blog items from previous years [2005-13], see links on home page.
The On-Air Airshow
--Bournemouth Air Festival 2014 - Media Review
Here at SCMS, we don't cover live events per se, but we cover the annual Bournemouth Air
Festival as the region's biggest media event, meaning an event you can watch (live or replay)
via media such as tv or video channels like YouTube. Our focus is thus always on the quality
of the media access and presentation.
The Airshow is now in its 7th iteration. In previous years, our blog posts have dwelt on the
exasperating lack of advance info in the media on what is flying when. The problem is still
ongoing, the underlying problem being that the main local news outlet, the Echo, abetted by
the Council (though I've been asked not to mention the discreet public-subsidy aspect) wants
to sell you a ‘programme’. This is really a glossy souvenir booklet but allegedly
contains the 'programme' in the sense of the actual timetable of events ... except that what
you get is merely the planned running order (soon out of date due to unplanned event changes),
subdivided into vague time blocs such as 2.30-5pm. So if you're a visitor who wants to time
your meal, bathroom or other breaks without missing a favourite 'turn' you've come to see,
well, good luck. I've mentioned before that all airshow organisers have a minute-by-minute
schedule which is made available to mainstream media outlets but not the public.
a tight schedule of national commitments, the Red Arrows always appear on time, at a well-advertised
time. However this is not the case with other flying events.
online digital media has come to dominate print in the last few years, that would seem to offer
a solution; but evidently not. The problem of notifying the public in advance of the inevitable
last-minute schedule changes due to weather and mechanical failures could be solved by a central
online page showing the amended schedule. But as the mad controller said in Airplane, 'Oh
no - that would make it too easy for them'. (In 2009, an annoyed punter posted the detailed
listing to the Echo's 'what's on' page - which then got deep-sixed into the archive via a change
of URL.) The Echo publishes the official breakdown of events for that day on the day, but it’s
still just the running order in 2-3 hour blocs, and is not itself updated in the event of cancellations
or delays, this being relegated to a page which carries mainly Twitter posts. When you buy
the souvenir programme, you get access to a code which allows you to log in to the website
showing the timetable. Last year, there were limitations placed on this, as the screenshot
from the Council's airshow page shows:
The 2014 site didn't say what the usage terms were:
As I haven’t been able to find anyone who used this, I can’t say if they keep it
up to date. The schedule needs constant updates as only the Red Arrows, who often have shows
elsewhere on the same day, seem to appear at the advertised time. Despite there being a dedicated
official ‘BournemouthAir’ site and Facebook
page, it seems you have to keep checking several media feeds to keep up to date. (For example,
the unscheduled 2nd appearance of the Vulcan ‘by popular demand’, on the Sunday,
was announced on the live video channel just after its scheduled Saturday appearance as if
it was an impromptu arrangement - which in itself is unlikely.)
On the plus side, for online live tv style coverage, the official 'Bournemouth AirFestival
TV' channel, which is actually Wave105's live (or near-live) video feed, is well resourced.
There you find multi-camera professional coverage with 2 commentators in a booth [pictured
below] and perhaps 4-5 cameras covering the displays and beach-side live interviews. As with
many a sports event, the live tv coverage offers a better view of the action than the spectators
at the event itself can obtain. Wave FM’s spoken coverage has been criticised for being
unlistenable onsite due to the ‘tinny speakers’ ie the tannoy system installed
along the cliff-face (acoustic reverb probably doesn’t help). But online it’s fine,
and using radio announcers means the commentary is professional.
The Wave announcers’ control booth. The notice-bar saying Important- ‘Our cookie
of proceedings, on the Saturday afternoon just as the Vulcan was about to appear.
Technically, the video coverage
worked well enough its first year of full operation, ie last year, and we included a link to
it in our 2013 blog post. This year, whatever new tech features were added seem to have made
it top-heavy for a standard BT home-broadband connection (never mind wifi). The live feed would
get stuck in a buffering loop, or drop the connection completely.
The site’s own error screen
when the live feed fails points up an interesting aspect of the setup:
Notice in the error message above
how the live feed is treated as a video-play process. Using the Retry button would take you
back to the start of the day’s coverage, which would repeat every time the page was refreshed
to try to re-establish the live feed. This is a byproduct of the coverage’s ‘duplex’
approach, one of its most useful aspects: both live and replay coverage are available by switching
modes. In effect, the live feed is accompanied by a video playback function which allows you
to roll back the viewing moment from 'live' to 'replay'. (BBC’s iPlayer does the same
in live-viewing mode.) The ‘DVR’ button takes you into this catchup mode, which
is very handy for such a lengthy event.
Bournemouth Air Festival 2014
There was also a link bottom-right
in the video window to a similar setup on Livestream,
the big US company which provides the tech backbone for many such web-tv channels. Trying to
reload this prompts a browser clickjacking warning, perhaps due again to the switchable live/replay
setup on the LiveStream Player (the ‘swf’ extension is ‘ShockWave for Flash’):
The same video stream was also
carried on the official airshow site bournemouthair.co.uk.
This proved subject to the same stalling. It may be the servers got overloaded due to a bandwidth
restriction or a miscalculation about the amount of traffic, but numbers should have been more
predictable here, than say, with the the Scottish independance debate live on STV earlier this
month. (STV suffered server-overload failure, leading to so many complaints STV actually emailed
an apology to all registered site users.) On Day 4, it was announced that around 20,000-30,000
people were watching the event on the internet, which is well under 10% of the ‘live’
audience of attendees (slightly up again this year, estimated at 450,000 on the day and 1.2
million over the 4 days). The sponsors’ commercials worked fine, not having the complexity
of the live/replay setup.
The camera coverage followed the
aerial action with a closeup camera intercut with one or two others for master shots, including
crowd shots, and handheld cameras on the beach [above]. Below, the closeup camera gives a detailed
enough view to see the open bomb-bay doors of the Vulcan flying at a thousand feet.
The Airshow’s basic go-to
link setup was confusing. It was changed from last year's [http://www.wave105.com/near-you/local-events/bournemouth-air-festival/]
and you had to search for it from the homepage; it wasn't, as you might think, under 'Wave-TV'
on the navi-bar (which takes you to http://www.wave105.com/tv/), but in the sidebar, buried
in a lengthy obscure URL [http://www.wave105.com/near-you/family-time/the-bournemouth-air-festival-2014/]:
However this page had a large
graphic for Fonix (Fonix provide those big LED screens you see at sporting events to help the
spectators see the event better.) This also showed a redirect link to www.wave105.com/BAF -
which in fact merely bounced you back to the page you just left. The audio now heard as this
page loads is the only clue the video coverage is there; to see the video, you needed to scroll
down past the large Fonix graphic.
The audio was professional as far the verbal commentary went (radio commentators are never
lost for words; you could see them working without a script), but the other audio was poor.
There was no working mike pointing at the crowd, so that when the commentator asked for a reaction,
such as applause (a regular part of the commentor's spiel), we hear ... nothing. Nobody had
set up a shotgun mike pointing at the sky either, and the actual sound of the planes - one
of the thrills of an airshow - was faint or inaudible. (You could hear the planes better out
of the window at home.) Presumably to compensate for this, the major 'star turns' got a musical
accompaniment, which was not well thought out.
That perennial airshow favourite, the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight, were accompanied by
the ‘Aces High’ theme from Ron Goodwin's score to the 1969 film Battle Of Britain,
which others have pointed out is actually the 'Luftwaffe March' leitmotif set to scenes of
German pomposity and overconfidence. With its ‘oompah’ overtones, this is not difficult
to discern (Goodwin's work could never be called subtle), and it is his ‘Battle Of Britain’
theme, which is first-up on the soundtrack album, that dramatises the film’s Spitfire
and Hurricane ‘fightback’ sorties.
Goodwin’s score replaced William Walton’s, whose stirring score for the 1943 film
The First Of The Few is the basis of his popular concert piece Spitfire Prelude & Fugue,
another possibility. (For background on this film, which was location-filmed locally, see our
page on its production here.)
Instead, a solo appearance by the Spitfire was accompanied, for no apparent reason, by music
from Holst's Planets. When the Lancaster does its solo turn, we get the popular Dam Busters
'March' by Eric Coates, though not the familiar main theme as heard in the film, but mainly
the tiddly-pom preliminary section Coates added to pad it out for light music concerts. The
B17 'Flying Fortress' bomber 'Sally B' (which only saw action in the 1990 film Memphis Belle)
got a 40s boogie-woogie sexy dance tune. (The verbal commentator meanwhile pointed out the
grim reality of the US daylight bombing campaign led by this aircraft type.)
The Eurofighter Typhoon fared even worse - evidently somebody in the control booth is a fan
of Top Gun (where F-14 takeoffs were set to a modern synth score), though the 70s-style disco
song heard here sounds more like 'Staying Alive' from Saturday Night Fever, which if nothing
else is a quarter-century out of period. Why any music is necessary here is odd, for the Eurofighter
is the loudest aircraft at the show, and all the inapt music did was obscure the roar of its
engines, one of the airshow’s big attractions (the Echo actually put an MP3 recording
of this online for fans).
As soon as the event ended, the
video feeds sadly went dead too, giving no time for the crowds stuck in the lengthy exodus
traffic jam to get home and watch replays. The LiveStream screen reverted to the preshow title
card as if there was more to come, but viewers would have a long wait. BournemouthAir also
promptly went dead. (There was no follow-on 'NightAir'
evening event Sunday as on the other 3 nights to allow visitors time to get home.) You can
go to the PlanesTV link, where there are
some clips of flying but it’s a subscription channel and not local. BournemouthTourismTV's
channel on YouTube only has a few clips. BournemouthAir’s own YouTube linked ‘channel’
just takes you to interviews, while a general search on YouTube now at least brings up a variety
of material from private sources, here.
The Echo has its own (not Wave-FM/Fonix footage) 11-minute video montage of highlights from
Day 4, with the full cacophony of tannoy, aircraft and crowd sounds, here.
Livestream now also has some highlights on its Fonix account page, here.
Presumably an official souvenir DVD will appear on the horizon soon.
No Such Thing As A Free
On a related note, the Council announced on the Airshow’s first day the 'world's
fastest free outdoor Wifi' being
made available in the pierhead area by a ‘collaboration with FusionWiFi and CityFibre’.
The latter is an airshow sponsor and has some history in the town as an internet cable provider,
being formerly known as FibreCity [see our 2013 review here.
FusionWiFi offers ‘socialwifi’, meaning you only get it by offering them inside
access to your social-media accounts like Facebook so they can harvest [see screenshot below]
and sell your details so you can be hit by targeted advertising and emails.
I gather this is not prohibited by consumer protection laws, though many users may not be aware
of the fine print; the involvement of the Council as a public body with a duty of care under
the Data Protection Act is disturbing. Why the Council considers it ‘a major step forward
in enhancing digital services and building a prosperous and connected town’ suggests a
certain lack of tech savvy, as anyone with a smartphone already has wifi they’re paying
for anyway. It would only be useful for portable ‘outdoor’ devices without built-in
access, meaning laptops; even there, the owner can go online by ‘tethering’ their
smartphone to it as a mobile access point. Some have complained their own wifi no longer works
downtown, perhaps swamped by a more powerful new signal (I had such an experience myself on the
Friday, unable for the first time to access Vodafone’s data link, which I’ve used
for years to run a netbook, including in two-hour meetings at the library). However re such boasts
of speeds of up to 1 gigabit/sec, the key phrase is always “up to”, which is the
standard corporate get-out when the ASA pursues them for misleading ads.
The ‘Free Trial’ aspect suggests people will soon have to pay for their personal
data being harvested while online, and this seems a dubious business proposition. Where the user
has a smartphone or a mobile number listed online, the ‘targeted advertising’ can
mean they get advertising texts on their phones, something that is more difficult to block than
email spam because of the more primitive SMS technology. The latest wrinkle is to use the smartphone's
GPS to target people as they walk past the business premises with a text message in the hope
they will enter and spend money. Of course, once the companies (and perhaps the Council too)
have your phone number and email address with the setup’s ‘implied consent’,
they can contact you whenever they want about anything they want wherever you are. As the American
expression puts it, TANSTAAFL – There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
Building Our Cultural Capital
This spring, several overlapping local-news strands have appeared which involve listing famous
persons associated with the area. This began in early January with competing “civic pride”
lists which inevitably include listing celebrities of one kind or another. The process was
kick-started non-locally, by a Birmingham documentary filmmaker’s putting together a “100 Reasons
To Love Birmingham” film. Co-funded by Film Birmingham and the Birmingham Civic Society, Steve
Rainbow’s 'More Canals Than Venice' was designed to combat the stereotyping and generally negative
image of the city and its residents in national media, by citing surprising facts to make people
“aware of how important Birmingham's role has been in British life.” This was picked up by
BBC News online, who suggested
people contact them with suggestions for similar “reasons for civic pride” lists re 15 other
cities around England (presumably cities where they have local news stations). There would
be no film but an online compilation.
The BBC's interest may be partly prompted by the publication of a recent independent report
critical of government arts funding policy, Rebalancing
Our Cultural Capital, which showed how nearly all the funding goes to London organisations.
(It's £20 per head of population allocated to London v £3.60 per head in the rest
of England. As Melvyn Bragg put it, the report is "damning of an increasingly centralised
funding process. London is simply eating up the resources, which are limited, and is therefore
starving the rest of the country.") The title attempts to filter out the geographical
underlay of 'capital' from its more general sense of an asset - an essential distinction.
Such 'local-appreciation' articles appeared later in January for various towns, these often
also involving the naming of famous people associated with the town. For towns rather than
cities, the 100-item total got scaled down to a more modest top-10 (cf “Top
10 Interesting Facts About Cirencester” ). Despite its considerable heritage here, Bournemouth
has long suffered from a similarly negative image. As I blogged about at the time in my “Bournemouth
In The Media” online column in 2001, the old ‘bath chair convalescent-spa’ image was then being
supplanted by one of Ibiza-style hen-and-stag-night public drunkenness – a sort of Jekyll &
Hyde dual identity, which was not a great cultural step forward. I’ve also blogged before about
how other seaside resorts have seen the way forward as more upmarket and reinvented or at least
reinvigorated themselves as cultural centres. Unfortunately, the more recent attempts to change
the town’s image away from a traditional “bucket’n spade” one or a replacement downmarket-Ibiza
have been misdirected. The less said the better about the disastrous attempt at a seafront
all-weather attraction, the IMAX-with-pub-and-restaurants Waterfront complex voted the ugliest
building in Britain.
And the attempt to turn the town into a surfing-dude centre by constructing an expensive underwater
sandbag barrier as a “surf reef” in a bay which, historically, became popular for its sheltered,
calm safe-bathing waters, was always doomed to fall flat. Most of the associated “beach pod”
deluxe beach huts remain unsold a decade on. While the IMAX building was eventually demolished
at considerable expense, after a decade as a national embarrassment, the surf-reef saga is
amazingly still ongoing: it is due to reopen
as soon as the insurance payoff for its premature disintegration can be put to use with another
contractor – the original company also having dissolved, so to speak.
than buildings are the most important component in building our cultural capital.
Bournemouth at any given time, there is always some gigantic central leisure-complex building
project on the cards, inevitably involving more 1980s-style multiplex cinemas and chain restaurants.
Most of these collapse in the end, after years of re-negotiated promises. The most recent example
is the Nautilus complex - though some of these projects also rise again from the undead in
mutated form, like a reincarnated monster in a horror story.
However, to return to the BBC 'local-appreciation' initiative, since the Bournemouth conurbation
is not (yet) a city, it was not on the BBC’s list (Southampton being the closest city to us
geographically). So instead the local press have offered up a scaled-down version: a ‘top ten’
list. Dorset Magazine featured Jeremy Miles’s 6pp “10 Reasons To Love Bournemouth”.
This focuses on places (beach etc) but #8 is “Famous People”. Cited are Tolkien, Tony Hancock,
Max Bygraves, Alex James, RL Stevenson, the Shelley family, Aubrey Beardsley, Stewart Granger,
Paul Verlaine, Hubert Parry, Mantovani, Galsworthy, Inspector Abberline, Christian Bale, Tony
Blackburn, ending with musicians Al Stewart, Duncan James, Andy Summers, Robert Fripp and Greg
In late Jan., we got the Echo’s “10
Things That Will Surprise You about Bournemouth,” most of which relate to famous persons
rather than trivia-style odd facts. For celebrity is always the main thrust here. Want to impress?
Mention a few celebrity antecedents: did you know [insert famous name] once lived here? (‘Once’
is often a key modifier here.) Thus, we have "Amanda Holden rode around naked on a bike",
"The Beatles loved Bournemouth", "The co-founder of Rolls Royce became the first
British man to die in an aircraft crash", "Bournemouth has been the home for great
writers" [Hancock and Blyton as well as Stevenson are cited!], "The Great train robbers
were arrested in Bournemouth", and "Winston Churchill almost died in Bournemouth".
(That’s 6 out of the 10 items.)
The online version of this has prompted a slew of comments, pointing out errors in the above
claims (e.g. some lived in Poole rather than Bournemouth), and suggesting other claims-to-fame
in the form of famous visitors or residents: Inspector Abberline, Mary Shelley, Max Bygraves,
Freddie Mills, Anita Harris, Marconi, Mantovani. The Echo quickly followed this up with another
article focussing entirely on famous residents: “12
Famous People Who Have Lived In Bournemouth” This time, we got Christian Bale, Alex James,
Jane Goodall, Max Bygraves, Tony Blackburn, Bill Bryson, Jamie Redknapp and Gareth Malone,
as well as several of those already cited above.
Again, this prompted many comments, some criticising the listing as a rip-off (either of Buzzfeed/Wikipedia
or a Facebook local-nostalgia group [Memories Of Old Poole & Bournemouth], where someone
had apparently just asked for a list of famous people who had lived in Bournemouth and Poole),
others suggesting more names (too many to list here, and some are evidently jokes or simply
mistaken). There is nothing new about such roundups, going back through a town or district’s
history, of “[insert famous name]-lived-here” entries. But now we have the online articles-plus-readers'-comments
effect, with accretions of entries posted and shared online. (I won’t use the term crowd-sourcing
as a lot of the info is literally unsourced, with no way to tell a real lead from a jokey entry
or simply a mistaken one, and little of it is new info; such leads require cross-checking –
which is presumably what the BBC is doing with its 100-reasons-for-civic pride-in-your-city
Previously, the commemorative-plaque system traditionally first honoured civic figures like
the town’s founding fathers, and later a few big-name cultural figures would be added from
among those long safely dead (the living and recently deceased being more prone to being hit
by scandal). But the blue-plaque system is now no longer in use locally, due to cost. However
with the web there is no almost real cost to a virtual listing on a web page; info can be regularly
updated (added-to or amended) and annotations can provide necessary criteria. That is, what
was their actual connection with the town? Within the answer to this, we can eventually come
to the issue of evaluating cultural contribution, rather than just celebrity name-dropping
of the famous-person-slept-here kind.
The first step is to take stock. The web is ideal for this as items can be added and amended
as information comes in. Hence we've created a new 'Cultural Capital' section of the website
and are compiling a listing of cultural contributors associated, over the past two centuries,
with the region’s main conurbation. (We’ll get around to adding figures from the
surrounding area, such as the New Forest and Dorset, later on.) To offer some basic structure
and historical context, we’ll proceed chronologically and break the coverage down by
To start off, we'll cover Georgian-Era cultural figures with a link to sites now within the
modern conurbation. And the first nominee is … [go
to 'Cultural Capital Gallery' homepage]