Quantifying your smartphone usage mentioned recently

There’s a recent BBC documentary titled Secrets Of Silicon Valley, its not a bad watch at all. In part 2, the presenter installs an app to see how much time he spends on his phone through out the day. Very similar to what happened at the Quantified Self 2017 conference, but even I almost coked on my tea when the final figure of over 5 hours was announced for the day.

My monthly smartphone usage

Looking at my own usage, over the last month I spent 19hrs 1minute over 384 pickups, looking at my mobile phone.

I admit this is so very low in comparison to others.

By the way I’m still looking for a decent way to do this without abundance of features, battery use and in a data ethical way.

Human & AI Powered Creativity in Storytelling from TOA Berlin 2017

I already wrote about TOA Berlin and the different satellite events I also took part in. I remember how tired I was getting to Berlin late and then being on stage early doors with the multiple changes on public transport, I should have just taken a cab really.

No idea what was up with my voice, but it certainly sounds a little odd.

Anyhow lots of interesting ideas were bunched into the slide deck, and certainly caused a number of long conversations afterwards.

How to DJ with the Pacemaker device and a real mixer

Mixing with the pacemaker device

I love mixing with my Pacemaker but I have to admit there are some limitations like the crossfader and effects are a little tricky to do at the same time. So when I bought another pacemaker off ebay cheap and upgraded the battery and HDD to a SSD, I also upgraded that Pacemaker firmware, to include other features like beat-aware loops. That firmware can’t record mixes in the same way unfortunately.

So I’ve always thought maybe I could use the pacemaker with a mixer and record the mix over analogue means. Si gave me one of his old mixers a while ago, so for ages I thought about it but done little about it.

Till now!

Here’s the mix I messed with around earlier.

Ok its not great but I was tweaking the setup while I was recording.

Mixing with the pacemaker device

So how did I do it…

The pacemaker has two outputs, so I pushed deck A to the main output and deck B to the headphone output. This means the pacemaker crossfader can never be used or touched while mixing. You only use the deck selection to choose the track you want to adjust or play with.

Mixing with the pacemaker device

Deck A the main output is cabled to the Channel 1 on my mixer, while Deck B the headphone deck is output to Channel 3 on the mixer. (Channel 2 is mainly for the microphone and other things on the mixer)

Mixing with the pacemaker device

I had to adjust the volume and gain on each channel and the pacemaker its self but generally I got it right with some tweaking. I hooked up the output of the mixer to my amp and speakers, while the monitor went out to my laptop with a splitter as its a combined mic/headphone jack.

Mixing with the pacemaker device

I recorded everything with Audacity and checked the levels on the laptop.

The results are not bad… It does feel really weird to be using the Pacemaker device and not using the crossfader on the device. In actual fact I messed up a few times earlier on, by using the devices crossfader. I also decided I needed some kind of stand for the device and used a box to mount it half way through the test set.

It was odd but worked, more experimentation is needed…

There’s life in Pebble still

Pebbles growing in work
Me, Jimmy and Alex – Photo credit to Jimmy Lee

Its ironic that since Fitbit bought Pebble and even Vector. There has been a bunch of interesting projects to keep Pebble going. Even Fitbit have been friendly to the idea of keep it going once they switch off their servers later this year.

At least two projects are hot on my task list.

What I find really interesting is the amount of Apple watch users who have switched to Pebble. First it started with my line manager (phil) who bought a pebble 1 a while ago, scratched it then sold it to me. He then bought a Apple Watch to go with his new apple phone; but it wasn’t long till he was frustrated with the charging and not being able to see the screen without the shake. I made clear my reasons for kickstarting the Pebble 2 and left it at that.

One day he totally surprised me one day with a pebble 2 watch in white and green. Good choice I said, even with the fear of what Fitbit would do with Pebble still looming.

I also sold my old pebble 1 watch to Andy at work with the warning of what Fitbit might or rather not do, but he was happy with the price.

Third was Jimmy, who had a old classic Casio watch he use to wear. He one day rocked up with a black pebble 2 watch and suddenly I felt the waters was turning.

Pebble 2.0

But the final surprise recently was with a Apple die-hard, Alex. Alex has apple stamped on his heart; me and Jimmy once had a conversation about the turning tide of pebble watches in work and thought who could be next? Jimmy did suggest Alex and I said nahh never, too tied to Apple. I even remember having a conversation with Alex about the Apple watch vs Pebble. I somehow forgot Alex use to own a Samsung Galaxy S4 plus a long time ago, mainly for VR.

He agreed on the advantages, and as designer to designer we critiqued the design decisions of the LCD screen and wondered if jobs would be happy with the one day battery? (to be fair me and Jimmy had a similar discussion before he turned up with one) Any way, that was a while ago and I almost fell out my chair when recently Jimmy announced Alex had ditched his Apple watch for a Pebble 2. I honestly thought he was kidding then I saw it on him.

Jimmy & Alex also have found services doing interesting custom watch faces, but I’m on the look out for more diverse apps (makers would be a plus). As I’d really like to see more things like ifttt on pebble. For example why not Monzo, Paypal balance status?

Pebble 2

Right now you can buy a Pebble on Amazon for between £40 – £90 depending on which one you get. I’d also say if you were considering a smartwatch, the pebble is still the only one I would consider even now.

Ferry Corsten presents Gouryella: From The Heavens

Found via Si Lumb

Just a incredible and ever-so touching documentary about Ferry Corsten, the man behind some absolute trance classics such as Out of the Blue, Gouryella, Tenshi and simply the best trance song of 2015 – Anahera.

Its so weird that I pretty much closed out my last pacemaker mix with Anahera.

Feeling a Ferry megamix is in the pipeline maybe…

Children in the midnight city mix

Robert Miles: Dreamland (Experimental)

Its sad to hear Robert Miles died a while ago. Children was one of the most famous trance tunes ever and I remember many nights dancing to Children.

Most people know the story behind Children; but if not…

Children is one of the most iconic tracks in the history of dance music.

It launched a new genre – “dream house” – and although that did not last long, the more melancholy, cerebral sound opened the door for trance music, which would come to dominate clubs in the late 1990s, going fully mainstream into the new millennium.

That sound was a very deliberate choice by Miles, whose real name was Roberto Concina.

Although Children was initially written in response to images of the child victims of the Balkans war as Yugoslavia tore itself apart, the track then took on a different life – and a different motivation. Miles wanted to make it big to help save the lives of clubbers.

So on a journey back from TOA Berlin, I decided to pick up one of my old and favourate mixes. Adding the old classic Children from 1995 (used the Tint remix) and nearly ending with a modern classic Ferry Corsten’s Anahera; which was the biggest trance tune of 2015.

20+ years of trance, incredible to think about.

Here’s the tracklisting and mix for your listening pleasure.

  1. Children (Tilts Courtyard Mix) – Robert Miles
  2. Shadow World (Original Mix) – Thomas Bronzwaer
  3. Resound (Original Mix) – Thomas Bronzwaer
  4. Intuition (Martin Roth Remix) – Marninx Pres. Ecco
  5. Amino Acids – Tau-Rine
  6. Body of conflict (Cosmic Gate Club mix) – Cosmic Gate
  7. The Evil ID – Max Graham
  8. The Labyrinth (Part One) – Moogwai
  9. Summer Melodies (Frequence Remix) – Frequence
  10. The Pride in Your Eyes (Martin Roth Remix) – Tillmann Uhrmacher
  11. Mass Noise 2015 – Fred Baker & Seb B
  12. We Are One (Instrumental Mix) – Dave 202
  13. Anahera (extended mix) – Ferry Corsten
  14. Grotesque (Alex MORPH and RAM mix) – RAM

Enjoy!

Are we still asking who pays?

22594922074_3d829c682a

I have expressed my opionion on this for many years and it seems more and people are catching on.

Maybe Ngunan will catch on too… till then, here’s some sensible rules for those who are a little more liberated. The thing you should always do on a first date if you want a successful love life

  1. Leave gender stereotypes to Donald Trump
  2. Whilst it’s kind for someone to offer to pay the whole hog, for the sake of ease it’s always better to split or take turns buying rounds, regardless of who asked who or who has a nicer handbag
  3. Save champagne and caviar for another time, or at least until you know their last name.

Exposition, versions and the story of sad API lookups?

Donnie Darko

I recently watched Donnie Darko again. Always loved that film so picked Donnie Darko out of my movies, only to find something wasn’t right. Killing Moon was gone in favor of Never tear us apart. I was watching the directors cut of Donnie Darko not the original cinematic cut. Without spoiling it, the directors cut is full of scene explainers which makes a great film suddenly a bore, this is called narrative exposition.

As someone else said

For me this movie was a masterpiece that the director ruined by changing the music and adding too many scenes/extensions.

The movie worked as is so everything he extended seemed to drag it. It’s 20 minutes longer as a result.

And I thought the opening upbeat song “the killing moon” was perfect instead of “never tear us apart”.
In story-telling, you start with “world in balance” (happy 80s) in order to create the contrast when things go array. So “Killing moon” was the a much better choice than “Never tear us apart.”

But whats painful about the whole thing is, looking at my movies. I find 2 donnie darkos. Both named the same, same cover art, fan art, etc. Its not till you look at the folder names you can see the difference. As you can imagine this is very frustrating as it leads to trial and error to get the one you want.

Of course its not just Donnie Darko, I also have the directors cut of Lock Stock, Human Traffic and a few others. Each are identical till watched.

I asked on Twitter about this issue and actually got a message back from themoviedb, which is wonderful to read and hear.

Certainly can’t wait for this to come, as there seems to be no real alternative to this trial and error method at the moment? I don’t envy creating the API point for this as, some films have so many versions and variations. What even counts as a version or variation?

A couple days to still enter a proposal for Mozfest 2017’s decentralization space

MozFest

Its always the case that on the run up to a deadline, things go a little nuts and every year Mozfest proposals are the same. I have already made calls for people to submit proposals in the past and we have got some very interesting proposals through including one which has really got me going.

So you have 2 and a bit days to submit a proposal for the decentralized space still, what should you do?

  1. Read the space description!
  2. Have a read through the submitted proposals by others.
  3. Find something which hasn’t been mentioned or a unique take on a existing concept. For example if you submit another what is blockchain talk, its highly likely to be dropped.(I do find it ironic no one has linked decentralization with net neutrality for example. We actually have no talks about this important issue)
  4. Submit your proposal! It doesn’t need to be complete, it can even be a placeholder to something unique and wonderful. Its also worth bearing in mind theres 3 types of sessions (workshop/talk, hackspace and gallery space). We are on the look out for things which can run for longer periods of time than just a hour too.
  5. Think if you really need a travel stipend. This is usually a big filter as we only have a few and only give it to those who really really need it. London is expensive but maybe theres a way to use Airbnb or Couchsurfing? I would also point out South East London hotels are far cheaper than central London hotels. Transport to North Greenwich is also less bad too.

I would also say most of this applies to the other spaces too…

So what you waiting for? Get writing…!

If you need some ideas… have a read of these

I especially liked what Stowe Boyd said in a interview which sums up some of our thought and direction for the decentralized space. He was answering a question about the future of work, but talked about what happens when you have decentralized networks.

Work can be thought of being two overlapping spheres: the personal and the organizational. Organizations are becoming looser because there is a need for increased agility. This translates into what I call the 3D workforce: decentralized, distributed, and discontinuous. Decentralization increases autonomy of sub-organizations and individuals. Distributed work means both distributed in space but also an increasing reliance on freelancers and partner companies linked in cooperative networks. And discontinuous because we are constantly lifeslicing and workslicing – shifting from one project to another ten times over the course of a day, working wherever we are, and blurring the distinction between work and non-work. This has changed everything in our personal sense of work, and is leading us to have more connections, but of weaker strength, which may sound bad but it isn’t.

This is the kind of thing we are after… the effects on people, places, society not just the tech.

If you have any questions please reach out to us the team running the decentralization space on twitter or via github.

Match group in full effect, time to rethink online dating

Stop Screwing with okcupid

It was a while since OKCupid was bought by Match group/IAC. They then went on to buy POF, Tinder and others.

OkCupid one of my top dating sites has finally dropped a key feature which for me was one of the defining features.

On Friday, online dating service OkCupid introduced its biggest change since its 2009 paid “A-List” add-on package. Starting today, the site’s users no longer see a major data point that has been standard for nearly a decade: the “visitors” tab.

“What’s the value of a visitor?” the company wrote in an e-mail to users. “Short answer: zero.” However, that valuation is shaken up by a follow-up sentence, and it may explain why the Match.com-owned company made the change. “A person who visits your profile and chooses not to follow up with a ‘like’ or a message probably (read: definitely) isn’t worth your time.”

The Visitor feature was key because it allowed you to see if someone visited your profile. Its a really nice feature and useful to understand if someone is interest or not. (there is a way to opt out if you are worried about this feature of course, but you don’t get to see who looked at you).

In short, a user could look through and see who looked at them, which is a potentially quicker path to determining who out there might have actually tapped “like” on you. (Without real-life cues like body language, online dating users can benefit from round-about paths to finding potential interest. As an occasional OkCupid user over the years, I can attest to appreciating any cues beyond seeing what happens when I send awkward, unsolicited “HI HOW ARE YOU” messages.)

Today (Saturday 29th July 2017 1300 BST) I haven’t received the email or the link to visitors is still there in my app and the site.

The statement from OKCupid is such bollox and clearly a sign they want more people to pay them for the A-list (premium service) which will get the feature of course.

I have used the visitor feature when sending a message and seeing if the woman is maybe interested or not. Generally if she looked at my profile, after I sent her the email. Then its very likely shes just not interested in me and thats fine. Its a good indicator rather than the like feature which leads towards a tinder like system.

I also tend to get about 5-7 visitors a week which is a nice place to look for potential matches.

Thus, OkCupid’s statement doesn’t necessarily add up. If a person visits your profile and does follow up with the “like” button, they just might be worth your time, and a “visitor” tab would let you tap “like” in kind and find out. But as of today, OkCupid now only has one option to reveal that information: A-List subscriptions, which cost $19.95 per individual month or $59.70 as a six-month bundle. (“A-List Premium” was introduced years later with an additional $15/month charge and more features.) Free users still “pay” for the site via advertisements, which A-List users can disable.

Once I saw this, I did look at the OKCupid EULA for changes and of course the site.

While OkCupid’s public-facing blog is typically transparent about changes, features, and site-driven research, the company elected to only inform users about this visitor-tab change via e-mail. OkCupid did not respond to Ars Technica’s questions about the changes in time for this article’s publication.

Suspect stuff… or a clear sign the match take over is in full effect now.

John from M14 industries asked how many features have they really got left?

RIP okcupids journals

He’s right really…

I think it is time to look elsewhere, as the original OkCupid idea died a long while ago and there is little which makes it better than POF (another Match group site!). At least they still have the visitor option (currently!)

All this drives my thoughts about decentrialised dating again. If I wanted to leave how would I take my profile? Could I take all those questions and answers I spent much time answering? I have had a task for a long while to make my okcupid profile public or duplicate it on a public platform I can control.

The best thing is there is a proposal which went into Mozilla Festival from the ever capable Evan Prodromou about this exact issue.

I realize it seems trivial to people thinking only of press freedom, but romance and sexuality are a huge part of human existence. Almost all major dating sites are owned by a single company (Match.com). It’s an area that requires privacy and gradual disclosure. Open dating systems are fascinating — posting one or more profiles on the open web in a way that preserves your privacy but allows gradual disclosure and connection.

He is dead right!

Some people, especially those married or in long-term relationships; but they have no idea the personal nature of the data being shared and mined by pretty much one corporation which just wants to toy with you and your life. I called it Endemic corruption and I wasn’t mixing my words.

There is an opportunity for something far better and much more useful…

Updated…

I looked at OkCupid tonight and found the notice saying…

We’ve removed visitors so you can focus on better connections
Without the distraction of visitors, you can focus on the people who really want to get to know you. And when you’re focused on those people, your chances of higher quality connections improves.

As I said in a follow up tweet, this is such a load of crap! The justification is just a joke and their blog is lacking in actual data.

So one last time before they took the feature away, I was able to grab a snapshot… Goodbye OkCupid visitors

goodbye OKcupid visitors

Loving my first Tech Open Air Berlin

TOA Berlin

I was invited to talk at Tech Open Air Berlin (TOA Berlin) a while ago and the week of the event came around much quicker than I thought it would. Because of plans a while before, I had planned to be London to pick up my Estonian e-residency card, go to a semi-internal BBC AI event, visit “into the unknown” at the Barbican and host a lecture about Databox in R&D London (phew!). It became clear it was better to fly from London Gatwick to Berlin and fly back to Manchester (I couldn’t work out how long it would take to get to Stanstead and Ryan Air worked out more expensive once I factored in luggage). This did meaning 3 hotels over 6 days but it was acceptable in my head.

When I finally flew over to Berlin, the storms delayed the flight and when I finally made it to the hotel I was exhausted but noticed that I hadn’t sent my presentation to TOA or at least my updated version. So spent quite a bit of time checking my email to make sure.

I was on at 10:10am in the main conference and was pretty tired by the time I made my way to the venue which was way in the east and required a few changes from Rosenthaler Platz to Funkhaus Berlin Nalepastrasse. On arrival I was taken to the buzzing speakers lounge where I met Laura, who helped sort things out with some serious help from the tech support guy.

Human & AI Powered Creativity in Storytelling

A look at how Human and AI-powered creativity can be combined to build better storytelling

I felt the talk went ok, but it wasn’t my best because I took too long giving only room for 2 questions from the moderator. I certainly felt if it was a hour or so later it would have been far better. Regardless, it was captured and should be on the TOA Berlin youtube channel soon.

After the talk I was locked in conversation with 3-5 people about the data ethic considerations of adaptive media and how on earth this can work. All fascinating conversations which had to get cut a little short as I signed up to do a Ask Me Anything

TOA Berlin

This took part in a plastic dome within a busy room below the speakers lounge. I wasn’t expecting anyone to show up but there were 2 people waiting for me. I was asked about my role in the BBC and some of research we are conducting. Then a 3rd person dropped in. He said he had read my blog and suddenly there was a moment of “uh oh!” But it was fine, although we talk about data ethics and dating. I’ll be honest the AMA was fascinating and quite refreshing.

TOA Berlin

After this and a lack of lunch (my own fault, talking to people), finally started going to different sessions. Most were rammed and I remember going to Why Supermarkets Must be Replaced, Creators & Audiences: An Open Relationship, Motivating Behavior When Attention Is The World’s Reserve Currency, How far can VR go to enhance your sex life? Future of Sex Podcast with BaDoinkVR and The Future of Collective Governance and From Trump To Universal Basic Income: Leveraging Technology To Understand What Europe Thinks.

TOA Berlin

So quite an amazing cross section of talks and sessions!

I can’t emphasize enough how big some of the spaces are and the whole place just felt like it was buzzing. The engagement was high and everywhere I went people were getting involved. I don’t know the total amount of people, but it felt like a few thousands at least. I can only describe it as what I imagine South by South west is like but in Berlin. Theres so much happening and besides the conference there is a whole music track, expo, corporate spaces and even a thing called open circle only for speakers and vip’s. Its pretty overwhelming, but in a good way.

One of the other fascinating things about TOA was the amount of Fridge events or as they call it Satellite events. You can also apply to do a satellite using a online form and a video chat with TOA.

I attended two and had to miss a few because I needed to move hotel on Friday. Here are the two I attended.

Propellor | Forum #1: Using Tech to create the future of Film

I first met Erwin at the Documentary and Factual World Congress in Sweden late last year when he told me about the Propellor film tech hub.  We kept in touch and when he mentioned the Forum would be during TOA Berlin, I was happy to say I would be there too. I agreed to help by encouraging people to think about adaptive media in a workshop of ideas.

Propellor | Forum #1

The event was a satellite to TOA and was hosted at Price Waterhouse Coopers building only minutes from Berlin Hauptbahnhof (if unlike me you go out the main entrance and not the back exit). It started with networking and some canopies then an introduction followed by 3 5min pitches by myself (Adaptive Media), Jannis Funk (distribution of AV content) and Aljoscha Burchardt (Curation of AV content).

Once the pitches were out the way there was time for a few questions. Most of the questions I got were asking how on earth is adaptive media possible, I answered in a quick 1min breakdown of object based media.

TOA Berlin

After this, people grouped around the pitches they were interested in and the DO school took control.

TOA Berlin

It was good workshop with enough push to get things done in time but also allowing things to emerge from the grassroots. At the end of the workshops ideas were presented to the pitch group and the best was then presented to everyone at the forum.

TOA Berlin

I found the Friemily film a great idea so very fitting for adaptive media.

All the results have been written up at propellorfilmtech.com.

TOA Berlin Satellite: Machine Learning, Trust and Public Service

Machine learning, trust and public service

Myself and Ahmed from the BBC Blueroom put in a proposal around a idea/concept of the public service internet and machine learning. Only a few days earlier the Blueroom had put on a AI & society conference titled BBC Blue Room presents Artificial Intelligence & Society. So fresh from that and some ideas from myself and others in R&D, we proposed the question; where does public service fit in the age of machine learning and the business models which come along with automation and algorithms.

Machine learning, trust and public service

TOA provide the space and we provided the workshop/talk under their brand. The space was an amazing co-working space called Mindspace and they were really helpful with everything. The only down side was the workshop was meant to be more participatory but the room set up didn’t quite work for this. The central chairs were not move-able at all. Ideally more of a circle would have been better really.

Machine learning, trust and public service

We were not expecting a huge turn out but thats exactly what we got. As me and Ahmed got started we focused on the business models which are most associated with machine learning. To be honest we spoke maybe too much and by the time the discussion got going, we ran over time. This is also where the layout of the room became a disadvantage. Regardless I drew up thoughts on a piece of paper and mapped out connected ideas (mindmapped it) while people talked and discussed.

Machine learning, trust and public service

There was a lot of discussion about public service and the point of public service. We got talking about why people choose to work in the public service oppose to commercial companies.

The discussion about trust thew up a whole lot of discussion about fake news and disinformation; someone suggested maybe a trusted public entity could have a trusted index score for sources? Something like snoops which are currently having their own problems. This lead nicely on to the transparency question and the fact public organizations should be more transparent than other companies. Which people felt could mean public organisations could benefit from the transparency in choices and algorithms. I earlier called it xray mode in the conference talk.

Collaboration came up again and again, there was a discussion suggesting we should work with not just ARD/ZDF but also Fraunhofer and others like Arte. There was also a feeling, some pioneers in this sector could share insight and new models with less forward thinking public organisations, who are struggling to keep up with the internet age.

TOA Berlin

As a whole I was very impressed with TOA, its really a festival of tech, art and ideas. I saw solar panels made into art, a stage made in the wood and far too much free redbull.

I would highly recommend TOA to others, think SXSW with a strong European backbone, I will make my way back next year.

Discussing the crisis of masculinity on BBC Merseyside’s upfront

The time has come around, its been a while since the last debate on BBC Merseyside Radio. We scratched the idea of Masculinity and tomorrow its time for the radio debate. Guests include Ngunan, Elisa, Ahmed, Matt and Myself. Tune in live online from 8pm BST.

To babe Matt, keep the discussion going Nguna
Nguna gains one more friend 🙂

I said its been a while since the last debate on BBC Merseyside Radio. This time I brought new people (Elisa & Matt ) on board to join the debate. I’ll be honest it was fun again. You can hear the whole thing from the start here. Or I clipped out the music for archive purposes only.

All I’m going to say is I still won’t be calling anyone my lover, unless in Bristol or a really close friend. Its a shame Ahmed couldn’t join us, but I’m sur

Great fun and interesting conversation again!

The crisis of masculinity on BBC Merseyside’s upfront Sunday 23rd July 8pm

Fatherland
Fatherland has much to say about the state of Masculinity, but so does Trainspotting 2

The time has come around, its been a while since the last debate on BBC Merseyside Radio. We scratched the idea of Masculinity and tomorrow its time for the radio debate.

Guests include Ngunan, Elisa, Ahmed, Matt and Myself.

Tune in live online from 8pm BST.

Your telling me theres no need for feminism?

The fact most males are paid way beyond females is terrible, but hardly surprising.  The gap is pretty vast. This is part of the reason why I find it extremely hard when women, have said to me in past, theres no real need for feminism anymore. Very difficult indeed!

On hearing the story break, I wondered if Jodie Whittaker will earn the same kind of money as previous male doctor whos?

There was also another story which no one really picked up on, but it was noticed by a few and later acknowledge by the BBC.

Trade union Equity said in a statement: “The apparent pay gaps in gender and for those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background are troubling.”

There is also a gap between the pay for white stars and those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background.

George Alagiah, Jason Mohammad and Trevor Nelson are the highest paid BAME presenters, each receiving between £250,000 and £300,000.

The highest-paid female star with a BAME background is BBC news presenter Mishal Husain, who earned between £200,000 and £250,000.

9 extraordinary days of the Manchester International Festival

All my Mif2017 events

When I first came to Manchester, one of the many reasons I stayed was the international festival. It wasn’t just the festival but it was kind of mind blowing to have so many premiere art events in such a short distance and reasonable priced. The big one which I will never forget is Marina Abramović’s presents which surprised me at the time and then blew me away i retrospect. 2 years I watched a contemporary ballet called the tree  of life and there has been plenty more great experiences.

I bought quite a few events early May in between my travels. I missed the opening of the tickets, so a lot of events were sold out so I grabbed what I could even if I didn’t know so much about the events.

Here’s all the events I went to and really enjoyed…

MIF Opening: What is the City but the people? : Thursday 29th July

What Is The City But The People

I actually applied to be one of the people to cross the massive yellow catwalk which was constructed in Piccadilly Gardens. But while applying for it, I received a form asking a ton of questions about my profession. There was about 25 points and I couldn’t say yes to any of them, so I assumed I most likely wouldn’t be selected (rightly or wrongly).

I actually shot a ton of footage for the event, which I won’t lie was incredible. Each and everyone had a fantastic story, from a refugees who have made their way across europe and parts of the middle east, people who have had sex changes, people with chronic diseases, drag queens, teachers, 2 people on a blind date, cyclists, nurses, beekeepers, cake makers, a woman with a new-born baby, Ian Hislop the Architect, Noel from Oasis etc. It was incredible but the two which really got me was the woman who was celebrating her 100th birthday this year; and a man who was raped and in the attack passed HIV. Just incredible and as the screens said, maybe this is just cities – but it is this city.

It really reflected the diversity and of the city in such a great way. It was a real high and well worth watching the video although you couldn’t beat being there. So great it didn’t rain, because that would have ruined everything.

Not related to MIF but after the high of the MIF opening, at the barber the next day. A man walked in without an appointment and when he was offered one with female barber could cut his hair. He refused saying he wanted a male barber. Felt like a bump back from the previous high.

Party skills for the end of the world : Friday 30th June

Party Skills for the end of the world

I had no idea what I had set myself up for. It wasn’t till I saw a poster while taking the tram one day. I knew it was immersive theatre but I had no idea how immersive. So the vague ticket description saying wear suitable shoes had me wondering for a long while.

When I got to the secret venue, my Uber driver was confused and asked if I was in the right place? To be fair I was thinking the same thing too.

Of course I can’t describe all which happened because that would spoil it for others and frankly it would be pretty impossible to do this justice.

So here’s some pictures

Party Skills for the end of the world

It started with a good classic martini or in my case a few (I also made a dirty martini, that was the cloudy martini I had before the alarms went off).

Party Skills for the end of the world

We were moved deeper into the derelict building and then free to try a number of skills to take forward to the end of the world.

Party Skills for the end of the world

At some point more alarms and we were moved quickly through the building. Now I see why suitable shoes are required

Party Skills for the end of the world

Finally we ended up in a big room with a band playing something I imagine Underworld would play at the end of the world.

Party Skills for the end of the world

Then after a speech and blessing we were free to play in a vast building, and play we did till about midnight. I rejected the idea of going to the old pint pot because I had another MIF event at 1030am the next morning.

Party Skills for the end of the world

Interdependance: We need to talk about Power : Saturday 1st July

Interdependence: We Need to Talk about Power

There are so many things to be said about these series of talks and what better place to have them that in the Ancoats Halle, which I have never visited although I can see it from my window. I went along 2 years ago in the old Granada site but these talks were far better and the everything about them was +10 on the previous ones.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk about Power

Seeing Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and David Olusoga together on stage was pretty incredible. Each talking about power from the angle of race. Then when you can’t imagine how it could get better, Bad Language presented Jason Hickel (Writer of the Divide), Andrew O’Hagan and Deanna Rodger.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk about Power

I’ve already made a note to go along to the monthly bad language events, when it doesn’t clash with Volleyball or Werewolf.

MIF tour: Identity and the Fabric of the City : Saturday 1st July

Idenity and the fabirc of the city

After Interdependance in the Ancoats Halle, there was just enough time to head home have breakfast then walk down to Festival Square for a tour of inner Manchester.

My thought was I lived in Manchester for 9 years and still don’t really know much of the history of Manchester (as clearly noticed when going to the Salford Lads club and asking who the man was on the photos? Yeah I know!)

The tour was short but very insightful, as we walked from festival square/albert square to the central library, through St Peters Square, along princess street then china town. Finally we headed to kings street and on to deansgate. Many facts and interesting stories. Will have to go on another one of the tours soon.

Fatherland preview : Monday 3rd July

Fatherland

With my upcoming conversation on BBC Merseyside about the crisis of masculinity. I got a ticket and wasn’t quite sure what to expect; but what I got was quite a surprise and a fantastic theater performance in the excellent royal exchange theatre. I was very fortunate to have snatched a 2nd row seat too, giving real impact to everything I was watching unfold.

The play was funny, tragic and held together really well. I saw the preview, so I expect by the time it was out of the preview it would be even tighter than what I saw. I was also shocked to find out that quite a few of the cast were not professionals.

What if Women ruled the world? : Thursday 6th July

What if women ruled the world

This is the one ticket I couldn’t get first time around. I loved the concept and tried my best to blag a ticket. But luckily after seeing the previous MIF events, I went back to the site and found a bunch of tickets had been released. So I instantly snapped up one and pushed my other commitments for that night (sorry residents committee) but it was so worth it.

What if women ruled the world

Like partyskills & fatherland I don’t want to reveal too much although I am finally writing this on the last day of MIF 2017 (I got back from Berlin too late to really go to any of the ending events). We weren’t really allowed to take pictures too, but as soon as it was finished no one was bothered so I grabbed some of the amazing set and what an amazing location to host it (mayfield depot) which is the same place I saw Adam Curtis vs Massive Attack 4 years ago.

What if women ruled the world

The best way of thinking about what if women… as partly theater play and partly serious panel discussion. I’m planning to watch the other ones just to see how different they were from the one I went to.

My only negative to the event was the chairs were pretty sore on the bottom after sitting for so long. At least with Adam Curtis vs Massive Attack you could shift your weight around a little, although I remember that being too long for standing.

Interdependance: We need to talk about Technology : Saturday 8th July

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology
After going to the first interdependence event in the Halle, I decided to grab a ticket for this one as the theme was technology in Stoller Hall (another place I never been to before).

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology

The introduction of the robot from Sheffield University, and the reaction from the panel especially Joanna Bryson who verbalised her reaction as, ahhhh cute but wait why has it got a feminine sounding name? And why is it trying to act like pet? I’m now fighting not to treat it the way you want me to react. It reminded me of the very first time I saw a Aibo (sonys robotic dog, which I later owned) at the ICA in London. Everyone was so besotted by it then a member of the panel walked across the floor and kicked it off the stage. Of course Joanna wasn’t planning on doing this but her reaction turned to slight anger about the robot.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology

I was also trying to squeeze in more MIF events before going away for a week. I wasn’t wrong, another great series of talks hosted by the Aleks Krotoski. If I didn’t have to rush off to Volleyball to coach, I would have tried to catch up with her and some of the incredible guests.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology
I was very taken by Birgitta Jónsdóttir (who I heard so much about but never met or seen her live) and Laurie Anderson (who I hadn’t really come across before), who were just fantastic in everything they said. Joanna Bryson in the AI debate was off the hook, certainly someone I want to hear more from in the future.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology

On reflection, MIF pretty much couldn’t do no wrong. From the start with the decision to put the people of the city front and centre (I kind which I’d filled that form out now) to the amazing contemporary theatre productions. From deep note taking conversations in great spaces to immersive experiences in derelict buildings.

I was explaining to my sister how incredibly wonderful MIF is and why she should make the trip up to Manchester in 2 years time for MIF 2019. I said this while having dinner at the London Barbican after going to the into the unknown exhibit, which I was looking forward to.

I was deeply disappointed as I didn’t even get see the black mirror exhibit (they turned it off 5mins before the end and I went and visited everything else (theres 3 parts) before being told the exhibit is actually in the public lobby. To say I was peed off was an underestimation. From what I can see of the long turned off screen in the lobby, it would play visions of the black mirror universe.

My thoughts of a box with advertising surrounding you like 15 million merits, where the screens would pause and play a high pitch noise till you look again, certainly was over-thought. I guess? Maybe a suggestion for 2 years from now, as I can imagine creating this for MIF 2019 using existing technology.

I said it before but the MIF (Manchester International Festival) was one of those things which makes me very happy that I moved to Manchester. Yes could do the same in other cities but the size and culture of Manchester makes it seem like the ideal match. If you haven’t been before, mark it down in your calendar for 2 years time!

What a excellent 9 days! Just excellent!