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


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

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