Is Shrewsbury Talking?
As we get towards the very end of the Shift Time Festival, I am beginning to wonder what has happened to the Blogging Project. In particular, what has happened to its stated aim of ‘getting Shrewsbury talking to itself’?
Oh, I’ve already got a lot out of it personally. It’s provided a kick in the pants to get my own blog up and running , replacing my old Tortoise Loft website (I was planning to do this anyway, but the Project brought it forward by at least a month or two). I’ve been grateful for Pete Ashton’s practical help and advice and answers to my beginner’s questions. The Festival has provided something specific and time-critical to write about, photograph and get very much involved with. And it has been great fun doing the Festival photos and articles for the blog. The kind of brain-stretchy challenge that does me good.
I would almost certainly have wound up involved in the festival in some way if the Blogging Project had not occurred (probably stewarding things), and would have been attending at least some of the same events, but it would have been a more passive involvement. I wouldn’t have pushed myself in the same way to communicate, rather than just take part. The organisers can show a pretty impressive body of work that has been created on the various blogs, and on Flickr, to justify their Arts Council grant.
The previous post was a part of the Project. A meeting time and place was arranged, the people involved gave up their time after a busy afternoon of rehearsal. I worked hard that evening to get it online as soon as I could, so it would be of some service to the Project and to the Festival. I transcribed, editied, wrote and re-wrote to make it as good as I could make it. When it was done, I immediately emailed the Project Manager, and a few other people for good measure. Not because I was trying to get publicity for myself (I’m not that fond of the sound of my own voice), but because the event was happening this evening, Saturday 11th, and I assumed it would be good if people could read my piece before the event, and then attend if they thought it might be an interesting evening. (I think it will be. I’m not just saying that — I want people to hear this performance at Theatre Severn because it’s going to be really worth hearing.)
The Blogging Project on the Shift-Time site has (as I write this) not been updated since last Sunday. (I’m not on Twitter, but I can see that even the most recent Twitter comment is from before I went to do the interview on Thursday afternoon!) In a few hours, the event I am talking about will be over. Where is everyone?
One could almost suspect that nobody from the Festival cares about the Project as long as they can justify the grant. I hope that’s not true.
I like living in Shrewsbury. I’m proud to be a citizen of this town, although I wasn’t born here and I don’t intend to die here. Part of the attraction is that interesting things happen in Shrewsbury: talks and lectures and exhibitions and music. We get free events in the park, in the museum or in the Square — lots of things throughout the year. I know most of these events have the aim of attracting people to Shrewsbury as a holiday or as a day-out destination. I am lucky — I get to see them too. Because of this, I believe in doing my bit in return, when I can. Whether it’s helping lost tourists find their way around the town, talking to people about things that are going to happen, places they can visit, volunteering for a bit of stewarding at a Darwin event or being more actively involved in something else that’s going on.
Writing the last blog post was a part of that repayment. And nobody knows it’s there (except the very few people involved in the Project who have bothered to look, and perhaps one or two of my own friends who read my blog, but who are not local and so wouldn’t be potential audience for this evening’s performance). I’m not the only person who has been doing a lot of work for this Project. other’s have done even more — Martin Smith, in particular, has been giving us terrific coverage of the events. But who is coming in? Who is being brought into this from outside?
Did the organisers of the Project really think that you could get a bunch of people to start blogging about the Festival, most of them starting from scratch, and that they would automatically link into a new, vibrant social-network hub for Shrewsbury? Er, isn’t that expecting a lot? However good the writing and photos and videos are, however hard these people have worked to create interesting material. These things take a lot of time, input, hard work, organisation (and possibly money if you want someone to co-ordinate things in Shrewsbury properly on a regular and frequent basis).
While I am happy to do my own thing on my own blog, and will still be writing the remaining two (or maybe three) articles about Shift-Time that I have already said I would write, and definitely still want to write, it does feel like I’m talking only to myself on these pages. By the time my blog has established its natural readership, the Shift-Time Festival articles will be lost way back in the blog archives, as will this rant about my frustration.
You are welcome to prove me wrong. The Comment link is at the foot of this article.