Monthly Archives: June 2013

Lost in Music – at Glastonbury Festival

Glastonbury – the festival I’ve never been to but feel like I have due to extensive BBC coverage. This year is no exception; The Rolling Stones headlined. What I was most looking forward to was seeing Chic, featuring my musical hero – Nile Rodgers… but they weren’t on the main stage.

It’s understandable why Glastonbury wanted the Stones on the Pyramid stage; it has been the dream of organiser Michael Eavis to see them perform at his festival and this year it came true. This is something that spans wider than the Somerset fields though, the BBC gave the Stones prominent coverage on BBC2 while Chic’s performance was hidden away on BBC Four – I would have missed it has I not been told it was on. Admittedly I am a massive disco fan, but it’s still a valid point.

I can’t help thinking this is modern day music snobbery that’s a throwback to the attitudes that caused the fateful Disco Demolition Night in July 1979. A baseball match was disrupted in Illinois, USA, and the ‘Disco Sucks’ movement began. This forced the music, flares and mirror balls underground while genres like punk rock started to gain rebellious popularity.

Chic live at The Ritz in Manchester

If you listen to the charts you’ll hear disco’s influence everywhere. Nile Rogers has reinvented himself many times to have hits with David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, Sister Sledge, Diana Ross and that’s just naming few. Most recently, of course, is his number one anthem of our summer – ‘Get Lucky’ with Daft Punk. That’s why I think Chic should have had a bigger billing, rather than on the smaller West Holts stage.

Chic lived up to their name, looking classy dressed in white throughout their performance. The Stones, on the other hand, looked frail and past it, with too many breaks for unnecessary costume changes. Judging by this Glastonbury appearance, Maroon 5 surely must reconsider whether it really is all that cool to “move like Jagger” for their hit song. I would have commended Ronnie Wood’s ability to multi-task… had it not been that he was smoking a cigarette while strumming his guitar.

Apart from their more mellow tracks that I play on my radio shows, I’ve never been a fan of the Rolling Stones’ music – it’s just not my cup of tea. Glastonbury was the chance to change all that but it didn’t. The sound quality was awful and I would have been distracted throughout had I not have thought I was watching Spinal Tap instead.

Don’t accuse me of being ageist; I’ve always had an affinity with music that’s not of my generation. Just a few hours ago I got chills hearing Kenny Rogers (no relation to Nile) singing ‘Lady’  and ‘We’ve Got Tonight’ from today’s Glastonbury highlights. Kenny’s older than all of the Stones, yet he still looks and sounds great.

I know the the Stones’ music is legendary and the soundtrack to the lives of many. Credit where credit is due and they probably do put on good shows but I won’t be paying over a £100 to see them. The times I’ve seen Nile Rogers have been priceless.

Nile Book

Yowsah…

yowsah…

yowsah! 

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The test for success – finding the right revision method

ExamToday I got my exam results for my journalism masters at UCLan… and I’ve passed! The hard work has been worth it, especially as I got distinctions for all my practical work and digital assignments (which this blog played a part in.) I potentially won’t have to sit another exam again but I know there are many with exams still in full swing or maybe you want to have some tips so that you – or your kids – are better prepared the next time they get their heads down to revise.

Recently, I interviewed revision expert, Patrick Wilson, about exam tips and it reminded me of an article I wrote about revision techniques back  when I was doing A Levels It appeared in our Sixth Form magazine and I know it helped people there at the time – so I thought I’d post it here on my blog and it could help you too…

I’d love a photographic memory, wouldn’t you? In reality though, not many people actually have this gift – anyone who says they don’t need to revise for an exam is probably lying! Also – you are unique – how your mate is revising might not be the best method for you. There’s still time left to try out some different techniques and see which you like best.

You’ve probably heard this mentioned a lot: There are three main ways in which people learn, visually (through seeing), aurally (through hearing), and kinaesthetically (through doing). It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what type of learner you are; most people are usually a mixture of these styles. If you revise using a variety of methods for each style you are more likely to remember that vital information in the exam. Varying techniques is also a good way for your revision to become a little less tedious and boring too.

VISUAL LEARNERS

Visual is exactly what it says on the tin – learning by seeing things. If a teacher writes a task on the board are you more likely to remember it than if they had just told you? These types of learners will probably like to look at pictures and diagrams. In Science, you might like to draw a flow chart to help you get to grips with an experiment you have just completed. For History, why not write a certain year in the middle of the page and draw lines to all the different events that happened in a mind map? Whatever you do use plenty of colour – this will help for things stand out and become prominent in your mind.

AURAL LEARNERS

Aural or auditory is leaning by hearing things. Do you like it when a teacher explains things by talking about it? If you have a big wad of notes that seem to go right over your head when you read through them then you might be an auditory learner. It may be of benefit to you if you actually record yourself reading key points out loud and you can play it back any time you want. Voice recorders come standard on most mobile phones now, so this is easy to do – if you don’t like the sound of your voice then get someone to read your notes to you. Hearing words rather than reading them might make you understand information better.

KINESTHETIC LEARNERS

The final of the three common learning styles is kinaesthetic or tactile –  learning by doing things. Do you like it when a teacher demonstrates something? This method will probably suit those of you studying more practical subjects, such as Drama or Technology. However, tactile learning is not limited to these types of subjects and everyone will be able to utilise the benefits of this method. For instance, you could make a model of a DNA structure for Science.  If you’re studying a Shakespeare play for English, try acting out a scene from the play – you’re bound to remember what happens then!

exam hall 2

With the right  revision techniques that suits you and the subject you’re studying, you will be on the path to success. You can never do too much revision but remember that you need to take regular breaks from study too. You need to find the right balance between revision and social time – you can always tip that balance when exams are over!

Here’s my Grange Hill themed chat with revision expert, Patrick Wilson, who gives his tips for exam success…

The day the music died

I read a thought-provoking article the other day by Sophie Heawood: she commented about how our experience of music has changed in this digital age of downloads and streaming. As a Spotify premium subscriber, this resonated with me and I wanted to give my response. To get in the mood I’m listening to some of my guilty pleasures on Spotify as I write this, feel free to join me…

The trouble with digital – streaming music in particular – is that I don’t feel that I own music anymore. Not physically anyway, I literally just pay to listen to it. No doubt it’s saved space; I have racks and racks of CDs in my bedroom that are not getting added to anymore because I can listen to everything I want on my phone.

It’s not just our buying experience that’s different though, the entire way we hear music has changed because of digital. There’s a decline in hi-fis (don’t I sound old!) Instead of these dedicated sound systems, most people listen to music through tinny earphones, laptop or iPad speakers – all of which weren’t designed with sound quality as a priority.

headphonesIf you want to have a good listening experience I suggest you invest in a good pair of headphones. Walking down the street in a city centre you would think most people have, many people with headphones on their heads will go past you nodding along to the tunes that are whizzing through their ears. Do not be fooled by first impressions! These people don’t care for music; they’re flaunting it as part of an ‘80s throwback fashion craze. That’s because Dr Dre’s colourful Beats headphones are built for style rather than substance. My own headphones are Sennheisers, which sound fantastic, but I wouldn’t want to be seen outside of a studio wearing them!

Is music worth listening to anymore? People are still buying it (or rather, downloading it) in their droves so it obviously hasn’t died – just a bit of my soul has. The chart offerings aren’t just lyrically bland, the music sounds like music that could have been produced in someone’s bedroom… probably because it has been.

Then, out of the blue, came along a smash hit that restored my faith in modern music: Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, featuring Pharrell Williams and produced by my musical hero – Nile Rodgers. That song is the sound of the summer for many. The lyrics leave a lot to be desired, but the reason it sounds so good is because Daft Punk have learnt – and listened – to music from the past. By collaborating with established producers like Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder, they’re adding to a contemporary disco sound being coined nu-disco.

No matter what your taste is, experiencing music is so fulfilling it becomes the soundtrack to your life – so make sure you hear it the way it was supposed to be heard with good quality equipment. Be open minded to explore; don’t just accept what’s played to you in the charts. That’s what Daft Punk did and it got them a number one. Music isn’t just about now; any track you hear will be inspired, in some form or another, by hits heard before. Let’s hope music’s future is just as colourful as its past.

Stockport: My reaction to the ‘Portas Pilot’

A scheme that sounds like ‘Pontius Pilate’, was surely doomed from the start – wasn’t it? I’m talking about the Portas Pilot, backed by a government pot of money and Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas’ experience. The plan was to bring life back to town centres that are struggling to get strong footfall into shops. The pilot has been running (and failing) across the country but towns in the North West that have been taking part are Nelson in Lancashire and Stockport, Greater Manchester.

viaductStockport is my hometown and I’m not ashamed of it – but I am ashamed of what people think of it. There were sniggers in the newsroom, and astonishment out on the street, when the town came second in a poll of the happiest places to live in the UK. My opinion is that Stockport suffers from being so close to the bright lights and bigger city of a fantastic place like Manchester – where there’s something for anyone. As a result, our town centre – and people’s impression – of the place has taken a turn for the worst.

In reality, Stockport shouldn’t be judged by flying visits through the train station or from empty shop units that are all around the centre. I like it here and there are many things Stopfordian’s should be proud of.

plazaMY TOP THREE HIGHLIGHTS: (My opinion and it doesn’t cover everything!)

1.  Newly restored art deco theatre, The Plaza, featuring the original wurlitzer organ that rises from the orchestra pit is something to be proud of. There’s a good range of shows on and the pantomimes always fill the seats, despite competition from the wide range of theatres in Manchester

2. I’m a supporter of independent cinemas that offer a quint alternative to the multiplexes; to have one in any town gets a big tick from me. We don’t have one… we have two! The Savoy in Heaton Moor has survived being taken over by developers more times than I can remember but thankfully it’s still going strong. The Regent in Marple is so nostalgic that they have an interval in the film and and ice-cream seller comes down the aisle.

3. The amount of green space in an urban town like ours is something I particularly enjoy, I don’t think many people realise how lucky we are to have it. Reddish Vale is just one example of an oasis of calm that’s practically on my doorstep – there are many other places of serenity around the borough to visit and I’m discovering hidden gems all the time.

Reddish Vale

… Stockport’s Pure 107.8 FM is obviously another highlight too, but as I’m the Chilled Pure weeknight presenter, I am slightly biased!

MY BOTTOM THREE LOWLIGHTS (I’m being realistic here!)

1. The amount of nightlife available is: Zilch. If you call ending up in the Weatherspoons a night out then you really do need to get out more. Manchester is only eight miles away – that’s a double edged sword for a small town like Stockport. Any kind of amenity or entertainment is so close by that Stockport finds it hard to have anything to top it. (Excluding my haunt of Heaton Moor in this, by the way. It’s great but has an 11pm curfew as it’s a residential area – no good for night owls like me!)

grand central2. The much-needed redevelopment of the Grand Central area needs to get a move on. While the developers have been working on it (ever since I was in primary school) most people now go bowling or to the cinema (multiplex – grrr!) at nearby Parrs Wood complex in Didsbury. Good luck in getting them to come back! It lost it’s appeal when the Heaven and Hell nightclub shut down… now it seems that all we are left with is the hell part.

3. The town centre, or rather, the lack of one. No surprise here! Mary Portas was supposed to help us out but it turns out that ten of the twelve pilot towns have not seen a rise in shop occupancy since it began and Stockport is one of them. In fact, shop occupancy has fallen in the town centre. Although it’s a year since the pilot started, speaking to the BBC’s You and Yours programme, Mary Portas said we need to wait to see improvement:

“Over the last year this government has worked hard to help communities across the country boost their high street. We have lifted planning restrictions to help landlords make better use of their empty properties, and cut business rates for small shops. […] Let’s celebrate their achievements so far and learn and share ideas. Real change will take time.”

The clock is ticking… At the moment though, it would seem that some portaloos in the town centre would be far more useful than the Portas Pilot.

stockport town centre