Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Was There

The onset of modern technology means that television programmes have never been cheaper to produce. After all, what is the point in spending large amounts of money on directors, film crews and technicians, or royalties to other production companies, when it is possible to produce a television programme entirely from ‘scraps’ of video footage taken by members of the public on their camcorders and mobile phones.

ITV’s flagship news review programme of 2006 does just this, the programme which is to be broadcast at 10pm on New Year’s Eve is called ‘I was there: The People's Review 2006’ and has been produced by Endemol UK from dozens of clips of video footage of the news events of the year, as taken by members of the general public.

I myself was invited to contribute to this programme with video footage of the media awaiting Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond’s exit from Leeds General Infirmary, which an Endemol researcher found on my YouTube page. Unfortunately I have never received confirmation that the footage is being used, which probably means that the footage wont be featured in the programme. Never the less, my video recorder will be set….just in case!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Season's Greetings (tinged with sadness)

It's Christmas time, with mistletoe, wine and X-Factor winner Leona Lewis taking the number one spot in the charts - well done to her, and I'm sure that her future music career will be longer lived than previous reality TV music show winners such as Hear'Say and Michelle McManus.
A very sad piece of news is that music industry legend, and 'Godfather of Soul' James Brown has sadly passed away in the early hours of Christmas morning. Brown, whose 50 year career has generated such hits as 'Sex Machine', 'Living in America' and 'Say it Loud, I'm Black and Proud' died of Pneumonia in a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a true entertainer, a 20th Century showbiz legend, and will be sorely missed. RIP James Brown.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Media Labelling

The tragic murder of five young women in Suffolk has highlighted a distasteful trend in labelling that is inherent in broadcast media institutions. Rather than refer to the five dead women as ‘women’ they are referred to as ‘prostitutes’. In doing this the media is subversively creating a mental image to its viewers, listeners and readers that five dead prostitutes are not as ‘good’ or ‘worthy’ as five dead other women. Indeed it may also imply to some that perhaps the women deserved it because they worked as prostitutes. Had the women all worked in factories it would be unlikely that they would have been referred to as five dead factory workers. Even the BBC is guilty of labelling the dead women as prostitutes, as in this example here.

It may be a bitter pill for those wanting to create attention grabbing headlines to swallow, but the dead women were people, and that is how they should be remembered, rather than as the profession that they were forced into to aid their drug addictions.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

REVIEW: Flat Stanley, West Yorkshire Playhouse

Flat Stanley is a children’s story that was written by Jeff Brown and first published in 1964. In the story Stanley Lambchop becomes flat when he is crushed by a bulletin board that falls on him in bed whilst he is sleeping. Stanley is discovered the next morning by his parents (Mom and Dad Lambchop) and brother Arthur. They set about trying to find out if he will recover, by taking him to the doctor, to discover that nobody knows what his fate will be. During the story Stanley gets into all manner of adventures including being lowered down a drain to find a ring, sliding under doors, being turned into a kite and flown in the park, and disguising himself as a painting to catch an art thief.

Flat Stanley has been adapted for the stage by Mike Kenny and performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse by a cast of four British actors: Stewart Cairns (Stanley); Ian Bonar (Arthur); Lisa Howard (Mom); and Robin Simpson (Dad). All actors also play a variety of other characters including New York Cops, Doctor, Museum Manager and thief. Their performances as an all American family (and others) are superb, with the accents and mannerisms down to a tea.

When Stanley becomes ‘flat’, he is walked around as a puppet by ‘round’ i.e. ‘normal’ Stanley – actor Stewart Cairns who is also plainly visible working the puppet – as a concept this works well, and after a while you tend to stop noticing the presence of the actor, and focus on the Puppet. The play also features several annoyingly catchy tunes – especially the egg song ‘fried, boiled, poached, scrambled, yum, yum yum, yum, yum’ being one of them (which four days later is still in my head).

The suggested ages that this play would appeal to, are three to seven year olds, however there are a sprinkling of ‘adult’ jokes that the kids just wont get to keep Mums and Dads amused too (a few more would have been even better). This is the first ever stage adaption of Flat Stanley, and after seeing it, one can’t help but wonder if in future years a big screen version will follow.

Flat Stanley is running at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until the 13th January, tickets are priced £8.00.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

VISIT: Tropical World

Picture this, a desert island situated somewhere in the tropics, where sandy beaches meet both rain forests, and arid deserts. A place where all manner of flora and fauna surround you, including palm tress, cactus, bearded dragons and meerkats. A mysterious island, where tropical birds and butterflies fly past in abundance, and where giant carp swim in misty waters. At night there is only darkness, yet nature is still active, as fruit bats fly silently past and snakes hunt blindly for the infra red signature of their next rodent meal. This could be Fiji or Papua New Guinea, but it isn’t, this is Roundhay, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. Welcome to Tropical World – one of the cities most popular attractions, the location of our last visit this semester, and a great place to spend a cold and windy day in December.

A resting butterfly

A meerkat

Tropical World is owned and operated by Leeds City Council’s Department of Learning and Leisure, and is a part of Roundhay Park Estate. It was originally a Victorian greenhouse that featured tropical plants. In the 1980s it opened as a tourist attraction and a registered zoo, in 2005 it received 400,000 visitors. It is covered by the Zoo Licensing Act, and was inspected only last week. As a zoo it has an education and conservation remit, and participates in rare breeds breeding programmes. It is also a member of the Federation of Zoological Gardens of Great Britain and Ireland.

Waterfall posers

We were met by Catherine Bowhill Roundhay Park’s Visitor and Retail Manager, Catherine’s team looks after all of the parks retail, customer service, and admissions functions. There is also a garden team, who maintain the gardens and parkland, and an animal team who are concerned with looking after Tropical World’s animal collection. We began the visit with some history and background information from Catherine, before walking around the facility and then meeting Catherine again for a question and answer session. What follows is some of the information that we found out about Tropical World.

A row of butterfly chrysali

Human Resources

Tropical World has ten members of staff most of whom are full-time and a volunteer worker. Staff are employed in a variety of roles, including the gift shop, and animal carers. The calibre of applicants for vacancies is usually high, as roles in an attraction such as this are in demand from professionals who want to work in this type of environment. Animal specialists are recruited via the BIAZA website.


Tropical World has no set marketing budget, yet it does participate in a variety of marketing activities, including promotion via the Leeds and Breeze Cards websites, which gives card holders free admission into the facility. Admission prices are normally Adults £3, Children £2, and under eight year olds free. This means that the attraction, being family orientated receives many non-paying visitors.

Tropical world is also promoted via the council website, and through leaflet drops. Typically 80,000 leaflets are produced annually, 60,000 of which are distributed via Audiences Yorkshire. The attraction also has membership of the Yorkshire Tourist Board via Leeds City Council, and is also promoted through Gateway Yorkshire. It also has tie-ins with local media such as Magic 828 who promoted the recent Roundhay Park bonfire, and Real Radio who are promoting the forthcoming ‘Totally Tropical Christmas’ that will feature a steel band, Christmas lights, and ‘Rum Shack’ (serving orange juice!).


During Summer Tropical World is open from 10:00am until 18:00, and in Winter from 10:00am until 16:00 – this is because the attraction does not have any lights in the main glass house and relies on natural light for visitors to see where they are going. The attraction has a capacity of 1,500 visitors at any one time, and during peak periods (School Holidays, Public Holidays and weekends) regularly reaches capacity levels, which can cause congestion problems. Accidents are rare, risk assessments need to be carried out wherever visitors and animals can come into contact – including ‘meet the keeper’ sessions where the zoo keepers can bring out animals for visitors to see, touch and hold.


Tropical World does not consider any of the other Leeds attractions that have animals as direct competitors, as none of them offer what Tropical World does, in Leeds the attraction sees itself as being unique, with the closest other Zoo being at Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire. Other animal attractions in Leeds include: Lotherton Hall; Harewood House; Temple Newsam; Pudsey Pets; and Meanwood Valley Urban Farm.

As a group we spent an hour looking around the facility, a highlight of the tour was Paul the Zoo keeper introducing the group to a bearded dragon, and a carpet snake. Most of the group went with a pre-conception that Tropical World would be an attraction for children, and that it probably wouldn’t appeal to them. I’m pleased to say that the general consensus was that it was it was enjoyed thoroughly, leaving positive comments in the visitor book, and no doubt a repeat visit in future.

Above, the girls get to grips with some of Tropical World's residents.

Meet the Keeper

Many thanks to Catherine Bowhill, and Carol Fenner (Visitor Services Manager) for their valuable time and making this visit possible.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

REVIEW: The Wonder Stuff @ The Cockpit, Leeds, 04/12/06

The Wonder Stuff have been around for twenty years (albeit with a six year break from 1994 to 2000). Their debut album ‘The Eight Legged Groove Machine’ received much acclaim from independent music fans from across Britain and beyond, in an era when the youth were being swept along in a late 80s / early 90s tide of alternative rock and indie Brit pop. At the time the Wonder Stuff were one of three bands (‘Pop Will Eat Itself’ and ‘Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’ being the others) from Stourbridge in the West Midlands who were laying down their own regional challenge to the might of ‘Madchester’ and the plethora of alternative and indie artists coming out of what was (and arguably still is) the North’s most ‘mad for it’ musical city.

Due to personal differences with band members (including lead singer Miles Hunt) original bassist Rob Jones (known as ‘The Bass Thing’) left in the late eighties, and later died of a suspected drugs overdose in 1993. Drummer Martin Gilks also sadly died earlier this year in a motorbike accident. Today the band line up is Miles Hunt (lead vocals and guitar), Malcolm Treece (guitar and vocals), Andres Karu (drums), Mark McCarthy (bass), and Erica Nockalls (fiddle).

Not only has the Wonder Stuff’s present line up altered, their image has certainly (and thankfully) changed, gone are the long hair, eccentric tartan suits, smiley bandanas and round sunglasses, replaced with dark faded casuals, complimented by black dress and bold lipstick chic from Erica. The band have lost little of their energy in the last twenty years, and are still producing punchy indie-pop tunes with good humoured lyrics, there most recent release being the single ‘Blah Blah La Di Da’.

The last time I saw the Wonder Stuff was as the Friday night headliners at the Reading Festival in 1992, where they rocked a 60,000 strong crowd, on this particular night they were playing at the Cockpit in Leeds, to an audience of less than 500. The band began with several more recent tracks from their 2004 album ‘Escape from Rubbish Island’ and their 2006 album ‘Suspended by Stars’, which were pretty good, but evidently not what the crowd of mostly thirty-somethings had come to hear. A calm began to descend over the audience, at which point lead singer Miles Hunt made a remark about ‘playing in a morgue’. At this point the crowd started shouting out old song titles, and the band duly obliged creating movement in front of the stage to classics including ‘It’s yer Money I’m After Baby’, ‘Poison’ and ‘Unbearable’.

The Cockpit allows the audience to get very close to the band on stage, which opens up the opportunity for banter between band and audience, something which Miles relished. ‘I went to see the Cult recently’ claimed Miles ‘Ian Astbury actually apologised for playing new stuff….well I wont’ what followed was a mixture of contemporary Wonder Stuff heavy on Erica’s Fiddle, which certainly gave the band a very ‘Levellers’ sound, and more classic tracks from the albums ‘Hup’, ‘Never Loved Elvis’ and ‘Construction for the Modern Idiot’. The audience relished it, and something that actually resembled a mosh pit appeared in front of the stage participated in by a smattering of over dressed thirty-somethings, teenage indie-kids, a young punk rocker, and a t-shirtless skinhead!

The band overplayed their 10:30 curfew with red wine swigged from bottles and three encores, again featuring a cross section of Wonder Stuff music from the 1980s to the present day. It had been over fourteen years since I last saw the Wonder Stuff, and I have to say that I enjoyed this gig as much as I did the last one, on that barmy evening in a Reading field.

The Wonder Stuff began life as an indie-band, they grew to the dizzy heights of headline act at both the Reading 92 and Phoenix 94 festivals, as well as holding their own stadium gig at Walsall Football Club. In Miles own words ‘last night’s audience in Sheffield have paid for us to get to Leeds…we’re an indie band again now’, they certainly look and sound like they are enjoying it.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

VISIT: Hyde Park Picture House

The building that is the Hyde Park Picture House (HPPH) has stood proudly on the corner of Brudenell Road and Queens Road in LS6 for 98 years, for the last 92 of these years it has operated as a cinema. Whilst the area around the picture house has experienced numerous transformations - including an influx of student residents, the picture house itself, has managed to retain its original character through careful refurbishment of this grade two listed building.

In 2005 the 270 seat cinema had 961 performances watched by 42,000 visitors generating £180,000 revenue from ticket and kiosk sales. HPPH is owned and operated by Leeds City Council, it is also a registered charity. It predominantly shows independent, art house and foreign language films, with children’s films being shown on a Saturday afternoon.

The Entertainment Management group visited HPPH on Monday afternoon, and had a tour and talk from Manager Wendy Cook. What follows is a brief summary of some of the key points made by Wendy during the visit.

Facilities Management

In the independent cinema sector, it is not uncommon for one cinema to make use of another cinema’s hand-me-downs. This has been the case at HPPH where both carpets, seating and projectors which are 50-60 years old, (pictured left) from the now closed Lounge Cinema in Headingley were used to refurbish HPPH. There is also a clock next to the main screen (unusual for a cinema) which came from another cinema in Scotland.

Any refurbishment needs to retain the existing character of the building, these include the cinema’s gas lights – which are still in working order. In the near future a new fire alarm system will be installed with costs expected to be £10,000 - £15,000, and the cinema roof is to be replaced in the next ten years. There are also hopes of a future extension to the current building with a second screen being installed, as well as a disabled toilet.

The seats, and screen covered with the curtain - the clock is to the right of the screen

Disability Support

Due to the buildings age and listed status, modernisation is limited, this has meant limited access for wheel chair users. Under the reasonable adjustment clause of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) HPPH can show subtitled films, and provide water bowls for guide dogs. There are plans to install a hearing loop to assist those who use a hearing aid.


The unique selling point of HPPH is the building itself along with its history. Competition locally from independent and art house cinemas comes only from Cottage Road Cinema in Headingley. However large multiplexes such as Vue Cinema at Kirkstall and in the Light do now sometimes show art house films that once would have not been associated with multiplexes. Due to the fact that HPPH only has one screen it is limited to only showing two or three performances per day, which puts it at a disadvantage to the larger multiplexes that have a greater capacity.

The Film Hire Process

HPPH can show films in traditional 35mm reel or digital formats (including DVDs). Historically, film distribution companies would charge either a minimum amount per film, or a percentage of door receipts. This would sometimes be as high as 35-40% in the first two weeks of a film being released, ‘big’ films such as Harry Potter and Sin City would inevitably cost more, often 50-60%.

Films are now hired through City Screen Virtual who are an independent booker that hire films from distribution companies. For this service HPPH pay a fee of £6,000 per year. There are also financial rewards for City Screen Virtual if HPPH receives over 32,000 visitors per year. This gives City Screen Virtual the incentive to give HPPH films that will attract good numbers of visitors – which is often down to how films are marketed, there is a clear relationship between promotion, and numbers of visitors per film.

The view of the screen from the projectionists room

Human Resources

The cinema has eleven members of paid staff, undertaking roles including projectionist, cleaner, and front of house, it also utilises a number of volunteer workers, who in return for their endeavours can watch performances free of charge.


This was acknowledged as being ‘ad-hoc’ in the past, but now the cinema has a new website, and a marketing package that includes a brochure that features adverts from other entertainment attractions. HPPH rarely pay to advertise in other publications.

Other Factors

The location of HPPH is perceived as being ‘unsavoury’ by some visitors, other people have admitted that its location has put them off of visiting.

Audiences in the main comprise of students, long term ‘HPPH veterans’, and young professionals.

Advertising through Carlton Screen provides an additional regular income stream.

There is a ‘Friends of Hyde Park Picture House’ association whose patron is Ken Loach.

The Kiosk

Many thanks to Wendy Cook and Leeds City Council for an extremely interesting visit.

Monday, November 20, 2006

REVIEW: Messe Berlin

Messe Berlin is a company that specialise in exhibitions, conventions and trade fairs, they run a complex owned by the State of Berlin, which is the tenth largest exhibition centre in the world hosting 80 international trade events annually. From the air the Messe Berlin complex looks huge, consisting of 26 buildings, most of which are enormous exhibition halls, boasting 160,000 square metres of floor space, that when dormant stand like empty aircraft hangars, awaiting a new exhibition, convention, or trade fair to begin.

Inside part of one of the empty exhibition halls

These are not the only activities that occur at the Messe Berlin, the complex is also used as a location for recording television programmes and films – each empty exhibition hall, makes a perfect ‘blank canvas’ into which a set can be designed. Outdoors the complex has an additional 100,000 square metres that includes the Sommergarten (Summer Garden) in the middle of the complex, which in the Summer months hosts open air concerts, and the Berlin Radio Tower which at 150 metres tall (with antenna), gives a fantastic view, not only over the complex – but over the entire city also.

I was fortunate enough to be visiting a Leeds Met student on work placement at the Messe Berlin, and was given a behind the scenes tour of the complex. During my visit there was a trade fair in full swing called ‘Import Shop’ that featured a global array of everything from ethnic foods, to candles, handbags, beads, paintings, wood carvings and delicate metalwork. My visit took place on a Thursday, but it was still a very busy time, with many shoppers actively searching for unusual Christmas gifts.

It has to be said, however that the highlight of the visit was the opportunity to go up the metal radio tower. The tower known locally as the ‘Funkturm Berlin’ was built in 1926 and is now a protected monument. It has its own restaurant mid-way up, where diners can see views over the city. At the top observation deck it is possible to go outside and feel the wind on your face whilst viewing the City 125 metres below. Truly spectacular, very entertaining, and most certainly worthy of experiencing for anyone visiting Berlin.

The lift ride up the tower

Aerial view over the Messe Berlin Sommergarten

Lift ride back down the tower

My thanks go to Lena Brockman and the staff at the Messe Berlin for their kindness and hospitality.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

REVIEW: Leeds Christmas Lights 2006

On Thursday 9th November 2006, Leeds Christmas lights were switched on by the band McFly who headlined a mixed cast of celebrities from the worlds of theatre, television, radio and music, these included the choir singers Angelis, Gaynor Faye, Jane Tomlinson, Santa and friends and the cast of the Wizard of Oz from West Yorkshire Play House. Once again Leeds City Council opted to hold this annual event in Victoria Gardens.

We (two adults, two children) arrived at 7:15am and struggled to get anywhere near the front without risking harm to the kids, so had to stand to the left of the stage as one faces it. As adults we could see the large screen, but not the stage due to its distance, and obstruction by a number of objects including lamp posts, traffic lights and trees. The childrens' entertainment was all well and good for those children that could see it, but for those children who couldn’t, it was all a bit of a waste of time. Children who were hoisted onto parents shoulders then blocked the view for adults standing behind them, which resulted in ‘pools’ of space and several choice words directed at parents - from those spectators whose views had been blocked.

The distant stage

WHY Leeds City Council still continue to use this venue when there is a purpose built and sloping spectator arena 100 metres away in Millennium Square is simply beyond me, but one suspects that it may be pressure from shop owners who use the night as their first official night of late night opening in the run up to Christmas (Millennium Square is just that little bit further away from the shops).

The Headrow around Victoria Gardens had been closed off meaning that people were standing in the road and on the pavement – unfortunately this meant that a number of people trying to get through crowds were tripping up and down kerbs – I have no idea what medical mishaps were reported that night, but the risk of sprained or broken ankles was a dangerous possibility.

Mcfly played three songs (That Girl, Please Please, and Sorry’s Not Good Enough) before leaving the stage and returning to press the button for the ten second countdown which culminated in strings of coloured bulbs being illuminated around the streets of Leeds City Centre. After the lights came on fireworks were launched from somewhere too distant for them to be properly viewed by half of the crowd due to the height of the surrounding buildings. In previous years this has never been a problem, but this time the fireworks were launched from much too far away – most likely due to health and safety restrictions, which are largely sterilising (and for me spoiling) what used to be good entertainment. Another recent example of this was at Leeds City Council’s bonfires which burned only wooden packing crates, and had barriers around them so that spectators were so far away, that the heat from the fire could not be felt – which is half of the novelty when the outside temperature is only 4 degrees Celsius.

The obstructed view of the fireworks

One of the presenters on stage stated that the crowd was 30,000 strong – please let me take this opportunity to say that this was a complete over-estimate. I have seen a crowd of 30,000 – and this fell way short of it, 20,000 maximum would have been a more honest and accurate assessment, and at least half of these people would not have been able to see the stage, or would have had an obstructed view.

The crowd - nearer 20,000 than 30,000

The next day I decided to have a walk around to take some photographs as the stage was dismantled, in order to better illustrate the inadequacy of Victoria Gardens as a venue, and how Millennium Square would have made a more suitable arena for this occasion and would do for future Christmas Light launches.

Victoria Gardens - the area if front of the stage with a good view is very limited in size

Trees provide an obstruction - hidden kerbs provide a hazard

Posts on the Headrow - more obstructions

Traffic lights on the headrow - more obstructions, and again the dangers of hidden kerbs in crowds.

Millennium Square - purpose built and sloping, this would have made a much more suitable venue, it could even feature a large illuminated Christmas tree at the bottom (like in City Square) as a focal point for when the lights are switched on.

Come on Leeds City Council, get it right for 2007 – you KNOW that it makes sense.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

VISIT: The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television

At the halfway point of Semester one, the group visited the cumbersomely named National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, which is based in Bradford City Centre and will now be referred to as NMPFT or simply 'the museum'.

After a quick brunch in the museum cafeteria, we made our way to the new TV Heaven suite where we were given a talk by the museum Marketing Officer Steve Hyman. Steve who is one of a three strong marketing team (Marketing Manager, Officer, and Assistant) has worked at the museum for five years, during which time the museum has peaked in terms of visitor numbers, and is now experiencing a period of slight decline. Since 1983 the museum has attracted over 11 million visitors, however in the product life cycle NMPFT has now passed the saturation and maturity stages, and is experiencing fewer visitor numbers than it was both six years ago (1 million in 2000) and three years ago (750,000 in 2003). In order to combat this, and to modernise the image of what already is quite 'cutting edge' as far as museums go, the museum is being officially renamed and rebranded later this month. To exactly what Steve would not reveal, however my guess of the National Museum of Media, proved to be rather close to the mark, when Steve later accidentally said 'the National Media Museum' as he talked about the museums future (you read it here first). One positive that it is hoped to achieve from the renaming of the museum is a universally recognised name, at present it is known by a variety of pseudonyms, including; the TV museum; the film museum; the photo museum; the Bradford museum; and the IMAX museum. The National Media Museum will focus heavily on new media and multimedia technology alongside its present TV, photography, and film core. The National Media Museum will not particularly focus on printed media in the first instance.

The Museum is centrally located in Bradford near to the Alhambra Theatre

Throughout his talk, Steve also revealed the following information about the museum:


The annual marketing budget is £250,000 this is spent on the following; information and marketing literature; a 6,000 strong mailing list; radio advertising (Pulse and Real Radio); poster sites; an email distribution list; press advertisements (including the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, Yorkshire Post, and the Guardian Guide); a website; market research (including an annual exit survey); and collaborative promotional schemes with other major Yorkshire tourist attractions in a scheme called Yorkshire's Magnificent Attractions. All of the above is referred to as 'above the line' marketing, there is also 'below the line' marketing, which has the advantage of being free, and includes public relations activities - namely press and media releases being circulated within the local media in order to generate interest stories and keep the museum in the the eyes of the public.

A recent marketing campaign to boost the museum for October half term week, which included radio adverts, posters, and a mail shot helped to contribute to the museum receiving 23,000 visitors during that period - a demonstration of the importance of making promotional activities both targeted and timely.

Visitors to the museum are divided into three categories: the family market; lovers of... (enthusiasts); and the hard to reach. Research by the museum suggests that most visitors come from within a 1 1/2 hour to two hour drive time radius, and that most make the decision to visit either on the day, or very close to the day of visit.


The museum employs a variety of staff in differing roles, these include the following: Box Office and Front Desk Staff (who must be welcoming and courteous); Cinema Ushers for the three cinemas, roles include meet and greet, ticket ripping, handing out and collecting in 3D glasses, and cleaning the cinema between performances; four call centre staff for handling enquiries; curators who put displays together; and subject specialists that are on hand to answer questions.


The fact that the museum is an indoor attraction can be both a help and a hindrance, for people who may want to escape from or enjoy the weather. The museum is free entry and always has been (unlike some other National Collections), however it is not cheap to maintain (the recently created Production Zone cost £3m) so income generation is key. The museum is a charity, but also draws funding from: the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS); private sponsors (there is a thank you wall of stars with sponsor names on, on the ground floor of the museum; and internal income generation from the cinemas, cafe, gift shop, conferencing, and other internal pay in attractions.

The wall of stars (corporate sponsors and backers)

The museum has a corporate hire department and is often used as a conference venue, which can utilise unused capacity in the cinemas outside of their normal opening hours, there is also an 80 seat meeting room.

Other Facts

NMPFT is a part of the National Museum of Science and Industry, and opened in June 1983, it had a major refurbishment and extension built in 1999.

NMPFT has three cinemas which are: the Pictureville Cinema and the Cubby Brocolli Cinema which both show 'art house' films, and do not generally open until 3pm; and the giant screen
IMAX cinema which is very popular and was the first in Europe.

NMPFT hosts three festivals: the Bradford Film Festival; the Bradford Animation Festival; and the Bite the Mango Film Festival.

Bradford was chosen as a location for the museum due to its post industrial regeneration activities, it was thought that the museum would help to boost tourism to Bradford, which would aid regeneration.

The museum has a number of interactive galleries spread over seven floors including: the Animation gallery; the Kodak gallery (the history of photography); Experience TV - the story of television; TV Heaven - an on demand facility allowing visitors to watch archived television episodes; the Production zone; the BBC Bradford Studio - home to production teams for BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Asian Network and BBC Look North; and Gallery one and two (currently showing photography displays 'The Old and the New' by P.H. Emmerson, and 'The British Landscape' by John Davies.

Live radio broadcasts are made from the museum

The museum does not open on Mondays, apart from in school holidays, and on Bank Holidays.

After our talk we had an hour to view the galleries, which were extremely busy with at least three local school parties, and a large group of mid-teen German students. The investment in keeping the galleries cutting edge with technology, as well as attractive in terms of visual display was self evident, and certainly merited a longer future visit. at 1pm we watched a 3-D IMAX screening of 'Sharks' which was beautifully shot, but was not the most effective of 3-D films that I personally have seen there. I will be coming back though (with family) for the Christmas 3-D computer animated feature length film 'Santa VS the Snowman 3-D' as the trailer was superb - and 'in your face' as 3-D should be.

A variety of galleries and displays

Many thanks to Steve and the very helpful staff at the National Media Museum (shhh) for an informative, interactive, and enjoyable visit.

Monday, October 23, 2006

VISIT: Wakefield Theatre Royal

Today the group visited Wakefield Theatre Royal, which was built in 1894. We were given a tour and a talk by Murray Edwards, who is the theatre’s Chief Executive. The theatre has 499 seats divided into three levels, the gallery, the dress circle and the balcony – which used to charge differing prices and reflected class and social status, although today all seating prices are the same (prices vary by performance between £10 and £22.50). The seats are refurbished cinema seats that still help to maintain the Victorian ambience of the theatre, along with an ornately decorated ceiling and excellent acoustics provided by the shape of the auditorium. When the seats were refurbished they were reduced in number due to balcony areas being used for lighting, and also due to health and safety considerations. The theatre building has limited heating and air conditioning facilities, and the temperatures inside can often reflect the temperatures outside – especially when it is hot in summer.

The converted cinema seating

The maintained Victorian decor, including ceiling vent

The building was originally used as a theatre, in the 1930s it became a cinema until the 1970s, when it was converted into a bingo hall. In 1981 the building was purchased for £100,000 to be converted back into a theatre, which took five years in total. The theatre was awarded a grade two star listed building status, which meant that it could not be pulled down, and could only be used as a theatre. Due to the building’s age there are high maintenance fees and in 1995 a further £250,000 was spent on refurbishments, followed by another £250,000 between 2002 and 2003.

Murray addresses the group from the balcony

The view from the stage, with the lighting rigs lowered

The backstage area of the theatre is currently very small, this can be problematic when there are large performances that may involve as many as 150 members of the cast and crew. In May 2006 planning was granted for a brand new ‘state of the art’ extension to the current premises that will help with such capacity issues. The new extension is set to include facilities such as a split level foyer with bar and cafe areas, new box office facilities, lift access to all levels, an education suite and a brand new state of the art studio space.

Backstage - the store of painted 'back drops'

Under the stage - the sprung trap door that can be used in performances

The theatre employs five technical staff which is an increase from two – this is due largely to the wider range of performance types that the theatre runs. The theatre has charitable status, and receives funding from the Arts Council and Wakefield City Council, it has a turnover of £1 million per year. Annually the theatre runs 250 performances, 65% of which are put on by the theatre, and 35% of which are put on by organisations such as schools and societies. By far the biggest selling product in the theatre’s year is pantomime. This makes up 30% of all output (60 performances out of the 250 per annum), and generates £60,000-£80,000. The panto season may attract 25,000 visitors – which is a gateway to other future theatre performances. Over the year, the theatre runs at 60% of its seating capacity, with some performances sold out, and others under-sold. The theatre is considered a cultural and educational resource for the community, and also helps to run initiatives such as anti-bullying programmes with schools, no smoking initiatives with the local Primary Care trust, as well as culturally inclusive programmes.

In terms of marketing there are six main mediums by which the theatre communicates with the public, these are: brochures; letters; website; posters; broadcast emails; broadcast text messages. Louise the Sales and Marketing manager estimated that it took four contacts with a customer to generate a sale. The biggest single sales driver is the brochure which is responsible for 70% of ticket sales – when a ticket is sold it is recorded how the person heard about the performance. Public Relations i.e. stories in the local media are also used to raise the public’s awareness of the theatre.

Many thanks to Murray and Louise, for an attention-grabbing look into the running of Wakefield Theatre Royal.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Have You Retuned Your Digi Box?

This week the UK's fifth and newest terrestrial television channel - Channel 5 released two new digital channels, Five US, and Five Life. As the name suggests Five US is devoted to showing only American programmes and films, and Five Life to chat, home, garden and lifestyle programmes (traditionally day-time TV). This 'specialising' of TV channels is an example of segmentation that has largely occurred in the UK since the onset of subscription and digital TV. The UK is set to become the world's first country to switch off analogue transmission of TV broadcasts, relying solely on digital signals, this will happen between 2008 and 2012, read more about it here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

VISIT: Barnsley Football Club

Today the group visited Oakwell Stadium – home of Barnsley Football Club. We were shown around by Dave Hancock (DH) the BFC Academy Manager, Dave’s many years of experience were evident in his insightful yet down to earth approach to the subject of the running of a football club and sport’s stadium.

We entered into the stadium which has an approximate capacity of 23,500, with the smallest stand (West Stand) holding 1,500 spectators, and the largest stand (East Stand) holding 12,000, the remaining 10,000 seats are divided between the behind goal stands – 6,000 in the ‘Away’ North Stand, and 4,000 in the Enterprise Stand.

The North Stand

The group walk from the East to the North Stand

We then visited the East Stand ground floor concourse, which was a concreted area that on match days has franchise run bar / catering facilities and a bookmakers. The catering is currently run on a franchise basis partly due to the low profit margins. DH informed us that on match days this is a busy area that is accessed through turnstiles and monitored by stewards.

The East Stand Lower Concourse

DH informed us that football fans are fickle and results orientated, if the team have a losing streak (and they are currently 5th from the bottom of the division after losing to local rivals Sheffield Wednesday) attendances can drop dramatically. The club has 4,500 hard core fans (fan is an abbreviation of fanatic) who come irrespective of how the team are playing or what division they are in, and has sold 5,000 season tickets this season. Outside of the hardcore fans the majority of the rest of the supporters come to be entertained – if they entertainment is poor, they may not come back again. When Barnsley were in the Premier League (97-98 season) attendances were on average between 17,000 and 18,000. When the club were relegated attendances dropped to around 12,000, and when they were relegated again into league one attendances dropped to just 7,000. In May 2006 Barnsley reached the play off final in Cardiff against Swansea City, which Barnsley won 4-3 on penalties, 25,000 Barnsley fans travelled down to South Wales, now the team are back in the Coca Cola championship attendances are averaging at around 10,000. This is evidence enough that a healthy fan base is there, and are present when the results are going the teams way.

Football can be an expensive day out, with entry prices at Oakwell between £18 - £22 per adult, and a bottle of water costing £1.80 – many of the local population simply cannot afford to partake in this on a regular basis. On the East Stand lower concourse there were empty advertising boards (unsold marketing space), DH told us that selling marketing space can be problematic as it is not only tied to results, they are now competing with other local sports teams (and not just football). DH stressed that there is a real need to get the youngsters in early so that they become fans at an early age and choose Barnsley FC as their preferred team to other local rivals (Doncaster Rovers, Rotherham United, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Leeds United). This helps protect future income streams from youngsters when they grow up, and their parents as they do. As part of this strategy the club is offering a free child ticket if a parent buys a ticket to the upcoming Coventry home game.

When asked about the fan culture and atmosphere on match days DH was quick to inform the group that trouble was rare and only a very small minority were responsible for most of it, including racism. He did say that at away games the atmosphere can be threatening. There is a large drinking culture amongst many football supporters, the East Stand catered for this with bars on two of the tiers, and a possible third bar for ‘members’ that may at some point be built in-between the current levels. For families who want to be in a safer environment there is a dedicated family area in the upper tier of the East Stand. By law alcohol can only be consumed at a football match if you are not in view of the pitch, so drinking takes place on the concourse areas.

We then went upstairs to the East Stand executive suite, where executive boxes that hold approximately ten people are sold for £8,000 per season – all of the current executive boxes are sold. The catering facilities in the executive area are also franchised out to a local firm called Brooklands. On match days executive box holders receive complimentary tea, coffee and sandwiches – if any other refreshments are required they must be paid for. The executive suite also plays host to other hospitality events such as wedding receptions and theme nights.

The Executive Suite

DH addresses the group

The Executive Suite has a bar, but there are strict legal rules governing the consumption of alcohol within it.

Financially the club is now ‘in the black’ after spending a period of time in financial difficulty, which included a period in administration with debts of £5 million. This was attributed (amongst other things) to the collapse of ITV Digital and the loss of television revenue, as well as players that were signed on high wages during the Premier League season that were given long contracts. In order to redress this the club restructured much of its staffing, this included the number of coaching staff being reduced from thirty to twelve, the scouting budget being considerably slashed and many staff working on seasonal contracts. There is also a ‘no wastage’ policy in operation which includes the last person leaving the room turning the lights off. In terms of budgeting for a season, the club budgets for being knocked out in the first round of all cups (FA Cup, Carling Cup) – if the club subsequently has a decent run of games in the cup competitions this translates to extra money.

In terms of culture DH spoke of Barnsley as a caring club that nurtures it’s young academy recruits who come aged six and above, and can sign for a club from the age of nine onwards. 96% of those who come from the academy do not make it as professional footballers – when asked if this made the academy financially viable DH pointed out that in the current first team there are ten academy players. If an academy youngster is not offered a professional contract, the club and the Professional Footballers Association help them to find an education programme so that they can retrain along a new career path. Five years ago the Barnsley academy was regarded as one of the best in the country, when the club were in financial difficulty cutbacks had to be made and the academy’s rating dropped, although it is now back on the up again. We were given a tour of the academy including the changing rooms (adorned with motivational words) training pitches and impressive indoor training area. The club also have astro turf pitches – however they do not use these for players now due to the harmful effects of astro turf on the joints. These are now hired out to the public at £35 per hour which generates the club a revenue of between £50,000 and £60,000 per year.

The tour ended at the club shop, which sold a range of branded BFC goods and is the only seller of official BFC merchandise, BFC replica shirts and kits are not sold at any other sports shops.

Many thanks to Barnsley FC especially Dave Hancock for a very insightful talk, and Don Rowing for making the visit possible.

The group view the pitch from the Executive Suite

The Academy dressing room - top the walls are adorned with motivational words, below DH gives the group a team talk.

The player's gym

The Academy entrance

The first team in training

The indoor academy pitch