Brian Plumridge - Winner, 2013 Award for Excellence & the Best Achievement in Radio & Online Journalism, Liverpool Hope University.

Runner Up, BBC Postgraduate Student Journalism Innovation Award 2012

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Monday, 7 April 2014

Fast and furious : speeding on the streets of Merseyside

Speeding. The police, politicians and road safety experts keep telling us how dangerous it is and still more and more people get caught doing it year in, year out.

We all have our own idea who does it most too. Me? I confess. I have it in for Audi and BMW drivers. Having decided long ago that it is always them sitting on my bumper, always them using fear of imminent disaster to force me out of the way. And that Beemer or Audi, it's always black too. Always.

Monday, 14 October 2013

England fans - a band of brothers destined to live down south?

When the Premier League announced last week it was giving £200,000 to help footy fans travel to away games there was general acceptance that this was a good call. The Football Supporters Federation(FSF) was happy, but added 'ticket costs are the main issue.'

Riding on a train - what it might cost you to get to Wembley

The cost of going to games has got out of control

"Once you add in travel costs, away fans shouldn't be expected to pay £50 and more to go to watch their team", said the FSF's Kevin Miles.

The cost of going to games has got out of control. The response? Clubs like Hull, Villa and Stoke offer their supporters free travel to games. Outrage over Manchester City fans being charged £62 for a ticket at Arsenal last season led to empty seats. In turn the Premier League fund is also being used to trim a few quid off the cost of away tickets

Now, that's all well and good if you are a Premier League club supporter.But what if you want to cheer on the national side? Last Friday England played Montenegro at Wembley. Ticket prices ranged from £10 and £20 in the family enclosure, to £35, £45, £55, and £65.

The majority of the nation has been turned into away supporters

Assuming that you don't have any kids, and you buy the cheapest ticket - £35 - is it possible to see England for under fifty quid, after adding in your other expenses?  Well, it might be if you live in London, but the problem with supporting England these days is that the majority of the nation has been turned into away supporters.

I took a look at just how much it would have cost you to travel from the provinces to see your national side. Excluding local travel (buses, tubes, taxis get you to a main line station), the findings are horrific.

If you're a Geordie with a streak of patriotism and a soft spot for three lions, last Friday for the Montenegro game you were looking at a day off work and a £128 return train ticket.

£128 plus a £35 match ticket = £163....considerably more than the fifty quid that the FSF believes is reasonable for any away supporter to pay.

So what are the FA doing to make 'away' travel for Geordies, Scousers, Brummies etc cheaper when they decide to take the trip to London?

Well, first up, if you want to be guaranteed a ticket and get priority to the most glamorous games and important qualifiers, you need to be an 'England Fan'. That's going to cost you an extra £37.50.

So your £163 up in Newcastle just became £200.50 to see England.

Does the FA have a subsidised travel scheme for people living outside London and the south east to see their country? Looking at the England Fans membership details, I couldn't see it. So, while attendance as an away fan is down at Premier League games by 10% - and demanding attention - a full house against Montenegro last Friday probably demands precisely no action at all. As long as there are bums on seats the FA is likely to do, well, sweet FA to put this obvious wrong right. Subsidising travel arrangements and cutting ticket prices for the great unwashed is only necessary if people stop going to games, and not really about fairness at all.

Should England only play in London?

Ignoring the cost of getting to Wembley, there is that age old debate amongst footy fans. Should England only play in London? Italy, Spain, Germany, Holland - every other major footballing nation in Europe takes the international show on the road, to the people.

But, the expense of building a new national stadium means that money needs to be recovered. Wembley Stadium is a private entity, and you can't blame them for demanding that England take up permanent residence. It guarantees that they'll recoup all the building expense...and I'm sure beyond that, a whole lot more.

All the same, I couldn't resist asking Wembley if they thought it was reasonable to monopolise England - 

Not surprisingly, I didn't get a response.

To be fair to Wembley there are many people who see a trip to the home of English football as a pilgrimage, and something special...just looking through Twitter after the Montenegro game briefly it wasn't long before I found evidence of that..

Having been to cup finals, internationals, and schoolboy internationals at the old Wembley I can still see the draw. But it saddens me. If you are prepared to make that trip from Newcastle to Wembley, you have to be wealthy enough to fork out over £200, not just willing to.

There will be people all over the country who'd quite like to see their national team, but the cost of the travel alone will leave their desire as unfulfilled as the ambitions of a team without a trophy in nearly fifty years.

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Stones In The Park: The Last Time?

T-shirt at the ready....ladies and gentleman, The Rolling Stones
And so it came to pass. The Rolling Stones returned to Hyde Park. Forty four years after the first time. You weren't there? Me neither. But if you're reading this I guess like me you've seen the film. Brian Jones was dead. Mick Taylor was in. Butterflies were released. Jagger wore a dress. There was a tiny stage. Half a million people turned up. Nobody parted with a penny to see it. The Stones were rusty.The sound was awful. Nobody cared. It became the thing of myth and legend. Impossible to recreate, and foolish to hope it could be.

I've seen The Stones on a previous seven occasions.  I think. But not for ten years. This year I hadn't seriously considered going to see them again. Expensive tickets being high up on the list of reasons that stood in the way of me rekindling my Glimmer Twins romance. That and no real desire to go much further than 30 miles down the M62 for the pleasure. A day in a field fighting 30 degrees with nowhere to hide - that was a bit of a turn off too. I don't do heat.

Gripped with enthusiasm

So what changed my mind? What ever changes your mind? Your kids. In my case a 15 year daughter. My music kinda vaguely interests her. But vaguely with a capital 'V'. I've forced Led Zeppelin down her throat with limited success for years. I made her go and see Robert Plant with me on the basis of 'you'll thank me one day'. So, I had no reason to believe that she'd be gripped with enthusiasm for seeing The Stones. But I was wrong. Very wrong. 'If I can get tickets do you fancy seeing The Stones in Hyde Park?' was greeted with unparallelled enthusiasm. The mission was on. I now had to get tickets.

The first ticket sale for the 6th July arrived. All tickets gone in a blink of an eye. I had failed in my bid to be super dad. But I had an inkling. An inkling there would be a second date. I knew I'd have the same problem. Too few tickets. Too many willing punters. So I registered for the mailing list with British Summer Time...the festival that included The Stones. And then I waited. Waiting to see if there was a second gig. Waiting to see if they might just announce a pre sale for people who had signed up to the mailing list. It was a long shot. But I was right. I was super dad. Two tickets were secured for the 13th July.

And you know what? I was excited. Excited about the trip - even if it did mean trekking from Liverpool to London. Even if it did mean sitting out in the blistering sunshine all day -wilting as I would in the searing heat. Why? Because Kate was so up for it. I was excited because she liked something I did. Excited because the generation gap was being breached. Excited because with every advancing year it's bloody exciting when your kids think something you grew up with is cool. And that thing is guys in their 60's and 70's. The realisation that old isn't uncool by definition was such a relief. That and yes, I selfishly wanted my (exquisite) taste and the things that make me tick to have some resonance with her. I don't just want to be dad. I want to be the ageing sage, fountain of wisdom type bloke who passes on the baton of knowledge. Not just the every day sensible advice like 'don't eat too much salt.' No. I want to be remembered as a cultural guru of epic proportions.

The Stones in the park, 2013 style
Praying for sunshine

But just weeks before the gig, my chance of immortality was delivered a severe blow. 'The girl' - as Kate is known in a kind of pseudo Bart Simpson type way -  went and broke her ankle. Not good. What if it rained? And remember this is England. We get a lot of the stuff. How would she stand all day? How would she be able to stand at all in a sea of mud? The problem was solved with the arrival of summer. Unbroken sunshine. Not two words that we use too often in this country. I can't believe that I was praying for sunshine. Lots of it. Scorching hot, not a cloud in the sky sunshine. It's what I wanted. It's what I got. That and a wheelchair. That's all I needed. You can always get what you want.

No sooner than the tickets were booked than the day arrived. Up early. Out early. On the motorway by not long after six, we ditched the car in Watford. Okay it was sensibly parked and not remotely ditched. But, give me a break. I'm trying to be all rock n roll here. Moving swiftly on, we hit Hyde Park by 12.30. Just in time to bake, fry, roast or any other synonym cum adjective you care to think of that describes being cooked alive. The wheelchair weaved it's magic. Otherwise distracted tourists got out the way. People offered to help. My faith in humanity was restored.

Kate, me, mission accomplished
The eight hours that followed were something of a water, beer and burger blur. I was cheap meat disgusted with myself, and in need of  distraction. At 8.30 pm I got it. The Rolling Stones. A day of sweaty stickiness and nauseating slabs of fatty flesh demanded something special to reignite my will to live. Could The Stones deliver? Just like the legendary gig back in '69 I reckon it only needs a few years of fading memory massage to transform tonight into something comparable. Never the same. But special nontheless. Like the gig in '69 how well the band  played and even what was played was immaterial. It didn't matter. Being there was all that really mattered. Anything else would be a bonus. I figured the atmosphere would be something else and that The Stones would do their bit. But I've got to say they really did their bit. The first time I saw them they were in their thirties. They could be forgiven for letting their standards slip with time. Yes, there was a bit of a chord cock up with the opening bars of Start Me Up, but that was it. Jagger sang well and played harmonica superbly. In fact Mick did everything a lot better than I expected, covering more of the enormous stage than I could have reasonably expected. The other Mick, former Stone Mick Taylor (whom I met briefly once, but that's another story) showed that he really is a guitaring genius, when he joined the band for Midnight Rambler. Hyde Park was where it all started for Mick Taylor back in '69. Charlie Watts recently commented that they did some of their best work with him. Hard to argue when that includes Exile On Main Street. Ronnie Wood wasn't to be outdone though. He played slide guitar with particular aplomb on You Got The Silver, and pedal steel guitar to die for on Happy. Keith Richards did rhythm with the disjointed ease that's the trade mark of any Stones concert. And as for Charlie Watts? Charlie did Charlie. Solid swinging rock drumming that never imposes and is always flawless.

Better than Glastonbury

The set was better than the previous week at Hyde Park, and better than Glastonbury. I know that's subjective, but look at the changes. Compared to the previous gig in the park out went Bitch, Before They Make Me Run, All Down The Line and Beast Of Burden. In came Ruby Tuesday, Street Fighting Man, Happy, and Emotional Rescue - with the latter really showing that Jagger can push the limits of his vocals, even now. It was a belting set. Yeah we were miles from the stage, but the crowd were loving it. And more importantly, so was Kate.
Miles from the stage, but who cares? We didn't
With time running out bang on cue they played her personal fave - You Can't Always Get What You Want, and that was the cream on the cake....for me, and her. A glance over her shoulder to signal approval, and a beaming smile. That did it for me. As Satisfaction faded into the night and the fireworks drowned out the crowd I felt like saying -  as I'm occasionally known to -  'my work here is done.'

We'd had a magic moment. Kate's first huge outdoor gig. She'd seen The Stones for the first time. I think I may have seen them for the last. She might have too. As the last night of the '50 & Counting' tour there is a chance that this could have been the last ever Stones gig. Hard to imagine after all these years. So many tours have been labelled as perhaps their last. But things are different now. And you can listen to my take on that right here -

The Last Time? I reported on the gig for Dee 106.3 and Silk 106.9

Reading on your smartphone? Download the audio here

The trip to London I'd planned with Kate was meant to be more than just The Stones. If that's possible. The Stones was achieved against the odds and with a bit of luck. But the trip was going to be a 60's pilgrimage. Going to Abbey Road. Finding Jimi Hendrix's house. Standing on the steps of the only house The Beatles all called home. 

Could any of that be achieved this weekend? With Kate plastered to her knee? Well, this weekend anything was possible......

Abbey Road....achieved!

Jimi Hendrix's the bag
The only home shared by all The Beatles...57 Green Street....and our mini rock n roll landmark tour complete

And since I wrote this article I've completed a mini video documentary to accompany this piece.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Memories of Everton Legends

I didn't ever imagine I would make a CD. And, as a Liverpool supporter I certainly didn't imagine that I'd end up waxing lyrically about the history of Everton's great players on one. But, it's a funny old game, and that's exactly what happened.

Last year I was introduced to the chaps at Everton in the Community. To cut it short they are working on a project with Mersey Care NHS Trust called 'Pass on the memories.' The project is examining ways of enriching the lives of dementia sufferers and stimulating memories.

My job would be to create a CD, linking together interviews with some of the blues greatest servants.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Combat: life and death in Vietnam

Staying in college was the choice of millions of young Americans hoping to avoid the draft and being sent to Vietnam. New Yorker Jerry Donnellan was one of those students. Would he refuse to serve? No. But if he could avoid it he would. For Jerry, every passing year at college saw more soldiers being sent to Vietnam. 'I ran out of college before they ran out of war' he recalls, as 1968 heralded the end of his education and the arrival of draft papers.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Have you heard the one about the journalist and the phone?

If you're a journalist like me you won't have been able to avoid the rabid monster that is Smartphone technology. Revolutionising the industry? In an age when phones and journalists conjure up images of phone hacking hacks, it's refreshing to be able to hail the tool of the industry's demise as it's saviour. Because journalism is all about the kit, and all about the rich varied content you can whip together using that ever present thing in your pocket that's evolved to make simple phone calls seem oh so passé.
Elbow in Liverpool - distant cheap seat camera phone snap
Using Vericorder's excellent 1st Video, that little diamond of an app has me recording and editing sound in the palm of my hand ready to email anywhere in the world in no time at all. But as a blogger and radio journalist who loves all the extended online stuff and the whole presentation thing, I was naturally drawn to exploring ways of making my graphics a bit more portable.

Laptops aren't. Not really. Not if you want to travel light. And from what I've seen tablets aren't really crying out to me to invest in one as a work tool. Less is more. Stick with your dog and bone.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Contrails or chemtrails? Above us only sky?

Did the FBI have a hand in the death of JFK? Was Princess Diana murdered? What about Neil Armstrong? Did he step out onto the moon, or a film set meticulously constructed to deceive the entire planet? We have an insatiable appetite for conspiracy theories.

 And that brings me to chemtrails - which are not to be confused with contrailsThe difference between the two is that contrails are thin white stripes of condensed water and carbon dioxide you see every day trailing out of the back of aeroplanes flying at altitude. Chemtrails –  if you believe in them – are broad, lingering trails from aeroplanes that can hang in the sky for hours. Wider than contrails the internet and social media are awash with people and organisations that say these chemtrails contain toxins that have been sprayed to reflect harmful rays from the sun, as government and it's agents search for a solution to global warming. More alarming is the suggestion that chemtrails are the tool of influential corporations.