Local shop LocalGov Camp

Yorkshire LocalGov Camp

I recently went to my first LocalGov Camp, and came away enthused. I had arrived enthused as well to be fair, but that’s not the point.  The point is that my enthusiasm has meant I have somehow talked myself into taking the lead on organising a regional event in Yorkshire – a local LocalGov Camp for local people.

The idea began during a Twitter conversation with Phil Rumens about how LocalGov Digital can reach out to councils who are working with beta websites.  One of Phil’s suggestions was to have a regional LocalGov Digital meet-up, something he is already planning in his own neck of the woods.  I particularly like this thought from Phil about the reasons for holding a localised event:

Are you local?

I already have enough people interested (after the above Twitter conversation) to feel sure that a Yorkshire LocalGov Camp is good idea, and we are probably looking at late autumn.   Because of the timing, one thing we might choose to discuss is winter weather.  Maybe we might want to work towards coordinated gritting communications, like they do with #wmgrit in the West Midlands.

I don’t want to plant too many ideas in your mind, as if you are interested in attending, I want your thoughts to be unhindered by my own suggestions – start with a blank canvas, and think about what you think we could achieve.

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Makeshift tripod to record video

Vine and Instagram videos in local government

I had wanted to experiment with Vine and Instagram videos for a while. I wanted to see if they could be an effective way of engaging people with local government and promoting council services. The need to promote the Bradford Council app was an ideal time to try.

I chose to highlight just one feature of the app – the alert which reminds people of their bin collections. It only takes a few seconds to say how the app can help people remember their bin day, so short form videos seemed a good option. Here are our two creations, first on Instagram and then on Vine:

Although Bradford Council doesn’t currently have many followers on Vine or Instagram, my hope is that people will appreciate these videos and will share them via Twitter and Facebook respectively, where we have a greater chance of reaching our customers. Continue reading

Housing Benefit video

Videos to help with Council benefits

Customers who receive Bradford Council benefits often contact us with questions about notification letters. As well as FAQs (which included both text and images), this year we have also made two videos.

These videos replicate, as far as possible, the experience of a customer service advisor talking through a benefit notification.

I wrote the scripts together with face-to-face staff, who knew the types of queries they got and how best to answer them. While writing the scripts, a colleague showed me an online video bill for her digital TV subscription. This both confirmed that we were onto a good idea, and also amazed me.

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The sound of Wikipedia breathing

I recently found out what the internet sounds like, and it’s amazing.  Have a listen to the music made by live Wikipedia edits and I’m sure you will agree.

Hatnote - listen to Wikipedia
Hatnote – listen to Wikipedia as it is edited

I find this absolutely extraordinary, so very now in every way. This is surely the ultimate music of the digital age. It’s a concerto of knowledge.

Everyone with internet access can, and might, contribute to the performance at any one time.  Every listener’s experience will be unique, as is your own experience every time you go back to it. I have Comms2Point0 and Stevie Benton to thank for finding out about this, after seeing this Tweet back in February:

Ever since first hearing it, I wanted to play an extract on my radio show. Sadly I never got round to it, and was kicking myself for forgetting to include it in my final show.  However, I now realise I wasn’t meant to play it on air.  Had I done so, both me and my listener would have heard the same performance.  And that would have defeated the object.

Live sessions at BCB Radio

During my 10 years presenting Eclectic Mainline on BCB I had the pleasure of recording live (largely) acoustic sessions with some wonderful artists.

BCB Sessions

After I decided to give up the programme, I wanted to re-broadcast some of my favourite session tracks before leaving.  So, in my penultimate show on BCB I played 16 session tracks from  my archives.  You can hear the full programme on my Mixcloud page:

Best of the BCB Sessions - Eclectic Mainline 23rd April 2014 by Albfreeman on Mixcloud

My method of recording a live session evolved over time until I ended up with a process that got the best out of the available resources. The microphones at BCB are only really suited for speech broadcasting, and the studios are not equipped for multitrack recording. But I managed to work round these restrictions. The microphones issue was easy to overcome, as I would borrow some from Wilful Missing.

I was restriced to recording in stereo, but I would hard pan the inputs, recording the lead vocal in the left channel, and all other instruments in the right channel. This effectively created a 2-track recording that I could later mix to ensure a good level on the lead vocal. But I needed to get a good live mix of all the instruments, and this wasn’t always easy because I was in the same room as the musicians. I couldn’t monitor what was being recorded without also hearing the ambient noise of the musicians in the room. Continue reading

Record Store Day – never mind the records

This morning I started queuing at 7.26am to get into Jumbo Records. Just over two and a half hours later, I was in the shop buying some of the records on my list, and learning that others had already sold out.


If you are familiar with Record Store Day, that may sound like a familiar experience. If not, you may be wondering why us crazy fools do this. Record Store Day is an annual event to celebrate independent record shops. Hundreds of (very) limited records are released on the day and are only available in independent record shops. Some shops also arrange live instore performances for the day.

While queuing I was interviewed by a BBC reporter, who asked “why vinyl?” I think I gave a fairly eloquent answer, but in hindsight I wish I’d given a politician’s response, and answered a different question to the one I was asked, namely “why record shops?” Record Store Day is about reminding people how important independent record shops are. It did that for me 5 years ago. Before the 2009 Record Store Day I hadn’t been paying for much new music*, and that which I did pay for I tended to mostly get online. But since 2009 I’ve bought most of my new music from Jumbo Records in Leeds, and have developed good personal friendships with the staff.

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10 Years on the Radio

It is now 10 years since I started presenting Eclectic Mainline on BCB Radio, and what a 10 years it has been.

10 Years on BCB Radio

While preparing for my anniversary show I looked back over what I have achieved, and thought to myself…

“S**t, did I really do all that?!”

Eclectic Mainline has evolved a fair bit over my decade at BCB.  From starting to get a healthy number of new releases coming my way through 2004, I then had a frequent flow of interviewees on the programme in 2005.  The December 2005 edition of The Big Issue In The North ran an article under the title of “The Spirit of John Peel lives“.  This cited my own programme as one of several on community radio stations that had a similar ethos to that of the late Peel. Discovering that article on Boxing Day was by far the best Christmas present I got that year.

2006 was a turning point for Eclectic Mainline, as I dipped my toes into the world of live sessions, and I had several session guests a year for the next 5 years.  I would say that those sessions made the years from 2006 to 2010 my purple patch on BCB.  In 2011, Laura Rawlings and myself were up against the big boys and girls of the radio world, as our live sessions won us a Radio Academy Awards nomination. Continue reading

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