2013 was pretty interesting on the work front.
Since my last round-up, I’ve been writing much more – a welcome change to the editorial work that is the bulk of my workload at present. I had a nice commission from Best, for example, to puncture the sacred cow known as Great British Bake Off. I also wrote for Big Issue in the North about a crowdfunded venture to make designer handbags in Manchester. Rae Jones, the designer behind the stylish Buckitt tote, wanted to save skilled jobs in the city but this fell through for reasons beyond her control.
I’ve been contributing assorted bits and pieces for Manchester site Creative Tourist for the past year and a half. My feature on Manchester’s most interesting film and TV locations – all of which you can visit – went live late last year, almost a year after I first wrote it. I also wrote a series of short pieces on some of the city’s more interesting markets, away from the city centre – if you like shopping, check out Longsight flea market, Ramsbottom artisan market, the Vintage Village in Stockport and the artisan food market at MediaCityUK, right outside the BBC. On the music front, I previewed Massive Attack v Adam Curtis at the Manchester International Festival – an incredible show mixing soundscapes and imagery in an exciting venue. I also went boozing with Manchester’s legendary Liquorists – I’m not sure my liver has recovered yet.
Probably the most interesting site I’ve written for is Contributoria, a brand new platform for journalism that aims to crowdfund quality writing in an open community. It’s backed by the Guardian and also won a financial prize in a competition for news innovation – you can read an interview with the founders about their ideas. It finally launched on New Year’s Day (although I understand the intention had been to go live in the autumn). I wrote a feature on the rising market for erotica for women and I’m currently working on a second article for the site.
I’ve been busy on the radio too. I worked at BBC Radio Manchester for a while a few years ago, mainly on the news desk, so I was delighted to join the roster of journalists who review the weekend papers in 2012. Every six weeks or so, I appeared on Gordon Burns’ Sunday show to talk about the big stories of the week. Now in semi-retirement, Gordon withdrew from weekend work last August and his show wasn’t handed to anyone else (how do you step into the shoes of such a broadcasting legend, anyway?). Not long after, though, I popped up on Andy Crane’s Saturday show – the paper review with Andy is light-hearted in tone and a very enjoyable gig. And before you ask, no it’s not broadcast from the broom cupboard… If you want to tune in to catch me, I usually announce it a day or so ahead on my Twitter or Facebook page. If you’re up early this coming Saturday (the 11th), I’ll be on air from around 7.50am.
Manchester is rightly famous for its music scene and has also produced many renowned authors, journalists and poets. Which makes you wonder why no one thought to put the two together in a festival until November 2013. Louder than Words is the brainchild of Jill Adam, who runs the annual crime-writing festival in Harrogate. She and her team pulled together a very exciting line-up of esteemed music journalists and musicians in a wide-ranging programme over three days. I was asked to join a panel on women in rock to discuss my experiences in what I think is often a brutal industry for women – my career in music journalism was relatively short-lived because of the relentless sexism I encountered. I found it very emotional recalling some of those experiences, especially in public, as I’d rarely talked about it before. A big thank you to Jill for inviting me (and extending that to next year too).
A couple of last things. Firstly, after years of paying in my subs every month and occasionally remembering to turn up to branch meetings, I decided I really ought to be more active in the National Union of Journalists. Last year, I became an elected representative on the NUJ’s Freelance Industrial Council and have been getting stuck in – the FIC works on a huge range of issues affecting freelance journalists and since I joined, we’ve been actively working to protect copyrights, looking at boosting training options so members can update their skills and disseminating better information on rights, legal issues and practical knowledge.
Secondly, I also became a trustee of the Friends of London Road Fire Station. The fire station has long been my favourite building in Manchester and I’ve previously written a number of news stories on it, during my tenure at Inside the M60 in 2010-11. When I heard a proper campaign was starting up to save it, I joined in and then when the trust formed took on some real responsibility. I now run the press and PR for LRFS – all pro bono and all very worthwhile. Please take a look and if you can help in any way – even if it’s just to sign the petition – please do.