Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ashley Highfield's digital predictions for 2011 ... made back in 2006

Making predictions is a tricky business. Futurologists continuously run the risk of embarrassing themselves professionally with their visions of the future. Mere mortals take an even bigger gamble.

Leafing through a pile of old magazines that were finally on their way to the recycling bin, I spotted an brief article in the 29 August 2006 edition of Ariel. It listed Ashley Highfield’s chronology of the digital future between 2006 and 2011. Back in those days, Ashley Highfield was the BBC’s director of new media and technology.

clipping from 2006 Ariel magazine showing article about Ashley Highfield's digital predictions

2006: Share of viewing among 16-24 year olds falls by 20 percent with the internet as popular as television.

2007: BBC gets the go-ahead to launch its entire pan-channel 450 hour schedule through the iPlayer, followed by the release of significant parts of the archive. The shift in consumption from scheduled television to on-demand begins to accelerate, aided by improved search, recommendations and cross promotion. This is the so-called long tail effect where archive, back catalogue and niche tastes account for 25 percent of Amazon sales.

2008: The BBC has put 1.2m hours or archive on the iPlayer and a resurgent lTV creates its own on-demand portal, also releasing content through Bebo, YouTube, MySpace and the iPlayer.

2009: Television's long tail is accounting for 25 percent of consumption and 33 percent of revenues for those commercial players who realised their future lay in on-demand.

2011: Microsoft's digital home is finally working successfully, making it easy to move video around the house from pc to tv set. Those broadcasters who had not created strong aggregator brands for themselves, nor bothered to secure on-demand rights, nor valued their archives, nor invested in the proper technology are in serious trouble. A primetime hit is now 4m viewers. Only two programmes break 10m - the world cup and the royal wedding.

Today Ashley Highfield works for Microsoft … and according to Wikipedia’s pen picture, his responsibilities probably do include getting Microsoft’s digital home finally working successfully!

“UK Managing Director of Microsoft (Consumer & Online), responsible for Windows Mobile, MSN, Hotmail, Windows Live/Instant Messenger, and the newly announced Google rival, Bing” (source: Wikipedia)

He was spot on with his prediction that there would be a Royal Wedding in 2011, though the wedding coverage achieved higher (than he predicted) viewing figures: BBC (13.44m, 62.8% share); ITV1 (5.79m, 21.0% share).

The week of the wedding (35 April-1 May), Britain’s Got Talent pulled in 10.8m viewers, while Coronation Street, Eastenders and Emmerdale all topped 6m viewers each night. Episodes of hit dramas still achieve viewing figures of between 4.5 and 6 million.

Linear TV isn’t fading fast - but whether Microsoft's digital home yet working is even more questionable!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sinn Féin select 25 year old Niall Ó Donnghaile to be Lord Mayor

Niall Ó Donnghaile was only elected to Belfast City Council three weeks ago, but tonight was confirmed as Sinn Féin’s choice for Lord Mayor. He turns 26 at the weekend. Under the d’Hondt rotation, Sinn Féin will get three Lord Mayors during the next four years.

Sinn Féin's Niall Ó Donnghaile interviewed in the Waterfront Hall, overlooking Titanic Quarter, Stormont and East Belfast/Short Strand

Niall is a press officer with Sinn Féin up at the Assembly, and councillor for Pottinger. During his year in office, he’ll be able to welcome Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis to Belfast’s Waterfront when it visits in September.

Update - In case you're wondering, here's how Niall pronounces his name - it's not as difficult as people make out.


Back in November 2009, I interviewed Niall and we talked about changes East Belfast, how Sinn Féin was developing, as well as what attracted him into the world of politics.

I asked him whether he was hopeful that there would ever be enough of a vote to get a Sinn Féin candidate elected in East Belfast?

I don’t think it’s impossible, especially with what we alluded to earlier on and the changing nature of East Belfast. Once Titanic Quarter is finished, once Sirocco Quays is finished, this constituency is going to be dramatically different in terms of its makeup.

All the parties will be fishing in that pool, not just Sinn Féin. But I would be confident that if we can be strong enough, if we can be articulate enough and relevant enough in East Belfast particularly in relation to the developments that are going to happen behind me, I think eventually you’ll see the numbers there to elect a Sinn Féin representative whoever that may be.

But for me elections are important … If you are a politico like myself, they can be enjoyable and they can be a good experience, but I don’t need to be elected to do work for people on the ground and whether I am elected or unelected that won’t stop me either way. Some people do work to get elected. Others get elected to do work.

You can read the full interview in a previous post.

Cross posted from Slugger O'Toole.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Upgrade (Paul Carr) - tips for travel and cirrhosis

cover of The Upgrade by Paul Carr

So far in his 31 years of life, Paul Carr has written two autobiographical books. In early 2008, the latest instalment of the advance from his first book “just about covered the cost of drinking myself into a coma every night of the week to numb the pain of failure”. (He describes Bringing Nothing to the Party as his tale of “a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to start a dot com business with my ex-girlfriend” after which led he “lost them both forever”.)

As I started to read Paul Carr’s The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of a Life Without Reservations I was quickly struck that he may well be using the latest instalment of the advance from his second book for a similar purpose.

With hoteliers for parents, Carr was already familiar with the inside of hotels before I had his bright idea. Rather than renew his flat’s lease for another year, he’d instead become a “high-class nomad” and travel the world, living out of hotels for a year. Knowing that long-staying guests can get decent discounts, together with the brass necked ability to blag his way in and out of any situation, Carr aimed to spend an average of less than $100 per night on accommodation.

It’s not a new concept. Carr explains that in the mid-1800s hotel living has quite common in the US:

“In 1856 nearly three-quarters of [New York’s] middle to upper classes gave a hotel as their primary address.”

At one level The Upgrade is a bible of tips for thrifty travellers.

  • In most [US] cities you don’t pay local tax on stays over thirty nights.
  • In the UK, [hotel] stays over twenty eight nights are VAT-free.
  • Phone hotels direct rather than booking through hotel booking websites that are taking a commission (up to 15%) from the hotels.
  • Reservation staff at independent hotels are more likely to be able to reduce rates than staff at big chain hotels.
  • Emphasise [on the phone] that you don’t mind a bad room … Take whatever room you’re offered and then, on check-in, if you’re not happy with the room just stroll down to reception and complain.

For frequent travellers, about two-thirds of the way through the book there’s a very familiar section in which Carr describes his minimal packing and unpacking routines, together with a handy tip about hanging your creased shirts up near to the steaming hot shower in the hotel room bathroom. Been there, done quite a lot of that.

But at another level, the book is a cautionary tale about the factors that may lead you to waking up naked in the corridor outside your hotel room, spending a lot more money on alcohol than accommodation, stretching relationships – business and romantic – to breaking point (repeatedly), spending time in police stations, and managing to keep submitting columns for the Technology section of the Guardian despite spending more time in the bar than inside the conferences you’re meant to be covering.

I remember reading some of Carr’s columns – many of them thoughtful and incisive – but never twigged the full context of how or why they were being written.

There’s a hedonism that taken to extremes is no longer comfortably voyeuristic, but becomes deeply distasteful.

“... I’ve forged a career – and a respectable income – from drinking too much, doing idiotic things and writing about them. My last book floated on a sea of booze, and if you were to ask anyone who knows me to give you three keywords about me, drink would certainly be one of them.”

I’ll not give away the ending. Suffice to say that by the end of the book, Carr had saved £800 by staying in hotels over paying rent, but more importantly, he had finally come to terms with his lifestyle.

“The past two years sound great on paper – a story of luxury hotels, pretty girls, fast cars and drunken adventures.”

Let’s hope Carr’s third book is as funny and informative but less reeking of alcohol.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Stormy weather in Belfast

Lanyon Place is normally a windy spot with the breeze from the Lagan swirling around between the tall buildings. But at lunchtime today, it was nearly impossible to walk past the Hilton Hotel and around the corner to the Waterfront hall.

After a few seconds I gave up trying to hold myself and the camera steady. Just too windy. Hoardings around the abandoned building site loosened under pressure from the wind. News reports stated that "two people were slightly injured after hoardings came off a building at Lanyon Place in Belfast and hit their car".

Certainly as we passed, one man was lying in the middle of the road, being held down/tended as they waited for an ambulance to arrive. Another man was holding another flapping piece of the fence in place. By the end of lunch, two policemen were quickly losing their rag with pedestrians as they hollered at them to only walk on the Hilton side and avoid the unsafe hoardings.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Starlight Express ... a steam train and jazz on a Friday night soon

Railway Preservation Society in Ireland poster for Steam and Jaxx trains

The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland are running a series of Steam and Jazz nights on Friday evenings in June and early July.

Their restored steam train will leave Belfast Central Station at 20:10 and will puff up the track to mystery destinations where you’ll be able to dance to the New Orleans jazz of the Apex Jazz Band before returning to Belfast around 23:45.

Friday 10, 17 and 24 June; 1 July. All tickets £24.

Get on your straw boater or posh frock and join our steam train for a Jazz mystery tour. Our train will include our Dining Car, complete with full bar, hot and cold drinks and snacks. A competitive wine list and bottles of wine will be available for purchase (as with all our trains, all profits simply go straight back into restoring more steam locos and carriages).

Tickets for this starlight express must be booked in advance online, by phone (028 9024 6609) or in person from the Belfast Welcome Centre (47 Donegall Place, Belfast, BT1 5AD).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Previewing summer arts and culture in Belfast - but what counts as culture in NI?

What is culture? If you were asked to list "your top ten cultural highlights" coming up in Belfast this summer, what would you include? I recently agreed to compile such a list for the Guardian’s Travel website - published today - trying to shoehorn in a variety of events and festivals that reflect that will be happening across the city over the summer months.

I was a little surprised when two of the entries on my original list were removed: Summer Madness and Orangefest. I've got to say first that I respect any editor’s right to decide what gets published on their website - that's certainly Mick Fealty's prerogative over on Slugger O'Toole!

But in the context of Northern Ireland it seemed strange to eliminate two of the three largest events that attract visitors from outside Northern Ireland. After all, religion and politics are often at the centre of culture on this island … the very essence of the place!

In the end I came up with a selection of fifteen, still leaving out many events that caught my eye. Ten made it into the finely illustrated Guardian's online article; and you can find the full fifteen below.

I'm interested in your comments about what constitutes arts and culture in Northern Ireland, and whether I carelessly overlooked any Belfast events that you would have included on your top ten list.

- - - - - - -

In a city which boasts more than 50 festivals each year, there’s rarely a dull moment in Belfast. Despite the cuts in arts funding, from early summer to late in August, Belfast is awash with books, drama, films, fragrant roses, live music and parades.

Belfast Book Festival banner image

Belfast Book Festival. 13-19 June. Based at the Crescent Arts Centre in the south of the city, the Belfast Book Festival is intent on capturing the literary energy of the city in a week-long celebration of the writer and the reader. There will be poetry, prose, nature, history, memoir, crime and all points in-between. Featuring well known writers such as David Peace and Ciarán Carson, the festival will also give a voice to Northern Ireland’s new writers, as well as offering a wide ranging programme of classes, films and live events throughout the week.

Pick’n’Mix Festival. 17-19 June. Held over a June weekend, this pop-up theatre and dance festival offers a sweetie bag full of sugary treats. Based in Queen’s University’s Brian Friel Theatre and rehearsal studio, there will be a programme of staged readings, mini plays and dance performances showcasing Northern Ireland talent. A farcical Cooking with Elvis (Bruiser); children shows (Cahoots); up to the minute satire (Tinderbox); Requiem for the Disappeared (opera by Ransom); and kinetic motion sensors supporting a three dimensional dance performance in a virtual world (Eileen McClory). Tickets £5; some double dip offers (two shows for the price of one).

Open House Festival. 22-26 June. Fusing American roots with Irish traditional music, the popular Open House Festival is in its 13th year. It has grown out of its “two pubs and a Cathedral” nickname to become a major folk and roots festival attracting visitors from across the Atlantic and mainland Europe. Headline acts like Laura Marling, Fleet Foxes, Villagers and The Low Anthem are already confirmed as playing in Custom House Square as well as a soon to be launched programme of intimate gigs in Cathedral Quarter pubs.

Summer Madness banner image

Summer Madness. 1-5 July. A tented city springs up at the beginning of the summer each year in the Kings Hall complex in South Belfast. Think of Summer Madness as Ireland’s answer to Greenbelt, with over 2,000 campers and thousands more day visitors enjoying the Christian festival with a strong music and arts bent. Duffy Robbins (USA), Simon Guillebaud (Burundi) and Krish Kandiah (UK) head up the mainstage programme with Martin Smith (front man for Delirious) leading worship. Seminar strands cover faith, ethics, culture and relationships. And then there are films, coffee, sport, workshops, prayer and a long queue for the showers. All denominations (and none) welcomed. A safe space for teenagers as well as being family friendly. Pricing varies, online registration open until 27 June.

Orangefest. 12 July. Thousands of Orange Men wearing bowlers hats, white gloves and orange sashes along with the sound of beating drums will fill the streets of Belfast City Centre as the annual Twelfth parade snakes its four mile trail up to “the field” in Barnett’s Demesne. In a bid to distance itself from past sectarian tensions around the marching season and the 11th night bonfires, members of the loyal orders and the accompanying accordion, flute and pipe bands will be joined by street performers and cartoon characters. Extra public transport will ferry people into the city centre where shops will open at lunchtime once the main parade has past. Food stalls and bouncy castles operate alongside the religious service and traditional speeches up in the field before everyone marches back home.

Rose Week. 13-17 July. Get outside and walk around Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park to enjoy the vivid sights and smells of the international rose gardens. Take a relaxed wander around the 45,000 rose blooms of all varieties, accompanied by gentle harp music. There are competitions and activities for children, as well as live music from each afternoon from local brass, flute and jazz bands. And if the weather’s too hot or showery, step inside a marquee for a nice cup of tea. Entrance is free.

Ormeau Baths Gallery. 21 July-28 August. Detonating Rough Ground is an exhibition brings together photographers whose work differently engages with the trauma, memory and sensory aspects of conflict. Sophie Ristelhueber captures the dismantled apparatus and long lasting scars of war in Kuwait, Iraq and Bosnia. Paul Seawright “Volunteer” shots draw from contemporary cities in the US and the representation of conflict at a distance from the battlefield. A series of talks and events will accompany this free exhibition.

Belfast Pride banner image

Belfast Pride. 23-30 July. Having started out 21 years ago as a Saturday afternoon parade with 100 participants, Belfast Pride has now grown into a week-long programme of LGBT cinema, debates and club nights. The march is now the largest cross community parade in Belfast – bigger than St Patrick’s Day! – attracting upwards of 15,000 spectators (and a small number of fervent protesters). The main march leaves Custom House Square at 2pm on Saturday 30 and snakes rowdily through the city centre before returning for the Party in the Square with bands, cabaret, drag, feathers and fireworks as well as family-friendly activities for children beside the Lagan Lookout away from all the noise and alcohol.

Féile an Phobail. 28 July-7 August. Scattered across West Belfast venues, Ireland’s largest community festival offers an annual treat of good value music, comedy, drama and speech, as well as sports. Gen up on the local history by taking a walking tour through a city cemetery led by a previous Lord Mayor Tom Hartley. See new plays performed in novel venues (has previously included the back of a black taxi). Hear traditional music and pop music in venues large and small. The much anticipated West Belfast Talks Back debate brings politicians from all traditions together to answer the questions from the audience. Wise men came from the east … travelling west!

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson on Lagan Legacy Barge. 30 July at 8pm. The marriage of a local Country Down chanteuse and drummer to an Australian blues musician has created a blend of blues well worth hearing in deep south Belfast. Moored on the River Lagan near to the eye-catching Waterfront Hall, the Lagan Legacy barge is a maritime museum and coffee chop by day and eclectic venue by night.

Belfast Photo Festival. 4-14 August. Northern Ireland’s new photographic event wants to inspire existing and potential photographers by showcasing the talent of local and international practitioners – amateur and professional – in a series of curated exhibitions across the city. The programme is not yet finalised, but already includes “Europe” (Belfast Waterfront) observing five nations through the lens of German artist Christof Pluemacher. There’s a much more insular focus in Simon Burch’s “Under a Grey Sky” (Golden Thread Gallery) which explores the scarred central peatlands of Ireland through large scale colour prints.

Classic Films at the Waterfront. 5-7, 12-14 August. If you find yourself puddle hopping in Belfast and looking for some indoor entertainment, Belfast’s Waterfront is screening family-friendly films for £3 in its river-side auditorium at a variety of times from mid-afternoon to evening: Grease, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, You Only Live Twice or ET. You can even sit back and take in the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy starting at noon on 13 August for £8. Check website for times. While you’re there, check out the two photography exhibitions on the ground and second floor.

Great Belfast Art Hunt. 6 August, 1pm-5pm. Works of art can get lonely when they are trapped in galleries only known to those in the art world. But if you meet up in front of Belfast’s Ulster Hall by 1pm you can take part in a fun treasure hunt that will take you in and out of ten or more galleries as you solve the clues on the way to the secret gallery party at the end. Gain an appreciation of the Belfast art scene as well good exercise. Tickets are £5 in advance, £6 on the day.

Belsonic banner image

Belsonic. 16-27 August. Nightly performances to an audience of 5,000 in Belfast’s Custom House Square under the shadow of the 28 storey Obel Tower. Headline acts booked for 2011 city centre music festival include Elbow, The Specials, and Primal Scream (performing their critically acclaimed Screamadelica LP in its entirety) along with Dizzee Rascal & Plan B. Book early before tickets sell out.

Belfast Mela. 28 August, noon to 8.30pm. Not content with indigenous cultural commemorations and parades, Belfast now takes over the city’s Botanic Gardens (near Queen’s University) for an annual cross-cultural “gathering”. World music spanning Bhangra to Bollywood, Gospel to Irish trad, and a spot of Polish electronica along with circus acts, dance, fashion, henna and interactive arts for children. The World Food Market offers flavours from Eastern Europe all the way to the Far East. Arrive before mid-afternoon to avoid long queues at the entrance to this colourful celebration of diversity. £1 entrance to the main Mela.

And if all that culture doesn’t fill your days and satisfy your curiosity about what makes Belfast tick, check out the regular “duck tour” that uses an amphibious vehicle to explore the city’s streets before launching itself into the River Lagan. If you’re feeling energetic, stroll along for a two hour guided walking tour of the Titanic Quarter to find out about the city’s shipyards, maritime history and recent renewal. Or take a black taxi tour and the driver will be sure to show you around and where to find the best craic.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

We wondered why the electric blanket wasn't working ...

Faulty electric blanket

Less than 5 years old, it had scorched the mattress before finally shorting/fusing. Update - some advice on electric blanket safety from the UK Fire Service Resource Group.

Monday, May 16, 2011

TEDxBelfast - the remaining talks

TEDx Belfast logo

Last month I posted links to some of the YouTube versions of the TEDxBelfast talks from the first ever independently organised TED event to be held in Belfast. You can read my review of the night's talks and sessions in another post, but this this post closes the loop and deals with the remaining talks.

Maureen Piggott

Maureen Piggot, director of Mencap in Northern Ireland, was a revelation amongst the evening's speakers. She provided a window into a world of which I’m mostly ignorant.

f(impairment, environment) = disability

In our text-based society, she pointed out that there is no symbol to designate learning disability. Maureen suggested that

“the computer is the new wheelchair … the power of computing technology offers new solutions for people with intellectual disabilities that could be as useful and as liberating as the wheelchair is for people who have mobility difficulties.”

I spoke to Maureen afterwards ...

Sinclair Stockman

Sinclair Stockman was the first presenter of the evening, taking the subject of A Fully Interactive World. He took a look at a number of very ancient technological advances in early postal and communication systems. Sinclair was taken with the vastly distributed (though low volume!) postal system set up in the time of Genghis Khan. He pointed to infrastructure sometimes getting in the way of efficiency. Sinclair said it was criminal that while Northern Ireland probably has the best broadband network of any territory its size in the world, yet we have 20,000 illiterate children.

I caught up with Sinclair during the interval ...

Ken Thompson

Biomimicrist Ken Thompson spoke about Seven Secrets of High Performing Teams. To be honest, at times it came across like a précis of his book. But in amongst the management speak and the jargon, there were some nuggets of advice for people organising and operating teams. How often does the simple lack of clear ground rules cause disruption and conflict in projects?

His sixth “secret” was “Fast co-invention”. There’s room for command and control “leader decides” management, and there are occasions when wisdom of the crowds copes well when no specialist knowledge is required. But sometimes it’s a matter of figuring out who is most expert on a subject in a team and give them the responsibility to decide of those matters.

I talked to Ken too ...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

UUP election posters - reduce, reuse, re:cycle?

UUP campaign poster in Ballyhackamore

Walking up the Upper Newtownards Road after lunch, I was amazed to see a Lagan Valley UUP poster for Mark Hill and Basil McCrea at the roadside.

Poster for bikers' event in Ballyhackamore

Turned out that it had been ripped in two and was being used to advertise the starting point of a bikers' event. Happily a case of reuse in aid of re:cycling rather than the Ulster Unionist Party completely losing its sense of direction!

In conversation with David McMillan - What authority does the Bible have in 21st century pluralist society?

Contemporary Christianity vertical banner

After last month's fascinating In conversation with PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott who was talking about the role of faith in how life and work, Contemporary Christianity return to their normal city centre venue on Tuesday night.

It's the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Authorised (King James) Version of the Bible. Twenty years as a Baptist pastor, a foundation member of ECONI and now a doctorate student, David McMillan will be talking about and discussing

What authority does the Bible have in 21st century pluralist society?

After sharing his opinion, there will a time of questions. Tea/coffee and biscuits are promised! It’s an open and free event – everyone is welcome – no booking required.

Tuesday 17 May 2011, starting at 7.30pm. 3rd floor, 21 Ormeau Avenue, Belfast, BT2 8HD.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where were you when ... the NI referendum count finally finished?

Elections can bring about powerful political moments that become firmly lodged in society's civil memories. Perhaps the most classic example happened 14 years ago in the 1997 General Election: "Where were you when Portillo lost his seat?"

Last Friday night - well, technically last Saturday morning - I realised that for most people the answer to "Where were you when the NI referendum count finally finished?" was going to be, quite sensibly, "tucked up in bed fast asleep". But for eight people, their alternative answer was "at the Kings Hall!"

Referendum hub door

It was a quite a contrast to the previous referendum in Northern Ireland – the Good Friday Agreement poll – which was announced in the same Kings Hall venue to vast crowds of waiting politicians, campaigners and the world’s media.

Lonely YES campaigners waiting for the NI referendum result

After the final constituency count completed in Fermanagh & South Tyrone, the regional AV referendum result for Northern Ireland was finally declared at 2.10am in an almost empty Kings Hall … shortly after the overall UK result was finally able to be announced in London.

No official media were present when the announcement was made by Graham Shields, EONI’s Chief Electoral Officer, who stood at the special referendum podium that had otherwise remained unused all day and addressed the gathered group. Two Electoral Commission staff, one former Chief Electoral Officer, three Yes Campaign reps, and a blogger/electoral observer.

NI AV referendum result

Collating the results together for the referendum ballot boxes that had been verified and counted in the eight count centres across Northern Ireland, the local results were less negative than much of the rest of the UK.

But it was a little piece of history – the final piece in the AV referendum jigsaw – so I slightly blurred my electoral observer role and recorded the moment for posterity!

Total number of ballot papers counted – 668,869

The number of votes cast in favour of Yes was – 289,088 (43%)

The number of votes cast in favour of No was – 372,706 (57%)

The number of ballot papers rejected was as follows:

a) No official mark – 0

b) voting for both answers to the question asked – 637 – this includes people who voted 1 2

c) Writing or mark by which the voter could be identified – 24

d) Unmarked or void for uncertainty – 6,401

The total rejected votes was – 7,062

Declaration of count total - for Northern Ireland

The sharp eyed amongst you will realise that the numbers don’t quite tally, and there were in fact 13 missing votes – which is not unusual with a poll of this size. And the pre-printed date had to be changed from 6 May to the 7th!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Talking in the East - Tuesday night's East Belfast hustings (in case you can't get to sleep!)

In case Tuesday’s late night leaders’ debate whet your appetite for midnight political listening, here’s one last election treat. It’s a recording of last night’s East Belfast election hustings, held in Knock Presbyterian Church. I wasn’t there, and I haven’t had time to listen to the whole thing, but a couple of friends who were there said they enjoyed the evening. Thanks to KPC for the recording.

  • Séamas de Faoite (SDLP, Pottinger)
  • Martin Gregg, (Green Party, Assembly + Castlereagh East)
  • Chris Lyttle (Alliance, Assembly)
  • Robin Newton (DUP, Assembly)
  • Philip Robinson (UUP, Assembly + Pottinger)
  • Dawn Purvis (Independent, Assembly)

(Sinn Fein’s Niall Ó Donnghaile apologised to the organisers that he could not make it along.)

Apparently there’s no mention of the recent dissident activity, no mention of the City Airport. Instead there’s health, education, sickness absence, women candidates, AV, ending with some “cruel questions” from host Mark Simpson which revealed an Alliance prediction to win 11 seats and a reiteration of the DUP commitment to take the Finance ministry first, and pick up Education as their second choice if it is still available.

Catching up with ... smaller political parties

Photo of chalked question from a recent IKON gathering

Over the past month or so, I've been posting on Slugger O'Toole a series of "Catching up with ..." interviews with representatives from smaller political parties who are standing in this week's Assembly and/or local government elections.

The links below will take you to the individual posts which contain transcripts for those who like to read, and clips of video for anyone who prefers to watch and listen. While the candidates featured are standing in particular council areas or Assembly constituencies, bear in mind for many, their parties have candidates standing elsewhere too.

The idea was to explore different political perspectives which tend to be less frequently voiced in the local media, pointing out that the big parties aren't the only ones with something to say. With voter apathy reportedly on the increase again, maybe bored voters will find something of interest in the hotch potch of groups.

It's been a fascinating process - and many thanks to all the candidates who participated. I'd like to say that if there had been more time, I'd have talked to more people. Certainly there are other fascinating candidates out there - in particular some of the independents - but frankly energy didn't permit!

Incidentally, the most viewed video from the series is one of the clips with éirígí ... though even that is eclipsed by Granny Turismo scooting around the Cathedral Quarter on their oversized shopping trolleys!

Graffiti in East Belfast saying - If voting could change anything it would be illegal

For anyone in East Belfast, by virtue of posting a photo of one of Roy Hobson's posters and asking why it was so hard to find out anything about this independent candidate for Victoria Ward, Roy replied and gave an overview of his policies in the comments underneath the post. IT also turns out that there are issues with the imprint (election agent and publisher details) on his posters that he had to overcome with sticky labels on the reverse.

Lastly, as well as the Assembly and local government elections on Thursday, there's also the matter of the referendum on voting reform. I caught up with Eddie Izzard who was in Belfast (briefly) on Sunday evening to support the Yes2AV campaign.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Granny Turismo ...

If zooming around on oversize Segway scooters dressed up as shopping trolleys is your thing, then look out for Granny Turismo motoring around the streets of Belfast as part of the Festival of Fools.