Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Poetry slam

On Thursday I went to Birmingham to see a 'poetry slam'.  My good friend Andy was organising the whole thing and I thought I'd use the event for my radio feature, which is one of the pieces of assessed work I have to submit this semester.

I travelled by National Express to Birmingham then caught the train to Selly Oak.  The venue for the poetry slam was right next to the train station and I met up with Andy there.  I recorded some audio and video and really enjoyed the whole thing.  You can see the resulting radio feature below and there are videos of some of the performances on my YouTube channel.

I spent six years of my life growing up in a small town in the West Midlands called Hednesford and so it was interesting to be back in that part of country. I've never been particularly fond of the Midlands and especially Hednesford, but hearing the Midlands accent and seeing Hednesford station on the rail map brought back a strange sense of familiarity.  I guess when you've lived somewhere for six years you're bound to still feel some sort of attachment to the place.

I took some photos from the trip and they're up on my Flickr account here.

On Sunday I went to Hillsborough Park for another piece of uni work - an audio slideshow.  There was a Sport Relief Mile event being held there so I took some photos and audio to make this:

I'll be submitting both of these pieces and then it's the Easter break.  We have three weeks off and I'll probably be working for most of it, but I might do a bit of travelling.

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Monday, 19 March 2012


On Friday night I went to Manchester and DJed at an 8-bit night called Megabyte.  The guys who run the event listen to my podcast and they got in touch a while back asking if I'd be up for DJing.  Friday was Megabyte's first birthday and it was at a venue called the Retro Bar in an underground room.  Quite a few people turned up and it was a lot of fun.  The DJs played 8-bit music all night, there were three live acts and there were consoles hooked up to a big screen as well; I played some Super Smash Bros. Melee for the first time in years.  On Saturday I had a meeting at Pizza Hut at 9 o'clock so I checked into a cheap hotel (Britannia Hotel Manchester) and got about 3 hours of sleep before an early train the next morning.  Megabyte is a monthly event, and they're putting on an all-day festival in September with a great lineup of artists so I'm sure I'll see the guys again soon.

Unfortunately on the train to Manchester I discovered my save file on Pokémon Gold had been lost.  I'd only been playing it a couple of days before, and had in fact just completed it, but I'm still gutted to lose the sick squad I had.  I think the battery must have gone again.

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Thursday, 15 March 2012


Today’s been quite...nostalgic. I can’t tell whether or not that word sounds natural in English anymore. It’s one of those words I never said before learning Japanese, but you end up saying and hearing the Japanese equivalent - 懐かしい - a lot when you’re in Japan. The literal translation would be “nostalgic”, or more naturally, “brings back memories”.

Today’s been nostalgic for a few reasons. I bumped into an old friend from my Japanese class earlier and we had a good chat. Then to kill time before playing football tonight I thought I’d visit the Arts Tower as it’s been recently refurbished. That’s where I had all my Japanese classes in first and second year, and it hasn’t changed much, just looks a bit newer. The paternoster lift is back working again so I had a ride on that. And right now, to kill time again, I’m sat in Western Bank Library computer room, the very place where I wrote my application to JET in fourth year.

Learning Japanese at Sheffield Uni was always a lot of fun. The language itself is interesting and kind of obscure, but back in first and second year there was also our study-abroad in Japan to look forward to. It was always a great motivation to make sure we knew our stuff.

Lately I’ve been considering whether I want to go back to Japan after I’m finished with this masters course. I am enjoying life in the UK at the moment, but it does lack that excitement you get every day in Japan. By now the novelty factor with things like British food and football has mostly worn off, but I am still enjoying the things you miss out on when you’re not here. I’ve been enjoying British TV a lot lately, and I’m also going to loads of gigs. I only went to one during my year in Aomori.

Also, the cherry blossoms are starting to bloom here in Sheffield. Again, this is something I would never even notice had I not been to Japan, but there it’s a really important time of year. To most British people the cherry blossom is just another tree, but when I see one it reminds of Japan.

I spend most of my time doing things that aren't related to Japan at all, but when the country has been such a big part of my life in the past, I think it's good to be reminded every now and then.

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Sunday, 11 March 2012

Big London trip

On Tuesday everyone on the Broadcast Journalism course went down to London.  Every year the department organises a trip to the capital so the students can visit various organisations and hear from a selection of speakers.

After arriving in London around lunchtime we dropped our things off at the hostel the department had booked for us.  It was actually my first time staying in a hostel.  I've visited friends at hostels but never stayed in one myself.  There was ten of us in a room and we decided to spend as little time as possible in that room.

In the afternoon we went to the Guardian offices at Kings Place.  The foyer was adorned with props and costumes from this advert, and we ended up hearing a lot about the paper's concept of 'open journalism' during the afternoon.  We heard from the Deputy Editor, Head of Multimedia Production, and from the Mobile Editor and Web News Editor, both of whom are ex-Sheffield University students.  Now I am doing a course in broadcast journalism and the Guardian is a newspaper, but they do place a lot of emphasis on audio/visual content.  Also, they're generally at the forefront of online journalism and are looking to halt production of the physical newspaper and move to exclusively online within the next few years.

As I said, we discussed the idea of 'open journalism', which is basically a style of journalism that places emphasis on interaction between the journalist and the readers.  I was impressed by the speakers, as they all seemed to be wanting to create great journalism above anything else, and the fact that they are owned by a trust rather than a private company gives them the freedom to do this.  They may not be the most profitable newspaper at the moment but it seems like a great place to work.

On Tuesday night we had dinner at an Irish pub, then, as one of the group was an Arsenal fan, we went to watch the Arsenal game at a pub on Euston Road called The Euston Flyer.  There was a great atmosphere and great beer and food.  After that we returned to the hostel and had a few more drinks in the bar there.  The whole place felt like an episode of Byker Grove as it was filled with 17/18 year olds and the decor was extremely bright and garish.  There was a table football there though and we enjoyed playing that.

The next day we were up early to visit the Houses of Parliament.  In the morning we got a tour, then watched prime minister's questions (on TV), then heard from a variety of speakers including MPs and political editors/advisors from the broadcast industry.  I'd visited once before in secondary school, but I really enjoyed visiting again, and especially learning about the storied history of Parliament.  We take the practices of Parliament for granted, but they're actually a result of centuries of various events and evolution.

In the evening we returned to The Euston Flyer to watch the Tottenham game as one of the group was a Tottenham fan.  After it finished we returned to the Irish pub for a few more beers, then back to the hostel bar and played some more table football.

On Thursday morning we visited BBC Television Centre in White City, and while this was probably the part of the trip I was most looking forward to, it turned out to be the most disappointing.  Compared to the Guardian offices, the BBC offices felt quite dull and a bit shabby.  This probably wasn't helped by the fact that many of the BBC's employees are in the process of relocating to MediaCityUK in Manchester.  We got to see the desk used for the BBC News at Six though and heard from a few different employees.  But again, compared to the Guardian there was less of a sense of creativity and innovation.  More than one speaker said the BBC is traditionally slow on the uptake of new ideas and that meant they hadn't fully implemented systems that use things like Twitter yet.  The Guardian has and is ahead of the curve on such things. We were also told that landing a job at BBC Television Centre could take years and a lot of working for free, which is not something I'm necessarily prepared to do.

In the afternoon we were free to do as we pleased and a group of us went to Regent Street.  We went to Nike Town and played on their massive table football and then visited Hamleys, and played more table football.  We then travelled to Covent Gardens and had a beer before returning to The Euston Flyer in the evening to watch the Sporting Lisbon game, as one of our group is a Sporting Lisbon fan.

We all caught a train back to Sheffield around 9 and arrived back in Sheffield around 11.  On the way back my mate realised he'd left his suit jacket at The Euston Flyer, so he gave them a call and told them he was part of the group who'd ordered lots of sandwiches and beer over the last few days.  They said they'd gladly post the jacket to Sheffield for free. What a pub.

All in all it was a great trip, but it's funny how good it felt to be back in Sheffield after only being away for a short time.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep I'd had or the fact that I knew I wouldn't have to pay London prices every time I went out, but as soon as I stepped out of Sheffield train station I could smell the fresh air and it was great.

And then on Friday I had some good news as my voice was heard on BBC Radio 6.  The Forge Radio station manager was on the Steve Lamacq show to take part in a feature called 'Universities Challenged' and they played a highlights package from the station, which featured myself.  You can hear it here.  Pretty cool.

Finally, today marks one year since the Tōhoku earthquake.  I was lucky to be in Aomori and not experience the damage and destruction that other areas of the country did.  You can read the post I made after the quake here.  It still amazes me just how well Japan pulled together after the quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, and hopefully the lessons learnt will make the country safer in the future.

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Saturday, 3 March 2012

The past week

On Monday night I went to see my mate's band at Soyo in town. They're called The Lion Works and they're a combination of The Smiths, U2 and Arctic Monkeys. Each song had a different vibe though and the guitars and vocals were especially good.

Me and a couple of mates from uni went to see wrestling legend, Mick Foley's stand-up comedy tour at Sheffield City Hall on Wednesday. You can find my review of the show here.

On Thursday it was my band, Spheres of Chaos' first performance in over two and half years, and I'd organised the gig. We played at the Green Room in town with a couple of French acts who've been on a UK tour - seal of quality and John Makay. I've known seal of quality for a while through Gamewave and I've also released some of his music on Pterodactyl Squad. When I heard he was coming to the UK on tour I offered to put on a Sheffield date, and the whole event turned out really well. We had about 40 people come, there was some great music and it was good to get back together with the SoC guys. The Green Room have even asked me to put on a monthly night.

Last night I went to the Steelers game with a mate from uni who covers the Steelers on Twitter for a service called Sheffield Breaking. We both got a free media pass to the game and afterwards we filmed an interview with Steelers player, Rod Sarich.

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