disagree with me" is something I hope we can all leave behind on twitter."

Wales' direction includes:

  • The social media platform features a Facebook-style newsfeed, but content is prioritised by recency instead of engagement.
  • Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said he was inspired to create WT:Social because advertising had allowed "low-quality" content to dominate Facebook and Twitter.
  • Facebook and Twitter have recently adopted opposing strategies in how to handle political advertising.

Just under 200,000 people have signed up for WT:Social since it launched in October. The platform is free to join, but new users are put on a wait-list, which can be instantly bypassed if you donate money. WT:Social hopes to survive only on donations.

I must admit that the name is the ultimate in blandness, I can never remember what it is called!  One to watch, nevertheless...

4 The Grinch was right. Let's look to him for guidance this Christmas

This season has (so far) been mercifully free of Christmas junk so far and long may that continue. In a week when my home town Frome turns on its Christmas razzmatazz with a lantern parade this coming Friday.

We'd do well to be reminded of his thinking and the succinct way he expresed it too:

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!...That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? That’s what it’s always been *about*. Gifts, gifts… gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts. You wanna know what happens to your gifts? They all come to me. In your garbage. You see what I’m saying? In your *garbage*. I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump. And the avarice…”

Or check out George Monbiot's view 'On the Twelfth Day of Christmas Your Gift Will Just be Junk'


5 WH Smith's shelves are full of yoga and wellbeing magazines.

The self-colouring magazine boom may now be a distant memory but this year I couldn't help notice the high profile of yoga magazines on the shelves. Though I do know people who delight in a well-printed magazine, I don't know many people who shop in WH Smith anymore (in fact, the number of people I know who 'shop' at all has hugely decreased). The Smiths experience used to be central to my formative and teenage years in my hometown of Leamington Spa and was also a leading retailer of vinyl albums back in the day but these days the experience is empty and soulless - the counter queueing labyrinth (with 'stuff' in display racks at every point trying to tempt you) and then the automated check outs are somehow symbolic of a dystopian effect that the retail experience can have on the human spirit. I did buy a yoga magazine, out of curiosity, along with the latest Idler magazine and they kept me entertained for an hour or so, at least. 

And finally...

I miss Bellowhead. I put their gigs on three years in a row in Leamington and they are sorely missed, especially around this time of year when they used to tour. Here's a photo I took of them in full flight at Leicester De Montford Hall six years ago



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