Central MediaScene 2011
blog items from previous years [2005-10], see links on home page.
Local TV: LGTV or PSTV?:
Last week's 'LGTV' scandal suggests it is time to start our own coverage of the issue of our
upcoming local tv/video channel. If you missed it, this is where some 18 members of Poole-based
RNLI staff working as lifeguards at Sandbanks beach lifeguard station made a 9-minute video,
uploaded it to YouTube, which promptly [Oct 28-30] got international media coverage of the
sort the RNLI definitely did not want. Typical headlines, flagged up on Twitter, were "RNLI
Issues Apology For Lifeguard Video Featuring Homophobic Slurs, Hitler Impersonation" [Huffington
Post];"Lifeguards simulate sex, impersonate Hitler on YouTube" [Telegraph]; "Lifeguards in
Hitler YouTube clip" [BBC News]; "Fury over lifesavers' 'sex' and Hitler vid" [The Sun]. The
stories noted the video also included jokey skits about people with ginger hair and practicing
violence against women (punching them in the stomach and throwing them down the stairs). Our
local Echo has "Poole lifeguards in hot water over video", with Commenting disabled in its
online version of the story to keep the internet trolls at bay. Our own interest here is how
the video reflects a trend which is bound to impact on an upcoming local tv/video channel.
what I can make out [the video is no longer on YouTube], using the press summaries and screenshots
in some online versions like the Daily
Mail’s [pictured], this is a reflection of the “yay-look-at-me-I’m-on-telly” tendency.
This is where immature people who get hold of video cameras for the first time act the clown,
so self-absorbed and intoxicated by the power of online vanity publishing they don’t realise
the social and professional danger to themselves of going public with this type of content.
This phenomenon is particularly prone to happen with video as no literacy is required to operate
a digital camera, and any 'creative' aspect is just a crude copycatting. However this lack
of imagination also manifests in other new media, as when people get their own Facebook etc
accounts, and say or show things common sense would tell them were bound to get them into trouble.
This intoxicating effect of new media even lures those astray who ought to know better and
are trained to be aware of appearances, such as policemen whose online boasts of misconduct
get them disciplined or sacked. With the new medium of online video/ tv, the footage can be
from low-tech camera phones, consumer digital cameras, or a more professional setup, as here
- the LGTV lot used official equipment, which the RNLI employs to make educational and public
safety videos, some of which it puts on its own YouTube ‘channel’.
RNLI is a major media provider of public safety videos, with headcams on lifeboat crew, etc.
(You can see the results online or in shows like ITV’s Mayday Mayday.) It also has
a storm-simulator indoor tank for practicing safety drills which is also used by makers of
tv dramas to film such scenes safely (supplanting the tank used by earlier filmmakers on the
nearby Marines base at Hamworthy). The RNLI has already apologised for what it calls a "shameful
and offensive" video. As the RNLI is also a teaching institution [Lifeboat College on West
Quay, Poole] with a role-model aspect, the “RNLI 18” are no doubt already wishing they’d kept
the video private. However, what is interesting here is the video’s presentational framework.
‘LGTV’ or Lifeguard TV presents itself as if it were a new type of video/ tv channel with a
selection of programmes, and there may well be those who see this YouTube/ You’ve Been Framed
approach as the future of any new local channel. The LGTV video consists of a selection of
show formats from which a preview is shown. Here’s a summary, from the Telegraph:
film, entitled LGTV, is set around the beaches in Poole and uses RNLI-branded buildings, cars,
windbreaks, surf boards and umbrellas. It opens with the Baywatch theme tune before zooming
in to an animated television, with a series of imaginary channels on the screen. The film then
appears to select a channel at a time, beginning with 'Animal Planet', with real-life lifeguards
mimicking dolphins, salmon, bears, lions, monkeys and meerkats. In a "You've Been Framed" section,
a male lifeguard is caught on camera with his shorts pulled down, simulating sexual intercourse
with a red buoyancy aid. The film ends with three near-naked men, dressed only in red Speedos,
attempting to recreate Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' dance, under the heading "Beyondgay". In a
nod to Hollywood comedy Anchorman, the film signs off: "Stay classy Poole Bay."
…. Another clip features one of them offering sex education advice, including: "Worst comes
to worst, punch her in the stomach, chuck her down the stairs." In a segment dubbed "Top Queer"
they mock a Speedo-clad lifeguard for his ginger hair and alleged sexuality. A female lifeguard
is also filmed giving a spoof weather bulletin, describing the forecast as 's**t'.
sensibility behind this and similar works reflects a self-absorbed worldview which regards
the purpose of new ‘social’ media as being to celebrate the practitioners as a new elite, and
to mock anyone else they perceive as “not one of us”. You can see the same phenomenon at work
with shop staff who post blogs depicting customers as socially beneath them, not worth serving.
It’s the same mentality shown by teens who are part of a school-bullies' clique. It's a creeping
narcissism, empowered by social media, which now affects people working in the public service
sector, as here with the lifeguards, or with nurses or policemen who go online to mock those
they come in contact with professionally. Their online community of "friends" supersedes
all older concepts of community. ("What, you're not on Facebook? I have 999 friends I've
never even met!")
can see the looming problem here in the face of the latest social media platform about to arrive,
what is known in North America as Community TV. This is a local non-commercial tv channel where
videos are shown, almost always via a cable-TV system. These can be produced in-house by local
staff, or by local organisations or individuals, or via partnership between the two approaches.
Locally, the exact delivery mechanism is not yet clear as there are so many different forces
coming into play as potential providers, from YouTube to Google TV to high-speed ‘fibrecity’
broadband capable of carrying videoconferencing etc. over the internet, to closed-circuit cable
(as in America), to independent video diaries and video bloggers, to a local TV station franchised
by government [possibly on Freeview Channel 8], perhaps with input from the BBC (which set
up a Community Programming Unit in the 90s). I know we’ve heard such announcements before,
but the increasing convergence of new technologies [tv on the internet] and multiplicity of
competing providers is bound to bring a result of some sort.
what sort? The nature of the content to be shown on any local video/TV channel remains not
just undecided, but un-debated. The fundamental decision to be debated, I would argue, would
be whether it is to be based on the “LGTV” model, or a “PSTV” or Public Service TV model, as
shown by the RNLI, representing that vanishing principle, that of community and public service.
(We’ll follow this matter up in due course; in the meantime, anyone interested in tracking
developments can set up Google
Alerts on key terms like local TV or community tv.)
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Back To The Local Front
With the spreading phone hacking scandal leading to calls for more media ownership plurarity
(i.e less of a monopoly), it may be worthwhile to take stock of our local media situation.
On our local media front, our daily newspaper is owned by a company based elsewhere in England,
NewsQuest, which owns over 200 other local papers
across Britain, from Glasgow to Oxford, including similar-looking Daily Echo papers
across the southern region (e.g Dorset Echo), and which lately has been cutting editorial
staff, e.g. at Southampton. (News content instead is increasingly sourced from corporate PR releases.)
NewsQuest is owned in turn by US conglomerate Gannett (it publishes USA Today etc).
NewsQuest also publishes other supplements like the weekly Advertiser and acts as a
commercial printer for other local publications (e.g. the 86,000 copies of the Bournemouth Council's
PR mag, BH Life, which is delivered with the Advertiser). Other printer-publishers
have moved away or folded up: I blogged about the Highbury/Paragon/Future Publishing collapse
several years ago [here];
the latter moved away and is still shrinking [100 more job cuts announced this week], hit by
the decline in sales of print mags which also contributed to the loss last year of our largest
local printer, Southern Print in Poole.
The closest actual independent newspaper, one of the few remaining, is the weekly New Milton
Advertiser. Its title notwithstanding, it is a proper newspaper, a venerable broadsheet
(yes, one of the very few left), and is also partly [first 3pp] downloadable online, as a PDF.
It seems a survival from another age - which it is, and that it puts to shame enterprises run
along more modern, efficient lines may be no coincidence.
As far as local TV goes, we still have no local station or channel, despite ongoing
proposals. Channel 5 was originally created in 1996 to create a local station for each "city"
area, but after technical difficulties (TV tuners needed), it was remarketed
as just another commercial 'general entertainment' channel and this past year was bought up by
Richard Desmond, owner of a string
of celebrity and adult mags and X-rated tv channels. As for our 'local' radio stations, these
are also not locally owned and mostly play pop music which is not local content; they are classed
as local as the pop songs are regularly interrupted by local ads, news, weather and traffic reports.
[Update: Bournemouth is not one of the 65 towns on the list for one of the new local-TV station
licences being offered by the Dept Of Culture, Media &
Sport, but Poole is.]
As far as the Web goes, it now routinely carries radio and TV as well as online newspaper-style
pages, with the former sometimes embedded in the latter as short video reports. But as yet there
is no local internet-tv [i.e non-broadcast] channel either, though there have been plans to set
up a framework for covering local
Council meetings live. I have worked on such live coverage, as part of programming for local
cable tv in North America, and though some think this type of coverage as 'boring', it makes
local gov't more transparent - too transparent for some councillors, in fact. (Some councils
have had people arrested who record independent video
of meetings.) Councils do have websites and put their so-called freesheets online as PDFs
- which can be useful when asking "whatever happened with that promise the Council was going
to [etc]." For example, the 2010 Council announcement a new website is in the works for early
2011, "complete with true blogging ability." (I'd ask them, but I'm still waiting for a reply
to a query I emailed them in 2006, about whether the useful content-rich pages vanished from
their website were going to be put back up.) Some local Councillors have email subscriber-newsletters
rather than public websites or blogs, giving them limited access and circulation, though the
issues they discuss are often not parochial, but of wider interest. During the runup to the last
General Election, new websites or blogs did appear on behalf of various candidates, which mentioned
local issues; but soon after the election, I noticed these were no longer updated, left like
abandoned cars by the roadside as the politicians moved on.
There are two local newspage-style websites, run by the Echo and the Beeb (BBC
Dorset); as for independent locally owned outlets, there is not much. The BU Media School
and the Arts University College churn out media grads, but there seems to be no student newspaper,
online or print, of the kind that has proved influential elsewhere in the past. The Uni is setting
up something called The Digital Hub, but as it is oriented towards research "enterprise" (that
dread word) it seems unlikely to produce the kind of fundamentally bolshie student-newspaper
style editorial content that might put off investors. The closest local example to this that
I know of here is the Bournemouth & Poole Anti Cuts Coalition website, which summarises the growing
list of cuts being made to front-line health and welfare services, using Wordpress free software
and their own domain. Recently one of their protest demos, against
a bank in Bmth Square, got into the national news when the Council tried to fine them over their
protest on the grounds their group was NOT political, if you can follow that. (The Council
spent 3 years bringing in legislation, the Clean
Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, to stop people handing out free literature, including
neighbourhood newspapers - which often contradict statements in the so-called 'Town Hall Pravdas'
that central gov't has been trying to ban. There was an exemption for religious, charitable,
and political publications, but 'political' to the Council evidently meant only something sponsored
by a recognized political party.)
Currently, there is BHBeat, launched in October 2010 and run
by a mix of journalists and outside contributors, which has short news items and blog-type reviews
of restaurants, and has just launched a free fortnightly print
edition [available in M&S etc]. Blogging of course has become the Web's major indie-activity
area, and nationally there are hundreds of current-affairs blogs. But locally after a promising
start, few seem to have survived. In 2006, I surveyed local blogs, and found around 50 of various
types. I did a blog post with the links to them [post here].
Having tried these links again last night, I found almost none have survived: only one or two
have and remain recognizably local. My own 2006 blog post in fact was on an ad hoc subdomain
website I'd set up in anticipation of having news about our emerging cable/fast broadband "cybercity"
to blog about regularly. But last year, I finally decided to give up on that idea, as there was
never anything to blog about except the disappointing lack
of development as far as our promised CyberCity (or FibreCity)
It's also difficult enough to find positive developments in other areas. The two regional screen
commissions which cover our area have their HQs in Bristol and Folkestone - so much for local
knowledge in terms of bringing film and tv drama production to the area. (Such production encourages
local production service facilities, which could in turn help future local media-producting outlets
Despite the town's longstanding literary heritage (with many authors coming here to write since
the mid-19C), there seem to be no traditional book or local-interest magazine publishers in Bournemouth,
though there are book publishers such as Dovecote,
in Wimborne, and Natula, in Christchurch, not
far away, which have a track record of local-interest book publishing.
We don't normally cover cultural events here, as opposed to media products (e.g. books or films
per se) as the former are ephemeral and the latter accessible to anyone, and also as it's simply
impossible for a one-person spare-time no-budget website like this to provide events coverage.
However there are certain events which could encourage future media development, like local writing
workshops or film or literary festivals, and which we (editorial "we" here) thus try to cover.
Here again there is really no good news. A year ago, we had both a Bournemouth and a Poole literary/writing
festival, but both are now in limbo. One has announced it has no funding and the other is up
for sale as a limited company.
The Council announced plans to bring back the Bournemouth International Festival, which seems
to have come to naught.
[Update: Bournemouth is to have an 'Arts by the Sea' 2011 Festival, which seems
to be a mix of regular events like the summer fireworks, listed under the ABTS banner, plus ad
hoc events. These seem a mix of family-oriented street-performance type events and more macabre
avant-garde offerings, the latter concentrated in Sep-Oct. Details on new Arts-Bournemouth website
here. The full programme
is not yet out, but the new website is perhaps of more interest here (with our media rather than
arts-event focus) as it aims to be "an online hub ... an ongoing online arts resource for
the town", and include "a content-rich blog and e-magazine".]
One set of diminishing publications which points to the greatest decline in one set of cultural
events is the brochure representing local adult-education courses. This month, the annual brochure
with all the adult-ed course offerings has come out. It is a joint Bournemouth/Poole effort,
for the councils no longer run separate adult-ed services, and as I write, Bournemouth Adult
Skills & Learning is moving into a joint HQ in a rundown school out in the back end of Poole.
Even amalgamated, the brochure is mainly PR pictures, indexing only around 100-odd course subjects.
A decade ago, there were separate brochures each with over 900 courses. (I know, I was working
for both LEAs.) There were courses on everything from languages, creative writing, film and literature
appreciation, to art and dance - you name it, all of human life was there. (Remember "Lifelong
Learning"?) And it was reckoned a great success, good for the nation's health and wellbeing,
at almost no public expense, for these were mainly "full-fee" courses, which did not impose a
burden on the taxpaper. But as full-fee courses by definition do not actually bring in any funding,
the bean-counters quietly found ways to cut them back year on year until only a token offering
now exists. Ditto for The College, which also for decades had a wide range of adult evening courses.
Today only the unfunded University Of the 3rd Age (for the over-50s) maintains a range of cultural
courses. Media education is thus restricted to the few who can afford university-level fees.
The potential is still there for new local-interest media outlets to emerge (and I don't mean
ad/PR delivery platforms or Web 2.0 Twitter-type trivia). If anyone reading this has any good
news on the local media front, I'd be pleased to hear from them. (Conurbation
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seem to be living in what a rather sinister old political catchphrase refers to euphemistically
as "interesting times," with political and economic crises looming, fighting in the streets against
a growing police state, clamors for reform etc. The phrase could also be applied to the 17th
century, an era historians sometimes refer to as the moment the modern British state was born.
It was a time of shifting political alliances, popular leaders who rose to fame only to fall
from grace, repressive laws, civic upheavals, the breakdown of law and order, the creation of
a police state, clamors for reform etc. - only settled in the end through constitutional reform.
It was certainly a time of lengthy debates about the nature of society and power, of conflicts
which split apart family and friends. These debates and conflicts are naturally reflected in
novels and dramas about the era, with key events as usual often playing out in Wessex, and this
is the subject of our latest "Setting the Scene in Wessex" series.
Scene In Wessex: The 17th Century In Literature And Drama
Would You Believe Creative South-Central England?
In the wake of the widespread protests against funding cuts affecting cultural organisations,
the Coalition government announced a consultation
in March to establish "strategic priorities" for a new umbrella organisation (we’re not to
call it a quango - it’s a “a joint venture company of existing agencies with no extra costs
or staffing”) launching in October called Creative England.
As I’ve tried to indicate on this website over the years, the south-central region has always
been rich in creative talent; the largest population centre, the Bournemouth-area conurbation,
is said to be the largest non-industrial conurbation in Europe, has always been home to writers
and artists, and could make a suitable “hub” (that’s a Creative England key word) for film
and tv activity as well.
Unfortunately, there is still no official recognition of the south-central region, only a patchwork
of local authorities and official agencies within the huge southeastern and southwestern regions.
And here in the main population centre, we also have a Council with a talent for generating
negative press coverage via a lengthy succession of bungled enterprises, from the decade-long-and-still-running
saga of the seafront IMAX (currently having its ‘ugly’ top half sawn off to restore the sea
view) through the plan to turn the town into Britain’s first wired-up “Fibrecity” (long story,
with no real result), to last year's "Pornmouth" debacle (don't ask), to the more
recent debacle of the “cool” new surf reef (it underperformed and was closed last week on safety
grounds). In neighbouring Poole, the Council’s over-zealous surveillance mania got it unwelcome
national coverage as a leading "Big Brother" style council, while here the council
tried (as we predicted) to use a new anti-litter law to prevent distribution of political leaflets,
only backing down last month after adverse news coverage of its attitude to freedom of speech.
Anyway, despite its all-encompassing name Creative England, this latest
in fact will focus strictly on where the big money is: film location work. It is meant to somehow
supplant the successful but now closed-down network of Regional Screen Agencies, which helped
attract investment in jobs and generated positive PR and tourism knock-on effects when films
or TV series are made in an area. The closure last year
of the UK Film Council, which helped kick-start a programme of UK films (The King’s Speech
is the most cited current example) attracted adverse comment from international film-makers
like Spielberg and Eastwood, and the gov’t is now probably feeling vulnerable re criticisms
that visiting film-makers will be left with no-one but some bod from the local Council to help
coordinate their local shoot. (Last time I checked, only 2 county council staff had done the
basic film-liaison orientation course, and with all the cuts, many staff will now be leaving.
Here in our local population hub, the latest big scheme by the Council has been to downsize
by selling off key services to an overseas company - which inevitably has turned out to be
in financial difficulty.) The result is this DIY "Big Society" style salvage framework.
I thought of making some representation for the south-central region in Creative England’s
call for “consultation” before the March 31st deadline, but after many years (going back to
1992-6 over the Regional Screen
Agencies issue) of lobbying online and otherwise, decided it was not worth doing another brief.
The fact is, after decades of redrawn political boundaries and associated changes in funding
regimes, the south-central region still does not officially exist as an entity in the eyes
of any government department or agency. Somewhere (it varies depending on the particular agency's
jurisdiction) between the New Forest and Lyme Regis, you step across a line on a map and the
South-East simply becomes the South-West. In either case, the headquarters of these vast regions
will remain distant, despite the importance of local knowledge in this sector and the Coalition's
supposed commitment to “localism.” The closest Creative England “hub” will be Bristol - where
I imagine they have a quiet chuckle if ever they happen to hear the name Bournemouth.
The source of the link at the top of this item, the Writers Guild Of Great Britain, has been
doing its bit to represent writers’ interests across Britain, and now is interested in establishing
a regional group presence, with more activities and events for members and potential recruits,
in areas which do not already have this. Well, film-tv projects usually start with some sort
of script, and if the WGGB initiative gets underway, that might be the beginning of something
Update: A group of student and graduate filmmakers protesting the gov't cuts
to the arts have issued a press statement, the basis of an Echo
story, that with the help of two local film-video companies they have made an 8-minute
film called The Storm, to reflect the wealth of filmmaking talent in the area and
the fact young filmmakers are trying to carry on without much support. We don't usually try
to list student shorts here as they're so hard to view, but this one is online, a trend which
will hopefully grow. It's not preachy - in fact it has no speaking parts. You can access it
from the same webpage as their press statement, here.
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World Book Day, Local Style
3 is World Book Day, with Saturday the 5th the first-ever World Book Night [a televised event],
and the the aspect with the most press coverage so far concerns a local-interest author. Poole-born
and Sherborne-educated "John LeCarre" (David John Moore Cornwell, 1931-) who has donated his
papers to the famous Bodleian Library in Oxford. For World Book Day, they are displaying drafts
of his most famous [being filmed again] novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, showing how
it evolved into literary form via repeated emendation and rewriting. Although his work is all
pre-Computer Age (many authors being holdouts for the pen-and-paper approach), the Library
will be scanning-in the entire archive to make it available online at some point.
For those not interested in Le Carre's work, there are many other local-interest writers and
works - something for every literary taste. Authors have favoured this area even before Hardy
put it on the world's literary map. For more info, see our earlier coverage, such as our annotated
biblio listing of local-interest authors and selected works, our separate webpages on Hardy's
life and his works,
coverage of local-interest works in different genres in our occasional "Setting The Scene In
Wessex" series ('country
house' sagas, WWII literature
and drama, 'pre-historical
fiction' set at Stonehenge), on Jane
Austen novels and adaptations etc. On our Literary
Section home page, there are links to the above webpages plus topical items on Dennis Wheatley,
Flora Thomson, Conan Doyle etc. A perusal of our earlier SCM blog items 2005-2010 [links on
home page] will also turn up items on Gerald Durrell, Enid Blyton, John Fowles, Ian Fleming,
Rosamunde Pilcher, John Betjeman, the Romantic Poets, writer's circles (going back to the 1880s),
Evelyn Waugh, Dylan Thomas, Mary Shelley, John Wyndham, Ian McEwan, Tennyson, William Golding,
PD James, Louis McNeice, Ken Follett, Jane Austen, dramatists like JB Priestley and Terence
Rattigan, and of course, Thomas Hardy.
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Was Never Ten Years, Was It?
-Dreamtown Days & Nights, Revisited:
Ten years ago, mainly over the winter of 2000-2001, I wrote a blog-style series of online monthly
columns headed ‘Bournemouth In The Media’ to help a local arts organisation of which
I was then a director to establish more of an artistic ‘scene’. With the original
organisation website itself now history, I thought it might be of interest to re-post the collected
columns to see what, if anything, has changed...
The Web was then still a fairly new game, and the concept of a ‘blog’ had not been
developed. (The word weblog existed, but was used for a ‘housekeeping’ web-page with
posts of site changes, usually tech issues being fixed.) However the format I developed for this
series of online columns, with short topical pieces each headed by its own distinctive title,
was the same as the one we are now familiar with from many private blogs. The series was aimed
at those who felt disaffected, alienated by a local authority perceived to be hostile to anything
‘bohemian.’ (There had been various run-ins over issues such as censorship of a local
play.) The column was to give a voice to that outlook. The slightly edgy or sarky tone of the
series was thus deliberate, this also anticipating the now familiar blogger practice of consciously
distancing oneself from the self-serving authoritarian announcements of officialdom, to make
clear that the blog represents an independent view.
The content came from scanning newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and the Web etc for media stories
about Bournemouth, which was then trying to change its image (for better or for worse, I leave
to the reader to decide). At the end of the month I would compile a column with items on a range
of aspects of life here. To do this, I filed clippings and notes under 12 categories - Arts &
Culture, Council Business, Economy, Education, Entertainment, Heritage, Law & Order, Real
Estate, Seafront, Tourism, Transport, and the Web. Each month, I tried to cover at least 10 of
these 12 subject categories. (Today in a blog setup, these labels would be included at the end
of each item as searchable semantic tags, but at the time this was not thought of.)
‘Bournemouth In The Media’ was actually just the series’ descriptive subhead
[as above here]. We could never agree on a ‘main’ title to go above it; so here I’ve
inserted my own choice. I chose “Dreamtown Days & Nights” as it addresses a number
of aspects of life here. ‘Dreamtown’ harks back to Bournemouth’s identity as
a planned township, established for reasons of health rather than commerce, which attracted those
who had a dream of retiring early, starting a new life, and so on. It symbolises a Hollywood-like
notion of a town where dreams can come true. It’s often used as a metaphoric nickname for
seaside resorts with their leisure-and-pleasure attractions (sometimes with names like “Dream
Palace” or “Dreamland”). British writers and filmmakers would use the motif
to showcase the artifice, hollowness, and cheapness of traditional working-class escapist culture.
It could also evoke the way that the political party conferences held here every year, with their
anthem "Jerusalem" about rebuilding a green and pleasant land, featured the announcement
of grand 'rebuilding the nation' plans which would prove unrealistic dreams - self-deluded collective
fantasies (as, dare one say, with the current 2-party gov't). This was never specific to Bournemouth
- the BBC recently made a documentary on another seaside resort and party conference venue, Blackpool,
using the Dream Town banner. At the time [2000-1], the term was prominent in the local press
as a derisory nickname - not for the town itself, but for the way the council and local promoters
announced and promoted various grandiose plans to make it more high profile in tourism terms.
The front page of the local newspaper would regularly depict architectural sketches showing some
ideal development which was to “transform” the resort. (As with other tourist resorts,
the locals would often find their needs regarded by as secondary to the interests of the tourist
sector dominating local affairs as "key stakeholders.")
This was either to do with the seafront-downtown-central gardens area, or else the troubled district
of Boscombe, which had once been a rival Victorian-era resort but had become a slum area. These
grand plans would rarely come to fruition, and when they did, usually proved nothing like the
idealised sketch plans. (The seafront IMAX fiasco was the most high-profile example here.) Letters
to the editor pages would use the term to mock this process. This coincided with its use by regional
ITV for a docusoap series called Dream Town, which became a local embarrassment for
its choice of human subjects. It did relate to another basis for the epithet, lying in the fact
the town itself is young, and most people who live here were not born here. Its usage was thus
As to the ‘Days & Nights’ part, this wasn’t chosen simply because the town
was then first developing a separate daytime and night-time economy (with the bar and club scene),
giving the town a Jekyll-and-Hyde dual identity, with some locals afraid to go out at night.
(Ironically, when RL Stevenson wrote the novel while living here, the town was the very model
of respectability.) Also, while days are the time for public activities, nights are a time for
reflecting on the past, present and future - a reminder (for me) that the blog would attempt
to look at the present day with more of a long-term view than that of immediate reportage.
Now ten years on, many of the situations are actually still ongoing - the IMAX controversy, arguments
over the Pavilion and Winter Gardens, transport services complaints, travel guides critical of
the resort, excessive party conference policing, opposition to the idea of the town as a nightclub
capital, the 'surf city' plan etc. Readers may experience here a certain disillusioning sense
of déjà vu - a phrase which suggests a more philosophical French maxim.
I leave it to readers to decide how much is a case of ‘plus ça change, plus
c'est la même chose’ - The more things change, the more they stay the same.....
[go to Dreamtown Days & Nights, Revisited: ‘Bournemouth
In The Media’ columns 2000-2001]
2010 In Review
2010 was a year marking a number of historical anniversary dates of various ages, notably the
first WWII battles in 1940 (Dunkirk, Battle of Britain etc), and there was some local-interest
media coverage, which we documented in terms of literature,
as well as film-tv productions,
with links to earlier coverage of relevant films.
The country house saga genre, with its typical “war and peace” story setup, was also
in the news, over Dorset-resident Julian Fellowes new TV drama serial, Downton Abbey;
this had no local setting, but we did a webpage
on many other earlier 'country house saga' works which did.
Also on-screen, Julian Fellowes’s 2008 adaptation of the partly WWII-set children’s
novel From Time To Time, filmed mainly at Athelhampton and Fellowes’s own Dorset
stately home, finally got a release, and Fellowes himself was much in the news over his class-conscious
comments re Downton Abbey and the not-unrelated news of his knighthood. The other production
that received almost as much press coverage was Tamara
Drewe, Stephen Frears’s adaptation of Posy Simmonds's satiric graphic novel shot
in West Dorset, set at a writers’ communal retreat there, deep in "Hardy Country."
The original “war and peace” author, Tolstoy, had
a centenary commemoration of his death which included a film adaptation of Jay Parini’s
novel The Last Station, which features Tolstoy’s literary agent, executor and
biographer Vladimir Tchertkov
as a character. The film is set in Russia in the author’s final days, but Tchertkov himself
came to the Bournemouth-Christchurch area around 1900 as part of a literary commune, his mother
having a house here. The commune set up Free Age Press, devoted to publishing the great man’s
works so they could be smuggled back into Czarist Russia, where they were banned.
The new Tory-led coalition government announced anew a Localism
Bill which would give more say to local authorities, while at the same time slashing their
budgets. These led off with the slashing of arts and libraries grants (with 400-800 branches
facing closure, including 20 in Dorset and 9 out of 11 on Wight). A key media-related item
was the curbing of Council “newspapers.” These are really expensive freesheets
– glossy PR exercises presented in the guise of a newspaper, full of blurbs about well
the Council are doing. These “Town
hall Pravdas,” as the new Communities minister called them, were not just costly
to the taxpayer, but competing with local daily or weekly papers in a damaging way. Locally,
Bournemouth Council had also pushed through a law which made publicly distributing other rival
freesheets illegal in the towns’ busiest areas, on the grounds they were potential litter.
(Somewhat ironically, political and religious groups were given an exemption, as were charities,
and the bill does not seem to cover junk mail like pizza delivery flyers.) The provision was
part of The Bournemouth Borough Council Act 2010, passed in April, right before the Election.
This was the finale of a 3-year Commons battle, where the bill was promoted by the Council
as part of a campaign against street
pedlars selling dodgy goods, though freesheets are by definition free to their readers.
(“It will be an offence for a person to distribute any free printed matter on the land
designated by the Order without the consent of the Council.”)
Ad-supported freesheets are a phenomenon which has changed the face of newspaper publishing
in metro areas, first in North America and now here. Their predecessors were “alternative”
publications (sometimes handed out for a “donation”) and town or city halls would
create such ad hoc bylaws to give the police a basis for arresting vendors and seizing their
papers. In England, some Councils have been caught encouraging or subsidising legal actions
for defamation against local critics commenting on public-interest issues. The obstructive
attitude of local councils to ‘citizen’ bloggers when they tried to get local information
for campaigning or reporting purposes was also recently publicised.
By June, the new government was announcing restrictions on the cost and appearance of these
pseudo-newspapers, a move welcomed by the Newspaper Society, the rise in Council freesheets
in the 1990s having accompanied a decline of around 25% in the number of commercial local dailies
Even established local newspapers are often reduced to longrunning FOI requests to get information
about Council activities in their area. Here, the local Daily Echo relied on this to maintain
coverage of local controversies like the ongoing IMAX and Surf-Reef fiascos, the Poole Council
“big brother” spying-on-citizens row, and the adult-content-found-on-council-laptop-scandal
(over a mishandled inquiry) which got Bournemouth nicknamed by Private Eye “Pornmouth.”
(All of these instances were big enough stories they also ran in the national press.) With
the official push towards "localism," independent local coverage is a critical issue.
However the chain that owns the various Echo local newspapers,
Newsquest Media, actually belongs to a US conglomerate, the Gannett Corporation (who own USA
Today), and their profit-minded attempt in Brighton to cut editorial staff and close local
facilities, which led to a strike in November, does not bode well for local press coverage.
The largest local printer, Poole-based Southernprint, which prints glossy magazines like Empire
[on film], after being sold off by Newsquest, also cut around 100 jobs in November. (There
are few actual genuinely local papers around, the closest being the 70-year old New
Milton Advertiser & Lymington Times, a large-format weekly broadsheet covering the
New Forest area which carries on the tradition of independent journalism, without the advertorials
and puff pieces Newsquest publications are now prone to.) The development of an independent
journalism in Britain is a story that goes back a couple of centuries, and this is a subject
we have covered as it is has several local-interest aspects [earlier blog item with link to
The World Wide Web of course continued to be the main
rival to print media, and the Council announced a new website is in the works for early 2011,
“complete with true blogging ability.” (?) Bournemouth did get some positive media
coverage, at least locally, in 2010, largely due to its just-ended [Jan 6th] year-long Bicentenary
celebration projects. These included an official local history compendium
volume and a major website, funded by £440K in HLF money, called Streets
Of Bournemouth, which includes a searchable large repository of maps, sketches, vintage
photos, PDFs, and other documentation of the early days.
In other ways, the town’s online presence remained
bogged down. Bournemouth was also to be Britain’s first “Fibrecity,” with
super-fast broadband laid in through the sewer system. Instead, the utility responsible wound
up in the news
this summer and autumn for cutting people’s broadband for weeks on end while digging
up the streets to lay fibre optic cable in the old-fashioned way; they said the deal with the
water company had fallen through and they had the right to dig up the roads whenever they wanted,
which the Council confirmed. This was in fact the sad anti-climax of a longrunning saga to
hook up the municipality with high-speed broadband which could handle tv channels (a company
rep told me they were in talks with Sky) as well as business video conferencing (which requires
much faster upload speeds than standard ADSL broadband).
The earlier technical solution, known in the industry as Muni-WiFi, was piloted in the USA
over the past 5 years with considerable brouhaha (good for business, for democratic engagement
etc). At the time I was setting this website up, I also set up a subdomain which could document
our “CyberCity” as an evolving project and to encourage early adopters. I assembled
what existing content I could and also set up a news blog, filling it pro tem with related
items. But there was almost no real positive news to report, and our CyberCity section has
not been updated for over 2 years [link here].
“Muni-WiFi” has not taken off in its pilot projects in US conurbations due to various
problems - technical, economic, or political. Cable remains an alternative delivery medium,
but the idea of a local TV channel carried by cable has gone nowhere in the UK despite some
early developments. The current government is still pushing the idea of local broadcast channels,
having said this summer it can work here on the US model – which of course means local
commercial stations. (Having worked in non-commercial local TV in North America, I know how
popular and well-made it can be, even on a tiny budget. Part of the appeal is the lack of commercials,
with breaks filled by 'bumpers' like the BBC used to run - usually short film montages based
on a single camera viewpoint.)
In one of my blog items this year, I suggested we should
see the Bicentenary as a good time to contemplate a seaside renaissance, making the conurbation
a more cultured place. (For the first time, we had two literary festivals, one in Poole and
one in Bournemouth, run back to back in the autumn; but the future of the latter is now in
doubt; as I write this, it has just been put
up for sale by its organiser, together with the associated website and a related book imprint
for new writers.) Some locals are also treating the year 2012 (rather than the Council’s
choice of 2010) as the town’s actual bicentenary, since the official first ‘proper’
house in the town centre area, Tregonwell’s Manor, begun in 1810, was not actually finished
till 1812. Summer 2012 also sees the next Olymp*cs, which includes a “Cultural Ol*mpiad,”
and has local [Christchurch-Weymouth] events, which will bring a lot of attention (and hopefully
some critical self awareness) to the area. Although we can’t use any official Olymp*c
designations as umbrella labels (they’re unbelievably touchy about this – hence
the asterisks here as a reminder), we can still consider the idea of unofficial “Fringe”
style events based on the 2012-bicentenary premise. I still believe this is relevant and worth
pursuing. (Original blog item here.)
New Forest resident
Ken Russell, the region’s most long-established filmmaker, who began his career with arts documentaries
in the 1960s, died at Lymington shortly before Xmas. BBC2 has done a memorial documentary,
A Bit Of A Devil, and BBC4 broadcast
his films Women In Love and its sequel The Rainbow, while BBC3 aired his
rarely-seen The Boy Friend. BBC4 also showed his (also rarely-seen) 1962 docu-drama
Elgar, which changed how arts documentaries were made. The Rex Cinema in Wareham showed
his 1977 Valentino, which was part-filmed in Bournemouth (Russell-Cotes Museum as
the star's 1920s Hollywood home etc). Ken in fact often shot scenes for his films locally,
regardless of where they were set, and rather than attempt another blog item here (we’ve done
several previous items on him) as an obit, we’re currently putting together a dedicated web-page
on the various local links in his life and work.