Thursday, November 03, 2011

Manchester Blog Awards 2011 recap (and new blogs)

So I think the 2011 Manchester Blog Awards were the best yet. A hefty dash of creative nonfiction was provided by the winners of The Real Story competition from my digital lit sideline Openstories. The five readers were wonderful and benefitted from an exceedingly friendly audience who really listened. And then came loads of excellent shortlisted bloggers reading a tasty smorgasboard of different writing - from short stories to microfiction to razor-sharp satirical emails. And then came the ever-popular Socrates Adams reading from his new novel Everything's Fine, which I just read and can say it is (as expected) deeply funny and exceedingly well-written. And then the crowning of the new winners, a very deserving bunch. Apologies to the one or two people who were disappointed by the absence of acceptance speeches, or our shocking lack of sufficient hoopla and fol-de-rol. Next year, maybe we should have the awards presented by celebrity dogs on unicycles. Whaddaya say?

On the night I got to thinking about the many amazing writerly partnerships and endeavours that started up from people meeting at the blog awards (I'm thinking especially of the Flashtag Manchester brigade and their various individual projects, side projects, events and one-off collaborations.) It might seem to someone unfamiliar with the Manchester writing scene that everyone at the blog awards knows each other. And yes, many of the writers shortlisted for blogs every year do know each other. Some met at the same event years ago and went on to do things together. More will have met there this year. Others know bloggers from writers' groups, university writing courses, or by being involved with one of the other bountiful opportunities available to writers in Manchester (the events and publications of the Bad Language collective, Tales of Whatever, The Night Light, Blank Media Collective, etc. )

The point is, writing brought these people together. If you're standing on the sidelines feeling left out, don't be a wallflower. There will always be the odd stuck-up ignoramus, but for the most part this is one of the friendliest and most inclusive writing scenes I've ever encountered. Come along to one of the aforementioned events and introduce yourself to the guy sat next to you, or to a writer whose work you liked, or to the girl behind you in the bar queue. Who knows what could come of it? What I'm saying is: it's definitely a clique. It's a clique that's big enough to encompass Greater Manchester and we're all personally invited to join it, kapeesh?

Anyway, we always hear about loads of new blogs via MBA nominations. They're additions to the ALREADY INCREDIBLY LONG list of new blogs I have been meaning to add here for ages. Hence the massive bumper edition of new blogs.... so many I'll have to publish this in two or three parts over the next few weeks. I'm not going to be able to do my usual helpful introduction to each one this time, but will simply give you the links. They'll all then be added to the categories in the Great Manchester Blogroll at the side. Happy readings.

Writers' Blogs
What Vanishes
Emma Jane Unsworth
Nici West
Josef A Darlington
I blog every day
Bad Penny

Personal Blogs
Richard Frosty
Jilted Generation
Oddments and snippets
Random Thoughts

Arts&Culture/Design/Fashion Blogs
Cava Coma
Manchester Cycle Chic
Manchester LAB
Caitlin's Country
Clothes Pony

Music Blogs
Having a party without me
Unchained Melodist

City/Neighbourhood Blogs
Mancunian Wave

Tech Blogs
Tony Tickle

Journalism/Media Blogs

Sport Blogs:
Naturally Cycling Manchester


Anonymous said...

I went to the recent blog awards at the Deaf Institute as one of my close friends was nominated for a prize. It was an interesting evening with some excellent creative writing showcased. However, I left feeling very, if not extremely, disappointed.

First, as you admit to, there was a lack of “oopla and fol-de-rol”. I’d hoped to see some entertaining award speeches at least. Second, and much more importantly, the title blog awards is in my opinion something of a misnomer.
As the evening wore on I realised that my understanding of what blogs are and do was far removed from what the awards and associated judges define them to be. In effect, the whole evening was about the performance of ‘being a Writer’. As such the awards was about Creative Writing (sic) which, whilst part of the blogging arena, is only a small part of it. For me, and for many others out there in 'the sphere', it is much more than this: it is about being a fan, an obsessive, letting off steam, a stream of consciousness (with or without an audience), about sharing ideas, news, and many more things besides.

Then there is the issue of the clique which was plain to see even to a newcomer like myself. I have no problem with a supportive network of Creative Writers sharing their knowledge and ideas, and I welcome your invitation to join in, but the in-crowd feel of the night definitely alienated many present.

Now this is where you’ve been very clever. It seems to me that anyone wishing to speak out or even slightly question the set-up and the possible unfairness of the awards due to this obvious clique is deemed as someone with a grudge or an individual consuming sour grapes. As a result, and in a classic discursive strategical, move you’ve already defined the position of the critic for me and anyone like us. We have no location from which to speak as there is none available. Your tweets the day after, where you asked that anyone with an issue with the awards not to use the hashtag, although sarcastic, performed the same function: gagging those wishing to speak out before they'd even said a word. The same effect is engendered by your appropriation of the term 'clique' itself: any sinister or critical force the term might have has been blunted.

All very clever.

So I am left making an anonymous comment as to do anything else would be to be labelled and positioned through the discursive manoeuvres outlined above. All I can hope is that you open out the judging panel to people who are respectful of Creative Writing but take the idea of blogging in a more expansive or diverse sense to that which I saw practiced recently.

Kate Feld said...

Thanks Anonymous. I genuinely appreciate your taking the time to write at such length about this here. I'll try to respond to each of your points:

Though I joked about it in my post, I really am sorry you were disappointed by the lack of hoopla and speeches. I agree that calling the evening "the blog awards" can occasionally be somewhat misleading, as the handing out of the actual awards is only a small part of the evening's activity. But I've been to awards for various things around Manchester and not one has had acceptance speeches beyond the recipient thanking people, which isn't usually that interesting. And, to be honest, I don't know how fair it is to ask shortlisted bloggers to compose a lengthy speech on the off chance that they might win what is a relatively small and humble award.

The focus of the event is not on the handing out of awards but, rightly, we believe, on the excellent writing being published on blogs in Manchester, hence the readings. This is a live literature event. The inclusion of the blog awards in the programme of the Manchester Literature indicates that we're focused on good writing published on blogs, and we make it clear in our promotional materials and our website that the evening is a celebration of great online writing. It is not limited to people publishing traditional creative writing on their blogs however - past winners have included fans and obsessives writing about subjects as varied as politics, football, electronic music, parenting and design, and publishing photos. We realise that the world of blogging encompasses many other wonderful types of blogs, but good writing, whatever the subject, has always been our main focus.

I don't really know what more to say about the clique claim that I haven't already said in the blog post. Manchester is a small town! People know each other, usually, much better than any of them know me, as I have small children and am only rarely able to get out to writing events. I'm dismayed to hear that anyone felt alienated on the night. For my part, as compere I tried to be as welcoming as possible, and it seemed like a friendly atmosphere to me. Did anyone else feel this way? Why?

My tweet on the @mcrblogwards twitter feed asking people who had bad things to say about the blog awards not to use the hashtag was, as you say, a joke. But simply that - a joke with no ulterior motive. Far from trying to silence any critics, the MAIN REASON I wrote this post was to open up a conversation with a few people who made negative comments on twitter or their own blogs, and I'm delighted that you chose to respond so we can discuss it further and invite comments from others.

We've always been completely transparent about how voting happens. In the past few years we've public voting (this year 1/6 of the vote) and invited at least one judge from outside Manchester (this year Emma Bearman of Leeds' Culture Vultures). Another judge is me, as founder of the event, and another is Dave Carter, who, as director of our longtime funder Manchester Digital Design Agency, is someone who is interested in blogs and matters digital but not connected in any way with the city's writing scene. A couple of years ago we decided to make one of the judges the winner of last year's blog of the year as a way to invite bloggers into the process. If you don't think this model is working, I'd really welcome specific suggestions on how we could further "open out" the judging panel from you or others.

Chris Horkan said...

Just to add my tuppence-worth: I did the shortlisting this year (my second time doing so) and, of the 24 blogs shortlisted, I only know three of the writers - and none of those beyond having had the occasional brief chat.

Personally, I've always been pleased by the diversity of the audience (and shortlistees) at the blog awards.

Craig 'onymous' Pay said...

Anonymous, I'd like to express my own opinion here. You're talking crap.

Your comment isn't about the blog awards, it's about the 'clique'. You can't disguise your obvious axe-grinding by topping and tailing with a covering paragraph or two.

You say you feel gagged, but you hide behind anonymous postings. How is anyone supposed to enter into any kind of discourse with you? Surely you're gagging them?

And I don't know how Blogger works (I fuddle my way through WordPress) but I guess Kate has the power to delete your comment, but she hasn't. Again, how is this being gagged?

Let me tell you about this 'clique'.

To quote Wiktionary...

'clique' (plural cliques)
A SMALL, EXCLUSIVE group of individuals

First off, I'm not a Mancunian. I live in a village out here in Greater Manchester. I moved up here from the south a few years ago. Just over a year ago I wanted to get back into writing. So I reckon this makes me a newcomer like you. With some Googling I found a new writing group in Manchester established, as it happens, by Kate. Over the following weeks & months I met some great folks and many of them have now become good friends. I took over running the writing group and we still have new members coming along, others dropping out, new friendships being formed along the way.

Turns out, some of the folks at this writing group are part of this so called 'clique'. Yeah, they're so cliquey... constantly asking me to come along to different events, asking if there's anyone else I'd like to bring.

Over the years I've been involved in so many social groups, attended conventions, studied numerous courses (from Engineering to the Arts) and I've never met such an un-cliquey bunch of people.

Your criticism is laughable. If this is a clique, it's a pretty damned big one.

Helen said...

As a former winner at the Blog Awards and a non-creative writer (as it were) I thought I'd add my voice here to pick up on a few points.

In response to the anonymous commenter above I would reiterate that Kate and team are very clear in all the marketing for the event that this it is intended primarily as a celebration of good writing on blogs, with some awards thrown in for good measure. That’s certainly the message that I’ve always got about the event. That said, the awards do actively seek to honour blogs which are about an idea as much as the quality of the writing - the winner of this year's Blog of the Year award (Screen 150) is a testament to that (not that the writing isn’t of a very high standard but I doubt a blog of longer-form film reviews by a single author would’ve been as well received). Furthermore, I'd also say that my own blog, LoveLevenshulme, which joint-won the same title last year reinforces the evidence that the awards are not just about excellent writing - they can be about idea, impact, engagement and relevance. Perhaps there could be an opportunity to showcase that on the night but, as much as I love Levenshulme, I don’t think that the audience on the night (or any audience outside M19, for that matter) would find my poorly-punctuated whimsy about kebab shops or allotment shows compelling listening. If there is a way to make blogs with a very specific focus or, indeed, no writing at all accessible to an audience like the one at the Blog Awards I don’t doubt that Kate would embrace it.

As for the idea of a clique I can certainly see how you would get that impression. There is a strong close-knit writing community in Manchester and, as all good communities do, they collaborate regularly. However, as Kate says above and as members of the “clique” have commented on criticism of the awards, that community is not exclusive. If you want to get involved absolutely no one is stopping you. That’s not a clique. As much as arguing against a pre-emptive “if you don’t like what we do then you’ve got an agenda” stance is near-impossible, so it is just as difficult to persuade someone that something doesn’t exist if they’re not prepared to try and actually test it. Schrödinger’s clique. Maybe. My logic is always slightly fuzzy on a Friday afternoon.

All of that said, there is elephant in the room here that I do think needs to be addressed further.

I submitted my votes for the awards, as did my fellow Blog of the Year award winner from 2010. I also happen to have written for one of the blogs that was shortlisted and my colleague has written for two. I flatter myself that my voting was as fair as it could be (and knowing Ian I’m quite sure that he was even more fastidious than me) but in retrospect I wonder whether this debate would be less loaded if we had absented ourselves from voting in those categories. I would like to make it very clear that I do not know what my fellow judges votes were, nor do I know whether my votes had any impact on the final decision but I think it’s fair to say that, at the very least, some portion of this debate would be more clear-cut had we not voted in those categories.

As a final point, I’d like to say how glad I am that we are having this conversation. My feelings on all of the issues above are decidedly mixed and the fact that Kate has taken the time to open up the debate to everyone speaks volumes about how open a shop the Blog Awards and the community that surrounds them really is.

Kate Feld said...

Helen, thanks for bringing that point up about the judging. If this had been made clear to me, I certainly would have recused you or Ian from being able to vote in the relevant category. I'm sorry I didn't spot it myself, but it is always a busy time. And rest assured, in the future judges will be asked more explicitly to declare any conflicts of interest.

Kate Feld said...

... also, Helen, I've gone back and checked, and had you been taken out of the equation in those categories it wouldn't have made any difference to the outcome. As I suspected.

Helen Power said...

Ah, irrelevant as always :)

Thanks for the response - as I just said on Twitter, the conflict of interest only really occurred to me after the fact, and I'm the one who had it so it's fair enough that you didn't spot it either.

So now we've established that it won't happen again and it didn't make any difference anyway I hope we can all ride that particular elephant off into the sunset.

Kate Feld said...

No, it was a really good point, Helen. We've never had this many group-written blogs about so it just hadn't come up yet. I know everyone involved wouldn't allow anything to unfairly influence their voting, but it's good to be protected from accusations of cronyism.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I can add anything constructive to this debate, but that has never stopped me commenting before. As a shortlisted blogger in this years awards maybe my 'independent' view as an outsider is somewhat relevant.

I didn't start writing my blog to get any awards. The fact that so many people read my blog still astounds me, and for my blog to be considered worthy of a nomination,let alone shortlist, was truly amazing and humbling. I was unsure as to whether I should attend the awards night, but, I am glad that I did. I had no expectations about the evening, but have to say considering the environment was totally alien, I had the most enjoyable night. It might have been better had the format of the awards evening been made clearer, but that didn't take anything away from the enjoyment. As for cliques, I'm not sure who would gain anything from the awards if this were the case. Who wants to win an award that fixed? certainly not me. Having said that "anonymous" is just as entitled to their opinion as anyone else, and criticism should be encouraged and embraced so that lessons that need to be learned are done so. It's a shame that you chose to remain anonymous as I think you probably have more to offer than some people are prepared to accept.

As a parting shot, I am enjoying being able to put my feelings into words on my blog, and even more pleased that others enjoy reading it. I would love to be able to attend the forthcoming workshops to enable me to learn more about this apparent skill I have, but sadly, my health currently prevents this.

I hope that makes sense to someone


Kate Feld said...

Thanks for adding to the mix, reflections. It's nice to have the views of someone who was both shortlisted and new to the event. I'm really glad you were able to come and that you enjoyed the night.

Kath said...

My suggestions for next year's MBA...

Make a small effort to engage with your shortlisted bloggers. I know many bloggers are anonymous, but there's often the facility to leave a message or comment on blogs. I’m not talking War and Peace – just a short congratulatory message with an invitation to come along on the evening. Then have a couple of similar lines on the website, inviting any you haven't been able to contact to get in touch with you.

Try and involve all the bloggers in the event. I actually have no desire at all to read out excerpts of my blog posts, but I was left wondering how the ones who did read from their blogs had been chosen. Were they people you knew – part of the ‘clique’? Or did judges contact a select few from the shortlist, and decide against contacting others because their blogs just weren’t up to scratch?

Make the shortlisted bloggers feel welcome. The event would not be happening if they weren’t blogging. I’m not talking red carpet treatment – but maybe ask who they are, attempt to talk to them, introduce them to each other. Do more than taking their cash, and making it appear as though you don’t give a toss about who has turned up.

If you don’t like personal blogs, don’t have it as a category. Excluding this category from the readings certainly made it appear like the poor relation. It is telling that the comment on last year’s winning blog in this category is “Fresh, well-written blog posts about a variety of subject matter, which, while being entirely personal, also provide an entertaining read. Oh, and not too navel-gazing, either, which is always good.” This remark comes across as being more about your feelings about personal blogs than about the winning one. You don’t do this in any other category – e.g. on Best City and Neighbourhood Blog “This blog was really well written. The posts were entertaining, despite being about Manchester, and thank God it didn’t mention Salford too often”.

Leave time for the Blog Awards. I enjoyed the readings, but it would have been nice to have time for at least a bit of a round-up of each shortlisted blog.

Feed back to the bloggers. Send them a quick message thanking them for turning up, saying how much you enjoyed their blog, maybe even citing something that you enjoyed to demonstrate that someone, somewhere has read at least part of it.

If people make comments after the event about feeling excluded, perhaps approach them directly about why, rather than publically ‘opening the debate’ by saying they are at fault because they didn’t approach a group of strangers who knew each other and ask to join their conversation. I am not a writer. I’m an alcoholic who's changing my life around and blogging about it for a variety of reasons, none of which include wanting to join Manchester’s literati. If I come along to your party, sort of at your request, then don’t spend the evening ignoring me and then criticise me for not asking you not to.



Ikem Nzeribe said...

I'd like to drop my tuppence into the debate, however late. I am a nominated blogger for @TheNaughtyIndex. I was also grateful to be nominated, but have very mixed feelings regarding my experience.

First, it's great that there's debate - but I am sad to see people like @Craig 'onymous' Pay lower the tone from what I can only see as an attack on Anonymous. She is entitled to her opinion! Let her have it without mocking. While you are quite clearly passionate in your defence of the Awards it is quite horrid to call her perspective "laughable". It is the worst kind of comment - because it makes you a troll. Let's not go there.

Why am I commenting here so long after we had our last beers and went home? Frankly, Kate's "sarcastic" comment about disappointed people not using the #mcrblogawards hashtag had the required and totally unavoidable chilling effect. I went home. I did not comment. As writers, it is the worst possible outcome - that freedom of expression and contrary opinion is strangulated. Sarcasm is hard to show in 140 characters-or-less, so let that be a lesson. I resolved in my own mind that I would not come to such an event again.

Anonymous has been isolated from this discussion, but I am being front-and-centre with my own identity and therefore will not be attacked on that basis. I also share much of her sentiment, and our observations dovetail at many points. The Manchester Blog Awards is in fact, a misnomer. I am a writer too - I write poetry and tiny little stage-plays - so the form is not lost on me... but the Blog Awards fails to embrace what is a new medium. It is essentially about writers attempting to shoe-horn themselves into a sexy but ill-fitting new dress called "The Web".

Ikem Nzeribe said...

The ceremony resists all that is new, and what makes blogs different. I mean, how could you represent the utter chaos of Tumblr, where some of the best, zig-zaggy, asymmetric publishing on the planet happens? You can't read it, necessarily. @Helen, you are showing a lack of imagination if you think your writing would not interest anybody outside your postcode enough to tell them about it onstage. It says nothing about the many of us that could.

@Kate, I think you saw me approach you with some concern throughout the night, and I think the Awards went badly wrong. Here's how to make easily-pleased people pleased at an awards ceremony:

1. It's called the Manchester Blog Awards.

Don't fill it up with two hours of spoken word and cram the "blogs" bit - the actual point of the thing to independent observers - into the last five minutes. It's really misleading, and must necessarily lead to disappointment.

2. Acknowledge the actual bloggers(!?)

I felt it was enormously unfortunate not to even mention the names of the bloggers on the night. How hard can that be? "In category A, the nominations are..." We see it every year on the telly at the BAFTAs. Chris Rock tells jokes and pulls faces. We work every bit as hard as literature-types. In my category, the person giving the award out in Arts and Culture went so far as to hurriedly mention the gender of the winner - so in my case, I knew immediately that it wasn't me - and explicitly say she would not mention the other nominees. Really??? Who was the runner-up? I had no idea. Did I care? Yes. Did you tell us? No. Just a lack of attention all-round, really.

And no: it's not too hard to have the nominated compose their speeches, only to fail to get the gong. It's actually the fun bit. The suspense - and "failure" in my case - is part of the experience. I scribbled mine on the back of a bus ticket on the way over... oh well. To be clear: I don't care that I didn't win - it's an honour to be nominated - but would you have known it if I wasn't actually there? No. How do I know? You didn't call my name.

3. Get a projector!

Blogs are visual. It's clear that photographers, crazy free-wheeling Tumblr-types and anybody using animation can't win here, because how would you showcase their work?

Thanks for offering the platform to me to enter. It is truly appreciated. In the end, what you do is what you do, and I am not going to try and change what you do. It is for those of us who think differently to build something new - maybe something better - that reflects our ideas, aesthetics and creative values.

Anonymous said...

[Please note this comment was written before Ikem’s two responses which I have only just seen and don’t have time to respond to, but it seems we’re thinking in a broadly similar fashion]

As the same ‘anonymous’ that started off this discussion (you’ll just have to be believe me), I feel it only right and responsible to respond further. I apologise for the delay, but like blogging itself there just isn’t enough time in the day.

First off, I’d like to extend my thanks to Kate for approving my comment. I certainly feel less gagged than before (and thanks for spotting that to do anything else would’ve only proven one of the points I was trying to make in the first place). And thanks to those who responded positively to my comment which, whilst fuelled with anger at the time, was meant in a constructive way (even if intention and outcome didn’t coincide in my writing. I might need some sort of supportive network to become a better writer…).

After reading the comments I actually feel more justified in my opinions than I thought I would. It does seem that a few of those who commented can see how I and others would see the night as an event in clique-dom. However, perhaps we should move away from the use of ‘clique’ as ultimately it’s a zero-sum discussion – one person’s ‘supportive network’ is another person’s clique it seems.

Yet where there is still considerable work to be done is where this ‘group’ of people can lead, as deemed above, to ‘cronyism’, or less pejoratively, a conflict of interest. I welcome the fact that Kate and Helen Power had spotted a possible instance of the latter. I hope this leads to future problems being nipped in the bud. We can’t it seems go back to question the fact that Screen 150 – winner of best new and best overall blog – had one of the panel judges and other winners writing for it, but perhaps these sorts of ‘creative networks’ can be spotted early on? To what extent these conflicts of interest actually impact on the vote is really not the point – this is an obvious matter of principle and if the awards are going to move on from clique-gate then this is necessary.

So here are some suggestions:
- Ask those short-listed to be prepared to say something if they win. Completely optional, but it would make it more entertaining for paying punters. And hire/blag a bloody projector so at least the audience can see the blogs?
- To take the awards away from its literary focus and the Manchester Creative Writing Scene (let’s call it that, yes?) move the event away from Literature Festival. There are other homes or hosts for it.
- New categories such as ‘Best Visual Blog’? ‘Best Photography Blog? ‘Most Entertaining Blog’?
- Increase the public proportion of the vote to 50%. Or have one category voted only by the public.
- Rigorously hunt down and eradicate ANY conflict of interest in the short-listing, judging and voting procedure (beyond the public vote of course which would be impossible to police).

That’s all I’ve got time for now. Oh…for that person who, in effect, accused me of trolling I hope after reading this and other’s contributions you might have changed your mind. And sorry, I refuse to come out from behind the anonymous posting and if you can’t work out why then I’m afraid I can’t be arsed to explain.

Richard said...

It's interesting there's been such a debate about this. It strikes me this is partly a function of the Blog Awards becoming more established and well-known, and I suppose therefore more open to being criticised for one thing and another.

I've been to a few of these over the years (I was nominated in 2007, obviously a very good year) and I've enjoyed them all. Yes a few of the nominees seem to know each other, but that's inevitable, especially when people share the same interests. I don't think there's a deliberate 'clique' at work. I imagine they first met by turning up to the Blog Awards or some other blogging get-together without knowing anyone, and just introducing themselves. This is how I first met many members of the 'clique' as it has been described by others.

As for this year's awards night, yes perhaps the awards themselves were all over and done with a bit quickly. But on the other hand, the audience had (quite rightly) sat attentively through several fairly long readings. I'd guess the organisers didn't want to try everyone's patience by having speeches and such on top of that.

There are always different ways of doing things and maybe there'll be one or two changes next year. But if this discussion proves anything, it's that an increasing number of people now take an interest in local bloggers and the awards. And that seems like a good thing to me.

Katherine Woodfine said...

I’m surprised to hear that people have found the Manchester Blog Awards to be an unfriendly event as I’ve had completely the opposite experience of it over the past few years. However I should note that I didn’t actually attend this year’s event as I now live in London, so I’ll confine my comments to my experience of it when I’ve attended in previous years.

A bit of background: I won the award for Best New Blog in 2008 which was also the first year I went to the awards. I had only recently started writing a blog and didn’t have much confidence in it – I felt my writing was pretty slight and whimsical. Being shortlisted was both tremendously encouraging and slightly terrifying. I didn’t see myself as being part of the literary ‘scene’ at all and went along on the night with a certain amount of trepidation (and a few friends for moral support) but I needn’t have worried. Winning the award was wonderful, but more than that, being welcomed into Manchester’s writing community gave me a tremendous boost. From that first evening and ever since, I’ve found Manchester’s writers and bloggers warm, friendly and inclusive: Ben Judge (who I first met at a blog event I think) sums this atmosphere up well on his blog here:

Having said all this, I do understand why this event might sometimes seem a bit cliquey. As others have said already, Manchester is a small city, so inevitably if you go to a few writing or art events, you soon start to see the same faces, and pretty soon you get to know them too. It’s actually something I miss a lot now I live in London where the arts and literary community is much bigger, less intimate, and more difficult to feel part of.

In spite of its small scale though, Manchester's arts scene is pleasingly diverse and I think that's been reflected by the awards over the past few years which has recognised people blogging about everything from parenting to music to photography.

Personally, I don't agree that the event needs more hoopla. Each to their own of course, but for me the informal and relaxed atmosphere is part of its appeal. The readings add content and context to the evening; and what’s more, when I won I have to say that I was only too grateful that my role in the evening was minimal, and I wasn’t expected to make any speeches!

I’d also like to say a final word in support of Kate and all the great work she and others put in on the Manchester Blog Awards. As someone who works in the arts I know that organising these kinds of initiatives is complex sometimes difficult. You can’t please everyone all the time as these comments prove – and actually this kind of lively, critical debate is very valuable to help move the awards forward, and to grow and improve. Yet for me and many others the Manchester Blog Awards have been a 100% positive, immensely valuable experience – so although perhaps it hasn't worked out this way for everyone this time, I’d like to say a hearty ‘thank you’ to Kate and all the others involved in the awards(and indeed Manchester’s other writing events and initiatives of this kind) for all their continuing work and efforts to support writers like myself.

@subtitlesonly said...

a brief 2nd comment

I too was a little disturbed by the attack on anonymous, it came across as most unfriendly, un-welcoming and un-warranted.

Although I did attend the awards, I was uncertain as to whether I was expected to do so as a shortlisted blogger. In theoory, it could have transpired that none of the winning bloggers were present at the awards, as there were no official invites for those shortlisted. That would have been embarrassing for the event.

I look forward to seeing more responses, and hopefully some of the comments can be considered before next years awards

Kate Feld said...

Wow, what a lot of comments! A few points in response to these last few:

We have never issued official invites to the blog awards; it's a small event with a small budget so we're not big on official anything. We're happy if shortlisted bloggers come, but if they don't want to, that's okay too. I try to find out if winners are coming ahead of time, that's all. Thanks for your comments about engaging with shortlisted bloggers, Kath, you make some good points. And Ikem, those are good suggestions about engaging more with the visual element.

About who reads: There isn't time for everyone to read. I ask people to read based on which shortlisted blogs I think will make for good readings. Some don't want to read and that's fine. I love all kinds of blogs, but in the course of doing this for seven years, I've come to the conclusion that some of them just don't lend themselves well to a live reading. This one, for example, Helen's Love Levenshulme for another. It doesn't mean it's a lesser blog, just a blog whose content is best experienced at the original source.

And I'd like to point out that reading at the event is not the only way shortlisted blogs are promoted and celebrated. Through links from our heavily-promoted website we hope that a lot more readers will find their way to shortlisted blogs.

The suggestion that I don't like personal blogs is somewhat odd. Take a gander at the blogroll to your left - if I hated personal blogs would I give them so much real estate here? In fact, I love personal-experience writing so much that I started a whole project devoted to it, The Real Story, whose five readings opened the blog awards. I invite you to look back through the years and see the many personal bloggers who have scooped awards in best new blog, best writing and blog of the year as well as their own category, read their work at the event, and even gone on to publish books based on these blogs.

I opened this debate about the blog awards on here because I don't have the facility to engage privately with each person who criticises the blog awards and as this criticism generally happens online it seems fitting that online is the place we should collectively address it. I feel like we've made progress, set the record straight about a few things and learned other things that will help make the event better in the future. But this debate is probably reaching the end of its useful stage, so I'm going to draw this to a close. Many thanks for your feedback and your honesty - the fact that so many of you are willing to take the time to discuss this at such length is surely a sign that the blog awards have become important to many people, and this is gratifying.

Richard Frost said...

Thanks for the link - a very nice surprise!

At the risk of reopening an old arguement, I don't actually think the Manchester Blog Awards are any more or less cliquey than other awards ceremonies. In my (limited) experience, every awards ceremony depends on an inner circle of people when picking nominations.

Like all awards, if you really want to get into the inner circle & help make the decisions, there's nothing stopping you. Or you could just ignore them. Criticising from the outside does nobody any good.