Food, Days Out and Travel stories from Brighton, London and the Rest of the World


Slow Food gains momentum and celebrates 100th Chef to join the Chef Alliance

So what is Slow Food? I found myself asking.  Can you support Slow Food if you eat too quickly and are always the first to finish a meal?  Does it mean I have to cook everything very slowly at very low temperatures in slow motion?
Partridge sausage rolls

Er no, but what it is, is a global, grass roots movement connecting the pleasure of eating with a commitment to community and environment.

Founded in Italy in 1989, the UK arm began four years ago and was set up to encourage people in this country to choose nutritious food, from sustainable, local sources.  As part of this movement Chef Richard Corrigan and CEO of Slow Food UK, Cat Gazzoli set up the Chef Alliance. Its Members pledge to actively champion and support the aims of Slow Food UK and in particular it's Forgotten Foods programme, comprising of 68 endangered foods.

In just over two years the list of Chefs who have joined this Alliance has turned it into a Who's Who of the Chef-ing world.  The list includes famous names such as Michel Roux Jr of Le Gavroche, Raymond Blanc of Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons, Theo Randall at the Intercontinental, Vivek Singh at The Cinnamon Club and Lukas Pfaff at Sartoria.

Lavazza coffee caviar
The Chefs are encouraged to serve Forgotten Foods on their menus and work closely with small producers to help promote good quality, local and sustainably produced foods.

Interested to try a few of these Forgotten Foods I headed to the Photographer's Gallery for some Slow Food UK tasting, Lavazza coffee treats and celebrate the 100th member of the Chef Alliance, Pierre Koffmann while scoffing.  

Lavazza edible cookie cup
Beginning the night with a zah zah zing, we were offered little glass fish scoops of coffee bubbles nestled on a bed of cream, called coffee caviar that tasted divine. This was followed by a Lavazza espresso in a cookie cup lined with white icing.  Knocked back with a tilt of the head, the cookie cup got nibbled too.
Marinated Fal Oyster Ceviche

Wondering how long it would take for the caffeine to kick in, a tray of oysters appeared.  Somehow, despite my love of food I had never quite wanted to try oyster before.  This was my moment, I thought.  If ever there was a time to try oyster, then served up at a Chef Alliance bash is likely to be the best.  Dressed with fennel and quinoa, the marinated Fal Oyster ceviche  looked unbelievably inviting.  I thought, here goes.

Harvested from 1st October to 31st March by traditional sailing vessels, the Fal Oyster from Cornwall is one of the few remaining stocks of native oyster left in the UK and the only stock left of wild oyster. Gathered by a little fleet of fishing boats from the port of Truro, they have been included on the Forgotten Foods list due to a number of factors.  Threatened by overfishing of the minimum sized oysters, water quality during the summer months, invasive species (slipper limpet), capital dredging near the fishery and the selling price, the Fal Oyster has a lot to contend with.
Coloured beetroot, horseradish and kipper

The tasters began to appear at a steady pace with coloured beetroot, horseradish and kipper; partridge sausage roll with quince chutney and Cornish saffron cake all making an appearance. Each bite looked delicious, tasted delicious and was served with lashings of Italian white, Gavi di Gavi.  Happy Days.

Surrounded by a room full of chefs and small producers there was a sense of fellowship and bonhomie throughout the evening.  Rounded off by Thank Yous, Cat Gazzoli said, "I want to personally thank every chef member; our Chef Alliance partners Lavazza and Highland Park, as well as every Slow Food UK member and supporter who have come together to protect and defend edible biodiversity as our birth right."

As for the Fal Oyster.  It tasted fantastic! Click on the links to find out more about each of the Forgotten Foods, Forgotten Food recipes, Slow Food UK events and Like the Slow Food UK Facebook Page.
Photographer's Gallery, London



Blogging Bird meets the Russians

It's not every day you get an invite to the Russian Embassy, certainly not for me anyway.  So, when the invite came through, who was I to have a valid reason not to go?
The opportunity to peep inside Russia came about thanks to the World Travel Market 2013 and a Russian desire to encourage and welcome visitors to their great country.

Up to this point my knowledge of Russia had been limited to some fascinating lectures at University from a History Professor, who stood with his hands in his jeans and talked to us for hours on end without checking his notes. Collectively we sat captivated by his stories of Stalin and Lenin and the turbulent past. Years later in Cairo a friend and I were approached by two large Russian men in swimming trunks (we were by the pool) wearing heavy, gold jewellery who offered us drinks, weed, whatever we wanted. The Russian who spoke English clicked his fingers and a waiter appeared with orange, vodka and ice-cubed mineral water. I can't remember his name but he said he could not return to St Petersburg, he had a restaurant in Vienna and travelled the world for pleasure. He didn't have an opinion on Stalin. He gave me his address in Vienna and invited me to visit. I never went to Vienna but he left an abiding memory.

That was the sum of my knowledge of the Land of the Russias and hardly a fair representation of what Russia has to offer the adventurous.

What I discovered at the 'Welcome to Russia' forum was how vast Russia is. Comprising of 83 regions, one region alone to the very far east, is almost double the size of the UK, with a population closer to that of Brighton. Delve deeper and you'd find not all regions are divided equally and this is one of the larger in size, however the scale is still incredible.

Kamchatka geysers, copyright Jaka Skorjanc
The region I'm referring to is also known as the land of volcanoes, containing about 300 extinct and 30 live volcanoes. There are four indigenous peoples, UNESCO recognised national parks, thermal springs and wildlife so undisturbed as to affect even the most seasoned traveller. This is only part of what Russia has to offer.

This blog might turn into a book if I went into more detail about each of the regions covered at the World Travel Market 2013 forum, so I just want to tell you a bit more about the remote, wild, volatile land of volcanoes, Kamchatskiy krai.

Kamchatka, is 4,875 miles (7,846 km) from Moscow and an 8 hour plane journey away. It has a unique geo-thermal eco-system with five sites included on UNESCO's world cultural and national heritage list.

Populated by Even, Itelmen, Koryak and Alentian people, there are reindeer camps and festivals throughout the year to mark ancient traditions. On the first Sunday in June there is the Day of the First Fish festival, which is held for good and successful fishing. As part of the festival there are a series of rituals that are undertaken that include passing through a wooden arch to clean yourself from evil spirits, making a gift of fire and singing ancient songs using the tambourine.

At Paratunskiye there are relaxing hot springs, composed of chloride sulphate natrium siliceous and nitric gases and averaging temperatures of 35-45 degrees Centigrade, along with the restorative mud from Lake Utinoye is credited with having healing properties.  At Kronotsky State National Biosphere Reserve, the Valley of Geysers has the greatest number of geysers in the world, of which the largest in size, the Velican shoots out a column of boiling water and steam, reaching up to heights of 65-100 ft (20-30 meters).  Lake Kurliskoye plays host to over a hundred brown bears that gather in late summer to feed on red salmon, with as many as 30 bears within a distance of 2 miles.  In autumn Cape Lopathka witnesses the migration of tens of thousands of birds, from small sparrows, oriental greenfinch, reed bunting, to Middendorff’s grasshopper-warbler and the Siberian rubythroat they all fly past en masse.

The woodlands are filled with spruce, larch and silver fir; while overhead fly the golden, sea and white eagles and around the peninsula swim grey, blue and killer whales.

It is a land full of wonder and one of the few places left on the planet that is so remote as to remain unspoilt by the advance of humankind.

Kamchatka volcano, copyright Jaka Skorjanc
So, anyway that's Kamchatka. There was still the Russian Embassy to visit. That evening as I walked up the tree lined avenue of mansion houses, where the Embassy is based, I wondered whether my invite was for real. Inside, the chandeliers blazed, the bar was well stocked and the buffet was in the garden room. Along a shelf were a few photos. To the front was President Putin, behind him was a black and white photo taken in the garden room of a meeting attended by Churchill.

Next door, the Koryak dancers had begun to sing and jump about. All the female dancers had impressively long dark plaits reaching down their backs, the dance cries and jumping seemed so lacking in refinement it was truly joyous to watch. I couldn't help myself, I held up my iPhone, captured the moment and sent out a tweet.

For more Kamchatka photos and information, Like the Kamchatka Facebook page.
Outside the Russian Embassy in London

Captured on video, here's a small clip.



Georgians Revealed at the British Library, 8 November 2013 - 11 March 2014

Window display at the British Library -
Georgians Revealed

I love the eighteenth century, an impression mostly formed by the books I have read from the period.  Books such as Tom Jones (1749), The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), A Sentimental Journey (1768), The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771) and Evelina (1778) that describe a world full of chaos, colour, open to new ideas, while laughing at human folly in all its forms.

King George III's library at the British Library
During the Georgian period, leisure activities were developing and reaching wider audiences via print - dancing, gambling, sport, fashion, gardening and gossip were popularised.  In fact most of our modern preoccupations, from Grazia, Strictly Come Dancing (I want Abbey to win), to gardening programmes and sporting activities can trace their origins to this period.  These are the connections that the new exhibition at the British Library are hoping visitors will make and the displays have been organised into sections that are aimed to help us navigate our way through the busy-ness of this century.

Lead Curator, Dr Moira Goff explained her aim was to bring the period to life  by including a mixture of "everyday throw away adverts, tickets and receipts, to gargantuan and exquisitely illustrated books that King George III himself would have treasured."

picture of Brighton Pavilion at the British Library
The exhibition begins with Public Places, Private Spaces and features grand architectural and gardening books borrowed from the British Library's most significant collection, King George III's private library of 65,000 books.  Given to the nation by his son George IV in 1823, apparently because King George III had positioned his library directly off his bedroom and George IV wanted to turn it into a more social space. Now encased in glass as a centre piece to the British Library, this priceless collection towers six-stories upwards, tantalisingly in view and out of reach.

Georgians Revealed provides the perfect opportunity to peer into some of these books, including King George III's copy of Cecilia by Frances Burney.  Opened at the page, which reads "The whole of this unfortunate business," said Dr Lyster, " has been the result of PRIDE and PREJUDICE."  Dr Moira Goff a self-confessed fan of Fanny Burney (me too!) chose to include this in the exhibition along with two letters written by Frances Burney and one by Jane Austen.  For Burney fans, the letters are interesting because they refer to her step-mother who she wasn't very keen on and another to "my own dearest Mrs Thrale", who she fell out with over her choice of a socially unacceptable second husband.  On an aside, it's funny how things work out, Fanny Burney went on to marry a foreign, Catholic herself and face her father's disapproval as a consequence.
Letters by Fanny Burney and Jane Austen at the British Library

Letter from Fanny Burney to Hester Thrale at the British Library
As you journey through the exhibition, there is also the chance to enjoy some specially recorded music by The Royal College of Music from scores displayed in the exhibition, including a signed manuscript of Handel's Messiah. 

The next two sections Buying Luxury, Acquiring Style; Pleasures of Society, Virtues of Culture illustrate a growing obsession with fashion and has mannequins in perfectly replicated Georgian dress.  There are also books and pictures of dancing, horses, carriages and boxing.  My favourite display relates to a friend of Byron's who had to flee the country to escape creditors and in the process left a trunk full of receipts with his bankers.  Inherited by Barclays, the unclaimed box was eventually lent to the British Library in the 1970s.  The contents of which provide a fascinating window into the world of a young man about town, who incidentally has one of the best names ever, Scrope Berdmore Davies.
interior of Scrope Davies' box at the British Library

Tegg's Map of London at the British Museum
The final section brings Georgian London into even sharper focus by quite literally allowing the visitor to walk on it.  Tegg's New Plan of London, 1830 has been enlarged and spread out across a room, so that before you leave, you walk across London, giving you an opportunity to pick out the areas you know, with further information available on the walls.

This exhibition is only part of a year long series of celebrations across Britain and Germany to mark 300 years since the first Georgian came to the throne, King George I in 1714.  The British Library will be holding a series of events including:

LATE at the Library: Vice and Virtue
Fri 6 Dec 2013, 19:30 - 23:00 £12.50
Enter the Library turned verdant pleasure gardens for an evening of decadent pleasure and entertainment.  Celebrate the legacy of the Georgian era with guest DJ sets, live performance, circus antics and daring-do from Circus Space performers and the exquisite trapeze artistes Collectif and Then. Discover the finer points of Georgian etiquette with the Georgian Townhouse Party; promenade in masks and savour tasty Georgian morsels in a varied evening of installation, demonstration and a late night opening of the exhibition.  Join the uncommon rogues and gents, rowdy vixens and genteel ladies for a night of utter splendour and spectacle.

There is also a chance to win a luxury three-night stay in the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, click on the competition link to enter.

Georgians Revealed

8 November - 11 March 2014
Mon - Fri: 10.00 - 18.00  (closes 20.00 on Tues)
Sat: 10.00 - 17.00
Sun: 11.00 - 17.00
Adults £9
Under 18s free
Over 60s: £7
Students: £5
Other concessions available
The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
How to get to the Library

Enquiries: | +44 (0)1937 546546.

As well as this there are other events to mark 300 years of the British-German royal link at other locations in London and Germany, for more details click on the links below



Sartoria's November menu and Forgotten Foods in Mayfair

Sartoria restaurant, Savile Row
~ Sartoria and the Slow Food Revolution

Last week invites and events took me to that great big bubble of allure and spectacle, London.  While there I found myself enjoying a show of dancing Koryaks at the Russian Embassy; eating oyster for the first time at the Photographer's Gallery; benefiting from a micro-polish facial at Cowshed; looking into a box of receipts left by Scrope Davies when he fled the country 200 years ago; mock falling over for the amusement of my niece, as well as, and not least, savouring Forgotten Foods at fine dining restaurant, Sartoria.  Busy week.

So to begin in the re-telling of tales, please follow me on a virtual tour of my fine dining experience at Sartoria's of Mayfair and find out a little bit more about Slow Food UK's Forgotten Foods.

Situated on the corner of Savile Row and New Burlington Street, Sartoria has been delivering a sophisticated, stylish dining experience for over 15 years to a loyal following.  The bar area offers light, quick meals along with cocktails like Savile Row Sling, Negroni, Tom Collins and Lychee Martini.  To the left, in the dining area tables are covered in long draped white cloth, the seating is a mixture of comfortable sofas and chairs and the wine glasses are long stemmed and slender. The room has a timeless, unshowy style, a canvas on which the food will appear, works of art by a Master Painter, er Chef.

Sartoria's November menu
Head chef, Lukas Pfaff began his career in Germany before moving to London to join Marco Pierre White as chef de partie at The Restaurant and then becoming head chef at Il Convivio, Belgravia.  In October, he became the newest member of Slow Food UK’s Chef Alliance and, as a result, added several Forgotten Food dishes to his Italian menu for November.

The Slow Food UK movement and its list of 69 UK Forgotten Foods, with the support of the prestigious Chef Alliance aims to re-introduce UK foods that are disappearing and support small producers and local, sustainable produce.

Three seasonal dishes have been added to their à la carte menu and are marked on the menu by the Slow Food Alliance symbol (a snail).

To start, Pfaff has created a dish of Morecambe Bay shrimps with a courgette and citrus tartare.  The presentation was superb, a tower of colour, comprising of grapefruit base, roman courgette, with golden brown shrimps on top.  It looked fantastic although, for me it lacked impact.

Middle White Pig at Sartoria
For main there is the truly autumnal combination of Middle White pig, cooked three ways, with black cabbage and cobnuts.  The Middle White pig has been in decline as a consequence of government policy after the Second World War, when pigs were directed  towards the bacon market and specialist pork breeders became less popular.  This was my absolute favourite dish of the night, the pork was so succulent, the cobnuts crumbled apart and the chipped potatoes a perfect side for a hearty, warming dish. Perhaps further enhanced by the dark, rain swept night outside.
To finish Pfaff offers a pudding of cocoa and almond served with Kentish cobnuts, (cultivated hazelnuts), sweet, nutty and very very local.  The combination was interesting as there was a contrast in textures, the smooth pudding contrasting with the crumbling nut, but it lacked light and shade.

To accompany our meal we had a variety of well chosen wines by our sommelier for the evening, Jose.  With over 230 entries on their wine list, Sartoria cover wines from the very best vineyards.  To begin we were offered Prosecco ‘Crede’ Bisol, a delightful choice with a light and delicate flavour. While in the bread basket, the pane carasau guttiau a thin and crisp flatbread from Sardinia, despite its humble appearance was worthy of note.  Throughout the meal Jose continued to bring light, white wines that suited our taste perfectly.  However, the absolute stand out, blow your mind with flavour, wine we had was the amazing Tokaji 5puttonyos, Royal Blue.  A dessert wine, sweet with an explosion of taste sensations.
Dessert wine, Sartoria

As with any dining experience, the service you receive plays a huge part in the overall impression.  Throughout the service was impeccable, unobtrusive yet attentive, polite, informed and incredibly warm.  The meal was unhurried (three hours actually), the food exceptional, in particular a mid course of artichoke and crab risotto was a winning combination of creamy and complementary flavours.

When food is wonderfully cooked, the meal becomes unforgettable; when the service is excellent, the restaurant gains loyalty.  Sartoria, excelled in both senses and can add some more loyal followers to the list.

Sartoria restaurant, London

Tel:  020 7534 7000



Sounds from the seabed of the Sunken Ballroom in Arundel Cathedral - 9 November 2013

2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the Sussex Symphony Orchestra and to celebrate this milestone they have commissioned a select few Sussex composers to write them some music.  One of the musical maestros approached was Brighton composer Paul Lewis, who has won acclaim for film and TV music.  Rising to the challenge and inspired by Brighton’s West Pier Concert Hall, tragically destroyed by fire in 2003, Paul has produced The Sunken Ballroom.

A homage with further resonance as his mother, a musician, played in the Concert Hall on many occasions.  "My mother, a well-loved violinist, accordionist and banjo player, played in the West Pier concert hall / ballroom both before and after the war. I have included a banjo part in the foxtrot section of my work; if you listen carefully you may even hear the actual instrument my mother used to play on the West Pier".
The SSO - Sussex Symphony Orchestra

Bringing this composition to life will be the Sussex Symphony Orchestra, one of the largest amateur Orchestras in the UK. Held together by a team of enthusiastic volunteers and musicians, all of whom share a passion for classical music, the SSO keep going from strength to strength.  In 2012 they welcomed the Brighton born and global sensation Nigel Kennedy as their new Orchestra President and one project found them taking part in a British Airways advert filmed at Heathrow Airport. 

Over the years they have performed at various venues across Sussex and alongside some very famous names, such as singers Katherine Jenkins, Aled Jones and Lesley Garrett.

On 9 November 2013 at 7:30 pm, The Sunken Ballroom by Paul Lewis will be premièred at an evening concert in Arundel Cathedral.

Artistic director and conductor of the SSO, Mark Andrew James explains, ‘the new work is a wonderful imagining of how the actual sunken ballroom might sound from the bottom of Sussex’s seabed.  I think it will be a thrilling and poignant experience for our audiences’.
Sussex Symphony Orchestra at St Barts, Brighton
Throughout the evening the concert will embrace compositions that have connections to the sea as well as folk memories.  Felix Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, captures the haunting majesty of the North Sea as it surrounds and enfolds the rocky shorelines of Scotland’s Hebridean islands. Whilst Britten’s Suite of English Songs – (A Time There Was), looks to songs of childhood, as a way of remembering the joys and challenges of youth.

The concert’s second half looks westerly, making an Atlantic crossing to the music idioms of the Americas. Anton Dvorak’s New World Symphony is much loved by the SSO, seconded only by its fondness amongst SSO audiences. This is a concert that balances forward looking music with a gentle reminiscence of times past, a very appropriate musical evening for the very elegant Arundel Cathedral.

Tickets for this concert are available at the door or from the Sussex Symphony Orchestra website.
Tickets cost £15 Adults, £12 concessions, under 16s / NUS £5.

SSO 9 November 2013



A Story About a Story About a Squirrel called Alfie and Brighton Pavilion Gardens

Of all the blog posts that would be difficult to write, this is right up there, out of my comfort zone and totally making me squirm inside. Why? Because I'm writing my own story, about my own book, written for own niece and illustrated by own aunt.  So there you see, it's easy to promote what other people are up to - not so easy when it comes to your own back yard, or Pavilion Gardens in this instance.
Brighton Pavilion Gardens

It all started with a commission from my brother for a book for his 3 year old daughter Olivia.  From there I just had to come up with an idea and it didn't take me long to decide on a story about squirrels for the content. During daily walks through St James' Park in London and Brighton Pavilion Gardens I loved watching the busy-ness of squirrels - approaching people for nuts, jumping through trees and generally scurrying around.  

Alfie the Squirrel
It was at this point at a family meal a chance conversation led to my aunt offering to produce some watercolour illustrations for me.  So, with that, I had the commission, a hero, an artist and now all I needed was a story.

Then one day in October, while walking through Brighton Pavilion Gardens I noticed that the grass had gone.  Well, I thought, what would Alfie make of this (because he now had a name).

So, I took some photos, to accompany the story and started to write the tale for Alfie, I mean Olivia.  The story completed, I received some watercolour illustrations from my aunt Joy, which were fantastic and I was delighted.

Further good fortune meant that by chance I happened to be walking through the Pavilion gardens at the very time the men on the quad tractor came to lay a new lawn, giving me the perfect opportunity to take more photos.

Finally, I needed to work out how to put it all together and a friend at Brighton Writers recommended Blurb to me.  I found out I could design the layout myself and publish online.

After a few proto-types, one that has already gone to Olivia for preview.

As well as a fantastic review by the cutie-pie Georgina in Cardiff, the final draft is here.

So here it is, a story written with love for my niece Olivia, with a dedication to my three beloveds, Olivia, Max and India and with much gratitude to my aunt Joy.  Check it out below or click here for the iPad version, Alfie the Squirrel.  I hope you like it.



Let's Get Real and review the situation, with more digital events this month

Brighton Dome Studio
~  The Brighton Digital Festival is now well and truly over leaving behind a whole load of big data from which to learn.  However with so many interesting insights there is one more review I had to write and that is about Culture24's event Let's Get Real. Worth checking out as Culture24 have a couple more events coming up this month, so there are still ample opportunities to gain knowledge from the culture sector's digital experts.  

The event I attended took place last month and brought together inspirational talks, which gave specific examples of how to achieve big change within an organisation and why it should be done.  led by the dynamic Jane Finnis, Chief Executive of Culture24, Let's Get Real showed how, "to embrace the new reality of audience behaviour."

Let's Get Real 2013
This big, huge subject was approached in a series of sessions, which began with talks, from Time Out and Penguin; included a panel discussion with participants from Phase 2 of the Let's Get Real project as well as analysis of some cultural organisation's websites.  This combination hit the mark, as Karen Moore, Marketing Manager at People’s History Museum explains, “it gave me a lot to consider within my own organisation in terms of how we move things forward and improve our digital activities, engagement and evaluation.  One of the insights I took from the event was not to feel under pressure for us to sign up to every single social media tool but instead to consider what works best for us, our story and our collections."

The first speaker Ben Cordle, Senior Marketing Manager at Time Out began with a very honest look at how they had taken the bold move to change the Time Out model from news-stand sales to free distribution of this highly-regarded brand. 

Time Out knew they needed to transform themselves from a slightly old fashioned magazine into a more up to date and relevant brand in order preserve it.  They knew they had a loyal and vocal following but in order to grow, they also needed to find out who else was out there.  What had happened in the past was that the vocal nature of their subscribers had tended to drive the business.  By early 2000s print sales had gone into decline and although they were an iconic brand, they had started to see their audience shrink.  The website although large, was reliant on searches that were non-brand specific.  By 2011 they had decided to work out how to change this, become younger and become more relevant.  Their hypothesis was to make Time Out a free magazine, and instead of reaching their 50,000 loyal readership they sought to reach 100s of thousands of Londoners instead. 

To manage this they needed to ask a lot of questions, and so teamed up with CBS Outdoor who had the resources to reach out to an urban and socially active London base to direct some very practical questions.  What they discovered was that, for example only 19% of the new targeted audience wanted tv listings.  This allowed the team for change to successfully challenge the internal resistance that this radical move was manifesting.  The research also looked at association words in relation to the brand to assess how this new audience perceived it.  The results although positive led to a review of how 'entertaining' the magazine currently was.  The conclusions showed that people wanted an easy and exciting way to navigate the city of London.  Cordle explains, "by testing Londoners opinions and desires with a simple highly actionable survey we were able to satisfy the business that this change would work and it enabled us to move to the next stage of our research".  

As a result the magazine has become meritocratic, and moved from the attitude where the Senior Editor knows best and it doesn't matter what the masses think, to one where the Editor knows exactly what their readers think.  Follow up research after the implementation has also shown that 2/3 of their readers have actively done more because of picking up the magazine.  In addition, their digital traffic grew by 40% in the first couple of months and has continued to grow since, going from 3 million to 5 million users almost overnight and with current figures at about 6 million people. 

The next speaker, Charlotte Richards head of the Insight team at Penguin, began by describing how she sees analytics as a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing and no picture to work from.  She encouraged organisations to analyse data from 360 degrees and by doing so, use insight to complement ingenuity instead of replacing it.  Within Penguin her role is sponsored by the CEO and Finance Director, which has given her clout when meeting resistance to data sharing.

Let's Get Real - Phase 2
Moving swiftly onwards through the day, representatives from some of the 22 cultural organisations who have collaborated over the last 11 months in Phase 2 of the Let's Get Real project explained what they had gained from working together.  Phase 2 had explored what digital engagement could mean, allowing the participants space outside their normal working environments to learn and share with colleagues.  The aim of this project was to identify ways of improving audience reach for cultural organisations using the right digital media.  What they discovered was that analytics was no longer a reporting function but an important tool for understanding their audiences.  Andrew Lewis, Digital Content Delivery Manager at the Victoria and Albert Museum found this experience, "supportive to work with other people and protects my learning time." 

Finally here are some notes from the Crit Room to check out -

*  Make sure your site answers these fundamental questions - What is it / where am I and what is in it for me.

*  Make sure titles are clear to new visitors.

*  Remember - Top Left is where people look first.

*  Make use of storytelling on the front page.

*  Don't make everything on the front page of equal importance, have 'hero' content. 

*  A two minute video on the front page can seem very long. 

*  Consider dynamic links on the front page, for instance blog posts and twitter feed.

*  Be brave - kill content to prevent clutter and mess. 

*  Make it visually driven.

*  Filter jargon - Curators and other Professionals may be experts in their fields but content needs to be accessible.

*  Google Adwords - find out what language is being used.

*  Be aware that first person plural may give the impression of 'them' and 'us'. Ask whether this distances the web visitor from your organisation.

*  Use Google trends to create searchable sub headings.

With that said, I'll leave it to Matt Locke, Director of Storythings, and previously Head of Multiplatform Commissioning at Channel 4 to have the last word,  "I really do believe the Let's Get Real report is, not only for the culture sector but for broadcast and publishing, an excellent tool to help guide us through data." 

If you missed this, there are more WeAreCulture24 events coming up, including this month, Building Your Digital Identity on 18 October with digital engagement specialist Abhay Adhikari as well as, Planning a New Digital Project, Update or Rebuild? Digital Project Management with Carolyn Royston and Charlotte Sexton on 23 October 2013.



Special one-off sock-teddy crafting, in a quaint and cosy setting - 26 October 2013

From a month of following in the footsteps of the digital world where the ground keeps shifting and everyone is in a hurry to keep up, I side-step into one where socks new and old are transformed into elbow patches and sock-teddies.  The elbow patches are a bit mis-leading, as it was a one-off patching job on a treasured cardigan.  The sock-teddies on the other hand are waiting to be made on a jolly evening with the lovely Julie Peasgood leading the way.
Sock-teddies chillaxing

Taking place Upstairs at the Much Ado bookshop in Alfriston, from 7 til 9 pm on Saturday 26 October 2013,  Julie will be showing you how to turn a sock into a teddy, with all materials provided. Supplied with a new, unworn sock, buttons, ribbons, stuffing and a silk bag to take your sock teddy home in, there will be light home-made refreshments included in the price.

Although best known as an actress and TV presenter, Julie Peasgood is now also becoming known for her passion for crafts. As a child she made Christmas decorations which she persuaded her neighbours to buy, then throughout her teens and twenties, she successfully sold a variety of work at markets throughout London.

Julie Peasgood
In recent years Julie has organised and mounted seven large craft / antique fairs in Richmond and Barnes, garnering Time Out’s Pick of the Day award. She currently gives craft classes on board cruise ships and together with her business partner, Wendy Turner Webster, Julie is the co-presenter of ‘Crafty Beggars’, which she and Wendy have devised. This brand new crafts show will be screened on Channel 8 and Latest TV in April, 2014. Her favourite crafts include collage, beading, decoupage and creating sock teddies. 

The store is the perfect setting for this light-hearted fun, in a book-filled oasis, with comfy chairs scattered amongst a hodge-podge of bookcases.

The shop, located in the heart of the Cuckmere Valley and a 40 minute drive from Brighton, began in a colonial seafront town just north of Boston, Massachusetts.  After 20 years the owners decided to cross the Atlantic and open a new Much Ado in a Medieval English village instead.  They now have a two-floor shop, large yard (for their three chickens to scratch around in) and a barn that houses antiquarian books, printing presses with space for workshops and events, which they converted from a former builder’s yard. 
Named Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2007, just three years after opening, they specialize in books by and about the Bloomsbury Group of artists and authors, including Virginia Woolf, Duncan Grant and Maynard Keynes; while Charleston, the group’s East Sussex home, is just a few miles away.

For more details please click on the link  Spaces at the workshop are limited, so Much Ado suggest stopping by, calling them on 01323 871222, or sending them an e-mail as soon as you can to make sure you can join in the crafting party.

Sock-teddies en masse



Feminism 3.0 - take another look

With the subject at hand, social media and Feminism having such significance to women across the generations, guest blogger Amelia Charman came along to the event to assess what impressions she took away with her.  Recently out of college the digital communication is an inescapable part of a twenty something's world, so here is what Amelia made of the topics covered.
Feminism 3.0



Let's Call it Sexual Politics 3.0

A well-informed and I suspect a rather wise female writer said recently that if you want to publish an article about feminism, repackage it as sexual politics to make it more palatable.  Taking this rather sensible advice I've re-packaged Feminism 3.0 and given it a new title, just in case I can entice the unwary reader to read on.
Entrance to Brighton Dome



Brighton SEO 2013 - Useful and free SEO links

#brightonSEO 2013
When I found out I had a ticket for #brightonSEO, I was so excited, to say the least.  It would be my first time attending any sort of conference / instructional day out about how to create a successful online presence and I had high hopes for what it could deliver.  What I knew before hand was that on the word / tech scale my experience had me closer to the word rather than the tech end.  What I found out is that this meant that the talks fell mainly in the muddling middle of my understanding, neither so clear that I was nodding sagely and saying, yah, yah to myself, nor too murky that I sat there mouthing WTF.  So, with that said, if you're a geek look away now as my notes probably aren't for you.  However, if you're more of a content king, then check out some of the gems below, picked up from the tech experts at Brighton SEO 2013.

Twitter - well, do you?

Live, Public, Conversational, that's how Twitter defines itself, to which I would add, Meritocratic and that's why I love it so much.  The first session of the day was opened by Oliver Snoddy, Head Planner at Twitter UK who gave examples of how successfully Twitter can focus on a moment and through the multiplier effect engage with a vast and disparate audience that other more single focused media cannot reach.  To illustrate this point he used Stanley Milgrim's study of how a visible crowd has the power to steer attention to wherever the crowd is looking.   In relation to Twitter a staggering 3.2 million tweets in and around the moment Murray won Wimbledon clearly demonstrates the power of the moment to engage a large audience.  Currently there are around 15 million users in the UK, 80% of which access it from their mobile, which makes sense, as I found when I first tried using Twitter online myself.   Initially I didn't get it, but then  as soon as I started to use it on my iPhone the platform started to make sense.  Twitter's limited number of characters makes it a perfect portable platform.  Reading anything longer on such a small screen becomes a chore.  Twitter keeps it brief and immediate.  So, you want to join in?  Or maybe you want to amplify your connectedness to your Followers and find more Followers, then Snoddy suggests tweeting about food, fitness or shopping and add the #hungry, #run or #shopping to your tweet and by doing this, you've just joined one of the top three most popular convos on Twitter.  If you really are new to Twitter and don't know what to do next, tap #Discover on the bottom bar of Twitter as it appears on iPhone, then go to the top bar, tap the search icon (microscope) type in the hashtag you've just used, eg #shopping and scroll through what people are saying. 

So, did Snoddy give us any idea of what to expect next from Twitter?  Twitter are adding analytics to user profiles, this means you will now have Twitter data at your fingertips and soon you'll be seeing Twitter Amplify too, a product that enables adverts to precede popular video clips.  Advertising has just found a new bandwaggon.

A Multitude of Analytic Web Resources

The other speaker of note that I heard was Jennifer Sable-Lopez @jennita, Director of Community at Moz - Software and Community for Better Marketing.  Possibly the most generous in terms of suggesting online resources to help understand and use data.  A list that of course included some Moz resources too and with good reason as both their blog and Twitter analytics app, Followerwonk are really good resources to check out.

Perhaps the best place to start before embarking on research of the various analytic tools online is to read some articles that will give you specific help in a particular area.  The Moz Blog has a whole host of articles that may be a good starting point, here are a few to give you a flavour:

Once you are clear on what you need, here are some websites that you might like: - Your bitmarks  
This offers a URL redirection service with real time link tracking ie it's excellent for generating short links for using on Twitter.
FollowerwonkTwitter analytics, follower segmentation, social graph tracking, and more
Created by Moz, this website allows you to search Twitter bios, compare users, analyse, track and sort followers.  Some of the tools are free and easy to use, quickly producing some colourful charts and data. 
What I found out - the times of day my Followers are most actively tweeting, where they live (which country) and what words they use most often.
Bufferapp -   A Smarter Way to Share on Social Media
Buffer allows you to share pages you are reading and can automatically share posts throughout the day.
Unified Social - Smart Social for Smart Marketers
Offering brands and businesses help with reaching their target audiences on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms using a cloud based social operating platform.
Simply Measured - Easy Social Media Analytics and Measurement  
Offers free reports.
Social Engage - Social Location Marketing at its Best  
A non-profit team of experts in social media who can market your business through social networks.
True Social Metrics - Social Media Analytics 
They aim to offer a social media analytics tool that solves the problem of social media ROI and includes a section on mentions. 
Sprout Social - Social Media Management Software for Business  
Created to help businesses find new customers and grow their social media presence.

Other sites that were mentioned later in the day included -

Majestic SEO - Backlink Checker and Site Explorer  
Link intelligence tools for SEO and internet PR and Marketing, which show inbound link and site summary data.
The Official Microsoft IIS free SEO toolkit 
Offers detailed analysis and search engine friendly suggestions to help improve the relevance of your website in search results right away.
Screaming Frog - SEO, Search Engine Optimisation and Marketing  



The BIG Connected TV Brighton Conference 2013 - review by BroHo

Billed as a Practical Guide to Making Money and Reaching New Audiences within Connected TV, the Big Connected TV conference took place this Wednesday 4 September at Komedia, in the heart of the Brighton North Laine area.
Andy Keetch, Brandwatch at Connected TV

Its aim was to discuss how traditional TV formats are merging with other multi-media platforms, including the internet, mobiles and games and there were a range of speakers from within the industry providing case studies and discussions on some of the most innovative projects recently shaking things up, in a Connected TV kinda way.

Bob Maddams, Creative Director at BroHo, a Brighton and Hove based video production company and creative consultancy went along to find what they had to say.
Matt Locke and panel at Connected TV

Rob Barnes, The Project Factory at Connected TV
TV is dead. Long live TV.

The Big Connected TV Brighton Conference at the Komedia had a serious subject - how to make money out of the digitally connected TV landscape. A heavyweight line up of speakers included Holly Goodier, Director of Marketing and Audiences at the BBC; Richard Waterworth, EMEA YouTube, and our very own Angi Mariani from Latest TV here in Brighton, amongst others.

They all had interesting stories to tell about how they saw the future, and the overall theme I took out from the event was that this future is anything but certain. What is for sure though is that multiple viewing platforms, mobile phones and iPads and the like, is completely changing the way people watch “TV”. The big game changers seem to be the convergence of technologies, especially broadcast and social media, and the growing role of the data geek informing content creators and advertisers how their “Inventory” is being consumed. I had visions of them being able to tell me that when a teenager slumps on a sofa with one eye on the telly and the other on his mobile, some data cruncher somewhere actually knows which finger he’s picking his nose with. 

There were lively Q&A sessions after each speaker and the busiest question-fielder was Angi Mariani from Latest TV who set out the case for Brighton’s new TV station with passion stressing that it represented a very real business opportunity for local content creators. The day was hosted brilliantly by Matt Lock from Storythings who certainly helped me make a lot more sense of each topic with his knowledgeable summing up and question prompting. So, did the day inspire me to come up with some ideas about how to make money from the new TV landscape? Put it this way, I've already sketched out a couple of pitches to take to Dragon’s Den. But wait a minute, haven’t I got Angi Mariani’s phone number somewhere.


Is Feminism a dirty word? 14 September 2013, Brighton Dome Corn Exchange

Brighton Digital Festival 2013 explores whether social media is a friend or foe at Feminism 3.0

Bridget Christie


Become Social Media Savvy this September with the Brighton Digital Festival

Hard to believe I know, but it really is 1st September, which means the height of summer is over and that the C word is only four months away.  But, enough of that already, September is a wonderful month and with it comes the return of the Brighton Digital Festival.

Phoenix, Brighton

This year BDF is bigger and better than ever with over 150 events, reaching out to non-techies, children and providing some exciting opportunities to find out how to harness the ever increasing power of the internet for everyone else too.

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