A slight change of plan…

I sit here in a bit of a haze.

Right now I should be sat drinking a beer on Copacabana beach. Instead I am sat in my living room with no idea what to do with myself. Long story short I booked a holiday to see my favourite band, Pearl Jam, performing a concert in Rio De Janeiro tomorrow. Sadly bad weather and even worse luck brought my bucket list holiday grinding to an abrupt halt in Frankfurt.

I’m not the first person to have their holiday plans collapse and I am not writing this to complain about it. However, over the past couple of days I have had a lot of downtime to be stuck with only my own thoughts to occupy me. During that time it has became clear to me that I am somebody who thrives on keeping himself permanently distracted and as such my mind is a badly disorganised place in need of a serious tidy up. I’m also not saying that my thoughts are in any way unique or interesting to be worthy of publishing online and sharing with the world. My hope is that by writing things down in a manner that I am happy to present publicly it will help me to collate and clarify my own thought processes. In making this blog readable to all I am forcing myself to ensure I maintain a certain level of readability and hopefully can avoid descending into confusing rants as I am prone to do when I write anonymously and by hosting on a paid subscription site it will hopefully encourage me to continue to post updates (I tried something like this many years ago with different objectives but hosting on a free site I quickly lost interest in the project as other things drew my attention). It would also be great if this occasionally triggers some lively discussions, I am open to criticism and opposing opinions but lets try and keep things respectful, yeah?

I am under no illusions, I don’t foresee this becoming a widely read blog, chances are if you have found this page you are one of my small-ish circle of friends who have me on Facebook. I have no aspirations to become a writer and I am not trying to change lives here. But, I do take some comfort in the idea of potentially leaving something permanent online that if I should be struck by a bus in 6 months will leave something of me for people to read beyond the frankly inane crap I share on Facebook. If anything I write on here should cause somebody to discover a band they fall in love with or even just raise the occasional smile from anybody that happens across something I write then all the better.

If you have already read this far then thank you. If you should decide to come back in the future then let me give you an idea of some of the kind of content I hope to populate this page with:

  • Live Music – I mentioned earlier that I like to keep myself distracted and going to gigs is my primary way of doing that. Some of the best people I know I have met whilst following my favourite bands. I will attempt to post something (however brief) about every live gig I attend but please don’t expect proper reviews, I am a fan not a critic.
  • Fandom – When I find a TV show, film, book that I like I attempt to absorb everything about it. I can quote entire Simpsons episodes word-for-word, I can pick out the tiniest cannon plot holes in every Star Trek series and film and reel of obscure references from all kinds of media. I don’t say this to boast, I know its not impressive but it doesn’t mean its not fun! I sometimes worry that my persona is just a series of pop-culture references cobbled together.
  • Academia – I am currently in the process of writing a masters dissertation about the UKs live music venues and will be posting content relevant to that in order to experiment with ideas and hopefully develop a few new ones from any discussion that arises. One of my hopes for this blog is that it will make writing feel like less of a chore when I have to do it for academic purposes and that it will help me to further develop my writing style
  • The world – It is a ridiculous place and more and more I find myself feeling like I am living in The Place That Sends You Mad from “The Twelve Tasks of Asterix”. I am not planning on writing detailed analysis of world politics or current events (although I cannot promise they won’t occasionally be mentioned) but will occasionally talk about the things that confuse me about the world in an attempt to make some sense of them.

    Finally a few disclaimers:

  • I am a 30yr old white male and I admit to the privilege that I was born with. I consider myself to be liberal minded but sadly can only write from the perspective I have. I do not seek to offend anybody but if anything I say should appear insensitive please know it is simply a lack of understanding on my part and I welcome the chance to be enlightened (but please do it respectfully, its hard to sympathise with somebody else when they are calling you a dick no matter how right them may be)
  • I do not consider myself a skilled writer. I can spell and my grammar is generally ok (with a few bad habits) but I am an average typist, terrible proof reader and not a fan of my own prose. I hope that working on this blog will help me improve my writing skills.
  • I do ramble. As you can probably guess if you are still reading this. Anyone who has ever got into a text conversation with me will know that conciseness is not one of my strong points. Again this is something I hope to improve on as I write this blog.
  • This is a personal blog. Please don’t see it as anything more than a personal diary that I am allowing others to read. I am a fan of looking back through my old online posts and photos in the same way one might look at a family photo album or scrap book. If and when my memory starts to fail me hopefully this blog will allow me to revisit my not-so-glorious glory days
  • I welcome any comments or discussion but keep it civil. If I think you are trolling of just being a dick I might tell you so but chances are I will just delete your comments. I have neither the energy or the inclination to argue online. I welcome different opinions and its fine to tell me you disagree with me and why but let’s actually have a civil discussion about it.
  • If I am writing about people I know in real life I will attempt to keep it as anonymous as possible. I fully expect that anyone who reads my ramblings will have me on Facebook and as such will probably know some of the same people I do. I will try to respect everyones privacy and keep you all as anonymous as possible if I do mention you. First names or nicknames only or if its something a bit sensitive I will give you a pseudonym.
  • I don’t like the name of this blog. I wanted to call it “The Reeding Room” but it turns out that’s the name of a series of christian songs and audio books aimed at young children. I respect peoples faiths but consider myself an agnostic and would rather not have any confusion or crossover of interests there. If anyone can think of a better name I am open to suggestions.
  • I am still learning all the various tools and features of WordPress so probably safe to expect a few layout and style changes whilst I play around over the next few days and weeks.

Thank you for your patience thus far, hopefully you will find my forthcoming entries a bit more entertaining. For now if you didn’t get my Asterix reference earlier here is the scene I was referring to:



Still alive

Just a quick update to say that despite lack of updates on here recently I am still alive and hope to be back writing again soon.

I completed my masters dissertation in September and have been enjoying some time off but I do have some pieces in the works.

2018 – The summer football DID come home

It hasn’t rained in weeks.

The government is collapsing

…and then it happened…

Football came home.

Yes, that’s right. It. Came. Home.

The original song by Badiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds never meant the World Cup was coming home. (Why would it? It was written for Euro 96). It referred to a nation regaining pride in a national team that had so often disappointed it and a tournament being hosted in the country that invented the modern game of football.

Whilst England may not have won the 2018 world cup we made it further than we ever expected. Only two England managers before Gareth Southgate had ever made an World Cup semi-final. More importantly when faith in the England national team was at an all time low the 2018 World Cup squad made us believe again. I get not everyone likes football and its easy to list a whole load of negatives about our national sport, from overpaid prima-donna players to hooliganism, football does not always have the best reputation. Whilst some fans haven’t helped the image of football by taking their celebrations too far on the whole watching England at this world cup has been a positive experience for a country very much in need uniting behind a source of communal pride right now. Anything that can have strangers singing and hugging in the street and make people proud of their country for reasons other than nationalistic bullshit cannot be all bad right? The trophy may not be coming back to England but our love of football and our national team is very much back. Football has come home.

Not to be “that guy” the stereotypical armchair fan who always knows exactly what his teams manager should do, but this summer we have watched a team of English players play with pride and professionalism for the first time in two decades. Key word – “Team”. I can only hope Southgate keeps this team together as long as possible. Our so called “golden generation” never once looked like a team, they were simply best XI English players that were available for any given tournament. Yes there were some world class players in that team but they always looked like eleven strangers for whom playing for their national team was not even the highlight of their career. This new England squad has shown more camaraderie over the past 6 games than the golden generation did in nearly a decade. Please Mr Southgate keep faith in them, all that matters is their England form and they should be picked on that basis, when the team starts getting filled with the Premier League flavours of the month the squad loses its consistency. Give this team four years more international experience and they could become a real force. Look at the German squad of 2010 for inspiration. They took a young inexperienced squad to the World Cup and made it to the semi finals. Four years later that squad with the same core of players became World Champions.

Unlike previous tournament exits, last nights result was not met with the usual anger towards the players and management but with respect and optimism. I was proud to find myself surrounded by people watching on the big screen at Spark: York applauding the players and singing “there’s only one Gareth Southgate”. The world cup might be over for this year but I am not ready for this good feeling around the national team to end just yet.

2018 – Football came home

2022 – The trophy came home?



An invitation to assist with my dissertation…

Hi all,

Seeing as yesterdays blog post about my one week vegan adventure seems to have gained me several new followers – if they guy reading the last post from Kenya is also reading this post then a particular “hello” to you! When I started writing this blog I expected it would only be seen by myself and a couple of my facebook friends, I never expected it to be read in Kenya! (maybe I should tag all my posts with “vegan” regardless of what they are about)

So I figured I would take advantage in this brief surge in attention with a bit of shameless self promotion. For those of you newcomers who haven’t read back on the previous posts (Sorry to disappoint you but this is not actually a veganism blog), I am currently working on a dissertation for a masters degree in Cultural Heritage Management. The title of the project is “Scenes of Heritage” and it focuses on the cultural and communal value of live music venues with a view to protecting them from the increased risk of closure that they currently face.

A key part of my study is an online survey of fans of live music so if any of my new found vegan friends also happen to love live music I would very much appreciate it if you would follow the link below and spare a few minutes of your day to answer a few questions about your relationship with live music and the places that host it.


At the time of writing this I am six people away from the minimum number of participants I was hoping to attract with three weeks to go before the survey closes so it would be great if you guys could tip it over the top.

Thanks for reading and particular thanks for those of you who take part in my survey.


One week as a vegan

Nearly six months ago I went vegetarian. I didn’t do it for health or ethical reasons. It started as an experiment to see if I could I could last a month meat free. The month completed I decided to just keep going with it, partly because it was saving me nearly £50 a month on my food shopping but mainly because I was really enjoying it. I wasn’t eating healthier or losing weight (my bread and cheese intake went through the roof!) but I was loving trying new dishes and revisiting ones I had previously disliked. This was helped by having recently moved house and having an awesome new kitchen that was a huge upgrade on my previous one making the cooking process much more enjoyable.

I have fallen off the wagon twice. Once when drunk at a late-night takeaway with limited options 10 mins before my train was due to leave and once when I defrosted what I thought was a veggie lasagne only to bite into it and discover it was beef one I had frozen before going veggie (having already had a mouthful and having nothing else prepared to eat that evening I figured I may as well finish it). I have also told myself that I won’t expect any special treatment as a vegetarian, I won’t expect anyone cooking for me to change their recipe plans (no asking for a different dinner when I go home for Christmas) or be “that guy” who insists on going to a place with a full range of veggie options when part of a group deciding where to eat but I will also no longer buy or prepare meat for myself.

Last week I decided to attempt 1 week as a vegan. I began by placing an online shopping order with Tesco. I immediately noticed that the savings I had made by going vegetarian were wiped out by buying vegan speciality items (although the Wicked Kitchen vegan sourdough pizza is absolutely worth it!). Upon arrival I found several of the new items I had ordered had been replaced – particularly the frozen items. It seemed the go to “vegan replacement item” for Tesco online is Birdseye vegetable fingers of which I now have 4 boxes in my freezer as they were used to replace most of the unavailable things I ordered. Despite this setback I found the meals I was preparing were genuinely enjoyable and surprisingly filling. The fact we have been in the middle of a heatwave which usually puts me more in the mood for lighter more refreshing meals has probably helped too. Even items like soy milk and vegan cheese, whilst not as nice as their dairy counterparts were not that bad. One of the main benefits I noticed was how quick and easy to prepare vegan meals were. With raw fruit and veg needling little preparation making up a much larger portion of my diet I found myself with far more free time each evening, something I greatly appreciated whilst working full time and attempting to complete a 20,000-word dissertation.

As the week progressed things became a bit more challenging. It’s easy enough to plan meals from your own kitchen around a vegan diet but grabbing lunch or a snack on the go or just going for drinks with friends can be a bit more challenging, particularly when you are new to veganism. I found myself constantly reading the back of packets to check the ingredients list. Often with spectacularly vague results that offered no clue to whether the item in question was vegan friendly or not. I was regularly frustrated by the absolute lack of vegan lunch options available from major retailers like Tesco and Sainsburys. Even ordering a beer often required a quick “is <beer name> vegan” google search. Luckily, I was already a total beer hipster and as it turned out most of the beers I usually drink happened to be free of weird animal-based preservative and colourings. At one point a colleague offered me some Skittles which I accepted and ate before even considering that they might contain gelatin. Luckily a quick google of “are skittles vegan?” suggested I hadn’t fallen off the wagon.

Finally, tonight being the final night of the experiment I decided to treat myself to a takeaway. Since going vegetarian my go-to takeaway option has been mushroom pizza. Upon logging onto both Pizza Hut and Dominos websites I found that neither offer vegan cheese as a delivery option – Pizza Hut does actually stock vegan cheese, but it is only available as an eat-in option at their restaurants. I took a quick browse on the local restaurants available on Deliveroo – York has some great places to eat but not that many which deliver and even fewer with many attractive vegan options unless you are in the mood for a vegetable curry. Step forward Zizzi who it turns out provide an excellent range of vegan pizzas and were able to deliver a top-notch vegan zucca pizza. Although ordering through Deliveroo rather than them having their own dedicated delivery website like the pizza chains meant the degree which you can customise your pizza is limited (I am still not fully convinced butternut squash belongs on a pizza).

Whilst one week isn’t really long enough to truly judge any impact on my health my initial impressions are very positive. I have found I am sleeping much better and as such am feeling much less lethargic and clearer headed. My mood is mostly improved, and stress is decreased, this at least in part likely down to spending less time preparing meals giving me more time to go outside and enjoy this great weather we have been having.

Overall, I would say that going vegan has been a positive experience for me but not something I can see as a sustainable long-term lifestyle choice. I will continue with my vegetarianism and am considering either having a vegan week once a month or remaining vegan at home whilst allowing myself more flexibility when dining out or on the go – i.e. no more googling whether a new beer I want to sample is vegan friendly and just ordering the damned thing.

Review: Hollywood Vampires – Wembley Arena 20/06/18

I don’t write gig reviews, I gave it a go several years ago and found I was not good at it. I found that I tended to review the entire experience beyond just the performance of the band. This included everything from the range of beers available at the bar to the ease of getting a train home. For me gigs go beyond simply going to watch a band, they are about partying with my friends, maybe having a little too much to drink and any number of factors that can affect the enjoyment of the evening.

However, last week I found myself with a spare evening in London and browsing the local gig listings saw that Hollywood Vampires were playing at Wembley Arena. I was sceptical of the whole concept of a covers band paying tribute to deceased rock musicians as well as conflicted about supporting a project with which Johnny Depp was involved after some of his recent PR disasters. However, The Damned and The Darkness were the support bands which ensured there would be a high fun factor about the evening and Vampires frontman Alice Cooper always puts on a great show, so I put my scepticism aside and hopped on the Metropolitan Line to Wembley. Having arrived just only a few minutes before The Damned opened the show meaning I didn’t go through my usual process of going to the pub and getting buzzed before the show and being an all seater gig meant I was able to relax and enjoy the show with very few distractions and as such the seeds of attempting a gig review were planted. Let’s see how this goes…

Opening act The Damned came out to an arena that was still mostly empty yet still managed to blast out a high energy punk-rock setlist that would put bands half their age to shame. Guitarist Captain Sensible kept proceedings light hearted seeming perfectly comfortable sharing banter with the sparse crowd. The opening slot of a large arena gig can often see a support bands sound get lost in the cavernous space but The Damned’s experience shone through and they never once sounded like anything other than a headline performance. The only mis-step of their set being when frontman Dave Vanian ventured out into the crowd attempting to engage with an audience who were mostly unfamiliar with his work.


The Darkness may no longer be drawing crowds to the same degree they were when they headlined this venue for three consecutive nights in 2004 but it appears nobody told them that. Opening with “Solid Gold” from their latest album and blasting through an abridged setlist comprised almost entirely of material from their first and last albums. Although their role as support band tonight means they cannot bring out the flaming guitars and giant flying breasts they had during their time as an arena headline band but that just free up frontman Justin Hawkins to share a bit more banter the audience and ensure the crowd is fully warmed up by the time Hollywood Vampires take to the stage.


I wasn’t particularly familiar with the opening few songs of the Vampires set, a couple of their own originals paying tribute to their “Dead Drunk Friends” and a couple of cover versions of which the originals I have only ever heard in passing. Cooper commanded the stage with his usual style and humour whilst Depp’s early contributions seemed to be mainly aesthetic with him seemingly playing the role of a modern-day guitar wielding Jack Sparrow at extreme ends of the stage. I have ever been the biggest Aerosmith fan, but Joe Perry’s talent was simply mesmerising with this new setting seemingly freeing him up to really show off. Once they broke into cover of The Doors “Break on Through…” it was non-stop big hits. With Perry and Tommy Henriksen both on guitar, Depp did seem musically superfluous for most of the set and at times when he was jamming with his bandmates it almost appeared as if he was receiving guitar tuition from the seasoned pros. He clearly has musical talent but possibly not to the degree of playing a venue of this size. That being said, for the two songs he fronted on his ability to portray an English accent served him well. His version of Bowies “Heroes” has been pretty well documented but for me his singing on the verses of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” is where he really shines, his lack of musical experience lending itself well to the DIY punk sound of the original. Sadly this cover was let down by the rest of the band jumping in and glamming up the chorus, stripping it of that punk sound. Judging by the T-shirts on display the audience was mostly made up of Alice Cooper fans and they were rewarded with polished versions of “I’m Eighteen” and “Schools Out”. What really shone through from the whole night is that, Depp aside, Hollywood Vampires are a group of musicians at the peak of their abilities covering songs that they clearly love. What initially seemed like a middle-class audience just looking for some nostalgic entertainment on a Wednesday night were all up on their feet dancing and singing along at the tops of their voices.

People go to watch cover bands to have fun partying to familiar songs. Yes, it’s not Bowie, Lemmy or Jim Morrison singing to us, but we don’t mind if it’s being done well. Essentially what you get with Hollywood Vampires is the world ultimate covers band.


Ok, maybe a bit long winded but there we have it – my first and probably last ever gig review.

How not to be a tourist…

The two main cities which I have called home in the UK can both be described as “touristy”. Their economies reliant on both domestic and international visitors flocking to them to spend cash. I myself have worked in several tourism industry jobs. You would think that the people who live in popular tourist destinations would be thankful for the influx of people providing them with income. Sadly the growth of international tourism has proven to be anything but a positive thing for many residents of tourist destinations.

A booming tourist economy can put basic costs of living far out of reach for many employed by the traditionally low paying tourism industry. Why would developers build affordable housing when they can build holiday accommodation? Why would landlords rent monthly to local tenants when they can charge by the night as an Air BnB? I am not going to advocate cities setting strict limits on the number of hotel rooms or holiday apartments, that would just lead to a black market in unlicensed/illegal holiday properties. I feel the economic issues of living in a tourist city could largely be addressed by paying tourist industry workers a fairer wage. Much of the anger towards tourists stems simply from the fact that tourists in large numbers often make a place simply unpleasant to live.

As a frontline worker in a busy tourist city not a day goes by when I don’t see tourist behaviour that leaves me at best speechless and at worst outraged at the total disregard that tourists often show to the locations that they visit and to the people who live and work in them – even to the very staff that are working to make their visit a pleasant one. As such I have come up with a few guidelines that I feel people should attempt to follow when playing the role of a tourist at home or abroad. All of these are based on my personal experiences working in front line tourist industry roles but I would love to hear suggestions for further guidelines based on other peoples experiences

  • Be aware of other people around you – Whilst it can often be bewildering finding yourself in an unfamiliar place, particularly one that is busy or where you may not speak the language or understand the customers, you should at least recognise that you are not the only visitor there. If you are unsure about what it is you wish to do when visiting a tourist attraction maybe step aside and take a minute to make your decision rather than getting in the way of everyone around you whilst your entire group attempts to come to a collective decision. If you are in a large group all shouting over each other to be heard in a conversation then you are probably drowning out everyone else in the room too.
  • Don’t attempt to stage a full blown photoshoot – Similar to above, if you are taking two dozen shots just to get that one perfect instagram shot to impress a few total strangers online the chances are you are not considering that your fellow travellers may also want to grab a photo too and they shouldn’t have to wait for ages for that one overly vain individual who wants to try out a full range of poses and a couple of costume changes. Ditto for group shots, if your group wants to take a photo outside a famous landmark maybe don’t do it in front of the main entrance preventing your fellow travellers from getting in and out of the place whilst you all arrange yourself. Also not everyone in the group needs to take turns snapping their own photo, the joy of digital photography is that you can take a shot on one camera and easily share it with the rest of the group. Finally if you are using a selfie-stick in a crowded area then you ARE in everyones way and they all hate you for it.
  • Respect customer service staff – Our job is to help you have a pleasant time, listen to what we have to say and speak to us respectfully and we will usually go out of our way to ensure you have a pleasant visit often providing you discounts or free upgrades/extras or even just some local knowledge to help make your trip an easier one. We understand that often you may be in a hurry or may not entirely understand us but show us the respect that you would expect from us and 9 times out of 10 you will be better off for it. Ignore us, talk over us, walk away from us mid sentence and I guarantee you are getting the bare minimum service for your entire visit.
  • Tell staff what it is you want – This is not just a case of respect, we are not mind readers, if you walk up to a ticket desk and just thrust money at us without saying a word expecting a ticket you actually make our job harder. We cannot always tell how many tickets you want or if you are eligible for student/senior discounts. Tell us what you want and we will be able to serve you much quicker and sometimes may even be able to get you a better price too. Also trust that we will give you the best deal we can, if you are family with a few kids don’t stand there trying to work out all the various pricing permutations (all you are doing is holding up the queue and annoying everyone around you), just tell us how many adults and how many kids and their ages. If its cheaper to get a family group ticket we will do that for you. – I know this may not be the case at all destinations but at UK tourist attractions its a pretty safe assumption you don’t have to do all the maths yourself to get the best price, the cash register will do that for you.
  • Remember that you are in a living working city – Cities like Barcelona, York, Prague, London, Venice, etc may look nice but they are not Disneyland (or Westworld). They were not built specifically for your amusement. Walking three abreast across a narrow pavement is guaranteed to piss off the locals who are trying to get to/from work. If something is fenced off chances are its private property you are not meant to climb over that fence to go and explore it. Even many visitor attractions, particularly historic monuments, were not designed with to allow tourists to do what they please. They are managed in a way to allow enjoyment for all not just for you. Deliberate damage or vandalism will never be tolerated but also try to show some awareness that maybe the reason a historic site has lasted so long is because it hasn’t continually had parts of it kicked of it to ensure they are still sturdy

  • Read the signs – If a sign says “No entrance”, “One Way”, “Staff Only”, “Do Not Climb”, “Do Not Touch”  then do as it damned well says. It was put there for a reason.
  • Don’t litter – This should be an obvious one but sadly it still needs to be said
  • Entertain your own kids – As customer service staff are not baby sitters, many of us do not even like children. If you cannot be bothered to supervise your own children then do not expect us to do it for you. That is not our job. Childcare is not included in the ticket price.
  • Remember you don’t have to be here – It seems odd but barely a day goes by that people show up at my place of work and it seems they don’t actually want to be there, they are either totally disinterested or even resentful that they are even there in the first place. If you would rather be at home in front of Netflix that’s ok, I would rather you were there too. I know being cooped up at home with your family can sometimes seem like a hellish experience particularly on a long bank holiday weekend but if you really need to get out of the house maybe leave the attitude at home or at least go somewhere where you don’t inflict it upon everyone else.
  • Remember front-line staff don’t set the prices – If you think something is too expensive don’t go getting arsey and shouting “ripoff” at the poor sod behind the counter. If he or she is wearing a name badge and a uniform and working on a Sunday you can almost guarantee that pricing strategy is way above their pay grade. Trade secret – whilst that poor sod in the ticket booth may not have the power to set the prices they may still be able to offer you a reduced ticket price (I.e giving you a concession ticket instead of a full adult) or even sometimes just turn a blind eye and wave you in for free (In the past I have done this just because somebody was wearing the jersey of my favourite sports team). I will admit it is rare that we will do this as we are not supposed to but you greatly increase your chances of this happening if you are just pleasant to us.
  • Speak to staff as you would like to be spoken to – This is another respect issue but I feel it needs its own point. Basic polite conversation seems to be a dying fashion amongst tourists. If somebody says “hello” to you an acknowledging grunt back is guaranteed to make a terrible first impression. If you mishear or misunderstand somebody the correct response is “pardon” or politely asking them to repeat themselves. Grunting “Y’WOT?!” at them is a sure fire way to test their patience.
  • Learn to queue – I know in some cultures queuing is not the done thing but most tourist attractions require some kind of queuing system to process visitor admissions. The entrances to visitor attractions generally serve as bottlenecks to manage the flow of visitors, if you are part of a group and decide to stand three+ abreast or huddle around in a circle whilst standing in line chances are you are blocking that bottle neck. If you simply try and cut the queue then congratulations everyone now hates you. In either case it is going to take you longer to get in if you cannot grasp the concept of an orderly line.
  • Leave your personal politics at home – I accept that in a customer service job I will occasionally have to serve some racist/sexist/homophobic/generally bigoted wankers. However, if they elect to air their neanderthal views to me they can expect I will be doing everything I can possibly get away with to ensure their visit is an unpleasant one. I haven’t forced my liberal agenda on you so don’t force your narrow minded hatred on me.

I could go on adding more for days but if even half of these guidelines became more commonly followed I know my every day life both as a tourism industry worker and as a resident in a popular tourist city would be exponentially happier.

Why is it still acceptable to stigmatise an entire genre of music?

As a white male its not often I face negative discrimination but there are certain prejudices that can affect people of any race, religion, gender or sexuality. Prejudices that discriminate against specific subcultures and their forms of expression.

Yesterday I saw this advert for Virgin Trains that perpetuated all kinds of negativity towards heavy metal.

Whilst thankfully it is not a regular occurrence, I have experienced various incidents of people judging me based the various subcultures I consider myself part of, particularly when I am openly expressing my involvement in that culture. As a football fan if I go to a match wearing team colours people often assume I am a hooligan (despite the fact that real football hooligans actually frown on displaying team colours) pubs will refuse service and even the police will treat you like a suspected criminal. Once when I was 14 walking home from a match I had a police baton rammed into my ribs by an officer demanding to know where I was from. Apparently wearing a Chester City FC shirt in Chester was not enough evidence to him to suggest I was from Chester (Its not like Chester are a big enough team to have glory supporters around the country). I get similar treatment as a heavy metal fan. Recently on a route to a gig on a packed train wearing a band t-shirt and a jacket covered in various metal bands patches I noticed I was being given much more room than usual. I a large beardy guy with several visible tattoos which some people may judge me for but never to the degree of giving up valuable space on a busy train. Yet the addition of heavy metal attire seemed to be enough for people to judge me as somebody to be avoided. I will admit it was actually quite nice to have some breathing room on a rush hour train but it did make me question why do these attitudes still persist over 30 years after Dee Sniders fantastic speech defending heavy metal to the US Senate? A speech in which he showed a person can be deeply embedded into heavy metal culture and still speak with intelligence and eloquence regardless of the clothes he wears or the music he listens to.

I don’t expect everyone to start listening to metal overnight (or ever), we all have our own tastes in music and fashion and some of us chose to identify ourselves by that more strongly than others. What I find hard to believe is, that given the actual popularity of metal and alternative music, that a major national company like Virgin Rail still sees it as acceptable to risk alienating its fans. As I write this over 100,000 people are gathering for in a field in Castle Donington for the UKs second biggest music festival (second only to Glastonbury), Download Festival, a festival dedicated to metal and alternative music genres which also serves as a celebration of the culture and traditions that surround those genres. Virgin Rail likening heavy metal to stress, disorganisation, shabbiness and unemployability and openly portraying a character who chooses their described “metal” option as a “wrong’un” and being at “rock bottom” is not only an incredibly narrow minded attitude, it is also factually inaccurate and incredibly short sighed given how many potential customers they are alienating. Given the current negativity towards rail operators in the UK surely they should be on a charm offensive to win over as many customers as they possibly can rather than stigmatise a genre that makes up almost a quarter of UK music streaming and has by far the most loyal fans of any music genre.

That’s a lot of people to stigmatise in one advert

Virgin Rail are not the only company guilty of this perpetualising of outdated, inaccurate, and negative stereotypes of alternate subcultures but this particular advert is one of the most recent and blatant examples of mainstream culture stigmatising a form of expression that does not fit with what they chose to portray as “normal”. By broadcasting attitudes like this on national media it emboldens more damaging attitudes to alternative culture. I am not saying atrocities like the murder of Sophie Lancaster or the fact that punks, goths and metalheads require protection under hate crime legislation are a direct result of companies like Virgin Rail pandering to negative stereotypes of alternative subculture but they are not bloody helping either. Yes, this is an extreme example of where these ridiculous attitudes can lead but I could write for day exploring how negative attitudes to alternative subcultures can impact peoples every day lives (I am confident I could complete another dissertation just from the tattoo acceptance in the workplace debate alone). Yes many of the ways we chose to express our links to our chosen subcultures are entirely optional but if that is how we feel comfortable and we are not harming anyone then we should not be pre-judged or stigmatised for that

I accept that this form of prejudice pales in comparison to the racism, sexism, homophobia and countless other forms of bigotry that continue to plague our society but it does raise some very worrying questions such as – If mainstream society cannot even be accepting of a specific type of music what hope does any minority group have?

Oh and for the record, if anybody from Virgin Rail should ever read this – when I have used your trains in the past I have usually been listening to metal as its the only thing that makes your terrible service bearable. After seeing this excretion of an advert I will in future try to avoid Virgin trains whenever possible but should I find myself forced to suffer a Virgin Rail journey in the future I shall be blasting something like this into my headphones the whole time and enjoying every damned note of it: