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Bushcraft cooking camping in Bala and Pembrokeshire

Bushcraft cooking camping in Bala and Pembrokeshire

Posted: Aug 05, 2013

Bala lake in North-West Wales has been one of our favourite camping weekend destinations for many a year now. We generally camp at Pant-Yr-Onnen Campsite, which is in Snowdonia, three miles from Bala Village. Not only is the site a real beauty spot set right on the lake – but it is one of the few campsites that allow a campfire on the spacious lake shore. The lake is a place of natural beauty and special scientific interest. The trees that line the shore are twisted into unusual and mystical shapes as the roots are completely exposed by the lake in higher water over the years. This makes for a great photo and climbing potential for the kids.

If you’re a fan of boating, cycling, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, railways, campfires or walking through some of the most stunning countryside in Wales – this is the place for you.

With every good campfire should come a song. After last years mass VW camping trip to the Lake, the campsite owners suggested we hired the field next time. We thought this sounded like an excellent idea, so that’s what we did.

We descended our vans, kids, bikes and kayaks on the field and brought with us a Bushcraft set for use with the campfire. You can buy bags of logs on the site and we did our best to keep the fire going for most of the weekend for light, warmth and of course, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had purchased a Ronnie Sunshine bushcraft set. The set comes in a big wooden box, which doubles as a camping seat or table. The box is very heavy as it contains a cast iron Dutch oven, skillet, griddle, trivet and lid lifter. We used two metal baskets at either side of the fire to place pans if needed.

Between this and a cast iron tripod – we were all set to get cooking! On last years expedition we made large quantities of goulash by throwing everything into the pot. This year we tried pulled pork and bushcraft pizzas. The pizzas were essentially tortilla wraps with pasta sauce, cheese and a variety of fillings from Tuna to chorizo. The pizzas are placed in the pot on the tripod, the lid put on and hot coals placed on the lid to make sure the pizza cooks evenly on both sides. The results were extremely tasty and you could eat copious varieties as they were so thin.

An optional extra is a Diablo to make toasted sandwiches. This consists of two round metal plates on the end of long handles. Placing milk loaf and a variety of fillings from chocolate spread to anything you like makes the tastiest of toasties, bushcraft style. The Diablo goes into the fire and hey presto – on demand toasties.

There is something really special about Bala lake – it could be the kayaking with the kids and stone skimming by day or the drinks, laughs and campfire by evening. It may be the beautiful walks looking over the hills to the excellent local pub or the miniature steam train that saves the walk? It may be all of those things, but there is no doubt the Bush cooking and sense of community makes the trip extra special for everyone as it’s so different for people.

After a long weekend – we bid Bala lake goodbye and headed South for Pembrokeshire. We had tried this journey once before just after we had a new engine fitted in our T-25 and we only got as far as New Quay. With our new van loaded up though and good weather and surf forecasted – we kicked on and took the scenic route down to Newgale beach near St. Davids and the South-West coast of Wales.

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We had a pit stop and lunch at King Arthur’s labyrinth ( There are some great little shops and café here, but the labyrinth itself is a story journey of King Arthur based deep under the mountains of Southern Snowdonia. Your journey starts in an underground boat ride and moves around a network of caves charting the journey of Arthur – it really is something quite different, surprising and breaks the journey up.

Looking at the map – the Pembrokeshire coastline would once have been a stone skim from the North Coast of Cornwall, and it certainly feels that way. You can also see Devon on a clear day. We found a great campsite - Newgale beach campsite , which was ideal to pop out and do some body boarding, sandcastle building or general sea gazing. Newgale has a good family friendly pub and shop. The pebbled barrier to the beach offers a good place for a campfire just across the road from the campsite. The beach itself is long and slightly sparse. The cliffs at either end however, frame off a spectacular sunset, which can also be watched from the pubs beer garden.

Newgale is also well located for days out in St. Davids a short bus ride away. St. Davids is Britain’s smallest city, with its beautiful cathedral and nearby Whitesands beach. We were lucky enough to get our boards into the sea here just in time for the best waves of July.

Slightly further afield, we really enjoyed Tenby. It is considerably bigger and busier than St. Davids, with crowds of people - but it is just as scenic. Tenby has wonderful views over its beaches and old Napoleonic forts, some top quality buskers, great shops and places to eat. The spacious beach was packed – but the one shower of the week quickly sorted that out as it cleared the beach for us. We went to explore the caves, rock pools and splash in the sea, overlooked by the wonderful coloured buildings and historic forts.

It feels like a rare thing these days to be in one of the countries most beautiful places and yet not feel as though you are being ripped off at every car park and ice-cream van. It has a feel of the Northern-Irish coast, but more of the surfing culture of Cornwall. We found Newgale to be quite a drive to get there from the North – but we will definitely be back. It has all of the beauty and magic of Cornwall and Devon – but with that special Welsh touch.

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Beacons Festival 2013 preview

Beacons Festival 2013 preview

Posted: Jul 29, 2013

Back in 2008, we heard about a music festival on the Yorkshire moors called, quite cunningly, the ‘Moor Music festival’. At the time they were offering free tickets for VW campervan owners, so we jumped at the chance to bring our camper down and see what it was all about. With British festivals, you generally get stunning settings in the beautiful British countryside – and you often get rain. The Moor music festival offered both of these things in abundance flitting from sunny spells to massive downpours. There were no big name acts or huge stages, just some really carefully thought out, well chosen, quality music and entertainment. We found it to be a real festival go-ers festival. Our van won best VW in our small category. The free drinks and t-shirts did no harm to our enjoyment of the weekend. We also did the mandatory, push a bunch of old VW vans off the festival site on the Sunday.

Fast forward to 2013, we heard that Savages were playing at a festival called Beacons Festival. We had a good look through the website and thought it looked like a cracking event. With a bit of digging we figured that this was the new Moor Music festival with a new site and a fresh new name. Headliners this year include Sky Larkin, Local Natives, Bonobo, Gold Panda, Ghost Poet, Django Django. We are particularly looking forward to Big deal, Fun Adults and of course Savages. Aside from Savages, we had to YouTube and SoundCloud many of the other acts in our ignorance. Looking at the reviews from the top music publications though and based on past experience of the festival – the organisers really know their music. The Guardian say “Alongside some good live bands there is a sizeable club element, ensuring the tents are full of interesting and contemporary acts” and the NME said “A Feast of buzz bands and local heroes”  

The ‘other stuff’ from food, drinks, comedy, film, arts and culture was also really well thought out last time around and looks comparably excellent this time around. We experienced the fully carpeted spectrum of arts and intrigue tent (Into the Woods) last time around and it really stuck in the mind amidst all the chaos of rain, mud and ale. The Arts and Minds section looks particularly fascinating, for example, “you select your favourite song and tell Mr Beaumont all about it (often with surprising results) to the all-night ‘book reading by torchlight’ sessions” – what can be wrong with that?

In addition, no festival is complete without some top quality real ales. We are already licking our lips that the oldest and most established real ale house in Leeds, Whitelocks will be providing their impressive selection of mouthwatering ales. This will have a lot to live up to after last years real ale tent and CAMRA beer tasting at Kendal Calling, but we have high expectations.

Last time around we were inspired and Beacons Festival looks bigger, better, faster and stronger than it did in its old guise five years ago. We’re excited to take our campers down again to see what the weekend at Funkirk estate will bring.

Weekend tickets for 2013 are now limited availability, so buy now to avoid disappointment.


Adult weekend ticket £99.50+BF

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Blackburn Rovers LEGENDS return to Ewood

Blackburn Rovers LEGENDS return to Ewood

Posted: May 28, 2013

On 22 May, some of BRFC’s most famous and well loved legends returned to Ewood for a charity match to raise funds for the Former Players' Association and local charity Derian House. The BRFC action Group are also auctioning shirts from the match for charity.

This fascinating exhibition match pitched a supporters eleven against Rovers Legends eleven featuring club favourites such as Simon Garner, Tugay, Newell, Hendry, Ripley, Gallagher and a whole host of stars from great days gone by. An impressive and enthusiastic crowd were buzzing in a way that hasn't been seen at Ewood in a long time.

Co-Chairman of the Rovers Trust Wayne Wild captained the supporters eleven, who were always going to be in for a tough encounter against such an array of stars. The supporters eleven and ‘Wildinho’ quickly found out that the legends still had it in abundance. It was fascinating to see classic old players combining together and flowing together like a team that had played together for years although for many, it was the first time they had.

Tugay and Ripley were particularly effective, wreaking havoc down the wings. The commentator joked after the match that Tugay had broken the world record for number of touches – he wasn't far wrong. Tugay was sensational to watch in his playing days and he is one of those players that would light up any exhibition match whatever his age. The skill, comedy and vision is still there and he delighted the crowd with his flicks, touches and a goal of real beauty.

The supporters keeper made an impressive array of saves, but it did not stop the legends firing seven beauties past the supporters team with a brace from Super Atko and Craig Hignett. Simon Garner graced the field in the second half and the crowd willed him and the supporters eleven to score. Alas, Garner didn't hit the net, but the supporters Greg Paul hit a pearler past John Filan in the closing minutes to retain some pride.

All considered, a really good night and an amazing reminder of the good old days. The match highlighted just how important Blackburn Rovers is to supporters and former players, bringing optimism back to Ewood. The night further underlined the work that the Rovers Trust are doing to bring back those good old days to the club.

Article and Photographs by Alex Fenton

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Alex Hulme Interview at Kendal Calling 2012

Alex Hulme Interview at Kendal Calling 2012

Posted: Aug 01, 2012

As part of my coverage of Kendal Calling 2012, I ventured up to the fabulous Woodland Stage at the festival on Sunday to watch singer songwriter Alex Hulme from Garstang. I’d seen Alex play in Bolton a few weeks before and I got the chance to ask him a few questions when he came off stage.

AF: Alex, what a fantastic performance, how've you enjoyed playing KC?
AH: Its been absolutely amazing. When I came last year, I said I really wanted to play at this festival next year and it’s been a fantastic weekend.

AF: What are you looking forward to at this years festival.
AH: Im going to go and see Feeder tonight. They were my favourite childhood band - this will be my tenth time, I'll have to see them. I'm going to the Riot Jazz stage to see Lauren Housley. Ryan Kean was really good and Toe Rag were bonkers - it was nice to go bonkers!

AF: What have been your career highlights so far?
AH: I got to play a couple of my songs for Paul McCartney a month ago which was unreal. I was part of LIPA and me and 4 people got to play for him, which was outrageous. KC has been a massive highlight - a big tick on the list.

AF: What are your thoughts on the TV Talent shows
AH: Xfactor and Britains got talent are a scandal, part of my dissertation was about these programmes and their effect on the industry. Everything is focussed on the journey and not the end product. People are very talented on there, which is just exploiting people as they win and then everyone forgets about them and then it moves on to the next years contestants rather than building up slowly and doing things properly.

AF: You've got a new EP out 'The Start' which is great - how does this EP differ from your earlier material?
AH: The production values are much higher, we worked really hard on the arrangements and the sound. It’s got a real mix of stuff, I like to write poppy stuff, I’ve got a bit of pop in me that I've never properly exploited. I like to mix and match - there's a crazy one, a soft one and it’s a nice ride through everything I'm doing at the minute.

AF: When you met Macca, was there one thing that really stuck in your mind that he said to you?
AH: He really stresses the song writing - the 3 most important things - Melody, Melody and Melody, that really stuck in my head.

AF: As well as singing and playing the guitar, you control a sampler with your feet - it looks incredibly difficult, how did you learn to do it?
AH: When I first learned to write and record my songs, I used to use a Line Six, very lo fi recording device, a computer loop machine. I started using that when I was 14 using loop phrases spending hours practising in my bedroom.

AF: How do you think that social media helps or hinders you as an artist?
AH: Facebook is the singular best form of promotion to anyone that hasn't got a huge budget. It's surpassed MySpace by a million miles - the ability to post a YouTube video and Soundcloud clip. Facebook allows you to share it and pass it on, it makes spreading the word 100 times easier. I think its helped my new EP surpass all previous records.

Getting people to LIKE your page on Facebook is unbelievably hard though! Facebook likes are the new MySpace hits in the industry, so getting people to click that button is really important. I look through the list occasionally and think Why havent you clicked Like!

AF: I heard you play Sparks recently and I must admit, I had to suppress a tear. Are there any songs that really move you?
AH: Aww! (Laughs) Yes, there's a guy Sufjan Stevens - I never thought I had a favourite artist as such, but he's got a track on his album Illinois, which is hideously horrible, its about Leukaemia, a stunningly beautiful song, but harrowing. I was driving home on the way home and I had to stop, because I was filling up.

AF: One of your songs is about your Grandad Wally who passed away - can you tell me a bit more about this one
AH: My Grandparents are really big characters and influences on my life. The song's called Salute. My Grandad was 92 and still looking after my nan who had dementia. He was still carrying her to the toilet at 92, which was mad and he just plummeted over the course of a few months. The song is about that - it was a big shock in my life.

AF: Do you think that song writing can help you come to terms with things?
AH: Totally. When I wrote Salute, I was balling my eyes out while writing it as I'd never really spoken about that side of it. It's hideously cheesy, but I think the best songs come from the heart.

AF: Slightly off topic now - VW campervans - old ones or new ones?
AH: It has to be an old one - they might break down more, but they have more character. Its like the old mini and new mini, the new mini is bigger, faster and HUGE - you have to have to the iconic version!

AF: If you could play with any artist living or dead, who would it be?
AH: Probably Irish singer songwriter Foy Vance. If I could sing with Sufjan Stevens and Fionn Regan that would be unreal!

AF: Alex, its been a pleasure, have a great rest of your festival!
AH: Cheers Alex!

Alex Hulme at Kendal Calling 2012

Check out Alex Hulme on Facebook and the new EP 'The Start' on Cityscape Records

Alex Fenton interviews Alex Hulme at Kendal Calling

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CamperJam 2012

CamperJam 2012

Posted: Jul 25, 2012

It's difficult to talk about this year's event without first mentioning our glorious British weather. It's been another wash out festival season. I read an article recently by one of my favourite writers, who is a UK resident New Yorker. She very wittily, but sensibly questioned the logic of the English obsession with festivals that we clearly do not have the climate for.

Camper Jam 2012 was our fourth visit to the festival and we have to date been blessed with glorious sunshine, so it came as little surprise that this years festival was something of a quagmire. We headed straight to Weston Park from work on the Friday to bright sunshine, but the first thing that happened of course, we got complely stuck in the mud! I had a walk to see if there was a tow anywhere and happened to bump into a lovely couple that we'd met on the Isle of Man at Circle Yer Wagens who helped to push us out.

Despite the mud, I was quite impressed with the amount of grass around our pitch where the kids (6 and 2) could ride their bikes. Also, the concrete path through the festival was a God send compared to the Beatherder bog the previous weekend. Our non camping friends from Southampton had brought their 3 kids for the first time, so we slid over to their campsite for a bit. We couldn't help being a bit apologetic of the mud, but they seemed to be quite jolly with it.

Camper Jam has some kind of X-factor for me. It could be the people, the atmos, the fantastic stalls, the venue, the wonderful selection of food and entertainment or just a combination of all of the above. We had a walk down to the stalls where we always find some interesting and unique stuff. Venturing off the concrete path however was chaos as our little boy kept losing his wellies in the mud. The sun had kept his hat on until this point, but sensing danger, we quickly had a wander up to the for sale field to see if we could find a good T5 for our friend. There wasn’t much there this year presumably because of the mud and just then, the heavens opened. Even the ancient oak tree we were under couldn't cope with this one, so we made a break for the kids making tent. We spent a happy hour sticking and colouring stuff while the rain subsided.

We had a walk back to our campsite and miraculously, the sun came out just as our friends arrived to take a look at our campsite. After a few cups of homemade cider, things were looking rosy again as we had about 23 kids in our pop top and sat having a chat. After a few more drinks and some beautiful chilli, we headed to meet our friends for the Glow Disco. About 30 mins and several phone calls later, we managed to find it. Our friends were already completely covered in glow paint and they obligingly covered us also! We had a brilliant time dancing and chasing the kids round to some classic records. We headed back to our campsite and I caught a little bit of the brilliant Sixteen Stone Pig playing a few Indie Classics.

On the Sunday, we had another go at the stalls, food and fair. It was a very sunny day and despite the mud, we had a great afternoon. The kids loved the fair and they came away with some awesome tat from the 'hook a duck'. So after two extremely muddy festivals in two weekends - why do we put ourselves through it in this country? Well, my answer is simply to experience the highs and lows, the rough and the smooth, the challenge, the rolling with the punches and most of all, the English Cider, the laughs and the friends old and new.

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Kendal Calling 2012 - Dan Le Sac Interview

Kendal Calling 2012 - Dan Le Sac Interview

Posted: Jul 05, 2012

Kendal calling 2012 is held at Lowther Deer Park in the beautiful Lake district. Despite an overall decline in festival goers, Kendal calling has again sold out this year. Make sure you get in early next year for your tickets for Kendal Calling 2013. In the meantime, here's an interview with one of this years headline acts Dan Le Sac of Dan Le Sac vs Scoobius Pip

          •        Hello, how are you today and what is the first thing you thought about when you woke up? Swimming, 8am, every day, I swim.


          •        We are so happy you are coming at Kendal Calling festival, its set in the rolling hills of the Lowther Deer Park and this year's theme is Comic Books and Fairy Tales. Do you 'do' fancy dress? If so what has been your favourite creation? Tell us about some of the most inventive costumes you've seen at a festival? I don’t often get the chance to ‘do’ fancy dress, when you’re doing a load of festivals in a weekend it’s pretty much the last thing on your mind. 9 times of 10 my fancy dress style is simply, ‘ooh I’ll go as an old lady…’, although my favorite was a wedding dress I found in a charity shop. Most inventive I’ve seen at a festival was an Amy Winehouse, replete with paper mache head and ridiculous stilts.

          •        We assume you don't camp at festivals much anymore, how do you feel about the great outdoors? What are your top tips for surviving festivals and essentials you shouldn't forget? I camp at festivals all the time thank you, especially Bestival, it’s like a little holiday at the end of the festival season. Like above, you don’t really get the chance when touring!

          •        After touring the globe, what is your favourite place to play and why? How on earth are you meant to choose, I couldn’t tell you my favourite room in my flat, let alone a favourite city in the world. I can tell you where I don’t like playing, Oxford, there is something about that town that leaves me feeling grumpy after every show.

          •        With such emphasis on spoken word, the work you do with Pip highlights the importance of quality lyricism. How do you think the current music industry is doing in terms of supporting good lyricists?  The industry does extremely well in supporting good lyricism because the best lyrics often reside in Pop music, look at Adele, simple insightful lyrics yet she’s the biggest selling female in the world other than Sade. Yes Sade. Joshua Idehen, Kate Tempest, Jodie Anne Bickley, Sophie Cameron are all worth checking out on the spoken word scene, although Sophie would make Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown blush.

          •        with the rise of spoken word artists over the last few years, there has been increased interest in poetry amongst a younger generation. Do you think 'spoken word' originates in Hip Hop or poetry scenes, and how do you see this relationship between genres developing? Are the 'scenes' mutually supportive? Honestly does it matter where it comes from? If people are getting ‘hooked on phonics’ then all good, whether you rap, write poetry or sing it can only be good for you to express yourself. There is an issue with people trying to define “who is hip-hop”,”who is spoken word”, as if one is more important than the other, it’s a fairly snobby thing to do. There is always going to be good and bad quality work in both scenes.

          •        Although you have played to thousands of people, do you ever get nervous when your family comes to the show? My parents have only been to one show and I do remember getting nervous but maybe that’s because it was in a Library rather than them being there. Scroob certainly doesn’t let his family effect him but they’ve been to loads so maybe he’s used to it.

          •        Who were your early inspirations both musical and otherwise? What inspired you to start performing? My cousin Billy got me in to Joy Division, New Order & anything on Factory Records, they’re the people that got me excited about making music, so Billy is fairly responsible for it all. Performing came much later for me, it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I did my first gig and that was only because I was forced!

          •        Do you ever get writers block and if so how do you overcome it? Of course I do, everyone gets writers block but often it’s only a block on whatever you a currently working on, so the best way to over come is to keep working but work on something else.

          •        What are your tips for beginning to write a song, how do you start? The strongest writing is writing that knows where it’s intending to go, having a rough idea of where the start & end is, what the point is, is really important, knowing the broadstrokes before you start makes it far easier to fill in the details. That said if the song ends up going somewhere else by the time you finished it, that’s not a problem, you just have to be happy with what you’ve done. Often songs come from strange places though, Scroob misheard the word ‘creator’ as ‘curator’ while he was driving and ended up writing Letter from God to Man by the time he got home.

          •        What do you think of the Lake District and are there any areas that you would like to explore? We’ve been to Kendal Calling before but sadly our impressions that year were mainly of MUD! The Lake District & Cumbria are generally quite beautiful, thinking about it the North is pretty special too, the Pennines, Snakes Pass, damn, why do I live in Reading again.

          •        Can you tell us a joke? Nah, Scroob does all the gags, he gets upset if I steal his laughter!

          •        There have been various comments in music mags lately about the festival scene being in decline, and yet Kendal Calling sold out in record time. What do you think of the UK's festival scene and do you think 'times are a changin'? Yes the festival industry is in decline, but declining away from the bloated, money grubbing point it go itself to. The reason festivals like Kendal are surviving is purely down to the idea that it is more than just a cash-in. All festivals need to make money, but the public will walk away from a festival when it becomes wholly about the money and not the line-up or atmosphere.

          •        If you weren't a musician what would you be and why? A Photographer, that’s what my degree is in and I hope that is the path I would have followed. That said, I did work for HMV for 7 years so maybe I’d still be stuck there.

          •        What did you want to be when you were little? Everything, every time I learnt of a new job, that was what I wanted to be, I was essentially like an easily distracted puppy trying to chase 6 squirrels all at once.

          •        What are you working on at the moment – do you have any new releases in the pipeline? Well, funny you should ask, I’m just in the middle of releasing solo album on Sunday Best called Space Between the Words. It’s a monster and features collaborations with B Dolan, Merz, Emma Lee-Moss aka Emmy the Great to name just a few!

          •        What can we expect from your gig at Kendal Calling, for those that haven't seen you before? We put on a fairly high energy show, Scroob raps fast and I make a lot of noise! But as Scroob has two shows that day, we’ll have to wait and see if we survive the night.

          •        What music are you listening to at the moment? Sadly very little, with the album coming imminently it’s difficult to find time to listen to music properly, but I can tell you for certain that the new Squarepusher record is dope!

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Chester Food, Drink and Lifestyle Festival 2012

Chester Food, Drink and Lifestyle Festival 2012

Posted: Apr 12, 2012

The 11th Chester Food, Drink and Lifestyle festival took place on the weekend of April 7th. After a fantastic weekend last year, we figured that this would be the ideal first proper camping trip of 2012. We loaded up our T5 and headed down on the Friday to camp on Chester racecourse where the event unfolds.

The racecourse is situated in the heart of Chester on the banks of the river Dee and it makes for a stunning venue. This year’s festival saw a mix of tents, motor homes and a great contingent of VW campers and was a bargain at £25 for adults and £10 for kids in advance. The ticket price gives entry into the festival and three nights camping, offering excellent facilities, activities and some truly mouth-watering delights to tickle the tastebuds.

Entering the festival site, you are greeted with campers and tents as far as you can see. The festival features a garden party of brass bands, champagne bars, luxury food and drink samplings and many wonderful sights, activities and performers. Wandering through the stalls is a tour de force of the very finest cuisine the North-West and UK has to offer. We sampled mouth watering cheeses, hand cooked crisps, ice-cream, fudge, chutneys, coffee, nuts, fruits, chocolate and wines to name just a few. We also took in some of the cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs. Last year, my wife Kathy won the cook in a camper competition with a lovely gourmet chicken curry on a bhaji fritter. We also sampled the 40 guest ales from local breweries, but this year, we took a more relaxed approach. The festival has grown to become one of the largest of its kind in the country with 9800 visitors on the first day alone. It felt considerably busier than last year, but being around all weekend, we managed to visit all the stalls and attractions at the quieter times. There was some particularly excellent Welsh cider, which went down a treat.

On one evening we took the opportunity for a lovely stroll along the banks of the Dee watching the leaping fish and herons on hand to snap them up. We sampled a few more ales in the beer gardens of the waterfront pubs along the banks and in the centre of Chester before heading back to our campsite for a few drinks and a song. The festival offers so much for everyone. There was plenty to do for the kids with a funfair, kids tent and activities such as making and cooking workshops and performers.

If you like food, wine or beer or you’re looking for something a little different, this festival comes highly recommended. The festival is different to any we’ve been to, but everyone was left thoroughly fed, watered and happy.

More information about the festival can be found at:


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Online portfolio survey and Google docs

Posted: Feb 27, 2012

I've recently been using Google Docs to work on shared documents, for surveys and to generate charts etc. It's a very powerful and useful web based service. This particular one is based on a Google Doc set of questions that we asked 65 Digital Journalists to complete online regarding online portfolios. The question page, spreadsheets and charts were generated using Google Docs.

1.It is acceptable for my online portfolio to contain third party adverts
2.It is important to me that my University can provide technical support if I need help with my online portfolio

3.It is important that my online portfolio should still function after I graduate from University
4. It is important that my online portfolio can be accessed by people outside of my University as opposed to being a closed system like Blackboard

5.It is important to me that my online portfolio should be completely cost free to set up and maintain

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 #SoLoMoDEN Digital Editors Network Conference - Feb 2012

#SoLoMoDEN Digital Editors Network Conference - Feb 2012

Posted: Feb 23, 2012

Having just returned from the #Solomoden Digital Editors Network, I thought it would be worthwhile jotting down a few notes about this excellent event, which was held on 23 Feb 2012 at the Lowry Digital World Centre, MediaCityUK. It was a very hot February day in MediaCityUK and my journey began by walking past a crowd that had gathered around the new Blue Peter garden. I had apparently just missed Princess Anne, but I did see the Blue Peter guys at least.

The Digital Editors Network is co-ordinated by UCLAN's Francois Nel and regularly receives some excellent speakers in the areas of digital journalism and communications. Februarys event was no exception and featured some quality speakers and plenty of food for thought. As is customary at any event like this, the presenter encouraged people to Tweet on the hashtag #Solomoden which stands for Social, Local and Mobile Innovation. The presentations were all fascinating covering a range of topics and the audience duly Tweeted providing an excellent running commentary and an additional meta-narrative sub-plot. 
From over the water, Chicago based researcher Martha Stone kicked off proceedings presenting the results of The World Newsmedia Innovation study. Martha is the CEO of The World Newsmedia Network. More information about the study can be obtained from the website, but the survey of 244 participants from 61 Countries showed some interesting trends from media company strategies, with particular emphasis on the importance of social media across the globe.
Monetising news output from print, social media, apps and the mobile web was a theme that ran througout the event. UClans’ @francoisnel talked around this subject also with a great quote: "Companies don't make money, they make shoes. Money is the end result". It was interesting to note also @foodiesarah from Guardian Media Group talking about @n0tice, A local notice board geo-app initiative and also Simon Bucks from @skytyneandwear. Both are brand new services producing local news content.
In the case of content is generated by the public, whereas the Sky approach is generating quality video content for things of local interest such as lower league football matches. In both cases, as it was so early days, it was unclear how or if these services could be made to be financially stable, but it was interesting that Sky and The Guardian Group have invested in new experimental technologies and services without a clear financially driven goal. It could be argued that both are research and development projects that could potentially help to build the brand and 'give something back'. It will be interesting to see how these services pan out. 
The final speaker was the main draw for us. Paul Bradshaw talking about the @helpmeinvestig8 project which helps students and the general public investigate subjects they are passionate about. All in all, a very inspiring afternoon. 


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Mobile creativity and the Urban sunrise

Mobile creativity and the Urban sunrise

Posted: Dec 02, 2011

Ive always been fascinated by sunrise and sunsets ever since spending many an hour watching the sun dip behind the lighthouse and sea at South Stack in Anglesey as a kid. The great thing about a good sunset or rise is that it can be enjoyed almost anywhere and is a temporary state that tranforms any place into a new experience. At this time of year, even familiar territory like my daily commute is enhanced and beautified by the rising sun. Even the most urban of settings can take on unusual and captivating effects when cast in a red glow of the sunrise.

Another thing I am intrigued by is the use of mobile devices for creativity as opposed to just for consumption and the odd status update. I recently presented Creative Hive at MediaCity to some students who were working on mobile video projects. We've also seen some superb examples on Creative Hive recently of this including some amazing mobile videos from PaulD and some stunning pics from CindyTS on a Samsung Galaxy.

The sunrise pics were snapped quickly on my run to Bromley Cross train station on the way to Salford and the bottom left image was shot after the Believe event at MediaCityUK. They were taken with a tiny .75 megapixel ipod touch camera. Although the quality isnt the best, because I always have it, I can take a quick snap if I spot something interesting on the go. I also quite like the way that the little camera struggles to cope with the variation in light, which can create some ethereal effects in itself. I can also write this text on the go, sat on the train to work which allows me to do something creative while travelling. If anyone else has any on the go mobile snaps, I would love to see them.

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Dec 06, 2011 : angelatait Says:

Lovely pictures Alex...I have a great one taken on the raspberry of a rainbow coming out of 41 Lothbury (The NatWest Tower) ... Will endeavour to post!

Dec 07, 2011 : alexfenton Says:

Cheers Angela, I bet between us we could do something interesting and creative with our mobiles. On the sunset, sunrise front, wonder if you'd seen this guys work.

Dec 18, 2011 : angelatait Says:

Yes. I know the work very well. He's a nice chap too. I've met him a couple of times. He has a studio in Rossendale.

Dec 29, 2011 : alison-burrows Says:

Yep. Gorgeous pictures, Alex. I'm taking a few moments to smell the crocuses. Twiddling my thumbs is delightful, I well remember. Liam Spencer had an exhibition at the Salford Art Gallery and Museum recently and gave a talk to the Salford Art Club. He has also given talks on his work in the Art Department at Salford. Very nice chap. Hope you are well, Alex. I appreciate all you do for the Hive. X

Jan 16, 2012 : alexfenton Says:

Cheers Alison and great to hear from you as always!

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Google UK CEO speaks at MediaCityUK

Google UK CEO speaks at MediaCityUK

Posted: Oct 03, 2011

Earlier today, I attended a presentation by Matt Brittin who is the Managing Director of Google in the UK & Ireland. Matt is one of the first digital industry leaders to address colleagues and students at MediaCityUK. 

Before Matt joined Google in 2007, he spent much of his career in media and marketing, with particular interests in strategy, commercial development and sales performance. Amongst other accolades, Matt was voted as The Wired number one most influential people to shape the wired world.

Matt gave a compelling and interesting presentation demonstrating some features of Google that he was particularly proud of, including advancements in location based predictive searches and Insights for Search. The latter is a powerful way to compare search volume patterns to allow anyone to gauge search popularity of anything over time.

Part of his presentation focussed on mobile and Googles Chrome browser, but unfortunately, the network in the part of the BBC we were in wouldn't allow for it, so the presentation was a little shorter than expected, but this did afford a good amount of time for an inspirational question and answer session. 

Matt pointed out how strong the UK is in terms of our production of high quality content, video, games music and other media. It was also enlightening to note that over 7% of the UK's GDP comes from e-commerce, which is a world leading figure and twice as much as the US. Matt told us that the question of search is far from solved, and Google are still innovators who use their popularity to make funds to power their research and innovation.

My personal favourite question focussed on what Matt would do if he was in charge of the University of Salford. He stressed that he would focus on openness, cross departmental working and creating small teams to solve long term problems. This was encouraging to hear given the University's move towards being more open. Examples of this include the University's research repository USIR. Openness, sharing, cross departmental working and the mixture of science and creativity are very much the driving force and underpinning principle behind Creative Hive, so it was encouraging to hear Matt advocating such principles.

It was a very worthwhile trip to MediaCity and it's really encouraging to be seeing such distinguished figures speaking here and the links between industry, the University and the BBC starting to blossom.

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Oct 19, 2011 : alison-burrows Says:

"Google it", a shortening of the phrase, "Look it up on Google", in itself reveals the popularity of this search engine. I think we, from the University of Salford, must be heartened by the recent visit of Matt Brittin to Media City, and his call for interactivity between departments must be implemented. Creative Hive itself is a leader in this, between new technologies and the arts, and its encouragement of initiative between the Midwifery Department and the Birth Rites Art Collection, is exemplary.

Oct 19, 2011 : alexfenton Says:

Thanks very much Alison. It was a really inspiring session. I think it's easy (for me) to become a bit obsessive about the idea of cross departmental and pan university student collaborations, but I'm glad you agree that Creative Hive is a positive force in this area. The whole concept seems to be gaining some momentum, thanks for your continued support!

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Societal innovation and creative connections

Societal innovation and creative connections

Posted: Aug 04, 2011

My friend and colleague David Roberts has recently started a new blog website about the interesting topic of societal innovation. He asked me if I could jot down a few thoughts about this with regard to Creative Hive and using digital technologies to aid new ways of organising for an uncertain future.

Societal innovation is a new term to me, but the concept of new ways of organisation that respond to our rapidly changing world is something that has intrigued me ever  since I plugged my old Amiga 500 computer into my halls of residence at Bradford University in 1993. This post represents my initial and personal thoughts on this subject, but it is something that ultimately deserves much investigation and consideration. 

My career to date has been as a web developer and my research area is based around the web, creative technology and digital media. It is from this stand point that I can initially contribute to this subject from my personal perspective. Using computers to communicate, collaborate and organise has always seemed second nature to me. It is only in the last few years though I have started to question how we could potentially use these technologies in some way to counteract some of the issues society faces in the 21st century. The world of work has changed and is uncertain for many people. It is becoming increasingly difficult for University graduates to find work. The world economy is changing and there are forecasts about the BRIC countries overtaking the six largest western economies over the next few decades (

Is it possible to use the skills, wisdom, know how, and experience of members of society to help rise to the challenges of the UK and beyond? It is possible that better organisation, sharing of ideas and communication could help. Over the last three years, I have been engaged in creating web based resources that allow such things on a small scale. The concept is to encourage sharing and collaboration among people to allow dots to be joined up. This has involved working with our local community in Salford UK to create a dialogue of local history and engage people with a creative project. It has also involved creating a sharing, game based learning programme for schools in the North-West of England. My latest project involves creating a free to use platform for students, graduates and creative people to collaborate, communicate and share their ideas. This latest project is called Creative Hive and has just over 200 members so far from various disciplines, backgrounds and institutions. The underlying principle of this project is to stimulate new opportunities for people. Sharing ideas, work, collaboration and cross disciplinary projects could be crucial in the future for allowing our society to get to grips with new challenges. Services such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook can also be used in a similar fashion, but Creative Hive is more specifically aimed at creative students and people to help fuse and further promote their activities to find like minded people.

Creative Hive is a microcosm experiment of how the web could be used to aid some of the challenges of our rapidly changing world. We have already seen on a micro level how undergraduates, post-graduates, staff and retired people have been able to use their creativity and the connections they form to empower them, aid their career and encourage further sharing and collaboration. Creative Hive was originally a way to organise and collaborate digitally, but it has more recently manifest itself in the physical world with a series of real life events. It is interesting to note the increased collaboration levels of a physical event, but in turn, these events are only possible because of the original digital framework.

A greater understanding, usage, innovation and harnessing of new technologies may help us get to grips with our changing society by improving communication and enhancing connections. Ultimately however, whether virtual or real, relationships and connections may be a key component for new ways of organising for an uncertain future.

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On the Bus to take a few photos of MediaCityUK

On the Bus to take a few photos of MediaCityUK

Posted: Jul 15, 2011

It was such a beautiful day this morning in Salford, myself and my colleague figured we'd try out the new bus running from Salford Crescent Station to MediaCityUK to take a few pictures of the place and Salford Uni's new building. I've been working on a few projects recently that needed a few up to date images of MediaCity, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try it out. I was impressed! The buses are super slick and run every 15 mins and it takes about 12 mins to get from Salford Uni to right near our building in MediaCity. The buses run from early until around 11.15 which gives some good scope to go for a few scoops and still easily get the train home afterward. We managed to do just that last week after attending the excellent ECE11 keynote  by the head of BBC Learning in the Philharmonic hall.

MCUK is all starting to take shape with people milling around, school parties and the gardens in bloom I felt really inspired and proud that my Uni has a presence here. The photos below will attest to my love of a good foreground plant shot. A great amateur photographer friend once told me in jest that the best pictures must contain either a gravestone or water, or both! I think he was half right. We also had a quick look at the Warhol and Diva exhibition at the Lowry. I'm a bit of a Pop Art nut anyway, but I have to say I really enjoyed it. It made me think even moreso that Warhol was way ahead of his time.

Slideshow of the pics below, or click here for non Flash version

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Jul 15, 2011 : Angela Says:

Did you get to see the photographs at the Lowry? I know pop art is your thing and I agree in general terms about Warhol but I would've liked to see something more challenging about the way the exhibition was put together.....have to agree to disagree about that one. Hope we don't do too much disagreeing next week....? Lovely images. I'm always drawn to architectural photographs and today was certainly a lovely day for it. A bit of sunshine certainly shows Salford in a favourable light. Angela

Jul 15, 2011 : alexf Says:

Hi, yes I did, but thats the great thing about this stuff, one persons meat etc. My perception is that the Lowry is moreso art for the masses rather than being challenging as such, and that embodies Warhol and Lowry I think. I think it was never meant to be particularly challenging, but I find both artists really inspiring. It maked me laugh to read early critics comments about pop art back in the day and also the Tate galleries thoughts on Lowry being too low brow. So in a nutshell, I think your right, it isnt all that challenging :) seeya next week.

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Changing environments: from Education to Veedubs in 2 easy steps

Changing environments: from Education to Veedubs in 2 easy steps

Posted: Jul 11, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure to attend and present at the Education in a Changing Environment Conference 2011 at Salford University. The conference has been going for a number of years now, but this years event pushed the boundaries further than before to produce an exceptional event. It’s the first conference of its kind that I’ve attended, but having spoken to various other delegates, there was a massive buzz and excitement about this year’s event. The conference was a fine mixture of interesting and inspiring key note speakers, panels, paper presentations, Pecha Kucha, workshops, posters and more. The standard of these were very high and the mixture of international delegates and experience of various levels led to some challenging and thought provoking debates.

Most of the conference was based in the beautiful venue of the new Mary Seacole building at the University. On Thursday however, it moved over to MediaCityUK for the first conference at this amazing new destination for an inspiring keynote speech from the head of BBC learning Saul Nassé and onward to a conference dinner at the Lowry.

I had the pleasure of presenting my paper on my open access e-portfolio project, Creative Hive, which yielded some great questions from a packed room and new discussions with people from Salford and beyond. I conducted a little experiment to digitally survey what mobile devices people were using. About a third of the room were able to connect and participate which demonstrated the large number and wide variety of mobile devices that people are using as conference aids and teaching tools. Android devices as some predicted are on the rise at the moment.

The Northern Twittersphere went crazy for a few days with the #ece11 hashtag, which produced a fascinating crowd sourced running commentary of the event for both attendees and interested parties from around the world. In an international spirit, lunch was hosted in outdoor marquees with a world food festival with a live band. The organisers really pulled out all the stops this year on all fronts and it really made me proud that my University and colleagues had organised such a brilliant event.

From the conference, I headed South to Staffordshire straight to Camper Jam 2011 at Weston Park. This festival is organised by the magazine that I write articles for ‘VW Camper and Commercial’. It features camper van displays of all ages and some beautiful vans and interiors. The festival has excellent live music and hundreds of great stalls of different varieties and the best mixture of food I’ve seen at a festival. It’s a very family friendly event with lots for the kids to do, and even more for the big kids! We were asked to put our camper into a display of Type 5 VW’s which was an experience.

It struck me that although these events are radically different; they had these things in common:

1. They are both organised by colleagues
2. Exceptionally high quality and well organised events
3. They offer an international array of food and music
4. They are very much the events to watch on the events calendar
5. They had a great and diverse mixture of interesting folk and activities.

I’m guessing I’m one of the few that went directly from ECE to a camper van festival, but it struck me that our environment is changing radically, but with events like ECE and Camper Jam, I see a lot of things to be thankful for and to be positive about.

I am sure I am only a touch biased when I say that every similar event to ECE and Camper Jam should be looking at these to say – ‘this is how it should be done.’

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Jul 11, 2011 : Helen Keegan Says:

Great post Alex - I have veedub w/e envy, of course...

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Experiments with HDR photos

Posted: Jun 14, 2011

On a recent trip to the Isle of Man, I had a go at creating some HDR, High Dynamic Range Photographs. This can be done by taking an under exposed, over exposed and normal image and then using Photoshops HDR setting to stitch them together. If you Google HDR photos, you'll see some amazing effects. You can see my first attempts below, which get the ball rolling.

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Jun 15, 2011 : Angela Says:

I think you're underselling yourself. The images are great, especially the first one. Great potential for future experiments. Do you have a progam for time lapse photography? Great fun!!! You can literally watch the grass grow.

Jun 15, 2011 : alexf Says:

Cheers Angela-the lhs image is actually from where our camper was camped in Arnside.I dont think the HDR effect really comes through, but glad you liked them. I havent seen the time lapse effect software, perhaps you could share some of those.

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Circle Yer Wagens 2011 - Isle of Man

Circle Yer Wagens 2011 - Isle of Man

Posted: Jun 09, 2011

Islands. Often hard to get to and usually rain battered and windswept - we love them all. The unique character of island life was just one of the draws for us to this years Isle of Man Circle Yer Wagens festival at the end of May. When an opportunity arose to take our van over the water and camping at the festival for 4 nights for £220, we couldn’t book fast enough. Throw into the bargain that the TT was on and it was a no brainer.

We booked early to get half decent ferry times from Heysham to Douglas. The crossing of the Irish sea was a little delayed, but quite pleasant and we were really pleased to be met off the ferry by Helen one of the festival organisers in a smart orange bay camper. We were presented with fabulous comedy sized ‘access all areas’ blue press passes and with another bay we were led up to the festival in the village of Kirk Michael. The festival was on the Michael AFC campsite which opens each year for the TT. Over 50 VW vans of all ages were parked around the edges of the site in an impressive rural setting framed by a local church and mountain backdrop.

Looking through all of the literature we’d been sent about the island, several things caught our attention including the world’s largest working waterwheel in Laxey, the steam train, the tremendous views and the folklore and myth of the island. The island itself is self-governing and has been inhabited since before 6500 BC. At 32 miles long and 14 miles at its widest point it’s a great size with plenty to do and see. It is said that this ancient kingdom was forged by a giant's hand in a fit of temper and hidden from envious eyes by a sea god who shrouded it in mist. Fortunately for us, despite a cool breeze, we had glorious sunshine for most of our 5 night stay. For us, this just enhanced what is wondrous coastal and mountain scenery all over the island.

The festival is small, but really well organised and hospitable, which is how we like it. On day 2, the organisers laid on a superb barbecue with lots of activities and games. In the evening, the Woodstock 60’s fancy dress theme came into force for an evening of music, dancing and entertainment in the club bar. Manx people are really friendly and the festival was extremely welcoming and fun for all. The next day, the sun came blazing through and the wagons circled for a 50 van convoy from the festival to Laxey. I doubt it would be possible to create a more beautiful sight than vans of all ages snaking over the mountains and past the fine sandy beaches of the island. We stopped briefly to pay our regards to a huge effigy of the sea god Manannán. This was a great opportunity for a group photo in a magical part of the island. I think the sea god kept the sun shining and the terrifying Buggane (hobgoblin) at bay for our stay. Our little girl learned the Manx words to bid good day to the Mooinjer veggey (little folk) and I’m sure this stood our convoy in good stead for no VW breakdowns over the hills! We all parked up along the sea front in beautiful Laxey for an ice-cream before people departed to go their own ways, some towards the Laxey water wheel and others (us) to get an Indian take away to be eaten in the van overlooking the beach.  

The next day, we drove over to Douglas, parked up and got on the steam train for the classic bike race in Castletown. At £10 return for an adult, this is a touch steep, but the train is a fine thing all round. Next time, we’ll get one of the day passes which represents better value and allows use of the other trains on the island including an electric train which ascends Snaefell mountain. We had heard that the island was expensive, but we didn’t find that on our trip and sampling of the local brews. We arrived in Castletown just in time for the final classic bike race. The noise of these 350cc bikes is tremendous and it’s all very exciting to be stood on the roadside. The kids loved it also; our 2 year old had developed a fascination for motorbikes a few weeks previous on Shell Island.

In the evening, the TT trials started. We’d driven our van round the road circuit several times and we knew that it passed our campsite in Kirk Michael. We hot footed it up to the nearest pub (the Mitre) but we were too late as the roads had closed ready for the race. Not to worry though, we got to watch the event from the roadside. This is a quick part of the track, and the first time you see a bike or sidecar pass by is amazing. One blink and its gone in a roar. The following evening, we made it to the Mitre pub and after a few pints of local ale and a pizza, we were able to watch and photograph some more of the action. The TT is world famous and an important part of Manx culture and tourism. Like everyone else, we knew how dangerous the course can be and that evening was no exception. A sidecar whizzed past the pub and crashed just a few miles after at Ballacrye. After watching this amazing fete and driving around the track, you truly realise the absolute dedication of these riders to their sport. They are warriors, risking their lives and willing their highly tuned vehicles through tight country roads and over mountains at speeds of up to 200mph. They are the bravest people in sport for sure.

On the final day, we did the decent thing and checked out the excellent museums and castle in Peel. Carried along with the beautiful smells of traditional smoked Manx bacon and kippers we duly purchased some to import back into England the next day. Between the breathtaking scenery, the friendly residents, the amazing festival, VW convoy, the folklore of the island and the roar of the TT you have here an exceptional camping experience like nowhere else. We will definitely be back to Circle Yer Wagens – we are hooked and felt like we were part of a truly special event in a remarkable and unique place. Hats off and thanks have to go to Helen and Donal Cullen, Liz Rice and everyone at the IOM V Dub Club for organising such a memorable event.

More information about Circle Yer Wagens can be found at: and

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Jun 10, 2011 : Angela Says:

Three words..........told you so.

Jun 14, 2011 : alexfenton Says:

You certainly did! Thanks for the tips :) This article will be published in a veedub mag soon.

Jun 15, 2011 : speedjunky Says:

awesome article Alex! hopefully next year we get to go!! and hopefully i'll be on my bike too :D :P

Jun 15, 2011 : alexf Says:

I hope you can go - with your skills you'll take some stunning pics of the island I'm sure! Glad you liked the article.

Jun 22, 2011 : Helen Cullen Says:

Wow, great article Alex and well researched! Like how you got Mannanan and the Bugane in there. The Big Mannanan will be used for another festival in early August called Mannifest, which is building up a good following too. Glad you, Kathy and the kids enjoyed and looking forward to welcoming you back next year. Cheers, Helen

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Food, Drink and Photos on Chester Racecourse

Food, Drink and Photos on Chester Racecourse

Posted: May 13, 2011

I recently took the camper down to the 10th Chester Food, Drink and Lifestyle festival at Chester racecourse. I'd reccomend it to anyone, so thought it might be worth a little post.  The racecourse is situated in the heart of Chester on the banks of the river Dee and it makes for a stunning venue. This year’s festival saw a mix of tents, motor homes and a great contingent of VW campers and was a bargainous £25 for adults and £10 for kids in advance. The ticket price gives entry into the majority of the festival and three nights camping, with really excellent facilities and activities.

Entering the festival site, you are greeted with a garden party of brass bands, champagne bars, luxury food samplings and many wonderful sights, activities and performers. Wandering through the stalls is a tour de force of the very finest food and drink the North-West has to offer. We sampled mouth watering cheeses, chips, crisps, ice-cream, fudge, nuts, fruits, chocolate and wines to name just a few. We also took in some of the cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs and also the cook in a camper competition (which my wife won with a stunning gourmet chicken curry on a bhaji fritter). 

In the evening we bought tokens for the Wine and Beerfest and sampled some of the 40 guest ales from local breweries. On one evening we had a lovely stroll along the banks of the Dee watching the leaping fish and herons on hand to snap them up. We sampled a few more ales in the beer gardens of the waterfront pubs along the banks and in the centre of Chester before heading back to our campsite for a stunning sunset view over the racecourse festival site.

The festival offers so much for everyone. There was plenty to do for the kids with an excellent funfair and activities such as making and cooking workshops and children’s performers. If you like food, wine or beer or you’re looking for something a little different, this festival comes highly recommended. The festival is different to any we’ve been to, but everyone was left thoroughly fed, watered and happy.

More information about the festival can be found at:

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May 15, 2011 : Angela Says:

You make it sound idyllic...but nothing will convince me that sleeping in a vehicle is a good idea...I like the sound of all that food though!

May 16, 2011 : alexf Says:

Worth noting also that you can get day tickets, or of course a b+b in chester :)

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Portrait lens photos

Portrait lens photos

Posted: May 12, 2011

Having just returned from a festival on Chester racecourse and a week touring around Wales with my Nikon D40, I thought I'd just say a few words about the lens I used, which was the Nikon 50mm F1.8D AF Nikkor that I bought before the trip, inspired by OliverGlynJames' Hive post about depth of Field.

Photography is something that I've always been interested in. I did a bit of SLR photography and b+w and colour development at Junction Mills in Bradford on my degree and learned Photoshop and I've had some kind of old SLR ever since. More recently, I got a Nikon D40 Digital SLR. The kit lens that came with it delivered some great results, it's quick, works well in lower light conditions and takes much better pics than any snap camera or hybrid I've had (who needs video clips).

I was interested in expanding the lenses I had, so I bought the above lens reduced to £95 with fantastic reviews on Amazon. This lens had a great write up and offered excellent depth of field and beautiful portrait pics in lower light etc. With the D40 though, the lens has to be manually focussed and there's no zoom, so it was a real blast from the past having to move into the right position and manually focus. I was using the lens mainly to take pics of my kids - but one difficulty is that when they move around (as they do) they tend to move in and out of shot and focus, so consequently, I ended up with more blurred shots than with the usual kit lens. Having said that, it was fun and I was really pleased with the shots that worked. Below are a couple of results with this lens, I'd like to experiment more with depth of field next.

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May 12, 2011 : Angela Says:

A result for the influential consequences of posting on CH there. Looks like you had fun.

May 12, 2011 : alexf Says:

Was a great trip, always great to come back with a set of pics to remind you of it :)

Jun 15, 2011 : speedjunky Says:

fantastic photo! i too have a 50mm and it works so well with portrait! even better it's not expensive either so i was able to afford it :)) it's great! :)

Jun 15, 2011 : alexfenton Says:

Cheers and glad you liked the pics. I think my kit lens is the main weapon of choice, but it is nice to have this for portraits, particularly in lower light.

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Doyle, Burgess, Brown, Doyle and Stevenson

Doyle, Burgess, Brown, Doyle and Stevenson

Posted: Apr 07, 2011

It sounds like a firm of solicitors, but actually, it sums up the books I've read on the train since finishing MA Creative Technology in January. For the past 2 years, I hadn't read very much that wasn't related to my Masters, so it's quite a novelty at the moment to be able to read stuff like this.

I downloaded the free Amazon Kindle App for my Ipod touch and downloaded a few books that were free and out of copyright such as Darwins origin of the species, Einsteins Theory of Relativity, Wisdom of the East and various other scholarly texts. It felt a bit too much like study though, so I ended up reading Treasure Island by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. I don't think I've ever read or seen this fully, so it was a real pleasure to read. Again on the Kindle for gratis I read and really enjoyed Conan Doyles Return of Sherlock Holmes. By todays standards, it's all very tame and a little uneventful - but that's part of its charm I think.

After I did my final presentation show at the Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester - I got chatting to the guy that runs the place and he very kindly gave me a copy of Tremor of Intent (by Anthony Burgess). Burgess was a Manchester lad, brilliant author, musician, composer, linguist and general polymath. Some people question why he would write a spy novel like this - but I say good on him, it's a riveting read. I hadnt read any Burgess for about 20 years since reading 1985 and Clockwork Orange.

Moving on, my Dad got Dan Browns the Lost Symbol for his Summer holidays, so I quickly nabbed and read it. I've read Browns other books also. I'm not really into Browns story telling to be honest. After the first 30 pages, I began wondering to myself if there's any kind of Dan Brown Book generator, and of course there is already, because it's all a bit formulaic. I will keep reading his books, though because I love the research, history and conspiracy theories, loosely wedged into a thrilling plot. This particular book is set in a place I've visited (Washington DC) and is all about the Freemasons and Noetic science, which really got me thinking and looking more into these things for real. My Dad then lent me A Star called Henry by Roddy Doyle, which is all about Henry Smart, who's part of the Easter Uprising in Dublin and the Irish war of independance.I'm half way through it, and as you might imagine, it's eye opening stuff and a real modern classic I think.

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Apr 08, 2011 : Angela Says:

Alex Thanks for the heads up on the kindle app. As you know, being an object maker I prefer the feel of real paper in my hands but I've downloaded it on Ians ipod for emergencies. Was curious about the reading matter you've downloaded. I wouldn't dream of reading treasure island or Sherlock Holmes, maybe it's something about the gender difference? I'm reading Anna Karenina atm. Maybe we should have a Hive virtual book club? I propose my fave of all time fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. That'll give you something else to think if you didn't have enough! Angela p.s. I agree about Dan Brown. It's my holiday guilty pleasure

Apr 08, 2011 : alexf Says:

I think the fact that Treasure Island and Sherlock were just a really easy read after all that Masters stuff was really appealling - I enjoyed them, and they were free! The Burgess book was harder work - but it was amazing. Hive virtual book club / library could be an interesting concept - lets have a chat about that one.

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My MA Creative Technology epilogue

My MA Creative Technology epilogue

Posted: Feb 23, 2011

Well, that's it, I've submitted everything and had a final chat with Martin Rieser , the MACT external examiner. I thought I would jot a few thoughts down about the 2.5 year journey I've had the pleasure to go on. As part of my studies, I've been inside chimneys and worked out how to display graphics on a chimney using solar power. I've spoken to the VC of Salford University, had a stand and chatted with new students at welcome week, talked game based learning in primary schools, presented all over the North including a school in Elland and 90 new students of Bradford uni. I have presented the Hive at a good practise in technology event and gained new contacts and friends from all over the world in all different walks of life. I got to organise an Interactive Media event at the Anthony Burgess Foundation and I've also been able to submit a full paper for the forthcoming ECE Conference at Salford.  I've been invited to run workshops and installations of Pop art Factory at festivals and my final project the Hive at the forthcoming MediaCityUK Salford space.

MA Creative Technology has been a fantastic journey and has crossed over with my work at EDinteractive really well, I would highly recommend the course. None of this would have been possible without the amazing support of my family, staff and students at Salford and Bradford, my employers and all of the tutors across the University that helped and supported my projects. The list is huge and I hope I can continue to help and support all of them in the future. In a lot of ways, MACT is coming to an end, but it represents the beginning of a new journey and exploration with a new way of thinking.

Video of my final presentation of the Hive can be seen below:

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Feb 25, 2011 : Angela Tait Says:

It's strange isn't it? The end of a chapter but hopefully only the first of a very long book. As you know, I love the concept of the Hive and I'm really grateful it's become an ongoing project. It's been a pleasure being a small part of the Hive and I hope it goes from strength to strength. Congratulations and very best wishes. Angela

Feb 25, 2011 : alexf Says:

Thanks Angela, your input and help so far has been invaluable and it's been a great pleasure to have met you via the Hive!

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Amazing Flash website portfolio

Posted: Oct 22, 2010

Bio Bak

This is the portfolio website for a Dutch designer - as you might imagine, it's completely crazy, but a stunning piece of work. Web usability experts would be dumbfounded, but I love things like this that push the boundaries of the technology to create a unique and un-web like interactive experience.

I think my daughter would like this website also, pity about the language! See what you think anyway:

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Manchester rises as favoured business destination

Manchester rises as favoured business destination

Posted: Oct 05, 2010

According to this year’s Cushman & Wakefield European Cities Monitor survey, Manchester has moved up four places from last year’s ranking to 12th position as the most favourable city in Europe to do business and remains the most familiar UK city outside London.

Manchester has seen its position improve into the top 10 for the following significant factors for companies deciding where to relocate their business.

These are quality of qualified staff, internal & external transport links, value of money for offices and quality of communications.

This sees Manchester placed just above Stockholm, Geneva, Zurich, Hamberg and most other European cities as a favoured place to do business.

Full article here



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Book review - Making ideas happen

Book review - Making ideas happen

Posted: Sep 03, 2010

Scott Belsky is the founder and CEO of Behance, a company that develops products and services for creative industries. Behance oversees the Behance Network, the world's leading online platform for creative professionals. Scott's latest offering is a book called Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision & Reality - Scott Belsky - 2010

I've just finished reading this, and I thought it was pretty interesting. There are all kinds of ideas and examples intended to inspire and organise creative people to bring their ideas to fruition. There's no doubt in my mind that Belsky is a great bloke - but after reading his book, I don't think it had a huge impact on me personally. The main message I derived was, get organised and get busy - which is a mantra which I already believe in and practise. Also, I found the book to be rather US focussed in it's style and examples. This quote for example:

"Far from being some stroke of creative genius, this capacity to make ideas happen can be developed by anyone. You just need to modify your organizational habits, engage a broader community, and develop your leadership capability."

This pretty much sums up the book, like a US motivational speech. Some of the quotes and examples were interesting though - I liked this one:

"Living at either end of the spectrum-spending your energy exclusively on all personal projects or all professional projects-will make you either poor or jaded" Ji Lee - Director of Googles creative lab"

So in a nutshell, if you are a brilliant creative who lacks some organisation, this could be the tonic you need, but otherwise, this is worth a look, but not in my opinion a highly inspirational read.

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Students tell universities: Get out of MySpace!

Students tell universities: Get out of MySpace!

Posted: Sep 02, 2010

A research exercise carried out by the Joint Information Systems Committee (Jisc), called the Learner Experience Project, has just revealed, amazingly, that students want to be left alone. Their message to the trendy academics is: "Get out of MySpace!"

Online spaces are blurring, as universities that podcast and text their students have shown. The Jisc project manager, Lawrie Phipps, explains how the battle lines are being drawn: "Students really do want to keep their lives separate. They don't want to be always available to their lecturers or bombarded with academic information."

Full article here

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Out and About in NI

Out and About in NI

Posted: Jul 03, 2010

Well, with Englands adventure in the world cup over behind us, I'm starting to think about holidays and some creative inspiration! Below is an article I put together about our British Isles trip in 10 days.

Three years ago we had the pleasure of attending a great wedding in Belfast. We had a brilliant time, and we were very much impressed by the city and it’s green surrounding areas. We didn’t know too many people at the do, but we were made to feel extremely welcome by the friendly people. After chatting with various wedding guests, they told us how beautiful it was on the North coast of Ireland around the Giants Causeway. We decided at that point that it would be a great place to visit and bring our van over the water.

Full article here

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Wot no Flash (on the ipod / ipad)

Wot no Flash (on the ipod / ipad)

Posted: Jun 14, 2010

I've just been sent this excellent article which explains very clearly Apple's unfathomable decision not to include Flash on the ipod touch / iphone / ipad. It's a really good argument actually. There is no doubt in my mind that for £130 (no contracts required) The ipod touch is a quantum leap forward in mobile computing - it's stunning, and you can pick up the web and email for free using WiFi avoiding the £30+ a month contracts.

When I bought mine a year or so ago, I thought that it was only a matter of time until they added things like copy and paste and Flash. 75% of video on the web (including Youtube) uses Flash. It seems like a no-brainer that an internet enabled mobile device should support this - but alas no and here's why it doesn't and probably never will:

In a nutshell, Apple has major concerns technically and politically about including Flash on their devices, and they would much prefer to use open standards such as HTML5. This is a very compelling argument indeed - but in the meantime, there is a bit of a gaping hole marring what would otherwise be the perfect mobile computing experience. Also, from my perspective as a PC user familar with Flash, there is currently something of a barrier of entry to start creating ipod apps.

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Share this!

Share this!

Posted: May 26, 2010

On the very top of the blog posts and projects page, you'll notice a link that says "Share This" - this lets you spread yours and others posts far and wide to the likes of Twitter, Facebook, My Space etc. It can also be used to tell people about your Hive space.

Once you have some material on the Hive, try giving this a whirl and let me know how you get on. This is just one of the ways in which you can spread the word and share!

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Hive half century + Shell island

Hive half century + Shell island

Posted: May 21, 2010

Yay,50 people on the Hive now - cheers to everyone that joined so far and look forward to seeing what transpires! The sun has finally showed it's face today in Salford, and I'm guessing most people will be wrapping up for Summer fairly soon.

We're taking our camper down to Shell Island (pictured on the right) and then onward to the Lakes and Carlisle. I'll be largely uncontactable for a week starting May 28th, but drop me an email if you need anything to the hive email address:  and I'll pick it up as soon as I enter a WiFi zone! :)

Have a great weekend all!



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Beatherder 2010 (July 2nd - 4th)

Posted: May 17, 2010

The good thing about the Hive is that it is squarely positioned halfway between work and the counterproductive deferment of actions or tasks to a later time (aka procrastination). Mostly though, it is a good way to take a break from your essay whilst being cunningly inspired. Really though,  I just wanted to say a couple of words about the Beatherder festival which isn't too far away in the beautiful Lancashire countryside. 

I've been to this festival for the last few years - and it is brilliant. Most of the acts aren't very famous like some of the big festivals - but it is a real festival. NME said of it: 'The reason I love it so much is because it's a completely back to basics festival. It's built upon the simple principles of having fun, having a dance, and escaping the corporate machine for one weekend'  NME

Last year, I got on the guest list for the Yurt Reynolds tent and set up a little stand making pop art images out of people's photographs and then projected them into the Yurt at night time. Everyone was in the festival spirit, so I got a really good response to it. It was really hard work actually, but a really good experience.

What I think is truly brilliant about festivals like Beatherder is that there is scope for ordinary folk like me to do something a little bit different and try out a creative idea. I think pretty much any creative and innovative idea could potentially be showcased in this way with the right spin.

This year, I'm back to buying a ticket, but I look forward to seeing what's in store this year.


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Spread the Word (Hive update)

Spread the Word (Hive update)

Posted: May 15, 2010

Thanks for joining the Hive so far everyone at this busy time of year - hopefully come Summertime, we'll have a little more time. If you think that there is anyone that you know that is a creative soul - feel free to spread the word about the Hive. The Hive is mainly aimed at creative students, but anyone is welcome to join.

In true web 2.0 style, the Hive is in constant Beta, which means it will improve all the time based on suggestions of the community. Check out and add to the Hive Wiki for help or to make suggestions, or drop me a line.

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First Life and Second Life

First Life and Second Life

Posted: May 13, 2010

Have you ever heard or seen the virtual world of Second Life? A lot of people haven't and a lot don't know that some Universities (like Salford Uni) even have their own island in Second Life. Some people think that Second Life is like a game - but it isn't really. There is everything in Second Life, there are art galleries, shopping centres, music and other events and it's all user-generated. A whole virtual world made by it's users - how weird is that!

The Hive has it's own space in Second Life, and apart from being able to show people's websites inside the space, there's an infinate amount of potential to explore creative ideas. You can obtain or make pretty much anything. Could be an installation, a room, a gallery, a book or show a video.

If this sounds interesting, try clicking the teleport button for more info.

It's a strange thing, that in Second Life, you have complete control over your environment and yourself. Imagine you had super powers to do anything you wanted to - what would you do?

As a dad of 2 little ones - the first thing I would do I think is find a way to cure toothache and colds in small children. Sleep isn't a big deal in Second Life, but in First Life, sleeping, eating and breathing are crucial. Second Life is brilliant, but almost in some ways - Life is almost too easy! :)

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Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

Posted: Apr 29, 2010

December 12, 2004
George Siemens

"Self-organization on a personal level is a micro-process of the larger self-organizing knowledge constructs created within corporate or institutional environments. The capacity to form connections between sources of information, and thereby create useful information patterns, is required to learn in our knowledge economy.

Nodes that successfully acquire greater profile will be more successful at acquiring additional connections. In a learning sense, the likelihood that a concept of learning will be linked depends on how well it is currently linked. Nodes (can be fields, ideas, communities) that specialize and gain recognition for their expertise have greater chances of recognition, thus resulting in cross-pollination of learning communities.

Our small world networks are generally populated with people whose interests and knowledge are similar to ours. Finding a new job, as an example, often occurs through weak ties. This principle has great merit in the notion of serendipity, innovation, and creativity. Connections between disparate ideas and fields can create new innovations.

Knowledge flow can be likened to a river that meanders through the ecology of an organization. In certain areas, the river pools and in other areas it ebbs. The health of the learning ecology of the organization depends on effective nurturing of information flow.

Social network analysis is an additional element in understanding learning models in a digital era. Art Kleiner (2002) explores Karen Stephenson’s “quantum theory of trust” which “explains not just how to recognize the collective cognitive capability of an organization, but how to cultivate and increase it”. Within social networks, hubs are well-connected people who are able to foster and maintain knowledge flow. Their interdependence results in effective knowledge flow, enabling the personal understanding of the state of activities organizationally.

The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed.

This amplification of learning, knowledge and understanding through the extension of a personal network is the epitome of connectivism.

Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era."

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New York invasion by 8-bits creatures !

Posted: Apr 19, 2010

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Free book tokens for Hive alpha testers

Free book tokens for Hive alpha testers

Posted: Apr 06, 2010

The Hive is a collective of creative souls. The Hive enhances:

communication and links between people and projects
collaboration and opportunities
enables a personal space to be created
searchable central pool of creative ideas and projects
There is also a forthcoming Hive space in the virtual world of Second Life, which will form an extension of the Hive website hub.

The Hive is in BETA development and is currently seeking BETA testers. Ultimately, the Hive will provide you with a way to create your own web space and to promote your work, share ideas and find out what other's are doing. It will enable you to make the right links to people and information.

If you wish to try out the Hive, in order to say thank you for helping, we are offering a free £10 book token for 25 lucky hive members. To get your free token, all you need to do is click the Join Hive button on the left and start contributing to the Hive. This won't take long and if you get stuck you can drop us a line at:


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web 2.0 - Design Patterns and Business Models

web 2.0 - Design Patterns and Business Models

Posted: Apr 06, 2010

What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software

Tim Oreilly
O'Reilly Media


Communications & Strategies, No. 1, p. 17, First Quarter 2007

This paper was the first initiative to try to define Web 2.0 and understand its implications for the next generation of software, looking at both design patterns and business modes. Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an architecture of participation, and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.

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Computer games and me

Posted: Apr 09, 2010

I have to doff my cap to my Dad, who, in an inspired move, bought us a TV console around about 1980. Memory and the Internet fail us as to exactly what it was, but it played about 8 games, most of which were essentially Pong. I think it was the Magnavox Odyssey 3000. We might have still had it at our house had our rabbit Toyah not chewed through the wires in the hope that they contained lettuce I suppose. Either way, this was one of the world’s first home computer games systems and it paved the way for a future entwined with computer games.

When I was 7, we bought our first real computer. It was of course, the ZX Spectrum with its opulent 48 Kilobyes of memory. At the time, this powerhouse of a computer trumped several fold the old ZX 81’s, Dragons, BBC’s and Vic 20’. For a short time the Speccie was the king. The games came on tapes, which we generally bought from Boots, and they went into a normal tape recorder. So many games, so many hours of entertainment. The ones that really spring to mind though are the frustratingly addictive Manic Minor, the joystick destroying Daley Thompsons Decathlon and of course Way of the Exploding fist. I couldn’t believe my luck when I went to our primary schools Christmas fete thingy and they had a Way of the Exploding fist competition to win stuff. Finally, those hundreds of hours of video game karate paid off! At about age 9, I began the foray of copying out computer games from a mag into Spectrum Basic, modifying some commercial games and writing my own exceptionally Basic games which pretty much just used the PRINT and GOTO commands.

By the time I was 11 and in the first year at secondary school, my ZX Spectrum had descended from being the best gaming computer on the market, to what my fellow pupils described as a ‘bean can’. I had to do the decent thing and buy a Commodore 64. The C64 in my view wasn’t actually a huge step up in terms of graphics or computing power, but it did have some truly exceptional games and even a drawing game with a mouse called Mouse and Cheese – genius. The C64 also provided for me the first challenging computer football game (one where you couldn’t just win 20-0 every game). Emlyn Hughes and Microprose soccer provided a huge amount of entertainment and probably marked for me, the start of a real interest in football. With the C64 also came my understanding of the IF statement in Basic programming, which firstly allowed me to create my own text adventure games, and secondly helped keep me in a job as a web developer the last 12 years.

I could talk a lot more about the C64, but instead, I’ll move on to the Amiga 500. After resisting for a couple of years, I drew £400 out of the bank, walked up to a shop called CBL in Blackburn and carried this beast back to a friends house. Although it was still early days for Amiga games, this was in my opinion a massive leap forward. Suddenly, games were on little disks and took seconds, rather than minutes to load. The graphics and sound were magnificent and realistic and it came with a graphical user interface OS (Workbench). Again, there are too many games to mention, but a key gaming advancement was the ability to connect Amigas together with a serial cable and play games such as Stunt car racer, Powermonger and Populous.

Home computers aside, I should also mention the arcades. My family will attest that I used to spend a very large portion of holidays either in an amusement arcade or piling old ten pence’s into some arcade game or other. The arcades in the 80’s offered just a different thing entirely from home computer games. The games were so good and so playable and you had the added bonus of competing with people for scores. Many a friendship and rivalry was formed over a game of Mr.Do or later Double Dragon / Street Fighter 2. The latter here deserves a mention as it was (and is) one of the greatest games of all time. One particularly fond memory of SF2 was in an arcade in St.Ives on holiday around 1992.

On our campsite in Perranporth, I’d struck up a friendship with a chap whilst playing SF2 in the arcade. He duly piled about a fivers worth of 10p’s into this hot new game, which allowed us a couple of hours to develop our fighting techniques. Back in St.Ives, I was minding my own business playing sumo champion E.Honda on what was a HUGE SF2 machine. Ironically, a bus load of Japanese tourists came into the arcade and suddenly a SF2 challenge match was on. Because of my earlier practise, I was able to fend them all off (twice) and retire That was probably my finest hour in computer game terms. I also purchased a Nintendo SNES to take to University with me in 1993, and myself and my roommates pretty much played SF2 for the whole first year.

In my third year at Uni, I bought a PC from bargain and now non-existent PC shop ESCOM. This was the year that we all became addicted to DOOM. We also installed that and Command and Conquer in our computer lab so we could have Deathmatches – hours of fun. Although there were some notable exceptions, PC gaming never quite reached the heights of previous platforms. The best moments were when Half Life, Counterstrike or Wolfenstein were set up on the works network.

For about 10 years, I didn’t really play as many computer games aside from the odd local network game of Half-Life, the MAME arcade emulator or a party based Bombay Sapphire fuelled game of Singstars on the PS2.

I think I became more interested in making games such as a Macromedia Director web based version of Hyper Olympics and I also made an online game / community that 100 people played called ‘The Fantasy band League’. About a year ago however, my daughter who was 2.5 discovered the Cbeebies website. I think it was this and my starting a Part time Masters in Creative Technology (MACT) that rekindled my interest in playing and making computer games. had been interested for a long time in what could be learned from playing computer games. For my most recent Masters project, I created a web based, content managed game based learning system for 3-7 year olds. The games were basic, but the idea seemed to go down really well. It was really interesting again to be dealing with games and researching the benefits of games. As part of my ‘research’ I had a go at a Java version of the 1982 text based adventure game ‘The Hobbit’ (a game I had somehow missed first time around). I also took a look at the worlds most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game ‘World of Warcraft’ (2004). I think I am showing my age, but I think I actually enjoyed the Hobbit more. Certainly, I got more entertainment from a text based internet based MUD game in the early 90's.

I never quite got into playing computer games with people I don’t know. It always seemed so much more fun to play games with people I do know somehow.

So, what do I owe to computer games? Certainly, I believe, without computer games, I wouldn’t now be doing the job I do as a web developer, a job that I truly love doing or studying MACT. Computer games gave me an impetus and interest in computer programming to create my own games. Secondly, the nature of computer games gives you a tremendous patience for things and belief that you can achieve anything with enough persistence. I think it is possible to cunningly embed learning into games, but in my case I just have many great memories of playing and making computer games with friends.

Computer game timeline

  • 1980 - Magnavox Odyssey 3000 TV console (Pong)
  • 1982 - Spectrum 48K (Way of the Exploding fist)
  • 1983 - Handheld video games (Pacman / Donkey Kong etc.)
  • 1987 - Commodore 64 (Elite, Last Ninja)
  • 1990 - Amiga 500 (Sensible World of Soccer, Kick Off Player Manager)
  • 1993 - Nintendo SNES console (SF2, Mario Kart)
  • 1995 - PC (Doom, Wolfenstein 3D)
  • 1998 - N64 (Mario Kart, Goldeneye)
  • 2000 - Gameboy Advance (Pokemon Sapphire, Mario Kart)
  • 2001 - Playstation 2 (GTA Vice City, Singstars)


Andy C Says:
September 18th, 2009 at 10.47 am
a good account my friend – Should we be expecting a book on the way perhaps in the future?

Don R Says:
September 18th, 2009 at 11.23 am 
 I'm loving the article, it's really interesting, well written and great to read. Well done.
 The only exception i'd point out is the best game of all, SINGSTAR! and that amazing high score doesn't get a mention :)

CarlaR Says:
September 18th, 2009 at 11.34 am
And what about Singstars GOAT FEET!

Mathias Fuchs Says:
September 25th, 2009 at 11.17 am
great stuff. I read the pages with interest and joy and was impressed with your Magnavox Odyssey 3000 experiences :-)

Michael Fenton Says:
September 25th, 2009 at 11.58 am
VERY ENTERTAINING, Al. I can remember a lot of that stuff meself. It makes you wonder what Summer and Zeke will be reminiscing about in another 30 years.

Alex Says:
September 25th, 2009 at 12.32 am
I totally forgot to mention Singstars, as it's so cunning, you almost forget it's a computer game, especially after a few Bombay Sapphires! 
I think the kids will firstly remember websites like Cbeebies and Poisson Rouge and then they might move on to something like the Wii, Guitar Hero or something no controller required like the X-Box Project Natal. But who knows what will be dished up next - looking forward to finding out

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May 17, 2010 : Danielle_Rose Says:

Really interesting blog. I agree that singstar is a brilliant games and a great game to pplay with friends. I was brought up on Crash Bandicoot and i still play it now.

May 18, 2010 : alexf Says:

Thanks Danielle - I think there is a game for everyone - and Singstars is usually the one after a few drinks!

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Beam me Up

Beam me Up

Posted: Apr 06, 2010 Beam me Up

From Star Trek's transporter room to the tractor beams of our most fervent UFO nightmares, the very notion of "beaming"—of dematerializing only to reappear somewhere else, somewhere potentially unknown—represents a complete relinquishment of control, as well as a pure acknowledgment of the subjective, relativistic nature of human reality. After all, if you can spontaneously "beam out" of danger, or "beam in" to the frightful recesses of an alien craft, what is there to be said about the here and now? Or the me? To beam is to temporarily cease to exist in space and time, to blink into suspension, and, invariably, to invert the accepted order.

"Beam Me Up" offers many strategies for this kind of spatial transcendence. Wild performances in Second Life, such as in Alan Sondheim’s insanely visually complex piece, are one; however, these are still 2D, and are still housed in a network of intentional fantasy that is inherently dissociated with any kind of real metaphysical experience

Certainly, it speaks to a question many people (myself included) might ask themselves while watching reruns of Star Trek: what is it like to be beamed? What happens? Where do you go between the transporter room and the surface of the hostile planet? The interesting moment is neither the departure nor the arrival but those nano-instants when the body has been annihilated and is floating through the ether in microscopic fragments. "Beam Me Up" aims to address this issue by presenting the viewer with their own tool for transportation, their own "beam”: as English observed, the monitor. The monitor, which is mirror, proscenium, the in-between itself. The computer monitor is both meeting point and sounding board; it becomes the conjunction between the mind and the rest of the whirling, chaotic world; it's also where the answers, the emails, and the vitriolic conspiracy theories are all pounded out. In a sense, it is practically hallowed ground. In every sense, it is the titular "beam" of this exhibition.

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Beautiful word clouds!

Posted: Apr 09, 2010

Just having a surf and discovered this:

Nice work! Just a shame you can't use the code on yoour own website, but still, that's cool.

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Salford in Pictures - Second Life virtual launch

Salford in Pictures - Second Life virtual launch

Posted: Apr 06, 2010

Using the old former police station at the Crescent in Salford (UK) - images depicting Salford, it's history and it's discourse through time will be displayed over the many windows that are currently boarded up.

A virtual version of this building has been created by EDinteractive, and we are asking for anyone interested in this project to pop into Second Life on Wed 25th Nov at 9pm to take a look at what has been done so far and to have a chat.

More information about this project including information about trying out Second Life and getting to the virtual space can be found here:

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