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Wednesday 19 July 2006

There’s a £50 fee to be in the Manchester Pride parade this year

If you want to take part in Manchester’s annual gay pride parade this year you will have to pay £50 + VAT. No, this isn’t a fee for businesses — they already pay more than £1000 to be in the parade.

It is a charge for every non-profit group and individual. Whether you are unemployed, disabled, poor, retired, have HIV, you will have to cough up more than fifty quid to walk through the streets of Manchester and celebrate being lesbian or gay.

When I saw the report in this morning’s Independent newspaper, it took my breath away.

It is bad enough that the cynical, money-focused people who run this event these days, fenced off the gay village and introduced an entrance fee back in 2003. In 2006 that entry charge is up 50% for many people, from £10 to £15.

But this latest stunt has to be the final straw. The signs are that they are selling fewer tickets each year. Money raised for charity in 2005 was the lowest figure since 2002. They seek to mislead the public over their costs.

It’s time for everyone to boycott Manchester Pride and force a change and go back to the roots of this event.

I believe that the biggest threat the gay community in Britain faces now, comes from the people who dream up schemes like this. Those who seek to make money from us at every opportunity. They are only interested in people who can pay.

The current organisers have completely lost sight of what Pride means.

How is it that other sections of the community in Manchester can hold parades and events that are free? But when it comes to the gay community we are told we must pay tens of thousands of Pounds in costs for security, street cleaning etc.?

Why is it that the gay village has to be fenced off with a high entry charge because it is serving alcohol, when alcohol can be served at other outdoor events in the city centre which are not fenced off?

If the City Council can tweak the byelaws to block off public roads in the gay village for a whole weekend, how come it can’t tweak the laws that relate to alcohol?

This is discrimination 2006 style. The gay community can be beaten and threatened into paying this money by businesses, the Police and Manchester City Council — all of whom say Pride won’t go ahead unless we agree to their terms (just look back to what happened in 2002 when the event was almost cancelled).

No other section of the community in Manchester is being hit in this way.


Filed under: LGBT,Manchester — GS @ 12:08 am
Thursday 6 July 2006

Rocketbust: the question the articles never asked about Rocketboom

Andrew Baron, the creator and producer of the videoblog show Rocketboom, and Amanda Congdon its star, have parted company according to reports.

In all the hype that surrounded Rocketboom in its first year online, there was one question that always went unanswered.

Print articles and TV reports were in awe of the show. Breathlessly, they told us how it was produced in an ordinary living room, had a quarter of a million viewers each day and yet cost just $20-$50 to make. Some even suggested that the main expense was photographic light-bulbs.

Andrew, the creator and producer of Rocketboom, was quoted as saying he spent some 8-14 hours making each five-minute episode. Which will be no surprise to anyone who has been involved in the time-consuming business of making television programmes or video.

But, as they predicted a rash of ‘user-generated’ Rocketboom-style programmes coming to a website near you, what none of these ‘anyone can do it’ reports ever asked, was how did the people behind Rocketboom pay the rent and buy food?

It was clear that making Rocketboom was a full-time job. After a year, I began to wonder. Did Rocketboom have a financial backer who had given them start-up cash? Was Andrew a rich-kid who didn’t have to worry about earning a living? Were they all on welfare?

Of course money isn’t everything, but eventually it became clear they did want to earn an income from the show.

As a video blog, Rocketboom has been a spectacular success. A phenomenon and I wholeheartedly congratulate Andrew and Amanda on what they did. But, as a business, it represents a missed opportunity of quite staggering proportions. I read they made about $80,000 from the one ad they had so far.

To be running for eighteen months, with 300,000 viewers per day, five days per week, and make only that, is just mind-boggling. With Google ads you can make $500 a year from a website that only gets 50 visitors a day…

History is littered with the tales of people who had great ideas or creativity, but failed to do what was necessary to turn those into an income. Rocketboom gave away its product under a creative commons licence. Its website and show usually carried no ads. It seems to me that the only valuable asset is the ‘brand’ and Amanda Congdon is a huge part of that.

Now the bubble has burst. Occasionally Rocketboom was brilliant (Amanda dancing in Russia), but often it was a bit too off-the-wall and left us scratching our heads in bemusement. Andrew was an expert on the RSS distribution side of things, with the result that Rocketboom was the first to make it big. It was a novelty and highly popular for that reason. That iconic combination of Amanda and the map… They captured a moment in time and I fear that moment is now over.

If I was Amanda, I would start making a new online show right now while she is so much in the public eye. If I was Andrew, I would sell the Rocketboom show, archives (which don’t have a lot of value because they are so topical) and domain name and split the money with Amanda, while they still have the chance to make some money from this. Otherwise Rocketboom is going to begin a slow fade into history without making either of them rich.

The worst thing would be to get tied up in a legal case for several years, by which time there will be nothing left to carve up. Time is of the essence for both of them…


Filed under: Net & technology — GS @ 11:17 am
Sunday 19 March 2006

British soldiers to face life imprisonment for desertion

So many soldiers are absconding from the British Army due to the war in Iraq that the Government is planning to change the definition of ‘desertion’.

Under The Armed Forces Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, ‘soldiers could now face life imprisonment if they refuse to take part in the occupation of a foreign country’.

As usual with Tony Blair, the answer is not to tackle the root of the problem — which is that he lied, the invasion of Iraq was illegal under international law and has been a total disaster. Not to mention that moral has been low because soldiers have sometimes lacked essential equipment such as body armour.

No, instead, Blair punishes the soldiers. Like so many other people, they see through him and have no faith in his leadship. So the only way to stop them running away is to theaten them with life in jail!

If I was in the armed forces I would be looking to get out as soon as possible, one way or another.

This is the twenty-first century and, when a soldier is being asked to put his or her life on the line, they should be confident that it is for a cause that is just and legal (and not just inside Tony Blair’s twisted head).

POST-WAR PROFITEERING BY US COMPANIES IN IRAQ

BBC Newsnight has a must-see report on how billions of dollars of Iraq’s money was directed to American companies to rebuild the country and much of it is now unaccounted for. Download it here while you can.


Filed under: Politics — GS @ 9:01 am
Wednesday 1 March 2006

Video music

One of my friends has said the music in my videos always sounds the same.

I think it’s true and a consequence of me using Acid Pro to make ‘music’ from loops. That combined with the fact that I’m just not very musical.

I really want to keep away from having any commercial music in my videos. The fact is, you are infringing copyright even if the music is at a low volume in the background and you just happened to pick it up.

Channel Four’s FourDocs website has some excellent information about copyright and other legal issues that affect UK videomakers.

I’ve found a couple of places that offer free original music in exchange for a credit. Now I just need some videos to go around that specific music!

Recently I spent some time building a completely new soundtrack for some video of a Manchester gay event from 1991. In the original footage, half a dozen music tracks from the time can be heard quite prominently on the soundtrack.

I took some crowd noise that I’d recorded at another gay event. Made up some (hopefully) Hi-NRG-sounding loops in Acid Pro and added some echo to them to make it sound as if it was all happening ‘live’ in Sackville Park (which is surrounded by tall buildings). A car-interior effect was added to one scene and a few seconds have some original sound that included no music.

Hugely time-consuming: a couple of hours to fix up a one minute clip. Here it is.

I think it works pretty well. You may think it’s ‘fake’ but, the fact is, TV and film editors do exactly the same thing all the time.

Currently many bloggers and other sites are getting away with using copyright material in a way that traditional publishers and TV companies wouldn’t dare. It is especially serious if they have ads on their site and are earning an income. I reckon the media companies and music industry will start picking on them very soon…


Filed under: Net & technology,Video-making — GS @ 1:11 am
 
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