Posts Tagged ‘Coventry’

From 5 to 85, even peaking at 90. The 5000 public workers striding through the streets of Birmingham side by side, many arm in arm, brought the city to life.

For such a metropolitan area there was a communal feel to today’s proceedings. People of all ages showed their dismay, dissolution and disgrace at the country’s leaders in a positive way that would prove the country proud.

No violence needed. The impact the united unions projected was one of sheer resistance. Each person had a story to tell and a belief to march for.

Starting on Livery Street and ending at the National Indoor Arena, the chief steward told of how “thrilled” he was to see such a positive response.

“We have 12 unions represented on our official poster but about 22 altogether, including high profile ones like Fire Brigade Union

Photo by Simon

There were giant balloons plastered in union slogans, thousands of people carrying signs. Four men carried a fake, but life-size guillotine, on the woodblock were three mannequins of the men at the top of the food chain that is British Government.

85 year-old Mr Oulaghan “I’m very excited, it’s a really good turn out, everybody can’t be wrong.”

Despite the angry political reasons behind the point of the rally, the event itself was quite a jovial affair. The mixture of parents, pensioners and children all represented themselves in with honour.

There was a disappointing void in proceedings. Amongst the sea of flags, it was tough to spot a single National Union of Students banner. The teenagers and young adults missed out on a vital opportunity to show their support. This may be the reason the Prime Minister labelled the event “a damp squib” the following day.

The Student’s Union at Coventry University explained their absence; “we are only allowed to send one email a year to the students”.

This is likely to be used during the all-important Fresher’s Week. This is the time of year the CUSU need to establish themselves as a point of contact as a support system for students in times of distress. They must also establish themselves as a leader when students don’t which path to follow.

Although the void was apparent, this didn’t distract from the task at hand.

“Its great to see everybody together but I’m angry about the fact that a lot of wealthy people are telling us to tighten our belts” Alan Taylor reminds us. He was in Birmingham representing the Foxhollies Special School, who promote art, performance and sport for special needs teenagers. The school was closed but the Deputy Head teacher Keith Youngson said, “We’re here for them, we’re all here for them”.


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Candid about the glories and benefits of his status but allowing glimpses into his treacherous and tormented past, Paul Abbott spoke at Coventry Conversations this past Tuesday.

Paul Abbott has a stunner of a life story to tell

The event began with Paul showing clippings of his work, a stellar compilation. Coronation Street, Cracker, Shameless, State of Play, Touching Evil and Clocking Off – these are all hugely inspiring and award winning television spectacles. These shows have allowed this writer to build a mini-empire of his own work.

Abbott admits he has become a brand. “J.J. Abrams said to me the other day, I’ll make anything you want to write”, this news excited and flattered the writer from Burnley “but I don’t want him to make just anything I write”.

Each programme may never have been written.

“You got beaten up in my family if you could write your name.” This is the first crack in the door of a closet that holds many skeletons. In a personal interview following the public lecture Abbott opens up even more. “We have a husband and wife in our family tree that were brother and sister so my brother rung me up one day saying ‘How do you sue someone, I want to sue ancestry.com’. He then began threatening to release it to the public to bring shame on me”.

The support his family provided him when learning how to write is no different to the support his family give him today. This is evident when Paul’s children receive birthday cards from their Aunts and Uncles, and their names are incorrect.

Earlier in the lecture theatre, the writer explains his own view on supporting writers. “It’s pointless mentoring writers if the first thing you do when they make a mistake is throw them out”. His shows have become so big that he now employs writers to do much of his work; all the while he keeps a close eye on their output.

It may seem unfair that the world gets to benefit from the creations of Paul Abbott when the inspirations for his ghastly characters and bizarre storylines are so close to home. His imagination however, is still there “You’re never lonely when you have an imagination… tapping back in the child in you is important because everything is achievable when you are 15” – no matter what your background.

The writer’s childhood largely inspired the ideas behind Shameless “…and when my Dad found out, the only thing he said was ‘when did I have long hair like Frank? He didn’t care about the character of him, he wanted to know why I gave him long hair”.

Shameless has 2nd season beginning soon in the US

Abbott sees his name as synonymous with the black hole he clawed his way out of, with the Burnley estate his family keep tying him to. His children however, love the name, because to them it represents him.

His 19 year-old son has just had a script bought by the same Red Production Company Paul has worked with for so many years. “I had no idea, I knew he was writing, I’m waiting for him to tell me so we can talk about it.”

“I’ve always believed your children can grow up to be 2 and a ½ times better than you and they already are.”

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Trevor's attempt at a banana carving

We had a three hour lecture.

The first fifteen minutes we were told “go find a news story”, we had two and a half hours and they had to be uploaded in the final 15 minutes.

I was scanning over my email when they were telling us the point of today’s lecture and noticed this and decided to follow up the story with a local spin.

I went over to the Coventry Market and introduced myself to one of the fruit stall owners. I decided to write the piece in the style of the Sun. Here is my finished story.

British public “too busy” to carve bananas

Fruit stall owners were ‘monkeying’ around yesterday, trying the latest internet sensation – banana carving, but some don’t believe the trend will take off.

The carvings, made famous by Japanese artist Keisuke Yamada, won’t continue its rise in popularity because “the people here are too stressed, too busy” says Hussain, a Coventry fruit salesman.

He was too busy to try carving one himself, but he kindly donated one for a customer to try.

Trevor, 36 attempted to re-create Yamada’s famous ‘beach-bum banana’ and noted that “it’s very creative”.

 “I’m not very artistic. If I could sit at home trying, it might be better”.

 If only he had time.

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We began Friday afternoon by reviewing an event that took place earlier in the week. It was a debate linking to the launch of John Mair‘s new book Mirage in the Desert? Reporting the Arab Springto be released on 26th of October. One that we were offered to attend but unfortunately due to previous work commitments I was unable to.

By reviewing what they talked about at the book launch we were able to touch on a few key issues regarding global media and communication.

Initially we were asked what are the practicalities that journalists face when covering controversial overseas issues?

The answer to this brought up several points.

·      It is necessary to keep sending media out to war torn places when there are already so many on the ground?

·      Should the focus of the stories be on the families and the people rather than how many bombs have dropped?

·      It is imprtant to provide background information rather than opinion.

·      Safety comes at a high price when journalists are following tanks and troops.

·      Thr fiscal price to send these people away is so high when it includes camera crews, satellite mobiles.

We also looked at what theories we can apply to these points.

·      With so many different, often opposing press and broadcast teams reporting the competition may lead to a downfall in the standards of reports i.e. BBC vs Sky vs ITV (John Mair’s notes highlighted these Commercialisation aspects)

John Mair has written a collection of books inspired by Coventry Conversations

·      The idea of embedding a journalist in a troop can lead to problems because no writer will write negatively about a troop they are travelling with. This could lead to the press not being trusted and kicked off the tour.

This work led to a discussion and some in class research about how athe media can seemingly lose a war. When you look at research of the Vietnam war, one point that crops up is how the US press played such a heavy role in reporting every negative detail of what went on. Some theorists believe that despite the US winning the war, it was shown to have been lost through the eyes of the media that the US lost the war.

The second half ot eh lecture was reviewing the tasks set the week previous. I personally looked at McPhail’s Global Comunication (2005) and reviewed this to the class but this week I have elected to look at Media Concentration Options for Policy by Trapper and Meier in McQuail and Siune (1998).

In addition to this I have begun focusing on our homework assignment for this week about who owns the media in my country. A review will be posted later this week.

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M42MC – In other words ‘Law Ethics and Public Administration’

The first week is always just a haze of various information thrust in your hands, and important information displayed and said that you will expect to keep in the back of your mind until the day you graduate, but it is, in essence, simple. You turn up they give you information, you go home. Even with the Induction week project it was mainly a demonstration in what they expect from us over the next year.

Fresh out of the first lecture, the students are running, and from the moment Marcos Young began talking that’s exactly what they have been doing.

We. We have been doing, because of course I am here too. Running like crazy. I wish I was a bit fitter.

There was some really interesting live discussion though as Marcos introduced this particular class. He asked us what the top story of the day is, and ultimately, no one answered. This is another learning for us to take away. We are journalists now, we must conduct our lives as such. That involves listening to the radio – Radio4, local radio, 5live – anything that contains news we must know whats going on, where its going on why its going on, who its… you get the picture.

With the class being so brief the learning’s were simple and straight forward.

When reporting news that affects local environment make sure you are going to the right person/place/office to ensure you get the right information. If I were reporting about bin collection in Coventry, would I ring up the Warwickshire Council or the West Midlands, or the city council, or the district council? Even if you know the answer to the question, check it.

I will also (if I want to pass this module it seems), set an allowance each Monday to buy the Guardian. Every job I’ll ever want will be posted in the job section each week and I must also of course grasp an element of news before I attend this class or I’ll end up looking very silly indeed. I don’t think journalists get much in the way of a break – now I understand why even when Jeremy Vine isn’t on the radio, his twitter feed is still constantly updating about news outbreaks.

We also spoke about creating radio news packages and how it seems we’ll have to be making one pretty soon. I have already begun thinking up of ideas regarding the Olympics coming to town for football and how the road outside our building has gone through a revamp. They seem to have a sort of diamond shaped roundabout built up, with no road signs, markings or lights to help direct the several hundred auto drivers that will go over it in the next hour. (UPDATE)

The red square of suicide


Radio News Packages are pre-recorded and can last between 3.30 and 5 minutes, it generally has to contain 3 contributors and you have to think about background sound to create the illusion of time space and atmosphere. I must also think about target audience (as with everything I’m going to be doing for the next year). If I’m recording a piece for Radio1 it’ll be full of atmosphere, jingles, short clips (not soundbytes) of the contributors but if I was recording for Radio4 it would be straight talking and information longer clips and no effects in any way.

I’m not sure if we will be doing this task in the afternoon session of this class but one thing I know is I’ll be running through that one as well.

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BBC Introducing is, as everybody knows the place to get played if you want any chance of “making it”, that is of course if you are not a pop princess or dance bass beat guru. It has given focus to the ambitious youth that saturate the British music scene.

The people who open the mp3s, CD’s and MIDI’s are looking for something different. This band or song may not be something that the initial listener is particular enamoured with in terms of taste but recognises the originality and purpose of the track sent in.

The show opens on Friday’s just after the news with an unsigned artist and at the song’s demise Martin Winch chimes in to introduce the programme. It is radio at it’s most basic form, a local radio DJ who is essentially playing to the people who are playing on the show but it is truly a catapult in which many of today’s biggest artists have been flung.

The show follows the same song-introduction-song-introduction format almost as is Winch intends on playing as many new artists as possible. This is admirable but surely the mark of any great radio DJ is being forced to cut some favourites.

Even when the show shoehorns in a regular feature in which they promote the ‘Band of the Month’, a single artist that will be played on every show that month, it is done so with no fan-fare, jingle or pizazz. It is once again just a simple introduction.

With each show only being an hour, this is likely the sole reason that BBC Introducing show in Coventry and Warwickshire is so standard in format. The show helps the artists but does it help the listener get engaged? Ultimately isn’t this what the BBC should be focusing on when there are so many podcasts, local commercial stations and online avenues that exploit the same format? Make people want to listen to the show not just the music.

One aspect of the show that is very commendable is that the DJ doesn’t seem to just settle on one genre of music, whether this is due to the producers getting involved to mix up the setlist somewhat might have something to do with it, but it isn’t just indie guitar pop that is attempting the BBC Introducing takeover.

David Dickens gets his moment at 35 minutes in with a pre-recorded gig listing which I can’t help but think that could have been made more interesting if this had been discussed live with the two presenters each coming up with the gig or show that they are most looking forward to.

Despite contacting Martin Winch regarding the show I have been unable to ask him his opinions or comments regarding the lack of time on his show. It is also important to note that BBC Coventry and Warwickshire has a small listener base at just 77,000 its only puncturing 11% of its population. This is the lowest of all BBC radio stations outside London and the Welsh language. When you consider that the BBC markets local stations to 50 year old and overs this lack of focus and interesting airplay is going to do little to attract a youthful audience and persuade a future audience to stick with the local station.

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