Sunday, 30 December 2012

Dave's Top 5 Pop Songs of 2012

1. Insane Clown Posse - Ghetto Rainbows

2. Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe

3. Fun: We Are Young ft. Janelle Monáe

4. Howard Kremer - Last Day Of Summah

5. Lana Del Rey - Blue Jeans

Getting Better Acquainted with 2012

Because Getting Better Acquainted is in many ways about me, even though I release the episodes out of chronological order to highlight the differences (and similarities) of the guests, it still reflects the linear progression of my life.

And this has been a year when many new experiences and projects have infused my life. And each one has added new strands to the audio tapestry of the show, new chapters to this autobiography made through other people. Because of this I can't really sum up year two of making Getting Better Acquainted without summing up my year in general.

It began with tragedy.

Stand Up Tragedy to be precise. I put on 5 nights of what had, until very late in 2011, just been a vague idea rattling around in my mind. But when you have good ideas you have to try and make them happen. Well you don't have to. But I find it very hard to stop myself from trying to. Even when the ideas are inconvenient.

The format of Stand Up Tragedy worked well and I was really pleased with the final results, despite the process being quite disruptive to me personally. It worked so well that SUT is returning in 2013, including (I hope) a run at the Edinburgh Free Fringe in August. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The first few months 2012 were dark ones for me. I was in quite a deep depression. Part of this was probably because I was overwhelmed by the sudden busyness that running a monthly show, releasing a weekly podcast, lots of other projects and commitments and maintaining a day job, will throw into your life. I guess you could say I was stressed out. But I also think that a big part of it was the emotional journey I have been going through while making GBA.

Again this is an example of an idea having its own will independently of it's creator. I didn't expect when I started the process of making Getting Better Acquainted that it would lead to me learning a great deal about myself. I have literally been returning to the places from my past, re-visiting them, but I have also been dealing with relationships; my family, my lovers, my friends, often having conversations with them about themselves but also talking about them with my guests, comparing and contrasting lives and ideas. It has been a very positive force on my life and has led to many personal revelations. I feel I am learning so much about myself and about people in general through doing this show.

But therapy, even when done on oneself through a creative endeavour, isn't a simple process. Since I spent 2011 on a glorious high of self discovery and new clarities, I might have expected that I would crash. The first day of bleakness happened almost a year ago, on the day I wrote last years round up of the show, I had to force myself to type through a dark cloud which engulfed me almost completely for days afterwards, and which I wouldn't manage to fully clear my head of till much later in the year.

In a way though I think of this slump as just a bump on the road, growing pains resulting from all the emotional growth that's been occurring inside me. But it was also a very extreme version of the cycle between highs and lows that I am prone too. Which may be partly due to nature as it is something my mother also struggles with. But it is also partly nurture. In 2011 I recorded 3 conversations with my mum, the third one that hasn't gone out yet, was about this area of our lives. Whilst recording that episode I had a revelation about my relationship with my mum: That forgiving her and learning to like myself is the same process. But after the high of that had worn off I suddenly found myself able to see my childhood experiences very clearly. Dealing with the spectre of those times was a big part of the dip. But it was also the thing that helped pull me out of it, more than the 4 cognitive behavioural therapy sessions I finally managed to get much later in the year, after having "cried for help" to the doctor in late 2011. Not that those sessions weren't helpful. They were. But trying to form an understanding of my past has been even more helpful.

To do this I turned to the place I always do: making stuff. In the summer I began writing a play based around my understanding of that time. It is probably impossible to stage and it is certainly very hard to write. I actually think I may never get it to work as a piece of art. But writing it has been very helpful.

I also made an episode of GBA about it:

The Reactionaries, an alt pop duo that I am part of, recorded our first session for our second album Bouncy Poppy Songs About Death between Christmas and New Year 2011. Amazingly we have not finished the album yet, but it should be finished in 2013 (or so our producer assures us.) That said music we performed three tracks from it at the first Stand Up Tragedy on February 6th one of which is the Stand Up Tragedy Theme Tune. And we did get together another song called Talk to Your Parents which formed the backbone of the GBA Special To the Heart of It.


January was a blur of The Reactionaries rehearsals, a mad rush to promote and book acts for SUT and spending any free moments in a state of depression. With the first Stand Up Tragedy going well and the sensible decision I made to take the day after the show off things got easier going forward.

In February I was also making the first steps towards getting together A Room Full of Friends. This is a music project that I was intending to make into its own podcast. The concept is that the band plays in a room full of friends in a house. This has evolved into what will become a strand of GBA. We recorded a pilot episode as part of GBA's Residency at the Invisible Picture Palace in November and we will be releasing that (and other episodes) in 2013. It will be a monthly additional episode where we Get Better Acquainted with a Room Full of Friends and we will be performing in different rooms, with different friends and invited support acts.

On March 10th I went with some friends to see Chris Goode perform God/Head. This was a very resonant show for me. Afterwards I contacted Chris and we arranged to meet up to record this:

When contacting Chris I discovered that we had a mutual acquaintance in Karl James. And when I was programming the guests for the residency I invited them to return and do a conversation with me together. This will also come out in 2013.

Then on the 16th I went on GBA roadtrip to Oxford to record conversations with people I know who live in that city. The only one of those that has been released so far is this one:

On Monday 26th of March I recorded this conversation with Radcliffe Royds.

Radcliffe has played rather a large part in my life this year. I met him through Spark London which has also come to play a larger part in my life this year. I spent some time with him in Edinburgh and saw him doing his thing in Soho Square for the Soho Stories app, booked him twice for Stand Up Tragedy, and had a conversation with him as part of my residency. He is a man I am very glad to know and it has been a pleasure getting better acquainted with him.

At the end of March I took a trip up to North with my dad to visit family. While I was there I did a final edit and recorded new opening and closing monologue for To the Heart of It:

On April 16th I went to the Spark London Open Mic in Brixton and told this story:

In the last week of April I got in my submission to the Radio Production Awards which resulted in me being nominated for the Best Online Creator Award:

I also went to my first cognitive behavioural therapy session. This therapist promptly left the job though and it would be months before I managed to get set up with an alternative. I remember thinking it was ironic when I was travelling to that appointment that I had fully come out of my depressive state a few weeks before!

And the other thing I did that week was a GBA road trip to Tunbridge Wells to record this conversation:

Mike is another person who I invited back in November to be a part of my GBA Residency.

The first week of May was busy too!

I saw a screening of The Truth is Out There at Goldsmiths University.

I recorded a conversation with my musical hero Darren Hayman in the Rose and Crown Pub in Walthamstow:

And then the next day I recorded a conversation with Phil Leirness the director of The Truth is Out There and one of the hosts of thye Chillpak Hollywood Hour podcast. This was the first of this years conversations with other podcasters a strand I began in 2011 via skype link up to the I Like You podcast in Canada. But since Phil was in town we recorded it in his hotel near Victoria Station.

I began May by recording the most listened to GBA episode to date with Helen and Ollie from Answer Me This! Followed a few days later by the second most listened to episode to date with Martin (the soundman) from Answer Me This! Followed a few days after that by recording the conversation with Chris Goode.

June brought the final Stand Up Tragedy of the season and a less frantic schedule. A Room Full of Friends (at this point a duo) performed:

On the 7th of June I recorded a conversation with Sheila, my dads ex wife. Sheila sadly passed away this year. My older sisters listened to the unedited conversation we had and it helped them to plan the funeral. I am so glad to have been able to provide them with this resource.

On the 16th of June the first of the weddings of two different old friends of mine who both happen to be called Steve happened. Since it took place near Lancaster Jen and I decided to revisit the town where we lived for 5 years (and met). We recorded a GBA Special during this trip which will probably come out in 2013.

This article about Stand Up Tragedy (and other things) came out in June. Too late to inform audiences about the Leicester Square Theatre run of the show, but a great write up nonetheless.

In the last weekend of June I went to Bristol for my mum's birthday and combined it with recording conversation with Bristolian's of my acquaintance. This is the episode from that trip that has aired so far:

In July I didn't win the Radio Production Award but I was invited to join the Spark London Team full time, doing their social media and running the Hackey Attic Open Mic from September.

August brought the second Getting Better Acquainted Edinburgh Special as I went up to perform for Spark, record some conversations and see some shows. It was while I was at this trip that I decided that I would definitely bring Stand Up Tragedy back. The trip kicked of the Edinburgh season and there was a very fast turnaround for the episodes during that time as they were all with performers doing shows at the festival.

When I was in Edinburgh I was lucky to see some really amazing comedy, theatre and spoken word. I also managed to meet another of my heroes the comedian Eddie Peppitone whose bit was the original inspiration for my Stand Up Tragedy show. Eddie Peppitone is part of The Long Shot Podcast.

I also went away with my writing group on our second writing retreat, where I wrote a first draft of a new play and got even better acquainted with them. This is a conversation I recorded with them at our 2011 retreat:

On the 27th August I was featured in Helen and Olly's Required Listening BBC Radio 5 Live, talking about Getting Better Acquainted and Spark London.

On the 30th August I went to my first every In the Dark event, the Open Mini-Jack Night they ran were hosting in the glasshouse in front of the Wapping Project as part of their Invisible Picture Palace project.

I played them this:

In September it was back to Cardiff for the second Steve wedding of the year. Again I combined the trip with recording a second special about Cardiff and a bunch of conversations, like this one:

Then I returned to London to host the first of my monthly Spark London Open Mic at the Hackney Attic. It was really well attended and we got off to a cracking start. This is a story recorded on one of the Hackney nights:

Then it was off on a GBA roadtrip to Wokingham. But this one had taken on a mind of its own and had turned into a reunion for a group of friends from University and a chance for us to all meet my friend Richard's new baby. I recorded a few conversations during that weekend which will come out next year. Richard is a frequent guest of GBA, the first of his episodes came out at the start of the year as part of the "3 Posh Boys" season.

In October I turned 31 and happened to record a podcast on the day I did it:

I also began work recording and writing for the Cbeebies Radio show Ministry of Stories. Surprisingly this meant I spent a lot of time for the next two months at the amazing children's writing centre Ministry of Stories. The show started being broadcast on the 17th December and I am really proud of it and so impressed at the hard work of Matt Hill who really brought his A Game to the project. It was a pleasure and a joy working with the staff and volunteers at the MiS.

I'd visited the Invisible Picture Palace a few times after that first one and got to know the people who run In the Dark. They liked my audio and this resulted in me practically living in that glasshouse throughout November!

First up I did this presentation about "In Conversation" podcasting:

The next night I recorded a conversation via Skype with Kevin Allison from the storytelling podcast Risk!

The next night I performed a true story about panic attacks and sleep paralysis at Tea Fuelled Flea Circus at the Hackney Attic. That story was inspired by making this GBA Extra:

Then from the 16th - 21st November I did the 5 night residency at the glasshouse. These episodes will be released daily in the week running up to the 100th Episode of GBA.

The 21st was also the last day of recording at the MiS and on that day I got to meet one of the voices of my childhood: Jenni Murray from Woman's Hour (and our show).

On the last weekend of November I went on a GBA road trip to Colchester, followed by the only wedding that I didn't record conversations at this year.

I finished off November with a GBA road trip to Swindon where I recorded conversations with my Aunt and Uncle that will come out in 2013. I was really glad that making the show gave me the excuse to go and stay with them separately from the rest of my family grouping. Both conversations were really special to me.

In November and December I have been assembling the team to take Stand Up Tragedy into 2013. It feels good to have a wider group of people to carry the inevitable stress that bringing the show back will cause.

I spent Christmas in Prague with my mum. And I am now back in the UK about to spend 3 days with my partner, Jen, doing nothing.

2012 may have began as a very hard time for me but it slowly transformed into one of the best years of my life. So many things have happened. I've met so many new and exciting people. Listeners have increased for GBA, some of whom have reached out and contacted me, forming new connections, sharing new thoughts and experiences. And I have had so many amazing times and opportunities. Everything feels like it has been coming together. I feel I have reached a new level of openness with myself, with my loved ones and in the art I am making.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

"My name is Dave and I am a feminist"

I wrote this for MA'AM

I've been told by a few women over the years that I can't be a feminist. I've been told by a few men too, but they were usually dismissing feminism so it was easy to dismiss them. The women were feminists though so I listened to them.

And so I called myself a feminist sympathiser. But then I met a man who called himself a feminist and listened to his reasons. And I had conversations with different feminists, who did see men as part of the movement. A couple of years ago I realised it was time to accept the truth, regardless of the grief it can get me into online, and in the real world:

My name is Dave and I am a feminist.

The feminism I support is one that tries to find both equality and peace between humans, where we treat each other as equals with respect, empathy and engagement.

I follow a lot of feminists on twitter. Many of them, because of the constant barrage of twitter misogynists, begin to think it is us (women) against them (men).

It shouldn't be. And really it isn't. This is just the way we've been divided against each other by patriarchy. We can only heal these divides if male feminists "man" the fuck up. By men standing with women and for women. It is time for everyone with sense to get on the right side of the war against women.

For godsake you have mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, lovers! How can you seriously consider them so different from you as to be lesser or purely sexual objects? Men who claim logic and sense is a male characteristic but spout this bollocks (consciously or unconsciously) are disproving their own statements. Logically we are equal. Look at the evidence all around you!

Women don't need this shit. You want to know why women who define as feminists seem so angry? Consider how you would feel in their place. It makes sense for oppressed people to react extremely. You want them to be less extreme give them reason to be less extreme. This constant barrage of abuse they get will never lead to understanding. Why not try listening?

If you don't want to listen for women's sake why not listen for your own sake. Because men are getting fucked over by the situation we are in too. Not as badly. But just as constantly.

Make no mistake feminism is all our concern. With an unequal society of fixed gender roles we are ALL forced into boxes. Those boxes are oppressive for both genders. Particularly non heterosexual or people with unconventional relationship set ups. Men are part of that. And both sides have to be involved to find peace for all. The privileged ones (men) need to give up their privilege. The oppressed ones (women) need to find a way to forgive all the years of shit. But you can't forgive a situation which is still ongoing.

I am a person who defines themselves as a feminist. Sure I will disagree with many people who describe themselves with the same term. But so what? If you find a feminist is pissing you off remember the first rule: Women are your equal. So it isn't surprising that some of them piss you off. Don't dismiss a whole movement and the wide variety of views and individuals it contains because one person says a stupid thing.

I make a podcast which is about conversation. About dialogue. If you listen to my podcast's back catalogue (and future ones too) you'll hear a few conversations with feminists (ambiguous and unambiguous female ones and male ones). You'll hear from the feminists who brought me up to understand that men and women are equal (and also unfortunately, in the case of my mum, told me repeatedly that men are toxic and that we have ruined her life.)

I witnessed my mother suffer at the hands of the patriarchy. I was bullied in school often due to my lack of masculine behaviours. I was given pink trousers to wear at primary school. I studied feminist theory first through choice and later through education. I have written fiction designed to be feminist. So I'm not going to lose my belief in feminism. Whether you will allow me to call myself one or not.

My idea of feminism isn't about men being bad or ashamed of ourselves or of our sexuality. It doesn't argue their are no differences between men and women. It argues that women are equal and should have full control of their own bodies and choices. That women and men should be equally represented in society.

My mums idea of feminism is similar to that when she is in a calm mood. Unfortunately when my mum gets angry and upset there isn't much thinking involved ;-) And before anyone says that is a female trait, it is one that I most definitely share. Sorry sexists, but take it from me, men can be illogical, over emotional and irrational!

I have two older half sisters who provided less complicated feminist role models growing up. And my dad is as much of a feminist as you can be as a man born in the 20's. He bought a lot of my childhood books from a feminist book shops. He supports the cause but you could argue he has a tendency to treat women as goddesses rather than people. He is a lovely guy though.

Being made to feel bad for being a man comes from the same place that women being made to feel wrong about themselves comes from. My mums rage came from a legitimate place. Her feelings came from years of complicated pressure from a patriarchal culture. It's one of the many ways patriarchy can damage men.

So do it for the women you love. And do it for yourselves. Stand up. Speak up. Become a feminist. You owe it to yourself.

Twitter: @goosefat101 / @GBApodcast
Getting Better Acquainted

Thursday, 15 November 2012

So I am sitting at the back of a crowded bus eating my packed lunch. A woman comes over and insists on me moving my bag with wheels out of her way, despite the bus driver keeping on mentioning that there are seats upstairs. She just really seems to want to sit opposite me. I do the polite thing and lift my bag with wheels onto the seat next to me where I have to hold it with one hand to stop it fa
lling on some fellow travellers. My other hand continues to eat my packed lunch. The box is balanced on my knee. The woman then puts a collection of her bags onto my feet. She takes out some wrapping paper and Sellotape and uses the space left on my knees as a table to wrap up a series of birthday presents! At one point she drops one of her presents on the guy sitting next to her and apologises. But she doesn't seem to consider it necessary to apologise, or even ask permission, for using my knees as her craft table. She gets properly stuck in, putting quite a lot of force on my knees when she does some if the trickier bits of sticking.

I found it bemusing to eat my lunch one handed, holding a heavy bag in an awkward position as my lap was used as a piece of furniture.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

cyber bullying: a response

This post is a reaction to this news story.

As someone who was severely bullied in secondary school, in a systematic way by the general populace of the school, I hate to think what would have happened if social media had existed back then. If I could never have escaped to a safe plac
e because they could reach me in my home, on my phone, tag me, manipulate images of me, exploit my vulnerability, film my breakdowns and post them online.

I doubt I'd have made it through.

But one thing I learned from my school experience was how a mass of bullies is not the same thing as individual tormentors with a specific grudge, most people are just casually adding a tiny thing, but like water torture the cumulative effect becomes unbearable. By educating all the secondary people, by explaining to people the results of their casual actions we can help to stop this kind of thing. For me the taunts were in the real world, in the virtual world people are even less likely to understand the results of their actions. They can just click like and they add to the burden of someone's emotional torture.

But even the specific people who bully, the ringleaders if you like, are people with complex reasons for their behaviour and they are also children and should be protected. The kind of eye for an eye bastardness that is currently being perpetrated by anonymous is THE SAME THING. This is not the way to combat this.

Bullying is a hard thing to combat anyway, in the real world or online, and perhaps we can't hope to eliminate it. But since we can't we should at least turn our efforts to explaining to children that it get's better, not just for our LGBT youth but for all of us. Not in an easy or guaranteed way perhaps, and it is easy to dismiss such positivity as hollow, but it can get better and it does get better because school is not the world, who we are at school has little or no relationship to who we will be as adults. For me it got better and for Amanda Todd and others like her it could have got better. Let's do what we can to let our young people know this!

That's why I support initiatives like the It Gets Better Project. But let's remember that bullies are also children.

Sorry if this is long and garbled and raw.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Great quote from @ChrisRyanPhD:

"Time is a measure of change. In a vacuum time doesn't exist because nothings changing. So if you can pack your life full of interesting changes you stretch it out. If you want to live longer have a really interesting life."

Professor Christopher Ryan in conversation with Duncan Trussell.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

"Why should our nastiness be the baggage of an apish past and our kindness uniquely human? Why should we not seek continuity with other animals for our 'noble' traits as well?"

Stephen Jay Gould

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

GBA @ The Edinburgh Fringe

Around a year ago Getting Better Acquainted had it's first Edinburgh Festival Fringe Season. Well, actually is was a Fringe Festival Season because it included stuff happening at last year's Camden Fringe.

This year's Edinburgh Festival Season kicks off tomorrow with a conversation with Lucy Ayrton who's doing some fantastic shows as part of the Free Fringe.

Lullabies to Make Your Children Cry

Flea Circus Open Slam

This is last years Edinburgh Festival Special (Episode 15 of the series). Like all GBA specials it's in a documentary/personal journey style and it's a good listen out of it's original context. That said many of the reviews and people featured in it are doing things up at the Festival this year. e.g. Richard Tyrone Jones Has a Big Heart and Translunar Paradise by Theatre Ad Infinitum (both I strongly recommend) and it gives a taster of the festival  experience so it's great for people getting ready to go up. It is a long train ride after all. Why not fill it with some audio?

This weekend I'm going up to the festival myself! I'll be recording some conversations and the material that will make up GBA Edinburgh Festival Special 2. I don't know what it will be yet as I haven't recorded it yet!

This time I'm going up, not as part of a stag weekend, but to perform at Grant's True Tales Presents Spark London Storytelling and to record some GBAs. This time I'm less an audience member and more active participant in the festivities, so the journey will no doubt be very different. I'll be frantically editing it all (possibly on the train back to London) and it should come out on Friday 10th August. There will also be full conversations released as normal on Wednesdays recorded with performers in the opening weekend.

I am excited. And nervous. And all other appropriate emotions (with a few inappropriate ones thrown in for good measure.) Hope you enjoy this years Fringe Season. If you're in Edinburgh and we bump into each other then you might even become a part of it!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Radio Production Awards

I'm really pleased that my work on Getting Better Acquainted was nominated for a Radio Production Award.

The Awards Ceremony was held the other day and I didn't win. But I did go along and sit in a room filled with people who make radio.

A few things struck me.

The most obvious thing was that I was a complete outsider. I have no radio experience really, apart from making things for Student Radio. I'm not in "the industry". I don't share many frames of reference with many of the people there. I rushed home from my day job, threw on a borrowed suit and hurtled across town into a world I didn't really understand. And that didn't understand me.

People would ask me "Where do you work?" and the first answer that sprung to mind is "In my bedroom" (it wasn't the answer I gave!) or "For the library service." The other variation of this question was "Who do you work for?" The answer to that is either "For myself!" or "For a local council."

Although in a way, despite me doing every part of the show myself, I don't actually feel like I'm working for myself. I feel like I'm working for the show. The show is running me. Dictating where it goes. Revealing itself to me. And I guess I feel like I'm making it for the audience... or maybe the listener would be a better name for who I work for.

Regardless of that, I don't work in radio or for anyone affiliated in radio. Not that I haven't been making audio of one kind or another for 15 years, from music, to dramas, to comedy sketch shows, to documentaries, to music shows, reality style podcast experiments and finally to the show that got me nominated. And I've been nominated for (and failed to achieve) awards before. A drama series I wrote called "Numbers" produced by RethinkDaily was nominated for a Sony Radio Academy Award in 2009.  That awards experience is something I spoke about with fellow 2009 Sony nominated podcasters Helen and Olly from Answer Me This! in a recent episode of my show. (AMT went on to win Silver and Gold Sony's in subsequent years.)

But I don't really listen to radio much any more, although it was a big part of my childhood and adolescence. Which isn't to say I don't consume audio, I do. And I listen to some radio programmes as part of my podcast assortment. I keep up to date with radio matters through podcasts of Feedback, The Media Show and Guardian Media Talk. I listen to Kermode and Mayo, The Infinite Monkey Cage and lots and lots of American NPR type radio for fun too.

But the majority of my current listening intake are either podcasts that have grown out of non-radio branches of the media, springing out of newspapers, magazines, stand up comedy or academia, or fully independent podcasts that are made of what you could call a punk spirit: anyone can make audio and release it on the net, they just need a mic and a laptop. Many people do and some of it is brilliant.

The online part of the award I was nominated for is important to me. Podcasts aren't just the Radio-on-the-Internet, despite that being the easiest way to explain them to your grandparents. Radio is very important to their existence of course and many radio programmes lend themselves well to being podcasted, but podcasts do things that the internet does best: interactivity, listening when you like, being playable in multiple formats, getting onto your mobile phones, having extra visual dimensions, being developed by show notes, having archives of freely available episodes and above all else removing the barrier between creator and distribution. That last element essentially makes podcasts a direct exchange between creator and audience. The best radio programmes that podcast themselves know this. RadioLab for example releases shorts to its podcast listeners. Kermode and Mayo prove that some people in the BBC do understand podcasting, as they add extra banter and engagement for people who listen on podcasts at the start and end of what they send out.

This also relates to how podcasts are consumed by audiences. Kermode and Mayo for example receive correspondence from people who use their show to soundtrack marathon running and time they spend recovering from injury in hospital, because their show is downloadable it can be stacked up, binged on, played where and how the listener wants. This also is exemplary of what the best radio has always done, and podcasts do even better, which is talking directly to the audience in a personal way. Podcasts do away with the authorial voice of the presented and make them into a person who the audience relates to on a human level. Simon Mayo is often packing up his things to rush off to Radio 2 at the end of the show and they broadcast these moments.

That is one of the biggest things that online audio offers. There are many more. But this blog is already pretty long and I have a lot more to get through.

I didn't fit in to the awards for the reasons above. And networking isn't my natural forte. I have got better at it recently by acknowledging my lack of skills and just being myself (for better or worse.) But this wasn't a very organic situation for that approach.

I went on my own too, so I could only hang nervously on the edge of groups hoping to find a way in. I wasn't fully on my own - like any good podcaster I had my trusty mic with me. And I recorded some stuff which I may broadcast at some point. Losing the award meant I lost my interest in recording and producing a featurette about it. I felt I needed less the immediacy of the microphone and more the contemplation of silence and the analysis of writing it up as I am doing now.

They played extracts from each of the winning entries after giving each award, so I heard lots of audio.  I thought a few of the pieces were amazing. Nothing sounded bad of course. But a lot of it sounded... like your standard radio sounds. Very well done but very familiar. Of course I'm judging work based on very short extracts. The judges will have had up to 15 mins of material to base their decision on. I fully acknowledge my judgement is biased, based on only a partial part of the nomination, and comes through the twin filters of nerves and disappointment. But I get excited by audio. I spend a lot of time with audio. And only three pieces excited me and made me want to spend time with them.

The winner of the award that I was up for was Flaps Podcast. A show made about aeroplanes with the tagline "Top Gear for Pilots."

The extract from this show sounded like well made popular radio. Something you would hear delivered by the BBC or certain commercial radio stations. It's content is quite niche and I guess it should be applauded for taking that subject and making it assessable for a wider audience. That's definitely an achievement.

But whilst the winner of the Best Online Creator category sounded fine for mainstream radio, what I want to know is what makes it a great ONLINE show? Where were the exciting, different and unique qualities the Internet offers creators?

I don't mean this as criticism of the show. Sure, it isn't my sort of thing but that's not relevant. Having been up for a Sony award in an Internet related category I'm used to the weird chalk verses cheese element of different genres being placed against each other that this seems to entail. But if you're comparing chalk with cheese you at least need a way of measuring them. I feel that how effectively they use the internet should probably be the criteria.

On a personal level I don't feel like a competitor with Flaps. We aren't really doing the same thing. The connection is we are both using the Internet. They are using the net fine, using it to create well-produced niche radio. But is that really what should be rewarded in the Best Online Creator category?

It's not really that I'm being a sore loser. I'd feel much more sore if I'd been beaten by a really great show that had utilised the tools and advantages of the Internet in amazing and compelling ways. That would have been really painful.

But at least I'd have understood why I was there. Why my work was up for an award at all. Because at this point I don't really get it. I'm not saying my work isn't quality, but if the award isn't about using the internet to push and extend the audio medium then why is my work there?

The two shows I was up against were made by people who work in the radio industry. They are labours of love sure, as mine is, but labours of love undertaken by people in the biz. Flaps sounded the most like something that would be on the radio. If that is the criteria then why is GBA there? GBA is the sort of thing I'd like to hear on the radio but at the moment would never get broadcast.

I believe in online. I believe in its exciting possibilities and I want the radio industry to understand them better. Partly for its own survival in a practical sense, but mostly for its development creatively. Being beaten by something that sounded like it was in a completely different category to me was baffling and frustrating.

I don't think my show should necessarily have won but I do think something else should have won. Flaps could, and should, have been up against other audio that does what it does: fun, factual, well-produced radio. It just happens to be released online; that isn't integral to what it does.

At one point during the awards someone commented from the stage on how diverse the people in the room were. At which point I counted one black person and one non-white person. Everyone else was white. I assume that as everyone (including my two rivals) work in the radio industry that they are generally inside a certain salary bracket and a certain media bubble. At this point I questioned what exactly was diverse about the people in the room. The audio I'd heard didn't sound diverse. It may have been produced by different companies, for different stations, but they had a unified aesthetic.

That count I did was a snapshot. I think over all there was a little more diversity in terms of ethnicity than was represented at that moment. If you count the people serving the drinks the ethnic mix certainly rises! In terms of gender the room did well. Women were almost equally represented. So it was more diverse than it might have been in the 30s.

A friend of mine pointed out on Facebook that the person speaking was probably referring to a diversity of talent rather than diversity of people. But I'd argue that without a diversity of backgrounds you don't get a diversity of talent.

One thing that surprised me is how un-internet the awards were generally. There was no mention of Twitter hashtags. I seemed to be the only person  using social media to document the experience. This was another thing that made me feel separate from the people there. But I also found something nice about it. They may be inside a radio bubble but at least they seem to be outside the Twitter feedback loop! I'm not completely unsuspicious of the internet and the changes that are happening to the media.

I don't think radio is dying. Far from it, I think radio will be, and practically already is, one of the big winners in the modern media space. Or at least audio will be, regardless of if it comes to us through radio waves or not.

Smart phones + Commuting + Office Jobs = More Desire for Audio.

Radio, podcasts, audio books or augmented apps, the distribution method doesn't matter.

The Internet means that perhaps the people making audio will need the established media outlets less and less. However, people like myself still need those outlets. We need ways of getting our work out to larger audiences when we have no established fan-base to begin with. So I'm very pleased to have been able to stand in the doorway. Perhaps next year, if I achieve a nomination again, I'll be allowed to step through the door. Because I need them and they need me. Or people like me. The audio landscape could become so much more diverse. And diversity is good for everyone. Most importantly diversity is good for audiences.

If I'd have won I was going to make this brief speech:

"I'd like to thank all my guests for gifting me with their conversations. It is such an honour to talk to people about their lives in a very personal way and then be able to broadcast that to the public.

I'd also like to thank my production team, my promotional team, my editor, my presenter, my script writer, my director and the person who books my guests.

So a great big thank you to me! As a completely independent podcaster making a free show around my day job, I'm the one who has to do all that stuff."

Monday, 9 July 2012

Theme tune search:

Hello musicians,

I'm looking for a catchy 30 - 40 sec theme tune for a new strand of the Stand Up Tragedy podcast.

It can be written especially or it can be adapted from something you already have. It has to contain no copyrighted material.

Ideally it should contain lyrics along the lines of:

Stand Up Tragedy Spotlight / Let's focus on the tragedy.

If possible it would be great to get this by 12th July.

I can only pay you with a credit, promotion of your music and my warmest gratitude:

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Tragedy isn't Over...

I came up with the idea of Stand Up Tragedy at the end of the Summer 2011. I started enquiring about venues and, after a casual conversation with a friend of mine who does freelance radio work, I found myself going for a meeting at the Leicester Square Theatre to talk about putting the night on.

The next thing I knew I was booked downstairs in the Lounge Room on the first Monday of each month for the first five months of 2012. The easy bit was over. Now I had to produce and market a show, basically on my own.

Luckily I persuaded a few people to help me out which probably just about kept me sane at the end of it all.

But even though I threw myself in at the deep end I luckily just about managed swim. I managed to put together a series of really interesting nights. Even the third night, which sadly had very little audience, still deserved to have had one. Apart from that night the rest of the SUT run was really well attended. I also managed to raise some money from a crowdfunding campaign which, whilst it got no where near it's target, did allow me to pay the performers. Only a small amount. But something never the less.

The task was to book people from a variety of creative disciplines to performed short tragedies. Basically what you see is what you get, audience members who came to SUT and saw a series of people standing up and "doing tragedy". What each act considered tragic was up to them. I sourced both established and unknown creators who I thought would fit the night and booked them in to perform. We had comedians, musicians, authors, true storytellers, cabaret acts, aural storytellers, live art, improv, spoken word, and acts that you can't really pin down as any one thing. And the variety of what they did didn't just come from their style, it came from how they interpreted the concept. The more varied the interpretations and styles the better the night worked.We ended each night with a cathartic sing along. Audiences laughed a lot, occasionally cried and generally had a really great evening.

I'm pleased to find the format worked. I really loved the anarchic variety and the atmosphere it created. So I fully intend to do more with the show.

The current plan is to take it up to the Edinburgh Festival as part of the Free Fringe in 2013. It will be a nightly show made up of tragic acts that are mostly sourced from the vast variety of talented shows up at the festival. Both a cabaret and a showcase.

Before I take the show up I intend to hold some London based nights to raise money for the adventure. I'll probably hold them in pubs in different parts of the city, in what I guess you could call a very localised tour.

I recorded the night  and released it as the free weekly The SUT Podcast, the last podcast of the 5th show came out on Friday 29th June 2012 . When we start the shows up again in 2013 we'll be recording and releasing more, and we'll be recording during the 2013 Edinburgh run too.

In the meantime, to keep the tragedy going, I'm going to be releasing Stand Up Tragedy Spotlights. These will go out every other friday.

Stand Up Tragedy Spotlights will be short form podcasts, between 5 and 15 mins long, that shine the focus on a performance from the first 5 months of shows. Tasty little tragic morsels to wet our appetites for the future shows. They'll go out in the same feed as their older siblings which can be downloaded from iTunes, downloaded or streamed from the soundcloud or streamed via your mobile on the free stitcher smart radio app.

10 things I've learnt from Stand Up Tragedy's first run?
  1. To crowd fund you need a crowd as Amanda 'Fucking' Palmer will tell you.
  2. It's a tough sell to ask people to crowd fund a project and at the same time ask them to support you with their patronage. Not if your tickets cost £10. 
    You also need better perks/products to offer people than I came up with. 
  3. Your friends and family are not your fans. The maths of crowdfunding needs to account for this. 150 fans will give you £10 each. 150 friends and family will not. Although those who do give will give a lot. And those who can afford it the least will give the most. 
  4. If price of entry and of drinks are very expensive this doesn't mean anyone is making any money. Or at least not the people running the nights and the acts performing.
  5. The number of people who say they'll attend an event on facebook has nothing to do with whether they'll attend it in real life.
  6. Bank Holidays are bad days to do shows on. You should remember to look out for them when booking Monday slots!
  7. The show is at it's best when it has a real variety of acts, veering from one feeling to a different one, whilst linked by a central theme.
  8. Artists will be really pleased/grateful for small amounts of money. 
  9. Doing an interview with a newspaper doesn't mean they'll run the story.
  10. In London people will leave a show they are enjoying at the interval due to the trauma late night transport.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A scene from the last weekend:

Me: Do you believe in God?

My niece (7): Yes.

Me: What does he look like?

Her: I don't know but he's friends with Zeus, a Greek God who does really cool things like go on adventures.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

A small one:

Barista: "A small one today! Why the change?"

Me: "Well the two most likely answers are

because I'm running out of money


because I'm trying to lose weight.

Both subjects aren't really ones people want to talk about in small talk with strangers.

Anyway in this case I want a small one for both reasons."

Barista: "Well, have a nice day."

Monday, 18 June 2012

Sylvia Plath wrote this in her journal when she was 18:

"I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love’s not impersonal yet not wholly subjective either. I would like to be everyone, a cripple, a dying man, a whore, and then come back to write about my thoughts, my emotions, as that person. But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with objective curiosity all the time…"

Sylvia Plath,
When she was 18 years old
Found here

Monday, 11 June 2012

Playing Games with Public Transport

Here is some advice offered to commuters about travelling during the Olympics:

"If possible, try to complete your travel either before 7.00am or after 9.30am or before 4pm or after 7.30pm on weekdays."

So we need to travel at times that won't get us to work on time. Are employers being forced to allow us to be late to work? Are there many jobs where working hours can be changed?

"Buses might be a good travel alternative for you during the Games. However, some bus routes will be diverted and/or disrupted due to road closures when road events are taking place, and other operational measures, such as banned turns and clearway restrictions."

So the buses aren't a reliable alternative anyway, and you are directing a not inconsiderable amount of commuters to add themselves to the already packed bus service. That sounds like it will work out.

"The predicted wait times to board a train show what may happen if people don't change their travel patterns. We are confident that this situation can be improved, but everyone needs to be flexible about their travel and plan in advance."

Hmm... So we need to be flexible even if we can't be.

Why do we need to again? Oh, I remember: THEY (the Olympics organisers) need us to be flexible so their event goes smoothly.

So I am paying for the Olympics despite having no interest WHATSOEVER in sport, and I am expected to add lots of time out of my life travelling extra early (note: if all commuters do that it will mean that these early times will be very packed, as everyone is forced to be less staggered than their working hours allow). That is time I won't be paid for that I will not be able to utilise for my own interests.

However my commute will still cost me £205 a month.

I am meant to alter my 1hr 15min (approx) commute (so that's 2.5 hours per working day at the baseline before I add this leaving early and returning late element) which regardless of any planning has to take me through "danger zones" because that is the geography of the situation. Plus I will be lugging my not inconsiderable work-related baggage through the system. And I'm lucky because I work part time and so will at least have my Fridays removed from this bollocks.

I am astonished that treating the public in this way is in anyway justified. I feel extremely sorry for commuters with children who will have to pay extra childcare and spend much more of their life away from their children, for the lower paid who are not being paid enough to have to deal with ANY of this extra shit, and for anyone trying to use a transport system already priced higher than public transport should be that will now not even be run to fit in with the lives of the public who use it!

Why on earth has there not been a reduction in fare prices to compensate the public for these inconveniences? To my mind, since we are funding the games through tax and many other non-optional ways, we should all be able to travel for free during this period of time. The way it is, we pay the same for a worse experience whilst funding the thing that is making our lives worse.

This is public transport not Olympic transport.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Writing is NOT a profession!

This article fucks me off for a bunch of reasons:

1. Loads of professions are full of people doing unpaid work not just writing or creative pursuits. Carers for example. Every public service. Interns. Everywhere people are being exploited.

2. Being creative is not a profession it's a calling. You do it because its who you are. Hopefully you find some way in this crazy world to make money to facilitate making stuff. If you're lucky you get paid to make it. But it isn't just fear that makes people want to share ideas, stories, music, etc... for free. We do so for many reasons.

3. Okay so "free culture" is a myth. Fair point. There are loads of people who make money from all the free going around. That doesn't mean the principals of free art or free information are bad. It means that they are being corrupted, unsurprisingly, by smart people in commerce.

In no way am I defending creative people being exploited, but we aren't the only ones! Nor should we be encouraged to treat our work (the real work we do, not the stuff that pays the bills) like a business. That isn't why we make stuff. We make it for audiences. We make it to share. We make it to touch and interact with other people.

Of course we should be canny. Always try to avoid bastards making money from your work that they don't give to you where possible. But don't take the soul and art destroying ethos of capital into your work. You need to get things done during the time you have on earth! Waiting for someone to pay you means you are not developing your craft and you are missing the point of what you are doing. Be sensible with your product, but always be producing. And remember finding an audience and serving them is much more important than making money. And weirdly the only real way to make money from art is to convince an audience to pay for it. And that will probably involve a period of giving it away for free. This isn't a bad thing.

Art existed before capitalism. Perhaps it has never been unambiguously free; there is always an exchange of some kind. But it isn't an easy fit art into the system. Why we do it, and how we do it, are generally outside that sphere. We have to negotiate with capital to live in the world. But let's remember it's a negotiation. We aren't a workforce we are dreamers. We're here to have and share ideas.

Writing is NOT a profession!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Three Posh Boys

You may be familiar with my podcast series Getting Better Acquainted. It's a weekly show where I have conversations with people I know, from my closest friends and family to someone I might one have met at a party. It's a growing portrait of the lives and interests of people in 2011/2012. It's limits are the sphere of my extended radar, but within those limits it's a very diverse and interesting piece of work. I feel comfortable saying this myself because in many ways the work seems to be making itself and I am it's servant. And also because in championing this show I am really championing the people on it. As one of the taglines I use puts it "there are lots of shows about famous people this one is for the rest of us."

It's available on to download for free through iTunes, or from the Soundcloud account. You can also stream it directly to the internet on the soundcloud account. And  you can stream it directly to your smartphone using the free Stitcher Smart Radio app.

The show has gone to places I didn't expect it to, it's taught me many things I didn't know, and it's not something my past self would have expected me to make. But at the same time looking back I can trace the development of this show in a the stuff I've made before. I just didn't realise where it would lead me.

This week is the third week in what I've come to think of as the GBA Posh Boy Season. My teenage self would've expected the work I'd make in my 30's to be class conscious but he wouldn't have dreamed it'd be challenging the stereotypes we have of posh people. But he hadn't grown up yet and didn't understand that it's always the people part of the statements that matter. The word that comes before; posh, poor, old, black, gay, disabled etc... isn't irrelevant of course, it has an effect on the situation, but the important word is people. We always have that part in common. We are all people.

Since Getting Better Acquainted is a study of the people I'm acquainted the presence of "posh" guests demonstrates that I've already got over some of my inverted snobbery. Arguably, since I'm middle class, that inverted snobbery isn't mine to own anyway. But that snobbery was - is - there because I felt it keenly when growing up. My parents weren't wealthy middle class, my dad was in fact a pensioner for nearly all my life, I went to state schools all over the UK . My dad lived in a working class area of Coventry for some of my formative years. My last and longest school experience was in Cardiff where I went to a well mixed comprehensive school. My best friends there were working class. I worked then, and have continued to work for most of my working life, in working class estates. My dad is a socialist who made documentary films about miners for the coal board. My mum is a socialist, was a nurse and then became a social worker. So I've got a complicated view of class.

 It get's even more complicated if you consider my mums parents who were upper middle class. In fact  my Grandfathers family were pretty much upper class. Whereas his wife came from working class Yorkshire stock, and she was aspirational to the point of betrayal, changing her voice for her new class. Generally speaking as a teenager I had a negative view of the "haves". I was enraged to discover I was related to Sarah Ferguson (The Dutchess of York at the time.) As a teenager I had real guilt about that part of the ancestry. I felt like I was descended from the enemy. But they weren't the enemy. They were just people.

It isn't that I've let the middle/upper classes off the hook. I still believe passionately in the need for a redistribution of wealth. I know that the wealthy and super rich need to stop having all the power and freedom. Many people lack context for those who have different lives than them. We currently have a government who have no real knowledge about the lives of most people in the country, why should we expect to make policy that is in their best interests. Many of us are safe and ignorant inside our bubbles, they just have really small bubbles.

But none of that means that "posh people" are all the same. Or even that they are that wealthy.

Over 3 episodes on GBA I lined up 3 examples of people might be called posh.

 Henry (who went to Harrow).

Richard (who went to a grammar school).

And Radcliffe (who went from public school to a Soho skip and managed to climb halfway back up again).

I suspect none of will live up in anyway to the expectations we have of people who we give that label to. Or at least not in many ways.

Richard was perhaps the first person I considered to be posh that I became friends with, and now he's one of my best friends. He's also probably the least posh of the three examples but for me he really represented a change of view. The sort of change that having a friend or family member who is gay or black or whatever can have on someone with prejudices in those areas. Seeing that Richard was (and is) a great guy altered my understanding.

Henry I discovered to be posher than I'd realised during the course of our conversation, but then I met him through music, and their is no class in the rehearsal room, there is only the notes or beats that you are playing. Music is a great leveller. Also I met him after my prejudice had lessened.

Radcliffe is from a different generation of poshness and has climbed all around the class system, I met him after he'd been through all of that and come to a still place. He may still have the accent but no one can accuse him of not knowing what it is like for people at the bottom, he has been homeless, he has been to prison, he has been a crack addict. I met him through true story telling and he is a man with important experience to share.

All three men acknowledge in some ways the privilege of their backgrounds in these conversations, and in the way they live their lives. That makes a difference I think. That makes it easier for me relate to them and for them to relate to me. But in these three very different conversations the main thing that stands out about all of them to me is their humanity. I like these men.

And it isn't easy and hasn't been easy for them all the time. In fact Radcliffe's story is partly about the disadvantages of privilege and class. If class is partly about confidence, as me and Richard discuss, then his story complicates that idea in an extreme way, whilst at the same time possibly confirming the theory.

We don't live in a classless society. Far from it. But it's really important to keep remembering that it isn't as simple as some diagram of demographics or a strict code of class -ificiation either. We don't fully fit into the system that's grown around us. Henry and Radcliffe weren't typical public school boys. Richard may be the kind of boy your Granny would want you to marry, but he's apologetic about it! There's no such thing as typical. Things are always more interesting and complicated than we think. In fact Henry describes some experiences where as a teenager he was attacked for his class. They are resonate with different examples of teenagers being attacked for things they have no control over.

Class is a hard thing to understand partly because it isn't static. We move around within it. None of the people in these conversations are defined by their class. They are much more than their class. As we all are. That doesn't mean class isn't a problem or doesn't have a massive influence on character. But it isn't everything. And it isn't simple.

I released these episodes in sequence for a reason, because they compliment and contrast each other in rich and interesting ways. And the reason I could programme them as contrasting episodes is that the minds and lives of these three posh boys (or three posh men as they all are now) are so very different from each other.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Stand Up Tragedy: Finale‏

The next Stand Up Tragedy takes place at the Leicester Square Theatre on Monday 4th June. This is the last of the 5 monthly shows that have taken place this year. It's got a great line up and if you've been meaning to come to one this is your last chance for a while. I'm currently looking into taking the show up to the Edinburgh Festival in 2013 but that is some time away.

Stand Up Tragedy is a variety night where people stand up and do tragedy. Every night so far has had a slightly different favour but they've all featured comedy, music, storytelling, and the unexpected. And they've all ended with a sing-a-long. This month we have some brilliant comedians, powerful true story tellers, beautiful music and improvised Greek Tragedy.

You can hear podcasts of previous SUT shows via iTunesStitcher Smart Radio or Soundcloud:

From the soundcloud (and the website) you can stream or download them directly without any fuss. Listening to these podcasts or exploring the website should give you an idea of what the nights are about. But they are a lot of fun and people interpret the idea of tragedy in many ways.

Tickets can be bought in advance from the Leicester Square Theatre Box Office. They cost £10 (£8 concessions). The promo code TRAGIC will offset the booking fee. It's better for me if you buy in advance as then I don't pay printing fees, but there should be tickets on the door too, we'll announce via social media if we sell out.

It's a full night of tragedy, starting at 8.30pm and ending around about 10.45pm. Doors open at 8.15pm

These shows have been a lot of fun to run. I really hope to see many of you there, and please spread the word.

 My other podcast Getting Better Acquainted is also really worth your attention. There have been some amazing conversations that have already aired and the ones due to come out are of  an equal quality. This show is one of the best things I have ever done. I've had so many positive responses and the audience is growing. Have a listen if you haven't before. And if you do listen and you like it please tell people about it.

It's available through iTunesStitcher Smart Radio and from it's website:

I made a 15 minute clip show from the 2011 episodes to send into a competition if you want a flavour of the show:

Also I'd like to pick out a few other highlights: On Wednesday and Friday next there will be a very special  GBA two parter where I talk to Radcliffe Royds about his life. He is a man who went to a public school as a child and from there he has gone through richness, addiction, homlessness and rehabilitation. His story is moving, funny, inspiring and remarkable. His is one of many conversations I feel blessed to have been a part of.

GBA isn't just conversations sometimes it has documentary style episodes. These are two recent examples of this:

 I have also been further grouping episodes into playlists:

Thanks for you time,


Thursday, 3 May 2012

Why I am giving up voting...

I was all set to write an angry account of why I recently decided not to vote any more. Or rather why I won't be voting until there is a magical combination of  a candidate/party that represents my views and a system that allows them the power to implement their policies. If that ever happens I'll be voting again.

Actually I'll probably vote again if just the first part becomes true. Better that someone who I believe in gets to try and change things. Even if they fail.

Of course if things severely change and the options become the BNP verses the Tories then I'll be voting Conservative and breaking my long standing belief that tactical voting is anti democratic and just maintains the status quo. But if we get to that stage I may have already left the country.

The other thing that would bring me back to voting is a none of the above box. A box that does exist on the ballot papers of some democracies where they offer the option for a vote of no confidence in the system. Look at where we are nationally and globally, can you really claim to have confidence in the system? Maybe you can. That's fine too. I'm sure you have good and intelligent reasons and all that. But can't we put it to a democratic vote and see what most people think?

So where has the angry rant gone?

Well I had a number of Facebook exchanges about it and I've currently used up all my energy for angry ranting. But it isn't just that. Voting is something I was brought up to value. I have followed politics closely since I was a child. In the 1997 election I wasn't old enough to vote but I was old enough to care. I stayed up all night with my dad watching the results, cheering as Portillo lost his seat, drinking whiskey and feeling like a bright new day was coming. Surely things could only get better? The next day I went into my Cardiff Comprehensive school (still drunk) and the teachers were jubilant, there was such a feeling of hope and possibility.

I think it only took a week or so for that to dissipate as Old Labour voters began to understand fully what the New Labour Project was. Not that I was or am Old Labour. When I was 15 I was in the political party Militant Labour. I left when they'd just changed their name to the Socialist Party, but that wasn't why I left. I left because listening to the older members of the party explain things to me I'd come to realise that they weren't anti-capitalist as such. They agreed with a financial system but they seemed to want to replace the market with the state as the thing that controls it.

I am not saying that socialists are Stalinists. Or even that the views of these middle aged working class Cardiffians in the mid 90's represents the pinnacle of socialist theory. Some of my best friends are socialists! In fact my parents are socialists. I was brought up in this tradition. It's sort of my religion. Which makes turning my back on it a bit like turning your back on a religion. Apart from my parents aren't fundamentalist, they accept the complexities and ambiguities of life, and they aren't dogmatic socialists, they aren't even the same kind of socialists. But the people in Militant Labour were dogmatic. And they really believed in the power of the state.

Socialists think that a state can be fair and can be run for the greater good. I'd like that to be the case. But I think that power corrupts and that systems themselves when they are too big and unwieldy will trap people into doing things that are against the greater good. I don't think human nature lends itself to wielding power well, especially when it's through the filter of an abstract and distant system. After all deep down we are just apes who have lost most of their hair.

Systems seek to keep themselves going. This's what happened in Soviet Russia in many ways, Communism never got tried because it mutated into something else before it had a chance to be tested. I fear that Communism can never be tried on a mass scale because it will get distorted on the way up. I'm an anarchist. I think our only hope is to get rid of large scale systems, to try our best to remove the things that see us wrong, hierarchical systems for example, redistribution of wealth and resources for example, have smaller communities who are answerable directly to each other for example, make do with less stuff but with more freedom. I'm against violence as a way of achieving change however; apart from it being a terrible thing in itself, I don't think it's a means to the ends we need. Violence creates violence. Violent revolutions create violent regimes.

I'm pragmatic. I don't think we can pull the system down tomorrow. I'd rather have, for example, Old Labour in power than New Labour despite not standing for either. I do think it's important to push for small changes. Ultimately I'd remove the state but in our current situation, immersed in the present system, I will defend the wellfare state against the ideological attacks it is receiving. Which isn't to say that I don't accept that there are reforms that would be in everyone's best interest.

A member of my extended family said to me the other day, as I pontificated about my views late at night, that I would be Stalin if I ended up in his position. (This person is a rich economist by the way, who is definitely not an anarchist or a communist!). He's right. Most people would be, and I definitely would be, I have plenty of insecurity, frustration, rage and self righteousness boiling in my soul. That's why I think our only hope is to find a situation where there aren't people at the top making decisions. The Occupy Movement and things like that give me more hope than any election promise (or lie as I prefer to call them) ever has. UK Uncut is an example of how you can make your voice heard regardless of whether you vote.

These are the sort of responses you get when you say you won't be voting:

If you don't like any of the options why don't you stand yourself?

If you don't vote then you can't complain.

People died and fought for the vote. How dare you cast such a privilege aside?

You have to vote or X will get in and his policies are much much worse that Ys!

Voting is your responsibility, don't be so irresponsible!

If you really believe that then you should campaign for a none of the above box.

I disagree with most of them, apart from the ones that suggest I should do more, to those I say:  Sorry, I'm a flawed and selfish person, who does some political actions but not enough, and is most of the time just trying to be happy. The 15 year old version of me would have hated this 30 year old version. But then he was pretty self-righteous, even worse than me! I find it hard to attack anyone for not doing enough. The world is pretty overpowering in its size and scale and we are all just tiny insignificant things in relation to the world. In relation to the universe our world itself is minuscule. Rationalisation? Probably.

As for standing for political office I don't have the capital to do so, nor do I have the time. Nor would it make sense for someone who disagrees with power structures to stand for office! I was going to stand on an honesty platform once. Say things like: "Vote for me, if I win I will have no power to affect any real change." Or "I don't really have any answers" Or "I don't know if this will work but let's try it anyway." But that would have just been a publicity stunt/ art project and probably a waste of everyone's time.

What I really don't accept are the arguments that you can't complain/your opinion is invalid if you don't vote. That's nonsense. I've always respected non-voters opinions, or at least considered them as as valid as mine. I would hope people will give me the same respect now I've jumped ship. People make choices and people have lives, dividing us all up by these strange lines of validity is a way of covering up reality, of marginalising people from the debate, often the people most effected by politics.

At the moment I see no real difference between the three main parties. The greens in Brighton either lack the power or deep down the intention, to challenge the dominant "we must cut everyone to shit" policy. (Here are two links to show you what I'm talking about: Link 1 / Link 2) If there is no real difference between your options why should you carry on voting? Voting is only relevant if you have alternatives to vote for! You can disagree with my take on it, that's fine, you can argue/educate me in the ways that the parties are different, but you cannot tell me that I can't moan or object to what I see. Minimising and dismissing dissent is something that happens in dictatorships and if you are advocating democracy by using the tactics of dictatorships you really need to take a good look at yourself.

I'm afraid I just don't believe in voting enough anymore. I don't think it will change anything significantly. I don't think my vote has ever really counted. And if it has then it has led to unintended consequences such as a coalition government that is attacking this country and its people with its policies. That is on my hands because I voted for the Lib Dems because they promised proportional representation and had other policies I approved of. Sure, I generally don't agree with them but I thought I was being pragmatic, going for the least worst option. But I was actually just being naive.

It makes me sad that I feel this way. And I understand why others would choose to vote. I don't judge anyone for their choices. We're all just trying to make sense of things. To do what we feel is best. Or not. Either way everyone is getting through life in whatever way they can. Vote Boris. Vote Ken. Believe that your vote matters. Maybe you're right. Maybe things will get better. Maybe our electoral system is fit for purpose. Maybe one party is mildly better than another. Maybe one party is massively better than another. Maybe the underdog will win the race. Maybe an independent will be able to change things. Who can say. Not me.

But my gut tells me it's all pointless. And I don't want to engage with it anymore. Casting my vote makes me feel dirty. I don't like touching this thing that doesn't seem about choice or ideology. It just maintains the power structure. It just keeps the rich rich. It just keeps on.

I'll carry on my (pathetically rare) activism. Maybe I'll get big enough balls someday to fight consistently for my principals rather than letting making art and trying to enjoy life get in the way. Or maybe the situation will become so dire that I will no longer have a choice. Fight for change or live in tyranny and all that. I'm not saying I'm a good person. I should do more.

But whatever I should do, one thing I won't do, is vote.