Thursday, 10 April 2014

Tickets of Distinction

I have really enjoyed Letters of Note and its occasional tweets on often very poignant letters, in fact I liked it so much that I bought the book for my partner for Christmas. It got me thinking about my own personal treasure trove of oddities, the gig tickets I have collected over the years since my first foray into consuming live music at the age of 14, with the magnificent XTC, something that I have blogged about previously. The Letters of Note series got me thinking that maybe I should use these tickets in a similar sort of vein, and use them as a point of departure to discuss other issues related to the event, the date, the band, the venue, or something else completely unrelated. I would call this Tickets of Distinction, a name with its own indie reference points but partly a homage to the Letters of Note idea. So, this is the first in an occasional and irregular series of posts that will celebrate, or commemorate a gig from the past. Who knows, maybe one day it will be a book too.

On 10 April 1992, 22 years ago today, Allison and I went along to see the Boo Radleys co-headlining with the Pale Saints at the Astoria on Charing Cross Road, now sadly razed to the ground to make way for the Crossrail project. To be honest the Astoria was never my favourite venue, although I have seen some notable gigs there over the years including Richey's last ever gig with the Manic Street Preachers (I'll save that for a post in December maybe!) and even some classics in the downstairs Astoria 2 which was a bit of a fire trap, but the Astoria was certainly an important venue, and central London now lacks a similar sized venue of its type. That day, both of these bands were broadly part of that indie/shoe-gazing scene that was later decimated by the onward roar of Britpop, currently celebrating its own 20th anniversary on BBC Radio 6, and of the two bands only the Boo Radleys achieved much success, later clinging as they did to the hem of Blur, Oasis, Pulp and the rest with their one hit Wake up Boo. The gig itself was enjoyable enough. I had liked Pale Saints, who came on first that night I think, since I first heard their 'Barging into the Presence of God EP', with stand out track The Sight of You. The band had formed at Leeds whilst I was at college there and the song was, allegedly, about a friend of a friend. I liked the The Boo Radleys album Everything's Alright Forever too, it had been critically lauded, although my thoughts that maybe it was an overlooked gem was not borne out by a listen via spotify as part of the research for this piece.

The gig was actually only memorable in that whilst we were in the venue, at 9.20, the Provisional IRA exploded a bomb at the Baltic Exchange, killing three people,  injuring 91 others. Elsewhere in London the effects of 45kg of Semtex were also felt, a friend in Clapton reported being knocked off her feet, but we left the venue, some two miles from the Baltic Exchange, in the days before instant media saturation and given the high noise levels inside the Astoria, blissfully unaware of the bombing until the next morning. The site of the Baltic Exchange is now host to the Swiss Re building, better known as the Gherkin and here depicted by Stanley Donwood in his Fleet Street Apocalypse series. Since that evening The Boo Radleys and Pale Saints have long gone their separate ways, the Astoria has been destroyed and the Good Friday Agreement has been signed. London's skyline has changed, and indeed London itself has changed. I'm still going to the gigs though so at least something has remained constant, and this occasional series of posts will catalogue, and celebrate, some of these outings. I have put this post here and also on a new dedicated blog, entitled Tickets of Distinction where these will appear from now on. 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Sochi 2014: A Short Story Collection

The Sochi Winter Games come to an end this weekend, somewhat overshadowed by the terrible events in Ukraine. Outside of activities at the Games themselves, with highlights including the British successes and the usual USA/Russia Ice hockey excitement, there have been lots of incidents and issues of interest to sports scholars. I blogged at the end of last month about one such issue, but have written a few other pieces during the Games for various outlets and thought I would collate them here. These have been written with Professor Mark James, someone who I have conducted a lot of research about the Olympics with. In addition to the bigger academic pieces we write, we are aiming to do similar short pieces about future events during 2014 including the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games and will collate them here, or follow me on twitter for them via @prof_guy_osborn.

The pieces on Sochi have included one on protest zones for The Justice Gap, one on ambush marketing and in particular the Principle 6 Campaign for LawInSport and a piece on the application of the IOC's Rule 50, for The Conversation. There may be one other to follow and will update if this transpires.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Around the blogs - Responsible Tweeting and Ambush Marketing

Whilst I have not written a blog here for a while I have not been completely idle. In December I wrote a piece for The Justice Gap, an excellent resource looking at the interface between law and justice and aimed squarely at as wide an audience as possible.  My piece was entitled The Responsible Tweeter and did exactly what it said on the tin, looking at some broader issues around tweeting and whether law provides the answer. 

Also, whilst not a blog, along with my colleague Mark James I wrote a piece this week for the excellent Law in Sport. This took the form of an article, and indeed was refereed, but is still aimed at a wider public rather than being confined to a more academic audience. The piece is about the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, and in particular the Principle 6 campaign against the homophobic laws in Russia and the possible relevance of ambush marketing. The piece, entitled 'The Missing Link: the coming out of ambush marketing', is available here. We hope to have a new piece, also on Sochi 2014 and probably looking at protest, out soon and will post details here as soon as this is available. 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Latest Doctor Who revealed, fighting fashion law and more

Our Centre ran a number of events in 2013 including a great series of lectures on music industry contracts by Robert Allan, sessions on sports broadcasting and contemporary issues in sports law by Daniel Geey,  and a conversation and acoustic session from Tom Hingley. We are now delighted to be able to announce details of the first tranche for 2104, more details here, all welcome but if not Westminster staff or student make sure you RSVP as detailed. Lots of great events coming up but I want to highlight two in particular now. First, I blogged and tweeted recently about Dr Who, and would like to offer a reminder that Danny Nicol is hosting a screening of Episode 10 of the War Games and discussing some of its finer points in January. 
Patrick Troughton and friends  
I am indebted to his friends at London Metropolitan University, where Danny recently gave a talk, for the poster below, with the man himself revealed as the latest Doctor!  
Secondly, great friend of the Centre Dave Griffiths, purveyor of fashion for the fearless and stand up comedian extraoirdinaire is reprising his sold out 2013 Edinburgh Show C U In Court for us; a blockbuster of a show detailing his escapades fighting on the frontiers of fashion. This is offered, for free, by the Westminster Law School at the University, and held  in the space where Jimi Hendrix first climbed up on a UK stage to jam with Cream. What are you waiting for! Reminder, you need to register if external to University, see above.

More details of other future events including a workshop on the regulation of sport agents to follow.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Doctor Who? Doctor Pavoni. The PhD as journey

Yesterday I sat in, as Director of Studies, on the viva of my PhD student Andrea Pavoni. Andrea gave a masterful defence of his thesis, 'Exceptional Tunings: Controlling Urban Events', and the examiners were impressed with the richness and inventiveness of his thesis - something that came as no surprise to myself and the rest of the supervisory team.

It made me reflect on the whole process of the PhD, the roles of the various parties, the expectations, and also the changes that we are starting to see more recently in its organisation and approach. More close to home, I reflected on the journey Andrea himself had undertaken. When Andrea applied for the PhD programme at the University of Westminster Law School it was as part of the Vice Chancellor's research initiative in 2009, where up to 20 studentships were to be created  to encourage interdisciplinary work across the various parts of the University, and to which members of staff had to 'bid' projects to be put forward for support. From our Centre we put in two bids, one involving 'the regulation of mediumship' in conjunction with Annette Hill (then from our Media and Design Faculty, now Professor of Media in Lund), and one on 'mega-events, tickets and social inclusion'  (in conjunction with Dr Andrew Smith, Reader in the Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment). Whilst both projects were shortlisted as ones we could recruit to, we only recruited to the latter one, and Andrea was the successful candidate for this.

During the early stages of research it became apparent that Andrea's real interest lay beyond the original proposal and it was fascinating to see the project develop and evolve during the PhD. Thinking of this during the viva itself, it made me realise what a journey the PhD is and also that to a large extent that the PhD is a process, or as David Gauntlett said on his entry about how to survive a PhD on his blog, '... an exercise in showing you can do research'. Andrea's journey was a great example of this, and indeed for the whole team as the supervisory team adapts and changes to support the research. During his PhD, apart from an incredible amount of reading, thinking and writing, Andrea was selected to highlight the research of the University as part of the Graduate School launch, was successful in obtaining funding to do field work during World Cup 2010 in Johannesburg and was instrumental in organising a number of workshops and events, including Law and the Senses amongst other things. We were all very proud to see Andrea achieve his success yesterday, and it was great to reflect on the ebbs and flows, changes in direction and emphasis, and ultimately the final symbolic denouement in the examination room, of the research project and recognise, in the end, a piece of work which was original, ambitious and, indisputably and unarguably, his. Well done Dr Andrea Pavoni!

Dr Pavoni, post viva

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Law of Dr Who

Next weekend sees the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, The Day of the Doctor, described as 'a love letter to the fans' it promises sights of a number of previous Doctors and is much anticipated. This of course comes hot on the heels of the recent treasure trove find of lost episodes and also, from a personal perspective, reminded me of the time when I met the Third Doctor, John Pertwee at a book signing in Birmingham when I was around 6 years old and when Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor), with K9 in tow, visited my school in the late 1970s. Unfortunately, I could find no corroborating evidence of this by searching on the web, although I did find some interesting footage of Tom Baker visiting Schools in Belfast around the same time and its great to see the reaction of the children.
The Third Doctor, pre-Worzel Gummidge
The Fourth Doctor, pre Little Britain and a magnificent Blackadder
Outside of this, the legal dimension of Dr Who has become more visible recently.  For a start, the news that the son of the writer of the very first episode is launching a legal action claiming ownership of the TARDIS adds to a line of cases where authors and designers have argued that they are the owners of various characters and other aspects of films such as Star Wars in the past.
Rather than the typical image of the 'Blue Box', here is Mark Wallinger's 2001 TARDIS

Also, and closer to home, my colleague Professor Danny Nicol has recently issued a Call for Papers for a symposium on The Politics and Law of Dr Who which is looking like it will be an excellent event with lots of interest generated already. Danny is in the process of starting a blog on this too, so keep an eye on this too. This taps into a growing fascination for what areas such as film, television and literature can tell us about the law, and what law tells us about them, and Danny's interest in Dr Who is a welcome addition to this growing area.

Monday, 11 November 2013

‘I don’t want to talk about it’: Virgin’s disruptive past

Recently I visited the Virgin Records exhibition ‘40 Years of Disruptions’ currently being held for a short time (blink and you will miss it – certainly by the time this blog is published it will be history) at the impressive Victoria House in Bloomsbury. Celebrating 40 years of Virgin Records, the exhibition covers much from the label’s back catalogue, including of course material based around Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and a section celebrating the Spice Girls and Girl Power. I have to admit to some disappointment as I walked round that perhaps my favourite Virgin artist, the group XTC, were criminally overlooked  - although some digging around afterwards revealed there actually was some video footage of them in the Manor Recording studio shown that I unfortunately missed, although I have since found this on youtube, part one of which is here, and the rest are easily found.
 Unsurprisingly, a large proportion of the exhibition is given over to the punk and post punk period, and in particular the work of the Sex Pistols. There are T-shirts from Vivienne Westwood’s shop Sex, assorted badges and some great examples of the work of Jamie Reid who provided the artistic backdrop for much of the Sex Pistols’ work. One example of this took centre stage at the exhibition, literally, in apop up recreation of the original Virgin Records shop, resplendent with bean bags and hundreds of copies of the Sex Pistols’ debut album ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’, and nothing else, on show.

virgin records 40th anniversary exhibition

 This is an allusion to a key ‘disruption’ in the Virgin Records story, and of the attempt to censor the album. The subject matter and lyrical content had already been deemed problematic with previous singles such as God Save the Queen subject to much approbation, released as it was to coincide with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and contentiously denied the number one slot in the singles chart by Rod Stewart’s ‘I don’t want to talk about it’, despite allegedly outselling it. However, when Richard Branson instructed his shops to blitz their windows with a display based on the album sleeve and title, the police became very interested, threatening him with various charges including one under the Vagrancy Acts. Eventually one of the shop’s managers was arrested and charged under the arcane Indecent Advertisements Act 1889. Branson instructed John Mortimer QC to defend, and his arguments centred on calling a series of expert witnesses including an English professor to explain the etymology and meaning of the offending word, ‘bollocks’, and that it had in fact been used as a term of endearment used amongst clergymen, and won the case.
Whilst Never Mind the Bollocks gives a neat example of one form of attempted musical censorship, I was very taken with another different form, tucked away in a far corner of the exhibition, and involving a different type of professor. Here was a letter written by a young fan to Professor Green asking him very politely if he would consider refraining from swearing on future releases so that the boy’s father would allow him to purchase the Professor’s wares. It may not be the law, but there are lots of ways that access to music can be restricted, and access disrupted.