Thursday, August 31, 2006

Weekend Update: New Islington Festival

Holy Schnikies, my flying monkeys have just come in with the news that there's going to be a free festival saturday in Ancoa... sorry, New Islington, forgot about that company-approved rebranding. Anyway, you can read all about it here. According to the swankified website, "The New Islington Festival is a celebration of the creation of Manchester’s newest and hippest place." I didn't know you could create hipness. Is it like sea monkeys?

Basically, this is a big fat advertising opportunity for Urban Cash's latest regentrification project. Bread and circuses, dammit. 'But who cares,' I hear you saying, 'they're going to have a stage on an island.' Yup, and all kinds of djs, including the ubiquitous mr. scruff, votel, diablo, plus Broke n'English and a whole bunch of other bands I haven't heard of. Plus an act called The Spurting Man (think I saw that one on the last train to Chorley Saturday night) and some kids' artsy stuff. Someone's bound to fall in the canal, that's all I'm saying.

Updated: Just noticed Mancubist has blogged about this too, and has put up some band recommendations here.

Weekend: books n'Volver.

Just a reminder that the Indy Book Fair takes over St. Ann's Square Friday and Saturday all day, with a plethora of readings happening at the live literature cafe both afternoons from 1 pm. Loads of bookstalls, go spend some money and support independent booksellers and small publishers. More info here. I'll be there, trying NOT to buy any more books because we're out of shelf space at the moment... but seriously, like that's going to happen.

If you're in the mood for a movie, Almodovvar's Volver is playing at the Cornerhouse. I saw it. It's a typically magnificent blend of ghost story/touching family drama/oddball comedy, with a cast full of amazing women. Go see it if you like Pedro Almodovar (and who doesn't?) Get there early though; On Monday night it was as packed as I've ever seen it. Also had the worst pre-movie pizza I've had there yet, a barely cooked, oversauced and fearsome thing. Beware!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Manchester Blog Awards explained

So I'm here, at long last, to tell you all about the first annual Manchester Blog Awards. Why have Manchester blog awards? Well, simply because the city's fast-growing collection of bloggers are doing some really great writing and photography, and it's high time for them to get some recognition for it. The brand-new Manchester Literature Festival, which has the intersection of literature and technology as one of its main programming themes, is keen to encourage the city's DIY online talent. MLF has agreed to support and host the awards, which we hope will become an annual event.

Here's how it's going to work: You will be able to nominate one blog for each of the four categories: best political blog, best arts and culture blog (this includes music blogs, photo blogs, art blogs, movie blogs, lit blogs, etc.), best personal blog, and blog of the year (this could be anything). The blogs you nominate can either be your own or someone else's or a mix of both. I'll compile a shortlist based on nominations, and the winners will be selected by a small judging committee that will consist of me and a few other folks involved in the city's digital culture, design and writing organisations (TBA next week.) Obviously anyone on the judging committee isn't eligible for an award. Winners will receive ... well, erm, something nice and fairly inexpensive. But think of the honour!

The winners will be announced in a brief ceremony at Urbis on October 16, in the evening. I'd like a couple of bloggers to read excerpts from their blogs, as well, so let me know if you have any interest in doing that. We'll be sharing the stage with live lit event Verberate!, which will have performance poetry, live music and djs on tap, so it should be a whole evening of entertainment.

At the moment, we're just waiting for the lit fest's website to go live. When it does, we'll be posting the information about how to send in nominations there about a month before the event. I'll keep you posted here too. In the meantime, if anything you've read above seems hopelessly wrong, or you just want to give me some grief, comment or email themanchizzle at

Also, many thanks to our own Newfred, who volunteered his design talents and whipped up this bitchin' blog awards logo in the time it takes most people to check their email.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Feed me!

So I took Mancubist's helpful advice and tricked The Manchizzle out with an RSS feed. See the flashy orange icon to the right? I had to chose between atom and rss, so I took a wild guess. I also set up one of those cunning little boxes, down bottom in a lovely shade of green, that says how many people subscribe to your feed. Except it says 0.

Can you hear me blushing over the internet?

I know some of you actually do get The Manchizzle fed to you already, so can you switch over to some different feedreader thing that will make my green box not say 0? Or, erm, ping something? No, that's not what I meant to say. My technogeek credibility is crumbling rapidly. Anyway, just sort it out, please.

BBC Manchester gets blogging (UPDATED)

The BBC has been trying to figure out a way to work with user-generated content for a long time. But in the past their efforts have pretty much focussed on building their own platforms and editing submissions (as in the interactive Collective culture site.) Now our own Beeb outpost has decided to go the much less complicated (and cheaper) route of getting existing and would-be bloggers on board. They've just launched the BBC Manchester blog.

The full explanation of how it's going to work is here.. In a nutshell, it looks like they're going to enlist two bloggers in each of Manchester's boroughs. They'll skill them up with external blogging platforms, talk them through the BBC's editorial guidelines and production values, and match them up with staff mentors. The BBC Manchester site will then link to their blog and an editor will cherrypick their best posts for the front page of the BBC Manchester blog. For this, they will not be paid - well, not in anything but traffic and bragging rights (I can hear a few people snickering already about this being a clever way for the Beeb to land themselves some free, fresh, local content). But there's no denying that this could be an opportunity for some bloggers to increase their audience. You might even go on telly and get famous, as co-blogmeister Richard Fair explains on the site:

The BBC Manchester blog will act as a showcase for the project and, in particular, the best content that's been produced by contributors and highlighted by the BBC. This will be a "one stop shop" for BBC Manchester journalists who may want to read out content on-air, contact contributors for background information about a story, reuse a gig review on the website, or even ask a participant to go on Northwest Tonight (our regional TV news) to explain something they've covered online.

Hmmm.... sounds to me like just the sort of added-value cooperation between citizen journalists and the mainstream media that Jeff Jarvis and Nicky Lemann have been bickering about. What do people think of this? The email on their site doesn't seem to be working yet, but you can use comments to let them know about your blog until it is.

(Photo of BBC Manchester from the Unofficial Mark and Lard site.)

UPDATE: That was quick! In response to the above, Robin from the BBC Manchester blog has put up a post specifically addressing the "taking advantage of free content" question. It's here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Only on t'internet

Sweet Jesus.

(let this video load completely before you press play or it gets stuck)

This marvelous piece of eye candy stars Keeper of the Gems Leslie Hall, the Tron suit guy and Peter Pan. It was brought to you by internet advocacy group We Are The Web. Watch the completely incredible introduction and get all the info about their net neutrality campaign here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Reading weather

Well, it isn't any drier across the channel, I'm sorry to report. Crap weather put the kibash on my beach-lolling plans (though I could now write a book on the unique charms of budget hotels in Brittany and Normandy.) I did, however, get a chance to catch up on my novel reading. I liked On Beauty well enough I guess, but by the end of the book I was heartily sick of every single one of the characters, none of whom are particularly likable. Better was the sad and brilliant Never Let Me Go, which still has me thinking about it days later. Read it.

And I also managed to get to a couple of magazines I've been hoarding for a while. I can reccommend Nicholas Lemann's piece on blogging and citizen journalists in the New Yorker, which will definitely infuriate some folks, since his point seems to be that despite the hype, citizen journalism isn't all that interesting or successful at this stage. And no matter how healthy and vital it becomes, the citizen media will never put the professionals out of work. Though there are moments of just the sort of print media hauteur you'd expect from the Dean of Columbia Journalism school (he goes out of his way to make Jeff Jarvis look like an ass) Lemann's a lot more even-handed than I expected him to be. And I think his basic conclusion is correct.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Thanks everyone...

The Manchester blogmeet was a roaring success, with 22 of us making it out to Urbis to revel in our own geekdom. Many thanks to the lovely Sarah at Urbis, who made sure we were all set and coped brilliantly with the unexpected change of venue. After the blog meet, some hardy souls continued on to the Hare and Hounds on Shudehill, where we met some very interesting characters indeed.

And now I'm off, away up there camping for the next week, so I'll be taking a holiday from blogging, email and all that stuff.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The blog meet is on...

...but has been moved to the cafe in urbis rather than our own special little conference room. Apparently there's some kind of messy repairs to the aircon units in there that were supposed to be done by now, but aren't. No worries, though - We'll have our own roped off area. Plus there's a barbecue and a parkour demonstration going on in the front yard. Should be wildly entertaining. 3 to 5 pm today. I'll be the one in the lavender shirt.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The blogs of war

The MEN's foray into blogging continues, with the surprising addition of newspaper-sponsored blogs based in Lebanon and Israel. This sort of news-responsive hotspot blogging has been done before, probably best and most famously by the Guardian in Iraq, who enlisted Salam Pax to write a column. Still, it's a great idea, and it's nice to see the MEN being more ambitious on both the blogging and international news fronts.

The View From Lebanon is written by Wassim Kabbani, a recruitment consultant who moved to Beirut from Cheadle a few years back. His pieces provide a clear and unabashedly opinionated perspective on the situation in Lebanon. And Mancunian Sharon Healy is writing The View from Israel from her home near Haifa, which so far has centered mostly on the difficulties of carrying on with your life in a war zone. It's really weird to read about her buying cornflakes in the supermarket and missing out on her community drama group meeting because of bombing. I hope they both continue to write regularly, and stay safe.

The rest of the MEN blog stable is off to a somewhat variable start, with online director Sarah Hartley's food blog seeming the strongest of the lot.

Fringe benefits

Like just about everyone else I know, I long to go to Edinburgh every year, and every year I'm here in my pyjamas reading the glowing reports in the morning papers (whole sections of which are always given over to raving about the festival, which seems rather unfair on the rest of us.) But this year I feel like I am there, thanks to the marvelous Fringecast, a daily video podcast featuring snippets of performances and brilliantly unscripted interviews with performers.

The first couple podcasts have featured an interview with the scary Christine and Neil Hamilton, and a performance from Krysstal and Brian Damage, who sing a very funny song about Brits abroad. And it turns out that Fringecast is put together by one of our own Manchester bloggers, Dave of the Northern Quarter Podcasts blog. Pretty cool, eh?

(Photo of random flyerer from the Fringecast site.)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Manchester Blogmeet this Saturday!

Less than a week until the Manchester blogger confab at Urbis (that's 3-5 p.m. in the conference room, in case you were wondering.) It'll be a star-studded guest list of North West blogging talent.

So far, we can expect to see: Mancubist, Connect Media North West, Spinneyhead, Yer Mam!, Sticker,Bench, Landed, Why did I go wrong?, Stephen Newton's Diary of Sorts, A Free Man in Preston, Girl on a Train,
Crinklybee, Normblog, EnCompass Culture, Black Country Grammar, and Counago and Spaves.
I think there are others, but I might have mislaid a couple of links.

D.Percussion recap

So D. Percussion was okay. A fun day out in gloomy Castlefield. I'll be honest, I didn't think the musical lineup was all that. I tried to get into some of the bands (The Whip, The Longcut, Aim) but my mind would wander after a couple of songs. And I just missed Field Music, the one band I actually wanted to see. It would be really, really nice if Ear to the Ground would at least let us know what the running order is for each stage next time. They never do, though, and so everyone spends the entire day rushing aimlessly from stage to stage.

But maybe I'm always distracted by running into old friends, added to the ridiculous difficulties of trying to get a drink (which was not helped by the drinks stands running out of everything but John Smiths and Brandy by 7pm, and we're not even going to talk about that disgusting Fosters citrus beer they were flogging by BarCa.) Getting in enough drinks seems like basic competency stuff for events companies, though I was glad to see that they had enough portaloos this year. Still, it was fun to see everyone out and about in their finest hoodies and jeans. Did anyone else go?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

To do: D.Percussion, trouble at t'mills, wireless

A firecracker of a weekend, with D.Percussion on tap to keep us entertained (remember your £2 "donation"). The full list of acts is here, though everyone I talk to seems to be the most excited about the Pipettes' set. I'm also looking forward to seeing Field Music.

Afterwards, you've got a choice. You can go to a rave in an old mill in Castlefield. Or you can go to an old mill in Salford, and see a crazy-haired singer called Diane Cluck. You could also try to get into the D.Percussion after party at The Music Box, but that's bound to be oversubscribed n' sweaty.

If you're having such an amazing time out and about in Manchester this weekend that you simply must share it with the internets immediately, you're in luck. Bournemouth Runner reports that Cornerhouse is now offering free wireless to customers. So by my count, that makes three places in town now offering free wifi, along with Oklahoma and Suburb (don't try to juice up with Suburb's electricity, though. They get real pissy.) A thriving digital cafe culture? Hardly. But it sure beats the lame "citywide wifi" service hawked by The Cloud and other connectivity profiteers.

Time Out Borrows Bill

Manchester media gossip time. So a month or two ago I had heard rumours suggesting that a former City Life editor had been tapped by the suits down in London to run the Manchester edition of Time Out. But it seems they were wrong. The man in charge is Bill Borrows, the former Maxim editor football blogger, author and Mirror columnist. Here's a highly amusing piece he did on accessories. Even better, I hear he's actually from Manchester. A Man City fan. Unfortunately, it seems he's actually only putting together the sample issue. Shame they couldn't entice him back North!

I also heard that they're not interested in hiring anyone who worked for City Life. Of course, that could just be a vile and inaccurate rumour (or it could be sound editorial policy). Time Out honcho Tony Elliott sure sounds unimpressed with Manchester's last listings mag in this Press Gazette piece:

“City Life wasn’t very good — I don’t know the whole story, but it lost its way and it wasn’t as sharp and as organised and reliable as it ought to be. In a nutshell, Time Out is a better and different magazine."

Should be interesting to see the sample issue next month.

(Time Out Manchester cover image shamelessly thieved from Mancubist, who still won't say where it came from...)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Big for summer: The homeless look

You know, it totally sucks when you're being interviewed by a trendy magazine at a famous clubnight and you say something so breathtakingly thoughtless and stupid that it makes Mel Gibson look like Martin Luther King. And then they print it in the magazine, underneath your picture. That, like, totally blows.

From NYLON, June/July 2006