22 June 2017

We Are The New Media

I must start by saying that my thoughts are with those who have lost friends, family and loved ones in the horrific fire at Grenfell Towers.  The footage and words from those who witnessed it is nothing short of the stuff of nightmares.

We do not know as yet how many died in the fire.  At the present time 79 people are listed as missing and dead; although reports have suggested that this may raise to treble figures. 

As they always do (and do not receive enough recognition for), the firefighters of London risked their lives trying to save people trapped in the tower, many of whom who had heeded the advice to stay in their flats.  Our emergency services should be commended, not only for their actions at Grenfell, but also after the London and Manchester terrorist attacks.  It takes a special kind of brave to run into a life threatening situation which others are running from.

Last Friday night, my only plans were to have a glass of wine, watch The Last Leg and generally have a relaxed night, away from social media (for once).  But then I saw the protest at Kensington Council offices on mainstream media and wanted to know more.  The real story.

The thing is; the mainstream media is increasing unreliable in getting the true story out there.  You receive limited information, usually aligned to someone's agenda when in fact, there is a lot more to the story that is not shown.

With this in mind, I searched the #JusticeForGrenfell hashtag and came across a periscope showing footage of around one thousand people marching across London. 

I have been given permission to share the Periscope footage by the man taking the video, DJ S.K.T who is an international DJ and producer of house music.  He was on his way to Notting Hill when he came across the march and decided to join and record .  He has asked me to confirm that he is neither a protester nor an activist.  He wanted to film to show people what was happening in a non-partisan way, which I think you can tell from the footage below.

The people on the march were from all walks of life.  The old and the young.  People from many different ethnicities, race and religion.  Men, women and (the occasional) child.  It was a peaceful march with minimal police presence. 

As I am sharing the periscope with permission, I will leave my own political views aside on this post but I can confirm that the march was full with people who were marching for justice for Grenfell, people who were angry at Theresa May and pro Jeremy Corbyn supporters.

The footage starts when DJ S.K.T came across it at Oxford Street and continued through Marble Arch, Edgeware Road, Hyde Park, Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove and ended up in Kensington for a vigil for Grenfell.  3.5 miles in all. 

There were no groups, no Antifa.  No agendas and no wish to do or cause harm.  It was people in unison, in peaceful protest.

Yet, despite the major TV networks watching and in some cases commenting on the periscope, the march was barely shared or even mentioned by anyone.  The angry protest at Kensington Council was played over and over again, yet no footage of the peaceful march which lasted around two hours was shown.

I woke up on Saturday fulling expecting there to be talk of the march in the news and the media.  Yet there was nothing.  I woke to find Saturday Kitchen trending on Twitter instead of the people who stood up and marched to make their voices heard.

People are no longer content to let the major TV networks and newspapers tell them what to think.  They no longer care to be shown only heavily edited and some in cases prejudiced information.  They want the real story, what really happened and this is why it is important that videos like this are shared.

I saw people from around the world commenting as the footage progressed.  The world is watching.  Maybe it is now time that the world saw us for what we really are.  Unedited. 

Because it is when things are at their worst that the people in this country come together.  When we are together, in unison, we are unstoppable.  That British spirit is in all of us. 

It is the spirit that arranged a clean up crew on Twitter after the London riots of 2011. 
It is that spirit that makes us come together and do everything we can after the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. 
It is that spirit that started the relief and help for the people of Grenfell Towers when the towers were still burning.
It is that spirit that made an elderly lady in a mobility scooter travel from Ilford to Finsbury Park to apologise to the people at the mosque and the Imam who stopped people from hurting the terrorist (alleged at this stage while police investigations are ongoing.

We are in the digital age now and it is time that we show people who we are.  Not just the bad, because there really is so much good.  If you wish to donate to the people and survivors of the fire at Grenfell Tower, you can do so here ArtistsForGrenfell

16 June 2017

Get The Most of Your Vacations

I realised last month after my best friend's anniversary that I had not been abroad for six years. The last time was her wedding in Cyprus. This has been due to a lack of planning as much as a lack of funds.

The thing about travel is that it can be pretty expensive, so it’s best to get as much as you can out of it as you can. In one of my previous posts I talked about wanting to go on a holiday alone next year. This has now progressed into possibly visiting a few different areas (or countries!) during a couple of weeks time period. This is something that I really, really want to go and as such, I have been doing a lot of research.

The thought of travelling alone is both terrifying and exhilarating to me and I want to ensure that I am have the best time possible. Here are some of the tips that I have been picking up to plan a travelling trip in the best way - ensuring that you get the most possible out of it.

Do your research

When people talk about doing research before travelling, they’re usually thinking of the sort of research you do when you’re building an itinerary. Going on Yelp to find local businesses, looking at Google Maps to find the routes you need, et cetera. But the sort of research that really helps you get to know a place on a deeper level can involve reading more about the history of the destination, or even reading fiction from its writers. Visit travel blogs that have odd anecdotes about vacations in the area are worth a read! These things help you get a feel for the culture before you arrive, which can increase your empathy and sensitivity once you’re at the destination.

Don’t build a hectic schedule

One of the most common mistakes with any sort of vacation is the building of a really busy itinerary. People think of all the attractions they’d possible want to see then create a day-by-day, even hour-by-hour schedule to make sure they can fit it all in. But not only are these itineraries pretty hard to stick to most of the time, but it also puts you in a bit of a rush when you’re there. This, of course, is a mistake. To get to know a place much more, you should really slow things down. Less is more when it comes to itineraries; spend more time at your chosen destinations, and allow for some leeway so that you don't see just the touristy things, but nothing about the area or its people.

Interact with the locals more

If you really want to get to know a place as much as possible, then is there really a better way of doing it than by spending more time with the locals. If you’re visiting a foreign country, then this may mean that you have to learn a bit of the local language. (Don’t just assume they’re going to know how to speak English, even if you’re going somewhere like Germany or France!) If you have the time, then see if they’re willing to share interesting stories about their lives in this place. At the very least, you should be able to get recommendations for places to visit that the guidebook doesn’t even mention. Speaking of which…

Don’t rely on the net for all your info

One of the reasons why speaking to the locals is such a good practice is that you’ll get more suggestions of places to visit, or a better feel of where the locals like to eat and drink. A lot of people rely too heavily on the Internet for this sort of information. That five-star review on Yelp tells you a lot less about a given place than you might think - and the same goes for a one-star review! Another reason that the Internet can be a little unreliable is that most people end up going directly to a business’s website to find out more about it. This doesn’t always give you the most balanced and fair view of the place.

Personally I never rely on sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp because every single person has different wants, needs and preferences. Someone's version of a perfect place might be another's version of hell!

Get yourself a guide

A lot of people are put off of the idea of getting a guide, or going on tours, because it seems to impose some sort of strict schedule on them. But if you’re going somewhere fairly exotic or adventurous, or even if you’re simply going to a city where you don’t know the language all that well, then hiring a guide might help you see much more of your destination. Don’t assume that guides all work on commission for nearby tourist spots - many of them will be multilingual locals who are pretty much willing to aid you in whatever you fancy doing. There are a lot of other reasons to hire a guide on vacation, but the potential to learn much more about your destination is definitely one of the most important.

For myself, I think that this would be better if there are a few of you travelling together. On a solo holiday you might feel like you had hired a friend for the day!

Go solo

I am told (and I hope) that people really do underestimate how good solo travelling can be. Whether it’s because of a lack of independence, fear of safety, or even financial constrictions, most people simply don’t consider the idea of going to a new destination without a trusted friend or family member.

But a solo adventure actually forces you to come out of your shell and interact more with the place around you. This is what I want. It helps you feel a lot more familiar with the location much faster, because you’re simulating the experience of simply wandering around just like you might do at home.

There are businesses like Just You - Solo Travel that provide packages and plans for those who don’t quite know how to go about it and need a little help. In general, solo adventuring is one of the best ways to get the most out of your vacation - so don’t dismiss it!

Keep the camera in your pocket

Don’t see most of your vacation through a camera lens, or through the screen of your smartphone. I’m not saying don’t take pictures - because you absolutely should - but your first instinct when you see something astonishing shouldn’t be to reach into your pocket. This actually alienates you from the experience somewhat; it forces you out of that immediacy and turns you into a different type of observer. Really take the time to look at things with your naked eyes; this is where the priceless moments of any vacation are found.

As an example of this, last year I saw someone say that they had missed the experience of their child seeing Disneyland for the first time, because she was so concentrated on getting the right photograph to capture the image. In doing that, she missed the moment.

Look first, take photograph later!

*Collaborative piece