The Golden Gate

The Golden Gate

“Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart. You want to linger as long as possible.” (Walter Kronkite)


A Few Extra Notes: Music Tourism and the British Economy.


The iconic Pyramid stage at Glastonbury

Whilst the digital revolution has arguably thrown a few ‘bum notes’ at the current music industry, there remains reason to be hopeful. The current live music scene is truly thriving, and the best bit? It’s happening right here in Great Britain.

By way of counteracting what damage has been inflicted by music’s digitalisation, (namely the illegal download), a report by ‘VisitBritain’ and ‘UK Music’ sheds light on the astonishing contribution that music tourism brings to the otherwise ‘fraught’ British economy. Whilst lack of faithful support for artists at home may have dwindled for varying reasons, the surge in overseas interest in British music events in particular has seen significant financial gains for the industry.

Whilst live music events occur the world over, in many ways, Britain has been the pioneer of the music festival. Topping the charts as one of the biggest contributors to music tourism is the ever-popular Glastonbury festival, with ticket sales rocketing year on year.  According to a report by the BBC, in a record-breaking 27 minutes, all 120,000 tickets to the event in 2014 had sold out. With roughly 3,000 tickets being sold every minute, it is easy to account for the rise in popularity of these sorts of big music events around the world. As a festival that boasts one of the most extensive and exciting line-ups over three days, ‘Glasto’,as it is affectionately named, has played host to famous bands and solo artists including The Who, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and more recently, The Rolling Stones. Founder, Michael Eavis has been quoted to be extremely proud that Glastonbury contributes roughly 100 million pounds annually to the economy.

When we speak of ‘music tourism’, what we mean is the insurgence of individuals from overseas who purchase tickets to major events in the UK and then continue to generate revenue through spending money elsewhere. For example, as anyone who has ever been to a music festival will know, the cost of enjoying the music you came to see does not just stop at the purchase of one ticket alone. There is of course the cost of travelling to and from the location of the event, the necessity of feeding oneself, and of course the temptation to purchase merchandise that we can show off to our envious friends.

To put a figure on it, ‘Visit Britain’ claim that music tourism generates an impressive £2.2bn a year for the economy, whilst creating some 24,000 jobs for those involved in stewarding, policing and catering the major music events held around the country.

In addition to the revenue generated from gigs and festivals, music tourism also encapsulates the insurgence of people travelling from overseas to visit famous places depicted in album artwork. Whether you think that such artwork is high or, indeed, low culture, one thing is for sure, it is driving the tourist economy forwards in new ways.Put it this way, only the British music industry could turn a mundane zebra crossing in London into a major tourist destination. Made famous by those four working class Liverpool lads ‘The Beatles’,  locations such as Abbey Road, Waterloo, and even Carnaby Street have become heralded as some of London’s top sights of musical interest. As many of us know, the famous zebra crossing at Abbey Road has been mimicked in many ways, right down the the copycat version that can be sighted in the M&M’s factory. But whilst the ‘buzz’ of London streets may not seem anything out of the ordinary, the best bit about British music tourism is that it’s not ALL just about our capital city.

The benefits of a thriving live British music industry can be felt country-wide, with open-air festivals putting relatively low-profile locations on the map. Ultimately, this can only mean good things for local business and employability, something which local government needs to ‘tune-into’ if the gains are to be realised. Whilst Tinie Tempah may have ‘never been to Scunthorpe’, there are those who make the journey to less-popular locations in pursuit of musical thrill.

In a survey conducted by ‘UKMusic’, many people dub going to a festival more exciting than a sunny week holidaying in Spain. If this is true, it would seem that the UK is sitting on an asset of incredible value, and one that needs capitalising on more heavily perhaps. Ultimately, music tourism has been a phenomenon that has, for some reason, gone largely unnoticed, but whilst we continue to look at wholly unmeasured gains, we are losing out on increased local and even global prosperity.

If music tourism is to be taken seriously, we need both increased regional investment and government awareness to project the already astonishing contributions to our tourist economy even further than expected. Such action could ultimately serve as a catalyst for further economical development, something which would be welcomed by many.

As global tourism becomes synonymous with music tourism, it is clear to understand that when we were told that music was good for our well-being, we really weren’t being lied to. The influx of overseas interest in the British live music scene truly has been a real game-changer for the industry in our country, and its legacy looks set to continue for many years to come. The £2.2bn revenue that we receive as a result of such legacy is a great reason to celebrate not only the joy that music brings to the individual on a personal level, but also to the country on a more holistic level.

Whether you’re a die-hard music fan or not, one thing is for sure; tourism is certainly moving with the times, and its destination? : Music.


The Knowledge Economy Is Bust!

Should we go back to basics?

Should we go back to basics?

You don’t have to be an economist to know that cycles of boom and bust are an inevitable part of the financial circle, but if you aren’t all that tuned into the world of academia, it may not be so easy to identify the similar components of a flailing education system. Whilst we remain ever fixated upon the headlines, and ever hopeful that our investments in change will see us ‘better-off’, we may not, despite many modifications, be finding ourselves in receipt of the returns we had hoped for.

I will start the ‘totting-up’  with the plight of ‘online learning’ and its proliferation into the realm of teaching and knowledge acquisition. Great, we have

new technology to make our jobs easier, but the pressure of an increased web presence amongst schools and their teaching staff is fostering anxiety where it simply need not be fostered. The fascination with online courses, ‘webinars’ and Skype tutor support can be seen to take the attention away from the fundamental learning which occurs most commonly within the four walls of the traditional classroom. Whilst it is possible to see the benefits of such technological innovation being injected into professional practice, I can’t help but question…what is wrong with the ‘chalk and talk’ routine that we used to be so familiar with? In my opinion, despite the birth of our technological obsession, I don’t see why teachers ought to be pressured into delivering content in one way only. It is the nature of the beast that computerised systems often fail, and it is for this reason that I wonder if we would be better off less ‘whiz-bang’ and more, dare I say it, old-school.

The IT whiz-kids and corporate organisations are amongst those who truly have seen valuable returns, but meanwhile in the world of academia, teaching professionals have been dealing with programmed updates of their own whilst education secretary Michael Gove has continued to enforce wholly naïve and uninformed changes to the way in which teachers are expected to deliver content. As I have mentioned before, an almost unanimous feeling of distrust towards the man in question has seen an increase in the flagging morale of many a staffroom. Hardly a grade ‘A’ bonus.

Whilst there exists many reasons to speculate, admittedly it is easy to get carried away commenting upon the prominence of negative activity. Whilst teachers are facing incredibly daunting challenges, in my opinion, they cope with the everyday minefield of enriching youngsters’ minds exceptionally well. Despite the usual teenage angst,  I have yet to experience a teaching environment of some sort, where a pupil has not warmed to, or emulated a teacher’s position as a role model at some point in their lives. It is certainly applicable in my case. I went through my school years supported by a series of brilliant teachers, and it was precisely that experience that put me into the line of work I undertake now; teaching.

Is it hard? Yes.

Would I re-think my career on the basis of such difficulty? Never. It’s precisely what makes it interesting.

However, I am yet to feel like the system I engage with is fully competent and accomplished. At the end of the day, improvement is always a possibility. In a slapdash rush operation, fundamental key stage options for school children are picked earlier and earlier, something I feel is less than ideal. The age at which this now takes place increases the chance of backing students into a corner they may never escape from. Ultimately, this may serve to limit their future options and possibly lead them into careers they are not truly interested in pursuing.

With adaptation to the curriculum and a change in what subjects are seen to be of higher ‘importance’ than others, we have seen a reduction in the availability of the arts and even some of the humanities such as Sociology. Essentially, what this has meant has been hoards of youngsters taking courses unsuited to individual ambition. Hardly a system that is tailored to meet the needs of a diverse population now, is it?

On a more recent note, there are many parents who discredited the recent teacher-strikes. Understandable, but why should it be ok for those striking to suffer in silence? ‘Cheek’ and ‘laziness’ are two accusations I disagree on with a monumental intensity. Finding childcare when you work full time is tough, but if you find striking a balance between those two difficult, surely it is possible to appreciate the dichotomy teachers face in striking a balance between pointless policy and professional practice?

The truth in all of this, scarily, is this; it is no longer just our students who are looking at us zombie-faced and hopelessly demoralised. It is in actual fact the system itself. It is our teaching workforce, our government  and our newly-shaped classrooms. A real, unfortunate minefield of obscurities preventing any real progression into a position we are actually comfortable with.

If all that matters is measurable these days, then surely somebody needs to measure the extent to which all of this is actually functional.

Whether you believe the knowledge economy is in ‘boom’ or ‘bust’, one thing’s for sure, the changing landscape of learning is begging the question…when did we make room for the ignorance in education?

We mustn’t allow the system to fall victim to contemporary fabrication. After all, anyone who can spell will appreciate the difficulty of finding room to allow condemnation to fit anywhere into education.

Feminism Belongs in Schools (new tumblr blog):

I couldn’t contain my excitement when I came across this post!
Bringing together two of my favourite interests: education and feminism, it truly shows us the meaning of what ‘feminism’ really is. It’s EXTREMELY important to myth-bust preconceptions, especially when it is the next generation we are putting pressure upon to be the most ‘clued-up’ of us all. If we are ever to be an ‘equal’ society, and an ‘equal’ word, then the fundamental components of such equality need to be taught, and taught properly.

I find it offensive that so many people react to the word ‘feminism’ as if it were an obscenity- wake up, smell the coffee, and realise that feminism truly is a lot more than just ‘dungarees’ ‘hairy armpits’ and ‘bra-burning lesbians’.

The Economy Is Broken? Heck, Let’s Buy A New One!


The unexpected inspiration for today’s post came from yesterday’s trip to the bank.

Upon successfully paying in a cheque, the cashier rather tentatively asked me whether I would like to ‘upgrade’ to a ‘contactless card’. For those of you who are unsure as to what this means, a contactless card is a debit card that can be used in various shops, restaurants and other places of retail, to pay for expenses up to the value of £20 without the use of chip and PIN. Now, purely for the worry of security I respectfully declined the upgrade. If I no longer have the back-up of having to insert a 4 digit PIN-code before making a purchase, then doesn’t that leave me even more vulnerable to fraud? And that’s without the worry of accidentally being charged twice. Aside from all this, do we really need spending to be made more easy to execute in a time of economic struggle? I certainly need all the help I can get NOT to spend unnecessarily.

In my opinion, the introduction of the contactless card is just yet another facet of obsessive consumerism. Spending these days comes from the harsh emphasis upon material value and personal growth, and I’m a strong believer in the quote: “growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell”. That’s precisely what this is, a terminal disease, and it all comes down to the age old obsessive pursuit of the ‘American Dream’. A dream that for most, is unattainable, no matter how much we try to fool ourselves otherwise.

Consumerism runs in the veins, fuelled by malicious capitalism, it is self perpetuating and volatile, and in this way, notions of pleasure and reality have become scarily synonymous. This obsession we appear to have with relentless material self-improvement comes at a heavy price, and one that is financially far-removed. I’m talking about happiness. And once again, we find ourselves asking the question; ‘does money make us happy’?.

I’m not sure it does.

With the rise in buying on credit, the plastic pound, forged into the little rectangle that so many of us carry around in our wallets, has caused us a lifelong problem. Credit cards have become a convenience that all too many of us take for granted, and in turn, we are faced with the impending doom of lifelong debt and financial insecurity. The more we buy that we can’t truly afford, the more debt we acquire. It’s a simple cycle, but a vicious one at that, and the only people that really benefit in the long-run are lucrative money lending firms. Quids-in for them, luck-down for us.

Living beyond our means is a habit fostered through post-modernity. The buy now-pay later con attempts to gel the dichotomy between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’, but in real terms only makes the gap even more significant. And when the gap gets bigger, so does the level of humiliation that so many of us are forced to endure when we are branded as ‘failed consumers’. Can’t afford the latest Nike trainers? Failure. Savings don’t quite cover the cost of the newest smartphone. Failure.

It’s a shame. The MTV ‘Cribs’ lifestyle is drip-fed through a symbolic media intravenous-line that has led us to become an individualised society, and an unhappy one at that. Who was it that said money was the root to all evil? The consumerist lifestyle holds very little promise for long-term happiness.

The way I see it, we don’t have the autonomy we claim we have, we have a pipedream and obedience. Obedience in abundance. Keep your fancy car, I favour my happiness.

Boys will be boys?

If graduating in Sociology has taught me anything about masculinity, it’s that it is all backwards. Bullying, homophobia, racism, sexism and violence is NOT a fundamental part of being a ‘big’ man. It’s a fundamental way to lose respect. Fast.

Can You Relate?

Recently, my friend’s 9-year-old son came home sad and confused. He had gone to the park with some boys he did not know well.tough-boys

After tearing a wooden fence apart, throwing rocks at a squirrel, and announcing to one of the younger boys that his mother was a slut, the older boys turned on M. They asked him if he “had a slut.” When he asked what this meant, they told him a slut was a “girl to f**k.” He wasn’t totally sure what that meant, and he got scared. As he told his mother later “I got the feeling if I didn’t answer right, they would hurt me.”

Being one of the boys in that moment meant being destructive, suppressing any signs of empathy, selling out women you care about, and characterizing females by their sexual availability. The price for not participating in that masculinity is the threat of…

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By Gove: What An Idea!

'What's that you say? You want me to actually go into a REAL School?"

‘What’s that you say? You want me to actually go into a REAL School?”

Since publishing my last post, I couldn’t help but share in the delight of the 41,043 people who had signed an online petition to send Education secretary Michael Gove into a school to ‘teach for a term’. Presented in all it’s beauty, the petition on 38Degrees.Org calls for Michael Gove to gain himself some valuable experience in the classroom before bandying about anymore ‘suggestions’ on how the UK education system should function.  According to the petition, 45,000 signatures are required to make the action happen. Despite the target being not too far from reach, I can’t help but feel that it would take a little more than just an online petition to get the man in question in-front of an interactive whiteboard.

The idea to petition Gove to teach is a wonderful one, idyllic at most, but wonderful nonetheless. It is precisely the sort of camaraderie that teachers themselves need amidst the flagging morale of many a staff body, caused by the short-sighted vision of our current secretary of state for Education. In light of his, shall we say, ‘questionable’ reforms, sending Gove back to school may be just what he needs to help re-shape his quite frankly, wet, policies. Born out of the coalition government, this is the man we have to thank for injecting some good old fashioned political dogma into the textbooks of our next generation of adults.

With his ‘U-Turn’ policies on axing GCSE’s and reinstating the O-Level, it is quite clear to see that Gove, like his fellow conservative body, has a very stringent commitment to an age of austerity that is quite frankly, stifling by virtue of it’s very own nature. Like many of the much-appreciated ‘belly-ups’ we have seen from man of the hour, Mr David Cameron, it would seem that changes to our ‘big’ society and the education system alike are very much a case of looking forwards to a model past.

With the NUT this year announcing a unanimous vote of ‘no confidence’ in Michael Gove, it becomes all too clear that the majority of teachers who ‘operate’ in today’s modern classrooms (since they are of course, nothing but obedient machines to Mr Gove’s wild transformative ideas) think he has all the sense of a hen with his head cut off.

And I believe they have every reason to feel that way.

Amongst many of his futile changes to the system, Gove was responsible for introducing the idea of performance pay for academic staff, making salaries unequal, unfair, and unanimously un-repented for school heads who have ‘favourites’. Sure, it is important to reward excellence, but not if it exists to dampen the morale of those who may not be at the top of the tree just yet. Whilst we’re on the subject of dampened morale, lets explore how Michael Gove has bullied teachers into a climate of fear and insecurity through intimidating Ofsted inspections that now insist on a level of teaching that is so ‘Outstanding’, not even the Queen and her crown jewels could come close to such an unattainable standard, given the relentless changes that are contradictory in their nature, and continually put staff on the back-foot. Team this with axed pay and reduction in holiday and you start to get the picture. I think Gove has forgotten that teaching is far from a nine-to-five job. The after-school meetings, the parent review afternoons, the commitment to leading lunch-time and after-school extra curricular activities, and that’s without the intimidating stacks of marking that greet you upon your return home.

What about fewer teaching assistants? That seems like a good idea, doesn’t it? Take away help and support where it’s needed most, and let pupil’s fight for the attention of one teacher in large classes of thirty. That must be the best way to raise academic achievement and make the tory government look like they’re achieving something under the steam of a workforce of teachers who fail to find themselves in receipt of the due respect they deserve. More than that, what about those who wish to pursue a career in teaching, but first want some experience without the full-on responsibility of managing a whole class of their own? The opportunities will soon disappear if Cameron’s gang persist in reaching out with one hand, and snatching with the other.

If we move away from these immediate concerns, and take a look at Gove’s proposed History curriculum, it is possible to see just how wrong he keeps getting it. Although somewhat admirably patriotic, (are we trying to make up for something here?), the new curriculum focuses far too heavily on English history alone, leaving us with the worry of students who may soon become disenchanted with the content they are given to devour, as it bears little significance to the multicultural world in which they are living. Having written a 10,000 word dissertation on the nature of the secondary curriculum, and interviewed students myself, I can assure you that this Is very much an important concern for pupils.

An honest opinion? Of course, I’m all in for driving-up standards, just not if it comes at the expense of suffocating a passion for teaching in the first place. Schools DO need the right teachers for the job, but those teachers only become the ‘right’ ones when given the correct support and the chance to employ best practice as a matter of routine. Neither of which are being provided whilst Gove continues to exercise his ill-informed ‘expertise’.

I, for one have signed the petition, what about you?


In what may be the biggest, and, possibly most pernicious battle since Michael Gove versus the UK education system, my better judgement and I have been sparring over the decision to begin writing an online blog.

In light of what you are reading now, it looks like my capacity for obeying better judgement has been relinquished in place of an impending need to occupy oneself with creativity through the written word. Having already committed myself to an online poetry community several years ago, the choice to begin tapping away at the keyboard has most likely been an inevitable by-product of boredom; the love child of tedium and monotony. Whatever the reason, whether it be boredom or self-indulgence, (or most likely a combination of the two), I am already forming sentences, which means the incessant ramble has well and truly begun from here on out.

The human race, and the extremely complex little world in which it exists is a trivial, and often frustrating force to grapple with. So expect updates, regular and futile. Until then, it’s time to resign to the fact that Monday morning is already rearing its prosperous little head, and that mine is instinctively starting to draw itself nearer to the pillow.