Big brother?

I’m becoming more concerned by the day about targeted adverts.

When I was at MIPIM this year I very nearly bought a watch. I don’t actually need another watch – but that’s hardly the point is it? I saw a Meistersinger watch in one of the boutique stores and almost splashed the cash – I didn’t. I was sensible. I came home with a view to doing a bit more research.


I still haven’t bought a new watch.

But every time I log onto Facebook I am confronted with adverts for “Iconic Watches’ – and the link takes me to on-line stores I have visited. Yesterday I got my morning edition of Gizmag – with the days latest gadget offering and the mast advert is … watches. Iconic watches.

I have no real issue with being targeted as part of a wider demographic – but this is plain intrusive. It’s clever – but cannot be right.

They do say that Google know about your searches before you start them – that is why when you start typing in the search box it guesses the next part of the sentence or search. But this new level of ‘guessing’ is a step too far?

What else do they know about us?

And why do they think I want a Bellroy Wallet too? I have never searched for one of those?

The new way to watch TV

I don’t watch a great deal of TV. I occasionally get to see the C4 news when I get home. There’s not much else on TV?


But I do like ‘box sets’ – which tend to be American. Breaking Bad was addictive over Xmas (I watched all 5 series!).

I have just finished watching the first two series of House of Cards. It’s the story of power and corruption in The Whitehouse and stars Kevin Spacey. Again, it was fairly addictive – I was delighted to eland at the weekend that they are shortly to film the third series.

It is, of course based on a short UK series of the same name filmed in the 1990′s but there the similarity ends. That was 4 episodes, Spacey has filmed 26 – so far!

What makes this series stand out is that it was commissioned by the Internet streaming service Netflix. They paid for it and premiered it. They also apparently gave Spacey a series to go at – whereas most networks tend to operate on a piiot and then the possibility of further shows.

Perhaps this is the way forward – our traditional views and ideas about TV and film have been challenged by Netflix with great acclaim. And I can’t wait for the next series. I wonder if I need to pay the TV Licence any more – a bit like Noel Edmonds?

Get out of ‘jail’ card

In the Nottingham Post on Saturday was a story which I couldn’t pass on. It is the story of an everyday Police Officer (well a PCSO) who parked their van to respond to an ‘enquiry’ but then went shopping.


This was all fine except that the Police van was left on double yellow lines…

I quote the Police’s response from the Post,

“A police vehicle, being used by the local Safer Neighbourhood Team, was legitimately parked on double yellow lines while two Police Community Support Officers made inquiries in relation to a missing person. The vehicle was not causing any obstruction, however, after completing their inquiries the officers briefly attended a nearby shop to purchase some items before returning to the van. This was a momentary lapse of judgement for which the officers have received advice.”

It seems to me that there are two alternatives here.

Firstly the Officers are fined just like you and I would be. Its £70 – reduced to £35 if paid within 14 days.

Alternatively, we are all permitted a little indiscretion from time to time – making sure we don’t cause an obstruction, having a momentary lapse of judgement (something I am sure won’t be lost on our traffic wardens) and then we accept ‘advice’ (like a slap on the legs).

I favour the first option as I think the probability of us getting away with the second one are slim…

Rebalancing Act

I had dinner last night at The Hilton Hotel – cooked rather well by students from NCN. Amongst those on the table were Councillor Nick McDonald from Nottingham City Council and Graham Allen MP for Nottingham North.


The topic of conversation was the imbalance in Nottingham between the (relative) well-off South and the poor North. This may be too simplistic a headline – but the geography tells different stories.

Graham’s constituency is seemingly in the lowest 10 in the UK – in terms of teenage pregnancy, unemployment and social deprivation. Some of the constituents are third generation “out of work”.

It is easy to forget that across a large City like Nottingham that there is a wide variance in fortunes. We do tend to forget this when we see the good things (many of which I have blogged about here). There are some areas of desperation.

Graham and Nick are championing how we rebalance the local economy. It is no easy task – the loss of some of the major manufacturing and employers (coal, Raleigh, Imperial Tobacco and others) is still being felt 30 years after some of these changes occurred.

I am not sure that we have easy answers. It is going to take a long time – but ‘education’ was clearly one area where we all felt some change could be made. Getting kids to school and then to College is part of that process. But is also important that we train kids with skills they can use. We need to stop teaching them all ‘Geography’! (Sorry Geography teachers everywhere – you know I don’t mean that literally!). They need Maths and English. And life-skills.

I was blind to the suggestion that some of this generation of kids in some of these communities are not even contemplating ‘work’. That we have to fix.

Nottingham – Great Stuff #10

I have blogged about Cobden Chambers before. It is a small independent retailers pitch hidden away on Pelham Street in Nottingham.


Ideas on Paper is there. Run by Alex Smith – this is an independent magazine shop. But it also sells notebooks and music. He’ll even make you a coffee. It’s not like Amazon…

Alex is at the heart of the Creative Quarter and absolutely what we have to do as a City to stave off the Claire’s Accessories effect. He is passionate about what he does. He knows his product. And he’s a nice guy.

We spoke about how hard it is to set up and the way in which this will all work – we are agreed that it is down to hard work. Like most things in life! It was slightly disappointing that he was among a handful of independent shops open on a Bank Holiday Monday! Claire’s Accessories was.

Alex appeared on the very trendy Monocle Radio show, The Stack, at the weekend. You can listen to it here – it starts at around 21 minutes. It tells the story of the shop and his background.

Esily worthy of inclusion on the list of great things about Nottingham – go seek him out – and tell him I sent you!

300,000 hits….

I can’t quite believe that this little blog site has hit 300,000 hits!


It seems, according to the wonderful people at WordPress, that I have written 1,482 posts since September 2009. That month there were just 41 hits! I do know that the actual stats are higher since 296 of you subscribe – so get the blog in your mailbox when I publish. I also know that my 169 friends on Facebook also read the blog through fb – so that doesn’t count here either. And then there’s the 1,492 twitter followers!

The stats are flattering.

As you know, latterly I have been trying to get a business plan written for Nottingham – and I think we are making some progress, but the next stage needs to be in a different forum. I haven’t quite decided where that is – or whether it is for me to do!

I still believe Nottingham is a great place and I remain passionate that Nottingham can be so much better.

If I’m honest I’m not sure the blog will continue – you might have noticed that the posts have become slightly less frequent of late. I’m a bit busy at work – and that is not going to get better. I’m also heavily involved in Nottingham Squash Club – particularly in the run up to the European Championships in September. The blog might need to take a back seat.

I’m also thinking about doing a more visual blog – we have some really interesting shops and buildings appearing in Nottingham. I have in a mind a more ‘Monocle‘ approach!

Then again, I might just keep on bloggin…..

In the meantime – thanks for dropping by – it was really nice to see you here!

Manufacturing in Nottingham – a blow or opportunity

This week we saw the announcement by Imperial Tobacco to close their Nottingham factory and warehouse. The loss of 500+ jobs is not entirely helpful.


The East Midlands has around 300,000 workers in manufacturing – a decline of 40% in 25 years. Coal was a major blow – 60,000 people worked in that industry. Raleigh was lost 10 years ago as a major manufacturer.

What has happened is that there has been a shift – 1.5m now work in the service sector – 866% growth over the same 25 year term.

And we are told that there are now 155,000 people working in “Science” in Nottingham – BioCity and Boots are key players.

I was watching Animal Planet last night – an amazing piece of filming. But also a reminder how animals (apes in particular) learn how to adapt. From the apes who worked out how to get honey from a drilled hole to Kanzi who had learned to toast marshmallows on a fire (and order food by mobile phone). The point was that primates learn how to adapt.

And this is what we are doing. We are learning to adapt – the world is changing. We might not like it in the short term – but we must learn to adapt.

Those cities which embrace change will survive. If we don’t learn to do this we won’t survive. There is little point fighting against the changing circumstances. In the case of Players cigarettes the volume of cigarettes is falling – there is an inevitability to a shift in social fashions.

Engaging with people!

I’m always interested in how technology can be used to engage with people – especially if they are customers. Well McDonald’s is trialling a way of letting people put their avatars in it’s high profile digital screen in London’s Piccadilly Circus.


In essence you download from your artwork or animation and then digitally sign in to the screen!

You can create your own character on the site and once you are in the vicinity of Piccadilly Circus, you upload the image!

McDonald’s claims it is the world’s first digital advertising screen to be fully interactive 24/7, 365 days of the year.

Once posted to the screen, your character can introduce himself / herself and interact with others. The site detects the default language setting of your smartphone and flashes up a greeting from your character in its native language. Your character can dance, high five with others and perform magic tricks on the big screen. The sign is also updated according to the time of day, time of year, and the local weather.

This reminded me of the Bristol Hello Lamppost project I blogged about a few weeks ago (see here).

I like this sort of technology – it requires some input and is more than just a series of images being projected at you. Very clever!

Contemporary – Somewhat Abstract

I din’t go to the last Art Show at Nottingham Contemporary – it was a bit too ‘bodily fluid’ orientated for my taste. I was sent a book of some of the art – and it challenges me even on a coffee book level.

Bridget Riley, Movement in Squares, 1962

Bridget Riley, Movement in Squares, 1962

But on Friday it was the opening night of the latest show – Somewhat Abstract. This is a much more ‘mainstream’ collection of pieces owned by the Arts Council – in fact this is the largest exhibition of their pieces outside London. There are 68 artists on show and eight are Turner Prize winners.

I was interested to learn about the Arts Council – It is a relatively young organisation – you can read the history here. It operates on a very tight budget – but has clearly purchased well. They now have the work of 2,162 artists and holds 7,747 artworks. Of these, approximately 1,500 are paintings and over 5,000 are works on paper, including photographs. The Collection includes 845 sculptures and 113 audiovisual works.

I liked this exhibition – some of the paintings are much more my sort of thing.

The opening party was well represented with the great and good of the city there. You do begin to realise the importance of this place on the map of Nottingham. Visitors numbers, we are told, are ahead of expectations and that we get the sort of quality art on show now demonstrates just how important Nottingham Contemporary is – on a local scale but also giving us national visibility.

It’s a show worth going to see!

The future Office?

Twice last week I was interviewed by ‘National’ journalist writing pieces for some of our trade press – and twice the subject was ‘regional offices’.


This is a tough call for Nottingham. We have some good offices here but we struggle against the likes of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester (we should just ignore London for the moment!)

Our market has been characterised in the last few years by one big deal a year. Eon, Specsavers, Speedo – they are all built and occupied. Last year we didn’t have a big deal. I’m not sure we will this year – although the announcement that the City Council were to take 25,000 sq ft in the Unity Square development near the Station will be music to many ears.

One of the questions posed to me was that if we have a lack of demand why would you build supply – and it is a fair point. Speculative office building is a high roller poker game.

This got me thinking a little – particularly about my own situation. I have an office – it is very nice – it is open-plan and there are no ‘little boxes’. I have my files there – and quite a few staff! But actually I spend most of my working life away from the office. I can work out of Costa Coffee, or on East Midlands Trains. My daughter tells me that it called “Agile Working” – not needing a physical space or a fixed timetable.

SO if this is the case it may well be that our idea of an office in the future is substantially flawed. My method of working has changed significantly in the last five years – so what is going to happen in the next five as technology improves exponentially?

Food for thought about the way in which we will organise ourselves?