Mar 15

The Story 2018: Mandy Rose

WARNING: Liveblogged. Only minor edits/amends

Mandy Rose and Video Nation

Mandy Rose and Video Nation

About 25 years ago, she found herself watching a tape that had arrived in the post. There were shots of mirrors around the house. Then colonel Gordon Henshaw started talking..about how mentally you don’t feel older, the mirrors show you the reality of time

He would have been the last person you would go to…and wouldn’t necessary ask the question. but in his home with his own camera, he was great.

This was the first of Video Nation. 2 min stories at 10:29, just before Newsnight. Before youtube, something not seen much before.

Gordon was one of 55 people who had been given cameras a year before and asked them to record everyday life. it came from a bbc team, to open up public space and get people to tell own stories on their own terms.

They had been experimenting with camcorders with video diaries..15 mins programmes. this was intimate, brought a sense of place, a breath of fresh air instead of what was seen as documentaries then

Video Nation developed this, a group of people around the UK to record over time

Mandy had found the traditional docu making process problematic, using someone’s story for own project. She had found herself on arts programmes, the Late Show. less ethically problematic for her. She saw an advert that married video diaries and the mass observation project. this had 2 aspects..the traditional anthropological study of UK life…oxbridge went to live in Bolton to look at locals. the other aspect, a national panel was established, to write diaries about their own lives.

It owed as much to surealism as it did to journalism, as their manifesto illustrated. eg shots and gestures of motorists, the football pools, bare armpits and eyebrows.

Mass observation offered an alternative approach to docs. They started with an intriguing to get a group of people to record everyday life. They visited the mass observation archives to get ideas.

They puzzled how to reflect it in a group of 50 people they may not be accurate in a scientific way. but they had a model to represent diversity, to reflect what was really out there. 50% women, 20% over 60, a wide range of political views, a wide range of incomes (split into 20% cohorts), and different communities

The stories were about family life, about identity, about being others, when it came to migrants.

As the tapes bagan to arrive, (they were sent in the post). it became clear the project was tapping into a rich seam, you would never know what would appear next. they refused to conform to expectations. the emotional world was rich, full of details, often tender. they were often in the home (where people felt comfortable).

It was not just handing over cameras. training was key, showed people different ways to record them self. straight to camera, behind the camera, the handheld selfie’. They encouraged people to say things aloud, to articulate values, to reflect their world, when things both good and bad, when things were on their life.

The bbc edited, the people had the right of veto. and this was critical, as people were free with what was recorded as they knew that they could see the final version and could say no (the lawyers were not originally happy with this, but it was a good thing)

Mostly it was pretty banal..occasionally things were more serious (eg something about northern ireland)

Shorts was not something the audience were that comfortable with…the call log was interested, people called up what aws the point of the programmes, were they supposed to real.

The BBC needed to find ways of reflecting the wide range of people that were out there, and this was one of the ways this was done. over time the calls stopped, the audience started to accept the form. they were seeing how there were many different views, how they reflected the people and finding out how complicated people are.

They got films they would never had asked for (eg lady with pregnancy bump) You look on yt and there are many similar videos now, (the woman at about 39 weeks) but they’re not on bbc2

Many people watched shorts, could get an audience of 5m, people never knew what they were going to get. they paid attention. people often spokes about them

When she was asked about them, she described the whole process,and she felt the interest drain away, it was though this took away the magic if the films the collaboration was not a compromise but the best way to get the story

The participants were in control of their agenda…they developed that opportunity over time, to understand how to use it

Video Nation’s success was about the balance between the edit team and the subjects, a co creation.

Mar 14

The Story 2018: Tanya Byrne

Note: this was liveblogged at The Story 2018. Minor amends and edits only

Tanya Burn

Tanya Burn

Will be talking about ‘Who am i’

It should be a simple as ‘I’m Tanya‘. But is there anyone in the room who hasn’t asked further.

To explore that, will be telling the story of how she was born

Wed 22nd Dec, her mother was due to have a caesarean the following morning. Her mother knew the family would become three in the morning. It did, and after a few weeks they went home. That was the nice story.

The real story? It was the coldest winter on record. Her mother had had 3 miscarriages; and this was 6 weeks before due date. but there were issues, and her mother, a midwife, was aware there were issues. So they agreed to do a little caesarean. After it, she was handed a child, and she said it could have been anyone.

The nice story was what she was told when she was young. The real story is what she was told later, when her father left. Again. He’d also left 3 days after the baby was taken home, he left many times

Father was Irish, mother was Guyanese. She never felt either. She asked her mom is she was guyanese..he mom said she was british. but she never fully felt british, given the names she was called etc

She felt her mom had it easier, she knew was it is. she knew she was Guyanese

Her mom was the first to leave the village…the british had come over recruiting for nhs. she came over and was not treated well, she got training. but all of the hard shifts etc. She met the father, he was a porter. When the parents got married, they became estranged from their families…that was the story she was told, that her parent’s families had disowned them.

For much of her growing up, it was her, her mother and her brother. growing up she felt raw, unfinished, she did not know how she fit, not having the family. her father died when she was 26, that was done, she has not had that history.

She managed to get her mom reconciled with her family..and things started to make sense. she saw people who looked like her..and she could see where the behaviours came from, her sisters were the same, she started to eat food she had never had. She heard stories that she never had. the women were cooking and talking, the men in the other room drinking and smoking…she started to hear stories about her mother, how she was a little hellcat. the mom used to ride bikes (not done, she would ‘lose virginity’. she used to ride to river and paddle in the river.

she learned more about her mom in those few years than she had in the 15 years before it now a lot of the stories had gone and she would not get it back.

When she writes a books, a lot of them are around identify, and she goes back to her teens. when you are a teen, there are massive life changing decisions being made. university or not, sex or not. but it is purgatory, making decisions but not feeling adult enough. maybe she feels that if her characters can work out who they are, then maybe she can

She doesn’t know who she is and maybe never well, she knows who she is not and who she does not want to be. she thought her story was done at 40. but she came out, and she moved..and she started her story again. she does not yet know her story and who she is

but she knows that wherever you are now and who you are then is not where you were then (as a teen) you’ll get there..and when you do, think about the story you are going to be able to tell

Mar 04

The Story 2018: Lisa-Marie Neudert

Note: this was liveblogged at the time. Minor amends and edits only

Lisa-Marie Neudert

Lisa-Marie Neudert

Lisa-Maria Neudert works at the Oxford Internet Institute, researching how algorithms are being used to manipulate public opinion. about how we as a society are having public conversations and how we are participating in public life

So this is about conversational propaganda. Starts with where are you in Brexit and Trump

They are investigating whether what had influence on these, eg Russian propaganda. Not sure yet, but there is definitely an impact from online life. It is global, high impact and very real time..through the web, with your newsfeed tailored to your choices. The shared experience is getting lost. There is increasing talk about polarisation, about echo chambers, the loss of journalist gatekeepers.

We are living in an info rich environment, something that we have not done before, when there is so much content to pick and choose from. and how do we navigate? Attention is highly valued and sought after. How do you grab this as a politician? So we have seen attention hacking…computational propaganda

Story 1. Macedonian teens who figured that fake pro-Trump stories were things that people clicked on. so they set them up and waited for ad dollars to roll in

Bots amplify topics…also with micro targeting, political marketing and advertising to find the people interested. The problem = propaganda has changed. Propaganda is not new, but how it is created and used is. Propaganda started with Alexander the Great = he had storytellers telling about his deeds. But now the channels and forms have changed and increased. We are in the next evolution, making it more powerful and impactful.

At the core you still have manipulation – emotional. what is different know is the methods. It is data driven; it has access to the user data you volunteer as you use the web. Automation both for creation and distribution enables scale. It has never been as low cost to disseminate the message to the wider audience. You have take it out of big tv ads etc to social, where it is low cost. The media is more than a natural evolution. Social media has shifted and provided opportunities to easily get content to users. It has never been so easy to make videos and sites that look professional. Look at the pro-gun bots that flooded about the Parkland shooting, they were pro-gun, pro that is was the lone wolf.

The mainstream phenomenon – the politics of post truth that is about playing around with narratives, pushing stuff that is not true as truth. trump on a daily basis, brexit. See it across Europe. It has become political mainstream. facts are being twisted to the agenda

So do facts matter any longer? Yes, they are important, but it gets harder to distinguish what is a fact..the politician not using them as much, the platforms not acknowledging that they have a problem in sharing things. Also citizens not being able to distinguish. WEF asked about trustworthiness of media..70 % of people said they had difficult to distinguish truth from falsehoods on social media

Her phd is looking at trying to find info…her training would be to gather lots of data about this. but it is difficult, as the platforms won’t share. The platforms that were being challenged to provide the a researcher, she could not get access as not in the groups and the platforms not sharing with researchers

One area of focus has been junk news in elections (US, FR, DE, UK). Looking at sources that people were using. Looking at 30 million feeds and what was shared. Looked at the sources. Big 2 categories, the professional news sources (BBC, CNN, from parties, from candidates). On the other hand junk news. (ie fake news, but can’t use that term due to devaluation of it). this is conspiratorial, biased, non factual. So how much of the latter was being what were the proportions

US 1-1; FR 7-1, UK and DE 4-1.

So US is far more using junk news…UK/DE still quite high, but nowhere near the US.

Who was the target of propaganda?

They looked to see if swing states were targeted? They were sharing the largest amounts of junk information. They were being highly targeted. It is more than the internal society, it is targeted, from somewhere outside. Other areas – blacklivesmatter, gay/lesbian communities, veterans orgs. all targeted – they people who were unhappy with the political situation…tailored for them

‘Destroying the field’ is the technique…it is not so much about a specific agenda, it is about sowing dissent, confusion, making people feel happy in their everyday life

We are shedding light on a couple of things seen, only focused on a couple of networks, but there is so much more to focus on. there are more than political bodies, there are big corporates etc.

  • 2000000 employees are working for Chinese gov on social media and prop
  • 7/10 shared stories on Merkel were fake in the DE news
  • 126million Americans have seen junk news on Facebook alone. 19.1m interacted.
  • 16k dollars was what one person in Macedonia made from 1 news story..because they know how it worked.

Public discourse is at risk.

The junk news is scaleable, immediate, personal. And it leads to the next dangerous element – solutionalism. (something must be done)
That can impact freedom of speech.

Mar 04

The Story 2018 Conference: Juno Dawson

Note: this was liveblogged at the time. Minor amends and edits only

Juno Dawson

Juno Dawson

Juno Dawson

This talk may not be fully on brief… it’s about the side hustle of being a story teller. She is a storyteller first, and everything else second. but there is always the side hustle.

She got into writing a weird way; she was a primary school teacher in Brighton.. she was borrowing the books from her kids. There was a book with an apple on the front that a lot of girls were reading – it was Twilight, started borrowing more, it was felt to be a golden age – eg hunger games etc… started realising these books had everything. She had been a big fan of high school movie and these books were the equivalent.

But she didn’t recognise herself, the characters were very middle class, white, straight, cisgender etc so she decided to have a go at writing her own. Her friends were dubious…she started out on her own experience, about Pendle and growing up there. Took her and her 3 best friends and put them in the plot (it became Hollow Pike). She made goals along the way – sent chapters to friend, who was asking always what was next. then it was a challenge to finish it – that would be an achievement. She also used it as a hobby to keep herself busy…to prevent her cheating on her boyfriend, who was away a lot 🙂 (lots of laughter)

She sent it to an agent. The agent said it wasn’t ready…bu there was something there, so get it finished. Eventually she got it finished an get it accepted. She caught the tail end of big boom on teen fiction (not as easy now). she had her agent, and as her side hustle (the writing) was becoming the hustle..and teaching became less important… When she had a deal she left (she felt it was not fair on her kids as she was not focused on it)

It then stopped being was the job. Her second book was not easy, the sequel to Hollow Pike. Then the 1st book was not selling well, so asked to bench the sequel (after 1 week of sales)…it felt like she had failed, she could not talk to people.

Her advance did not go as far as she thought it would do. The agent got some, it came in chunks, the taxman got it, She had quit her job, moved to London and her money was dwindling really quick. So what could she do? Go back to everyone would see she had failed.

She decided now she needed a side hustle. so that was the Carrie Bradshaw model..a freelance journalist. She had just read Caitlin Moran and recognised that non-fiction could have a character.

Had recognised that sex ed is often very badly done..down to good staff, not consistent. and LGBT is really poor. Teahcers don’t really know what they are meant to be talking about

So she proposed writing a non fiction book – and she knew she could sell the pitch rather than the manuscript. So she had a new book deal…a small advance for ‘Being a Boy’. It sold well and the publisher asked her to write ‘Being a Gay’ But she could not write this; however, inspiration struck and she decided to call it ‘This book is gay‘ (after lots of telling kids should not use this form a lot at school!)

The publisher agreed..she would also interview lots of people of different types. Through this process, she recognised that she herself was trans. The book has just been published in its 22nd language. Has lots of good feedback about it.

The reason she is still here, writing full time and speaking, the side hustle of writing non fcition has become more lucrative.

Storytelling and novel writing is now a lovely hobby again. fiction writing brings her the greatest satisfaction. The pressure has been removed and she does not have to churn out fiction, so not reliant on the advance checks. She has time to breath. Thinks her next novel is one of her best works.. it was fun to write, wrote last summer over 3 months, character just came to her. She was supposed to be writing The Gender Games…but the story was demanding to be told.

The reviews have started to come in and they have been glowing, she thinks the readers can tell how much she enjoyed writing it.

And the reason she can do that is the hustle of non-fiction…she’s just had her first commission from Cosmo.. now shes back to where she was in 2010…really enjoying the storytelling.

Maybe the take home message is get good at something and then get good at something else.

Mar 04

The Story 2018 Conference: Ministry of Stories

Note: this was liveblogged at the time. Minor amends and edits only

Ministry of Stories

Ministry of Stories

From their site: The Ministry of Stories is a local writing and mentoring centre in east London, where anyone aged eight to 18 can come and discover their own gift for writing.

What do they do:

Writing and mentoring space in East London. Hidden behind a shop. Inspired by the Superhero shop and story telling group in the US. Set up about 7 or 8 years ago.

So how did they come to sell monster supplies?

They had to work out what type of the shop they wanted, to provide the story foundations. They started off with 3 ideas: for aliens; for young pickpockets and then finally settled on the shop for monsters – Hoxton St Monster Supplies. They created the fiction around the shop (to encourage storytelling)- ie it opened the same day that Frankenstein was published. Their early products were related, eg a neck bolt tightener.

Kids come along and engage with the signs on the door, with the product etc, eg they set up everything as though it is a real monster supplies. A few principles….the shop is for monsters, it is not about them. It is a very witty joke told with a very straight face. There is no landfill (so recyclable, reusable etc). Products such as fang floss (string), zombie breath mints , ear wax fudge etc. The sales from the products allow them to provide the workshops for free to the local children (looking for more fundraising ideas, eg sponsorship, licensing)

The absence of the monsters in the shop catalyses imaginations – even the cat is invisible. the effort they put into their fiction, gives children permission to make stories

Mar 01

2017 Review Part 2

The second part of my 2017 Review – basically just for my records.

Mountain Tops

Mountain Tops


July started off with me doing something completely different. I headed off to Switzerland for a Beginner’s Mountaineering Course! So taxi, plane, train and finally bus took me to the small village of Les Haudere’s in the south of Switzerland. There, I met up with my fellow course mates – 2 guys, one around my age who’s been slowly getting into climbing/mountaineering and one young, just still in his teens, guy who was looking for something fun to do before heading off on further travels to Asia. We also met with our course instructor who fulfilled the stereotype of blonde, slightly scruffy, mountain guy (who would have obviously preferred to do some proper climbing then deal with beginners)

Mountain Hut

Mountain Hut

Over the next few days we:

  • learnt how to use crampons on ice; travelling up to a glacier and stomping around, climbing up and down slopes and ice faces
  • Went hiking up the mountain, stayed in a mountain hut before heading out early to get to the top of a mountain across another glacier, learning how to move roped together
  • Did a little climbing and abseiling
  • Did a lot more hiking

I was not well enough to do the last mountain trek with the group – I was coughing too much; given they were a lot faster then me in the hiking, I decided to stay behind and do some solo trekking, which was great fun.

Glacier trekking

Glacier trekking

I flew straight to Germany from Switzerland to start my first week with adidas, just getting my head round what would be needed. The first weekend I flew back, as I had tickets to the London Paratheletics World champs, to see with my sister and niece.

London Stadium

London Stadium

Para Athletics Champs

Para Athletics Champs

A quick turnaround, switching over clothes, before heading back to work. The first week I was in a hotel, now I moved into an AirBNB apartment for the next three weeks. This was my second AirBNB; it definitely proved useful during my stays in Germany, in one case I was in the same flat for 2 months, which just makes working in a different country far easier when you have a solid home base.


Time for the World Athletics Champs! I flew back and started the next day with my shifts, picking up the new kit first thing in the morning before starting my session. I’ve written all about that in another post.

Spa F1

Spa F1

Then back to work in Germany before heading up to the Belgium Grand Prix. This was a test of my driving! I’d got the use of a hire car in Germany, which was a challenge given how long it had been since I’d driven, but I soon got into the swing of most things (the give way to cars from the right in towns/villages was hard though!). But although this was over 300 miles, it was motorway all the way, so pretty easy to drive. And with a small hire car, there was no temptation to drive too fast and out of my skill zone 🙂

Sofia and Andy came to the GP too and we met at the campsite. Yes, we camped. About 20min walk from the circuit, it was a relatively exclusive campsite run by a British company, Pillow camping. We were provided with a 2 unit tent, which was more than enough room for the 3 of us (we ended up sleeping 1 in each ‘bedroom’ and one out in the main part). This was my 3rd time at this race. it was Sofia and my first live race back in 2010, when we went with a tour company, stayed in a hotel in Germany and coached it back and forth. The second time was a competition win with Shell and we had a brilliant VIP trip, again coaching it back and forth. This last time was far less glam, out in tents. I quite enjoyed it; I’m pretty sure Sofia and Andy will never camp again. 🙂




Such a quiet month! It was work only for the most of the month, staying in the quiet village of Herzogenaurach. Only one weekend of fun, flying back to the UK for the inaugural Wine Club weekend. We were off to the country, 2 converted railway carriages in fields in Oxfordshire, wood-powered hot tub included. It started with a down note, with one of the group being told just before she left that her role had been made redundant. But we made the most of the weekend, cooking over open fires, walking and visiting famous gin pubs, which have whole cupboards of gin. The instructions were to just go in, open bottles, smell the gin and decide which ones we want a drink made from.

Country chalets

Country chalets

An amazing weekend, only abut 40 hours in the countryside, but great for resetting the brain.

Hot tub

Hot tub


I was supposed to be back in London this month, but changes in plans meant I was still staying in Germany, coming back for one week for a few meetings.

Rock formations

Rock formations

I took advantage of being in Germany for a final month by heading off for a visit to the south, to Garmisch Partenkirchen. A fairly straightforward journey on paper, train via Munich, but it was made rather nerve wracking by late running trains. getting to Munich I had to run for the next train, making it with about 20 seconds to spare. It was still late when I got to my hotel – the restaurant had decided to close and there was nothing to be had, they couldn’t even whip up some bread and cheese for me – not a good start.

I’ve written all about my weekend in this post.

As the month drew to a close, the question remained was I going to be leaving, or staying on at adidas. After some discussion, I decided to stay on, but with a change of terms. I couldn’t do the full time in Germany – I had no desire to leave my flat on its own for any more time, nor did they need me full time. So we agreed that I could cut down my work days (to 3 days a week) and alternate between London and Herzo.


The month started with lunch with Caroline and a trip to the National Gallery – where we played ‘hunt the arse’ around the museum. Plenty of fun to be had 🙂 Other fun events including a leaving party for my ex-boss (it wasn’t fun because she was leaving, it was just fun), a trip to St John’s Museum, drinks with friends I hadn’t seen for years and drinks for the launch of the Zombies! Run game. Which is a very mad board game that I’m really bad at. Also visited cinema for first time in ages, this time to see Thor Ragnorok.

One thing I did do this month was go and get a National Archives reader ticket – the plan is to go and dig into a few documents that could be associated with my family history.

I few more interviews happened; including which I would have loved..but the recruiting person had completely failed to properly understand the role and the requirements. It was not possible to do it full time starting the next week given I was working already on a contract I’d just signed. It was associated with the Olympics, so was time sensitive. They even called a couple of times to see if things had changed. Unfortunately, no…the one that got away.

I ended the month the same way it started – out with Caroline. We headed to Winter Wonderland to have a go on roller coasters, drinking gluhwein and hot dogs and having a very good time.

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland


Ooh, finally another Michelin restaurant started this month. Not a new one, but a return to my local, Hedone. More cinima visits as well, to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi (enjoyable but annoying at times, too many silly decisions) and The Greatest Showman which was cheesy but lots of fun and I left the cinema grinning.

It being December, there were Christmas get togethers. I made it to the running club party for the first time, even if my fancy dress was pretty poor. There were Christmas dinners with various friend groups, including Wine Club (we’re still generally far to sensible) and then to end the year, time to head to visit the family for the usual visit, plus a trip to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens for the Christmas lights.

Family at Clent

Family at Clent

Birmingham Botanical Gardens Christmas lights

Birmingham Botanical Gardens Christmas lights

December also bought to a close a ‘mission’ I’d been slowly completing over the last few years. I walked the last section of the London LOOP, from Harold’s Wood to Purfleet, bringing myself back to the opposite side of the Thames from where it all started. I need to work out which one to do next, which will probably be a lot harder to organise. The great thing about the LOOP is the ease in which it was possible to do it in day trips from home, with all the sections arranged around transport hubs. Few other walks I’ve seen have that same arrangement.

I closed out the year with a last minute decision not to spend New Year’s Eve as usual, on my sofa watching the fireworks. I headed down to Arundel for some walking in the area. The pub I was staying at was running a murder mystery evening and I was persuaded to join in – they would assign me to a friendly table so I could be in a team. An excellent night was had, made even better when we won 🙂



So that was 2017. Some interesting moments, some quite times when working away. Some major life changes happening and there are more of these to come