It was announced on the BBC (so it must be right then!) that spending on online advertising in the UK has overtaken the spend on TV advertising for the first time. It came from a report prepared by Pricewaterhouse Coopers for the Internet Advertising Bureau.
Online spending grew 4.6% to £1.752bn – which doesn’t sound that large a growth in what is such a young and explosive market – whilst TV advertising fell by a rather more substantial 16.1% to £1.639bn.
This is great isn’t it?
All clients are becoming much more savvy and spending their money where they can get a measurable return and not throwing any of their hard kept budget at more general profile raising ads.
I think this is not great, not great at all, as brands will suffer in the long term for doing so.
Brilliant virals change perceptions, we all know that, but brilliant TV advertising changes generations. It just has a far greater impact than another click through to a website by someone bored in their office on a quiet Friday.
Internet advertising must be part of any advertising mix that’s obvious, but so must profile raising clever TV ads, if you want to create and maintain a world brand.
When Nick Kamen stepped out of his pants in a launderette ad for Levis, he literally rebuilt their brand from that day forward. He gave them ‘cool’ and they have worked hard ever since to keep it.
I can think of thousands of transformational TV ads, but Virals, with very few exceptions are often just a gag that wears thin all too fast. Its the creatives having a hoot and winning awards. But is it really winning them customers or just massive click through rates? When Chris Tarrant, presents them on late night TV, how much good is that really doing for the brand?
And the best bit?
The irony that it was PwC reporting the demise of TV ads.
PwC were the people who were laughed at through massive viral campaign of changing their name to ‘Introducing Monday’ in 2002 by the hilarious viral geniuses at B3ta. If you don’t remember that, have look here and here.
It was the viral that created virals, but its brilliance was in its irreverence, not in its conformity.
If I owned a consumer brand, I’d be sticking by TV for a long time yet.
When I was a child at school. Doc Martens were all the rage. It was the height of the punk era, the birth of the ska era and the death of the disco era (thank god for that). I loved the music of the first two, and I loved the style too. I had a Harrington jacket – you know the one, it’s a black cotton bomber jacket with a tartan lining – but my parents always thought that Doc Martens were a bit too ‘thuggy’, so I wasn’t allowed any for school.
I hankered after the six hole docs that the cool kids had and watched with growing envy as more and more holes were added and the boots reached nearer the knees, perhaps stretching the bounds of practicality in favour of fashion.
But throughout this time, they kept their (mostly) functional appeal and the AirWair sole, that they had taken ownership of in the 1960’s through the Northampton based Griggs family tie up with Dr Klaus Maertens of Munich, Germany.
By the time I started at college, when I was 18 and allowed to make all my own decisions (based on a grant of £205 per year) I either couldn’t afford them or they had fallen off my radar as something I needed to own.
But I’m 43 now and able to make my own decisions again. My recent trip to the US saw me facing the terrible dilemma of ‘smart casual’ being the dress code for the trip. Any of you who know me, would know that this is not a bracket I sit comfortably within. Scruffy casual maybe, really scruffy oik probably, but smart casual would be a bit of a stretch.
So the first thing I needed was a new pair of shoes. Ones I could polish, to replace my exhausted Merrell casual trainers. And the shoe retailer Soletrader had the answer in these wonderful creations.
Now despite the fact it must have been a quieter few years for Doctor Martens, they stuck to their knitting. They still have AirWair, they still have the yellow cross on the sole and they have now added some detailing such as an embossed cross on the rear corner and some clever stitch detailing to give that hand finished appeal.
And they were great value too at £60.
I have also now had the opportunity to road test them through five cities in the US and they have been exceptional. Not a single blister, not a rubbed toe. Nothing. Entirely uneventful, like your most comfortable slippers since the day I put them on.
I’m not sure if that is good branding, consistent attention to detail, or just great quality manufacturing, but my 30 years of waiting for my own pair of Docs has been well worth it.
Our last day in New York and its our first free time since we arrived eight days ago and we’re flying through the night home tonight, giving back our five hour time difference in one six hour flying stroke. It’s a typical British Autumnal morning and I feel very much the Englishman in New York. Its dauntingly big and there’s too much to learn from in too short a time.
I wander up to the Wholefoods Market on the corner to buy my breakfast as I am up early and debating whether to take off on my own for the day or stick with the group. Wholefoods are the people that Tesco said they were taking on with their Fresh & Easy concept that they thought would capture the hearts and wallets of New Yorkers, but has so far, pretty much underwhelmed them.
Well, I have to report that having not seen the Kensington branch of Wholefoods, the one I saw on Second Avenue in New York was stunning. It looked welcoming, yet urban, the food looked beautiful and the staff members I spoke to were educated and interested, with one of the team on the till having spent time in the London Kensington store, helping with staff training. Can you imagine Tesco sending there checkout staff from Victoria centre being sent across to New York to show the Fresh & Easy staff how to be surly and cause unnecessary queues to wind people up in a hurry. Maybe they could just show them how they can tell customers that they can only use this queue if they’re buying Lottery, despite no-one else in the queue and people stacking the full length of the store at the self service tills?
Okay, that’s me being cynical and comparing the natural service culture we saw everywhere in the US. In the UK, we assume that it is insincere and below us to be polite, helpful and interested. We seem far more comfortable in being snotty or trying to catch our customers out than helping them enjoy their visit. This is a training issue we discussed an awful lot whilst we were away and whilst we don’t want ‘have a nice day’ all over the place, we do want to be able to deliver service staff who do just that – serve. It sounds simple, and it is in the US, but with a few notable exceptions, we make it look very difficult in the UK.
So after my early morning breakfast of orange juice and a parmesan breadstick (pretty healthy huh?), sitting in the park, next to the hotel, I watched the New York morning unfold before me.
There’s lots of honking, despite the signs threatening a $350 fine for anyone who does it and the driving is aggressive, the pace is hectic. It almost seems the opposite of how people behave when they get to work, or maybe those in cars are a different breed who never work in service positions? It’s a magical place to sit and absorb the atmosphere. I’m surrounded by New York Sparrows, (or their close relative, ‘cos I ain’t no ornothologist) and I share my bread with them and seem popular amongst them.
Back at the hotel, the others are gathering for the day and I decide to stick with the Sheriff and Adela as they are planning to go to Liberty Island. I know this is probably the cliché of all clichés, but I’ve never been and I wanted to take in another audio tour and see how the trip across compares to my favourite river trip – The Ferry across the Mersey.
The first stop is the Metro station at Lafayette and Broadway which we follow down to Bowling Green. This leads us onto Battery Park and our first view of the Statue of Liberty across the water. As we walk across the park, there is a huge damaged sphere in front of us.
At first the thought was that it had been vandalised, but when you read the sign in front of it, you begin to understand.
Again, the feelings of anger rise up at how this could have happened, but I love the Sphere’s symbolism. Its an even more powerful reminder than the slightly cold but informative hoardings at Ground Zero and its simplicity paints a far starker image in your mind than a display of what’s coming next could portray.
The boat trip with a full audio tour of Liberty Island and Ellis Island is $20 (about £12) which seems like good value. You then travel through a full airport security style search and scan, with everything X rayed and shoes, phone, cameras, belts ad even notebooks in the trays. Its something that is hard to begrudge as the symbolism of peace and liberty that the statue stands for is one that must be under constant terrorist threat.
The short boat ride across only stood out for the fact that it was a great place to photograph armpits and other people’s hands. It was like a class full of the worlds most enthusiastic school children with every hand up for most of the trip.
The silly thing about these shots, was that five minutes later when you landed, it was easy to get a much better image without the hands in the way and without the crowds around you.
We had a cup of coffee to see off the heavy rain and marvelled again at what exceptionally low prices they charge in these nationally controlled attractions. $1.50 (£0.89) for an almost nuclear strength 3/4 pint of coffee wouldn’t be seen at anything but the lowest of cafes in the UK, let alone with a captive audience on a cold wet island full of tourists.
The audio tour used the exact same digital system as the one at Alcatraz, but was far more dull. The single voice talking you through the history was informative at best, but turgid, if I’m honest. By the time we’d walked half way around the island, it was off and we were reading the signage, which had all the information anyway. But the view close up is perfect.
We had opted not to take the trip up the monument, which was good as the queue was huge and there was yet another scanning scrutiny. One of the previous blog commenters, Christine from Boston had been helpful in her recommendations and warned us that this was simply not worth the money or the queue, so we gladly took her advice.
So some statto facts about the statue itself. Its 305ft tall from the ground to the top of the flame and was completed in 1886 as a gift from the People of France. It was the tallest structure in the Eastern US when it was built as most of Lower Manhattan was only five stories until well into the 1920’s. She has a 35ft wide waist (like many other people in the US) and a 42ft right arm. Even her fingernail is the size of my forearm and she sees 3 million visitors per year to her very own island.
The ferry took us back via Ellis Island for a further (dull) audio tour and then back across to Battery Park.
Time was pressing on and we were leaving in a few hours, so we opted to walk back to the hotel along Broadway to take in some more of the atmosphere. A good three miles or so along a dead straight road, took in Wall Street. The signage is as we have all seen it, but the state of the roads and paths were awful. The police presence was massive and the crowds even more massive.
After collecting a late lunch in an immaculately clean and friendly salad bar, where you can choose what you want and pay by weight, we sat in one of the City parks and watched a group playing chess with a form of winner stays on. Quite a crowd gathered and you got the feeling that this was a regular haunt for city types and students alike. Black squirrels ran around us picking up scraps and the feeling was far more relaxed than any other place in New York I had seen.
The final walk took in the Bell of Hope and St Pauls Chapel, back at Ground Zero. The Bell was a gift from the Mayor of London to the people of New York and was created by the Whitechapel Foundry, who also cast Big Ben and the bell on Liberty Island. It is rung each 9/11 anniversary and was also rung after the Madrid bombings in 2004 and on July 7th 2005 after the Subway and bus bombings. It’s a very sombre reminder.
The chapel itself is where the firemen gathered and rested during the recovery mission after 9/11 itself. To most, it is the spiritual home of those who lost their lives.
It seems like a suitable place to sign off, on what was an incredible trip, full of learnings, stark reminders and world class attractions.
I honestly never thought that the US, would be my thing. I thought it would be too brash. Its big, yes, but it’s so full of genuine people who love our history, curtsey to our Sheriff and respect our country, its impossible to not end up feeling like you’re part of it.
In the words of King Arnie of California. I’ll be back.
We’re off duty, we’re finished, we’re shattered and we’ve learned loads. Its impossible to not learn if you’ve seen 31 attractions over 12,000 miles in 8 days. If you manage to not learn here, you shouldn’t be here in the first place. I’ll write out the full conclusions from my own viewpoint and get them on here in the next few days, but first, I’ll wrap up with the last few things we did, in our briefly hectic time in New York.
Having left the Museum of Natural History, we headed off to Seaport, on the east coast of the Island and underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. This is a brash, sprawling shopping and entertainment centre that few love, but hundreds still flock to, in order to shop, eat and drink.
This is NOT my scene at all, but it was another to see and tick off. Perhaps to ensure we don’t rip the heart out of the city of Nottingham by overdeveloping the riverside, when this is eventually done and turn it into a vile tourist mecca with shops and a distinct lack of character.
We did stop at a restaurant that looked okay and had the Arsenal game on (replayed in full, but time delayed by five hours) in the background. Being the cultural tourist that I am, this was as much of a draw as the view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the tall ships.
The food portions, were the most ludicrous yet. Being slightly healthy and wanting to avoid accusations of salad dodging, I went for a Caesar Salad with chicken, only to be presented with a family size bowl that had two chicken breasts in it and at least a cubic metre of lettuce. It was simply enormous. I’m not sure if I got much over half way through it before giving up and even leaving some of the chicken. You can see my choice of drink, to give me a real sense of home. I waddled back to the hotel to get ready for our night out.
When we got back to the hotel it was just turning dark and two doors away at a tiny cinema called the Sunshine Cinema, was Charlize Theron, who just happened to be premiering her new film ‘The Burning Plain’ in New York. Either that, or she was just hanging around our hotel, just hoping to get a glimpse of the Sheriff of Nottingham and his men.
It was remarkably low key, with no red carpet, almost no Paparazzi (except Tim Garratt – who got this shot – Thanks Tim) and very few people hanging around. I didn’t bother staying to see her on the way out as we had a date with Little Boots at The Bowery Ballroom.
This is rated by many in the music industry as one of the best venues in the world and with a capacity of around 575, a superb sound system and a stage that allows everyone on the floor or the balcony to get a perfect view, I’m not surprised.
Victoria Christina Hesketh, or Little Boots by her stage name, was supported by two other bands, ‘The Plastiscines’ who I (with my feeble musical taste and knowledge) thought were ok and ‘Yes Giantess’ who I thought were great. I had chat with them afterwards and despite the fact they come from Boston, they were still prepared to speak to me (unlike many others of the fair city, after me upsetting them last week). They’re in UK on the NME tour soon, so if you get chance, go and see them and tell them I sent you.
Little Boots can really sing. Whether you like her music or not, listening to her live shows the power and range of her voice and how well received she was by the people of New York (and Nottingham).
Again, I have to thank Tim Garratt and his excellent photographic skills for the quality of this shot.
I also got to speak to her road manager and asked him about the tour. He described it as a mini tour, that was far more about PR than finances. Thinking about it logically, at only $15 a ticket and playing to only 500 odd people, they never had a chance of ever breaking even, but I’m sure the people adding images and videos to their Facebook and Bebo pages (and blogs like this) will help her profile no end.
Good luck to her. She is one hell of a live singer.
More later for my last day in the USA, taking in Liberty Island and a walk along Broadway.
Okay, now I know what jet Lag is and I am just recovering from the tiredness of the trip, with lots of catching up on sleep. Maybe four hours a day isn’t enough for me at my tender age?
So, we’ve just left the High Line, which was our last official duty and means that we have seen every site we said we would and more and now we were into ones that we thought could be useful, interesting or just personal favourites.
As we walked off the High Line, there was the most amazing car park contraption right down below us. These are prevalent in New York, but I have worked out some of the numbers and they seem to make an awful lot of sense for parking in a crowded city.
The site is only 30metres square and can house over 144 cars. The guideline is that you can park for as little as 30 minutes, but you need to give them around 20 minutes notice to leave, so they can have your car ready. But the parking charges are massively cheaper than anywhere else in New York. If you arrive before 8am, it only costs $14 for the day and $23 after 8am. This encourages people to beat the rush hour and save money.
The other lovely thing that the company who runs it called Edison Parkfast do, is tell the world about their long serving employees. I would imagine, in a normal parking business, a parking attendant would be a fairly transient employee, but whatever these people are doing to keep and motivate their staff is working, as they have over 40 sites around New York and have a very low staff turnover.
We then headed towards the American Museum of Natural History, which shows the sheer scale of Manhattan Island as it took absolutely ages on the metro to get there. We walked past the Dakota on the edge of Central Park. This apartment building was built in 1880 and seems to be famous for the famous people who have lived or still live in it. It’s also infamous as the place where John Lennon was shot and killed in 1980.
Just across the road is the Strawberry Fields memorial, which is remarkable for being so unremarkable. It looks to me like its just a small sign at the side of the path, but maybe I missed the rest.
I was far more impressed with the signage of a very enterprising tramp, who had decided to pursue a policy of honesty in advertising. His simple, clear appeal had people queuing up to have their picture taken at his side (whilst he remained firmly asleep) and almost everyone who did this left him a dollar or two. I guess he only wakes up to pocket the cash and slope off for a beer or two.
The American Museum of Natural History is huge. Really huge. And seriously impressive as a space. You can guess the scale of the exhibitions by the scale of the reception area.
There are again, the names of loads of benefactors above the door and throughout the introductory signage, from individuals at one end to Toyota at the other. Whatever we do in Nottingham, we have to find a way to harness the businesses of our region to need to be involved for the kudos they can draw from the association. Without wishing to bang the same cliché out again, they are only going to do this, if what we do is world class!
One of the pride of place exhibits out there is the Willamette Meteorite, which looks like a big lump of pitted metal until you start hearing some of the facts about it.
It weighs 15.5 tons and was formed over 15 billion years ago which is quite a long time, even by universe standards. This piece was bought by the benefactor 100 years ago for $20,000 (around £5,000 then), which seems like a lot until you hear that last year, a piece that weighed just 30lb sold for $1m (around £600k).
The Planetarium, was one of my favourite things of the whole trip, but as with others, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures to show you – and they probably wouldn’t do justice to the panoramic nature of the display.
It was exceptional, right down to the vibrating seats, the beautiful way that our planets history was explained in Layman’s terms by the voiceover of Whoopi Goldberg. A world class voiceover, certainly helps with a world class attraction.
And some of the lovely little cameo pieces around the place are weighing scales, set into the floor, that give you your weight on different planets.
At this point I was feeling a bit of a podge, but was quite reassured to see I had lost around 12 stone, but would need to move to the moon to realise this terrific weight loss. A move to the Sun, would be far more tricky. Partly because it is very hot there but also because my weight would increase 134 fold. I may need some new trousers in order to avoid embarrassment.
Still more to come, but I’ll add that as soon as I can and finally end with my conclusions in a few days.
Sorry, I’m a bit behind, but I’m now at home, at my desk and writing furiously to catch up on all the things we have seen and learned on the last leg of our mammoth trip across the USA.
Our last official day is in New York, and to say I am feeling tired would be something of an understatement. If I was sitting at home with a few days in New York ahead of me, I would be so excited I’d be jumping around like a loon. When you have done six straight 18 hour days ad averaged four to five hours sleep a night, it seems more like hard work.
So, choose your attitude. Look at New York and all its attractions with an open mind. There’s almost too much here to see, but there was one that we all agreed was a real winner and that’s the Highline Project. This is a regeneration project that we could directly learn from and bring to Nottingham. More of that shortly.
I’ll talk you through the day as to how it panned out ad show you some of the sights I saw along the way. In New York alone, I took over 250 shots, so I can only hope to get a brief flavour of the scale and excitement of the city. Oh, and by the way, it does sleep. On our way back from Top of the Rocks yesterday, we tried about three bars to get a drink at around 12ish and they were all closing, so we gave up and went back to the hotel which hasn’t got a bar in it either.
Another early start saw us walking toward Ground Zero. I wanted to see this, not out of some morbid curiosity, but to understand the scale of the redevelopment and see what they had done with the signage and information around the site, in order to be able to compare it with how we convey information to the public during development and building works.
First stop was to admire in original Chopper parked up in the heart of SoHo (South Houston), near the hotel. It was lovely to see a bit of seventies Nottingham, alive and well in the heart of New York’s vibrant centre.
We then stopped of at a really grungy looking bar for breakfast called the Cupping Room cafe, which comes highly recommended from friends and having eaten there, it again proves (as did John’s Pizzeria) that in New York at least, appearance can be very deceptive. The food was absolutely gorgeous.
I had the oddest breakfast ever of a Mexican Omelette, which came filled with Sour Cream, Tomato Salsa, red pepper, sliced bacon and loads of Chilli spiciness. It also came with the best cup of coffee I have had so far in the entire trip, fresh bread, juice and a mass of home fries. These are a really rough cut potato quarter that are fried (so chips in effect) and gorgeous. A bit slobby for breakfast but on our two meal a day regime, it set me up for the whole of the rest of the day.
We walked on, heading south west and having to zig zag through the gridded road layout. New York is actually very easy to walk around once you work out the system, but the scale is awesome. There are 10m people who work on Manhattan Island. It’s massive. Taking on a walk from one end to the other is a good two to three hour challenge. If you can cope with the walking, there’s loads to see on the way. You can even learn to Cha Cha, by following the simple step-by-step guide that I saw on the floor by a shop called Kate Spade.
A few minutes later we arrived at Ground Zero. You can’t really get over the scale of the hole between the buildings. Not in terms of the hole in the ground, but the sheer scale of footprint the buildings sat on. It is actually three times the size of our own market square at 65,000 square metres and our own square is the biggest in the UK.
I found it a terribly sad place to be. The police presence was extraordinary, with a double line of cars outside a building at one corner of the site and cameras everywhere.
I felt a huge sense of outrage at how the lives of 3,000 people could have been taken so brutally, when they were just going to work. The amount of materials posted everywhere offering help and advice to anyone involved or affected, shows how raw it still must be for many and the sense of sadness that hangs over the place is impossible not to feel.
And then, as we were leaving the site, it got worse. Right in front of us were a group of men with diggers, still involved in the site’s excavation in preparation for the new tower and memorial fountains, pulling out twisted metal and loading it into lorries for removal. This must be an unbelievably grim task for those involved, but one that has to happen for the nation to grieve and move on.
I found it very difficult to simply turn my back and walk away, but being in a group with a timetable to work to, I had to. I had been deeply affected by what I saw and what I felt. I had already decided to return the next day, in my own time, to spend some time in St Paul’s Chapel, the spiritual home of the 9/11 workers and survivors. More of this tomorrow.
We then walked on to Chelsea market, a fairly new development of retail and restaurants made from the former new York Biscuit Company factories and bakeries. This has been imaginatively and beautifully restored and has become a vibrant little centre with tourists and locals mingling throughout.
We stopped for a drink at Ronnybrooks dairy. They present as a really homely Mom and Pop milk bar hailing from the time of theFonz and the 50’s.
My drink of choice was a Lemonata. It’s a sort of lemon and mint ice crush drink that is lovely and refreshing and made in front of you using the juice from fresh lemons and squashed up mint leaves.
Suitably refreshed, it was off to the High Line, which had been sold to us as a concept that would be one of the highlights of our trip.
You can see from the entrance to one end of it that its still work in progress, but it is already a hugely popular park with the people of the city. In the few weeks since it opened on June 8th, it has already had a million visitors walking, sitting and resting along its lengths.
The management of the site is by the New York Parks Department. Their officers, have the power of arrest, but they’re still happy to stop and talk and told us about how well received the whole project had been and how little trouble they actually have to deal with on a daily basis. Again, it is immaculate, with not a spot of litter anywhere.
The design of the signs and the humour they imply is excellent and must be one of the reasons it is being so well looked after.
There are some lovely architectural touches. My favourite was an area that was built over an old railway bridge, where a tiered seating arrangement had turned the streets of New York into a theatre. People were sitting having drinks and sandwiches watching the world go by with the window on the world as a giant screen.
The whole thing is currently only around 1/2 mile long, but they are working on the next sections, which could open up another 1 1/2 miles. The quality of the finishing was superb. Detailing, as good or better than anything I have ever seen in the UK and the overall feel of the site was chilled and brilliant.
If we could create this in our city, we would be onto a winner.
Boston Logan airport is a laid back place. Rather than the racks upon racks of plastic seating, they have rocking chairs. How cool is that.
They also have food chains I have never heard of but would love to see in England. The one I ate at was called U Food Grill, which worryingly seems to be backed by George Forman. Anyway, for fast food it was actually pretty good.
I seem to have accidentally upset some of the good people of Boston. Not sure why though, because I loved the place, but I had the audacity to ask a policeman for directions and then try and follow some non existent road signs and got some good old fashioned national stereotyping thrown at me as well as a few who made the effort to read the article.
Criticism of any sort can only be constructive if it’s well intentioned and comes from someone who’s seen seven cities in ten days (Nottingham, London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and now New York). You’re much better off hearing it from someone who cares enough to tell you than not to hear it at all. You can read the ongoing debate about my typical British character and the various attractions in Boston here on what has to be Boston’s most popular blog.
So, onto New York. So good they named it twice apparently, but if first impressions of La Guardia Airport are anything to go by, I thought I was going to hate it. It’s like East Midlands Airport used to be before it saw the light and called itself Nottingham East Midlands and then lost its nerve and backed down again – because everyone knows where the east midlands are don’t they? Err no, but Nottingham and all its worldwide connections is without doubt a better name on which to hang it, if they want anyone else in the world to have heard of it and fly there on a whim.
The drive here was an exercise in swerving honking and seeing who could be the most aggressive. Considering there are signs up at every intersection saying ‘No Honking $350 fine’ it has to be the most ignored street furniture ever and the loudest drivers city anywhere. But at least they do have Hybrids now, although you have to pay a $4.50 premium on your fare to travel in them!
The hotel we’re staying at is the Gem Hotel in SoHo (South Houston) which gets good Tripadvisor ratings but has the tiny rooms so typical of any budget hotel in a major city. It’s a great place in the heart of where it’s happening and has a feel of the Ibis Hotel in the Pod on the edge of the Lace Market.
We wanted to see the Top of the Rocks at the Rockerfeller Center. It’s another massive viewpoint that gives you a view across the City and we really need to understand how they do these sorts of things US style.
So, it was off down Bleecker Street for the walk to Rockerfeller. We called in at the Greenwich Village Bistro for a few lovely beers at the roadside and took in the buzz of the place. It is so similar to or own London Soho and if we could create that sort of buzz in the Lacemarket in Bildurn’s Lace Market Square, we’d have one hell of a destination for people to come and enjoy their time in the City.
And then to John’s Pizzeria for tea. This place looks an utter dump but creates the most beautiful pizza. Two were shared across the six of us and we all left full, they were that big. It’s a bit of a celebrity hang out with pics of Frank Sinatra and Joe Frazier of the wall. All the wooden benches are scratched with dates, names and times and the waiters are all grungy Muscle boys. But it’s brilliant.
We had a long talk about what they’d done right over dinner and concluded that they’ve stuck to their knitting. They do pizza and that’s it. No slices and cash only. It’s like a much rougher version of Pizza Savai. Great food, really sensible prices and still family run. It also brought on the discussion about how few non-chain pizza places we have to eat at in Nottingham. Surely there has to be room for another good one or two?
We then braved the New York Metro, which was stiflingly hot until you got on the trains themselves. They’re all air conditioned. They’re much longer and wider than the London Underground trains and the mapping as to how to find your way around it seems to an outsider, random to say the least. It may be a scale thing as Manhattan Island is so massive, but there were barely any maps inside the trains and it’s assumed you know where you’re going.
So, onto the Rockerfeller’s Top of the Rocks. Built in 1929 it’s huge at 850 feet tall and the advantage it has over the view from the Empire State Building is that you get a view of the Empire state Building, with the Chrysler Building thrown in free.
You follow a route through an exhibition about its building and then walk into the lift, which literally flies up its 68 floors. If you want to, you can still walk up another two in order to be at the very top. The views are amazing.
These shots just don’t do it justice. The scale is just awe inspiring and one that could only really be recreated if Nottingham expanded to such a degree that it was connected to Derby and Leicester. It’s that big. Here’s another with the black area in the middle being Central Park.
The trip back to the hotel was far more challenging with express trains overtaking local ones. Serious confusion set in and it was three changes before we got back to where we should be.
I’m a bit behind on my writing, so tomorrow, I’ll be writing about our last day on official duty tomorrow and we’ll be off the amazing new Highline Project, the Cupping room, Ground Zero, Chelsea Market, Central Park, The Natural History Museum with its planetarium and other stuff I’ve seen on the way.
For what was supposed to be a really relaxed morning, it turned into another early start and manic morning. We separated into three groups.
Stephen Barker and the Sheriff went over to Essex County to meet Sheriff Cousins and his team. Tim Garratt and Nick Hammond took the walking tour and myself and the Sheriff’s Lady, Adela took a walk to the world famous Cheers Bar (which was closed as it was too early in the morning) and then onto the Museum of Science, based on the waterfront. Tim will write a guest blog that I’ll add below, but first I need to finish up on yesterday’s visits, with our tour of the USS Constitution.
It was built in 1795 and could carry up to 55 huge guns. It’s currently in the process of a very major restoration, which is being part navy funded and part public funded. It still sails four times a year.
The word authenticity is everything and we were give the opportunity to climb right down into the gunpowder store. In its heyday, this would have been the workplace for 20 hours a day for up to three young boys who worked as gunpowder runners, delivering the powder to all of the cannons on the higher decks. It was horrifically small, amazingly claustrophobic and stiflingly hot – and that is when its sitting in a dock. I can’t imagine what it must have been like in the height of battle in the early 1800’s
A nice small fact that came out from our bright young tour guide was that if you are in the US Navy and brave enough to win a Medal of Honour, it will have been made from some of the copper rivets on the USS Constitution that are replaced in rotation to prevent fatigue.
The learning from this is probably less so than some of the others places we have visited, other than the quality and knowledge of the guide. He is a serving Navy junior and has a two year rotation on this ship before transferring over to Florida to start his training in Avionics, in order to become a aircraft mechanic, working on the aircraft carriers. Whether it’s just the American way or just the Navy way, but he seemed genuinely proud to be serving (even if his role was mainly as a tour guide) on such an important part of American Naval history.
So, Cheers Bar. About a mile from our hotel, so we walked it. Boston like most US cities isn’t exactly geared up for walking, but it was worth doing, to see the beautifully clean streets which look like the most grand merchant areas of Manchester and Liverpool. They were mostly flats now, but they were all immaculate. No peeling paint, no scruffy steps and no litter anywhere. Funnily enough, there were no ‘for sale’ signs either. This may be a local byelaw, but it could also be that people never sell them.
Cheers Bar is in the Beacon Hill district and is actually a bar called the Bull and Finch Pub. In truth it looks slightly tired, but we didn’t get to see inside as we arrived a good while before they open at 11am.
It’s interesting though that whilst I was never a particular fan of Cheers and haven’t seen sight nor sound of it on TV in years, I was still pleased to be able to see it.
With our own Trip to Jerusalem pub, we have one of the (if not the) oldest pubs in the world and I wonder whether we actually make enough of it as a tourist attraction. I know when we did some research about what people knew about the City, what it stood for and what made it stand out, it was rarely if every mentioned in the 768 responses we got back from the extremely broad sample we poled. I understand it’s a commercial venture and a licensed commercial venture at that, but this place needs to be used far more centrally in the marketing of the city.
As we have seen with the USS Constitution being the oldest boat afloat and the Pilgrim hall being the oldest museum being the oldest museum that’s operated continually as a museum, we have to find its angle even if it is a little contrived. If we can mark it out as clear and demonstrably different, then people will come, just to be seen at the oldest inn in Britain.
After Cheers, Adela and I kept walking towards the Museum of Science, which is huge, has its own IMAX cinema and began life in 1830 as the Boston Society of Natural History.
The walk there was quite a tough one for quite a few reasons. Firstly there is no signage at all for a pedestrian. Considering this place has been around for such a long time and it is quite so huge, it would seem logical to me, that they include even a few signs for how to get there.
Secondly, even without the signs, there is no logical way to walk. You are constantly crossing, recrossing and doubling back in order to get to an area that is anything other than along the side of a freeway. And that water. You can see it from certain places, but you can’t walk along the side of it to get there. In the two l=miles we walked from Cheers to MOS, there could not have been more than 100 metres of waterside walk. It makes me appreciate what a great job they’ve done on the side of the Thames and how little we make of our riverside.
And thirdly, there are too many commercial ventures to protect. At the side of the Museum is a huge queue of ducks dragging people in for $30 a time for tours around the city. They are a hop on, hop off event and there are loads of them. Boston had more walkers than other US cities, but there still weren’t many of them, so between the duck companies and the controlling authorities they seem to have ‘tied’ the market up.
Inside the museum, there were a few brilliant things. The Foucault clock was slow, and mesmerising and could be watched for hours (if you weren’t rushing)
But my favourite bit and sorry for the quality of the pic, but it was all behind glass and not brilliantly lt for photography, was at the back of the IMAX, where the projection room was part of the display. For a geek like me, who loves this type of machinery, to get to see the working projection room was priceless.
Anyway, its off to the hotel, via the most tortured Subway system I have ever seen and then off to New York.
Firstly though, Tim Garratt and Nick Hammond did the Freedom Trail around Boston, a sort of walking trail through some of its historical regions and Tim has kindly written me a guest blog, which is here below.
Guest blog – Tim Garratt – 15 September 2009
Billed as “The Freedom Trail”, Boston has a historic walk which runs for 2 ½ miles and takes in 16 sites.
It starts at a Visitor Center on the edge of Boston Common (a sort of Central Park thing) – and then weaves through the old part of the town.
You have a choice of DIY or escorted. Both follow a red brick or painted line in the pavement and eat each interest point there is a brass plaque set in the pavement where you stop and take in the sight.
We picked up a $3 map and guide – which is badly laid out and reminds you of the old paper origami maps – easy to take apart but impossible to put back together! Fortunately it wasn’t raining – we would have had a soggy mush to help us along.
The first stop was very impressive Massachusetts State House – complete with real 23ct gold topped roof. Not sure Nottingham is ready for this! It cost $133,000 in 1798 – five times over budget.
We then meandered through the ancient streets until we happened upon the Kings Chapel – built originally in 1749. Inside it houses the oldest pulpit in the USA, but the best feature were the individual pew boxes – which were sold to wealthy families! Washington came here in 1789.
Back on the Street we continued towards the USS Constitution and stopped by the site of the Boston Massacre in 1770. The site is marked by a stone circle – we were somewhat underwhelmed by the monument. It’s a traffic island!
Out of time we opted out of the tour at this point and headed back into town. So our impression. It’s a great idea – and the pathway is something that can transfer. But the destinations are mixed and we walked past a few. At the Kings Chapel we were invited to part with cash; so if you do this at each tour stop it can be quite expensive. The guide was expensive and rubbish – it would have been a liability in rain. It also very clearly marked us a tourists and I couldn’t help but wonder about being targets as we concentrated on finding things. If I am really honest we got bored. I (as a surveyor) found interest in the buildings but the story seemed a bit disjointed. Perhaps we would have been better with the uniformed tour guide.
I’m really conscious about how many times I’ve used the word ‘amazing’ on this trip so far, but today has been, well, amazing.
The position of the Sheriff of Nottingham has real significance in Plymouth. We have been treated like royalty, right down to the fact that our own Sheriff Leon, was curtseyed by some of the staff as we arrived at the Mayflower II in Plymouth – a beautiful town north of Boston and home to our very own Scrooby based ancestors.
We took the train from Boston South Station at 08.56, which to us was still well before 6am after out three hour time change last night. It’s a busy chaotic station and the home to Amtrak and the more commuter based double decker trains. Obviously we sat on the top deck (because it was there) and the trip to Plymouth was cheap and very efficient.
Even whilst we were arriving at the station, we were grabbed by a man called Evert Lanman, who has lived in Plymouth all his life – apart from the four years he served in the US Navy – he could not have been more proud (and surprised) to be meeting the real sheriff of Nottingham.
We were met by Deputy Phil Huang, our driver for the day in his blacked out van, more used to transporting people between court appearances than driving people between tourist attractions I suspect.
The Mayflower II is a 1957 reproduction of the original Mayflower that brought the Original Settlers to the USA.
It’s very much a ‘living’ history visitor attraction. The line that summed this up best came from Shelley Jo, who worked at the attraction, and was one we have to use somewhere in our attraction.
‘We don’t have artefacts, just attitudes’
This was incredibly evident. The exhibition panels were very much of the traditional variety, but when you step onto the boat, the people who work on there are completely in character and try as you might, you cannot break them out of it. They not only dress for a character of their time, they speak, eat and behave as a character of their time. Robert Coppen, the ships mate appeared genuinely shocked that someone would want to shake his hand upon our arrival as it was a custom that had not yet begun.
The waiter at the Cabby Shack, where we went for lunch told us that as kids, it used to be a game they play, where they’d go down on the boat and try and trick them into breaking character and answering in a modern way.
We’ve spent a long time since discussing this. Can we really recruit people who will get in character and stay in an unbreakable character? It’s a level of authenticity that we don’t normally see in the UK but one we have to learn from. These people aren’t just doing a job, they are really living the character whilst they are at work, and clearly researching the history of the characters of the time when they aren’t. And that’s for a salary of around $8 per hour. The British way has been to laugh at this, but if we are going to deliver an authentic experience, we have to learn from this and embrace what they are doing so well.
The Mayflower II gets around 1/2 million visitors per year spread throughout the year. They have many from Britain, but also from as far as Japan, the West Coast, Canada and Australia. Most have some British heritage and want to see where the US adventure began.
It was then off to the Pilgrim Hall Museum, just down the main street. We bumped into British visitors, over here from Warrington and touring New England, who like ourselves are amazed by the quality of the museums and exhibtions that are dotted throughout the region. This is the Longest continually running museum in the US, having originally been built and opened as a museum in 1824. The words ‘continually running’ are important here as there is one in Salem called Peabody Essex Museum, with a shout for the ‘oldest’ in the US having history dating back to 1799, but they can’t claim the ‘continuous’.
It’s a smaller exhibition that sees 30k visitors per year and follows a more traditional, but historically accurate route. It has a curator, a learned board of Directors and could easily be a direct reproduction of how Nottingham castle is run today.
Speaking to Phil Cripps, the Director of Plymouth County Convention and Visitors Bureau, they are in the process of landing a huge new inward investment to the region, which will bring them thousands more visitors each year. They are in the process of delivering the biggest production studio in the world. It’s two years away, but it will bring with it 14 stand alone sound stages, a 300 room 5 star hotel.
It will be called Plymouth Rock Studios and will become the Hollywood of the East Coast. It’s a huge deal ad will no doubt change the face of the region completely. You can see more about it here.
Perhaps most surprising is that in a non binding referendum in the town, the people of Plymouth voted 87% in favour and then in the town meeting to finally approve its arrival, they voted 97% in its favour. I somehow don’t see the people of Nottingham being this much in favour of such a huge change to the face and shape of a region.
After lunch it was off to Plimouth Plantation. The deliberately misspelt and historically accurate of what life would have really been like for the early settlers to the USA. As with the Mayflower, historical accuracy is everything. The people live and breathe their characters. It’s a totally enchanting place that oozes history. It could easily be mistaken for a Romanian Village and its beauty is in its simplicity and relative order.
We were introduced to many people in the village, but the first was Elder Brewster, who talked of the history of the place and referred to his ‘knees’.
At this point in history they were called ‘knees’ but the k was really emphasised so they sound like ‘kinees’. In history it was about this time, when the ‘k’ in your knees got softer and so the older cast members are using the traditional expressions and the younger ones adopting the more modern approach. This level of detail and historical accuracy as we have seen on many of he places during this tour is priceless. It is the reason they are successful. At Getty it was the one in 14 leaves being removed every three weeks and at the Museum of Tolerance it was the chilling walk from room to room.
If we are to build anything world class ourselves, we have to gain from this experience and ensure that we deliver this detail when we come to design and build our own attraction.
Again, volunteers were very much in evidence. These two here are both retired and want to be involved because as they said to us, ‘they simply love the feeling of the place’. If we can create something that brings this emotion to our region, we will have a huge success on our hands.
And then we were away. Back off to the City for our scheduled tour around the USS Constitution.
Boston is a beautiful place. A green and clean city, that maximises its water front. We’re splitting off into groups to see different things, so more to report later.
Okay, a packed morning with lots of new discoveries about Seattle, what makes it famous and what we can learn from it.
After one of the worst breakfasts I have ever had in a hotel anywhere in the world, we set off to travel the Space Needle. Seattle’s landmark since it opened in 1962 for the World fair.
But back to the breakfast for a second. Have you ever heard of Sausage Gravy? Well if you see it, don’t rush to eat it. It’s a sort of sausage porridge and is so close to what I would imagine gruel to have been like in Oliver’s days it’s unbelievable. The breakfast was complementary from the hotel, the first we have seen so far. They shouldn’t have bothered. Serving vile regurgitated porridge, does far more damage to a brand than the goodwill of a free meal creates. It was Best Western by the way and everything else about the place had been fine. It’s an inappropriate use of porridge thing.
So onto the Space Needle. Reading the background to it, it’s clearly a project that nearly never happened. They seemed to miss every deadline they set themselves in order to get it built in time for the World’s Fair, but yet it still happened in time and is just as popular today as in the weeks it opened. Perhaps the world Cup bid for Nottingham could be the same sort of catalyst for the city if we were lucky enough to win the chance to bid with the country and then the country be lucky enough in turn to win the hosting.
We keep coming back to this thing about iconic or landmark buildings. The numbers are staggering. It cost $4m to build in 1962 (which was when the $ was at a 4-1 ratio to the £) so it cost about £1m. It’s 520ft tall (159M) and costs $16 (9.50) for an adult to go on it. Going on it, entails queuing for a lift that whizzes you to the top in 41 seconds. Very quick by today’s standards, lightning in the 60’s I would presume. It too 467 trucks full of concrete weighing 5850 tons, just to build the 30’ deep foundations (which doesn’t sound that deep for something 520 ft tall to me)
During the queuing, they nab you for a picture again. I didn’t fancy a picture against another printed background, so I took a picture of this family who had come from Texas as part of their holiday on a cruise and wanted to see the ‘Needle’.
At least this time it was fully digital, so they weren’t wasting print after print on non buying visitors. It’s not really a surprise if they didn’t buy it, as I didn’t see the place to get them on the way out anyway. Even more surprising was the fact that it was an Apple Mac based system that is being used in the home of Microsoft. That must Needle them.
At the top, it opens out into a large circular viewing platform with an unrestricted view of All Seattle has to offer, looking right out to the Olympic Mountains and beyond. It is a huge view. This is about 120 degrees of it showing the boats running in and out and the huge container port beyond.
It is a massive and wonderful view. Breathtaking and utterly simple as a concept.
The team who owned it, really struggled to get the money together in order to build it. They missed the deadlines because they didn’t have the cash and then even more problematic, they didn’t have the land. It was freed up just in time. The developers were paid back with $2.3m visitors by the closure of the words fair each paying their $6 to see it. They paid off their mortgage in 18 months.
They do have the advantage of 1m visitors per year, largely delivered via 3 cruise ships coming in 3 times per week, bringing 3,000 visitors at a time, but as Nick Hammond in our party pointed out, we also have away fans arriving for the football rugby, ice hockey, cricket, test matches (and hopefully the world cup) and all sorts of other visits coming too. We have 50,000 students who will all be keen to show their parents the best view of the city. If we have the ambition to do something on this scale, we can easily generate the footfall to make it pay.
The merchandise is very mixed. One real stand out was a very cheesy snow dome thing that had been made in China by a manufacturer who was clearly knocking them out for all of the US tourist attractions, based on their obvious confusion between the Space Needle and the Statue of Liberty.
The rest was a mixture of models, mugs t-shirts of varying degrees of wearability – from okay to a new level of awfulness. Glasswear, photo frames, Wine, hats, Space Needle Coffee, golf balls, Lego models, paper models, metal models, pewter models, glass models, pottery models, – In fact pretty much anything. And my personal favourite Space Noodles.
So from one landmark to another. The Space Needle sits right above the EMP and it looks almost as weird/impressive from above as it does from floor level. It must hsve had to be part of the design consideration that it was a great looking building from the top of the Sky Needle. That can’t happen too often in design briefs!
It was back into the EMP for a more detailed look and the chance to go on the audio tour. EMP was completely funded by Paul Allen, one of the original Microsoft partners. A real life billionaire. It does seem easier to make a massive landmark attraction a reality with a billionaire behind you. If only Robin Hood had kept some of what he took, it may be worth that in interest now, but he probably wouldn’t be as famous if he robbed from the rich and sensibly invested it.
The lobby area is huge and grand, with the exterior design, leaking into the interior and creating its reflections throughout the whole building. There is a giant screen that dominates one whole wall. It has to be 200ft wide and another 100 ft tall. It’s not a projector either, but looks like an LED screen like the ones you sometimes see at the footie or the races. Only this one is even bigger and is made up of strips about 1 ft wide, which creates a striking effect.
The audio tour, was for me, less impressive. Again it was iPod based (you had to hand over id in order to be able to get it) and unlike the system at Alcatraz, it was totally freeform. You could go where you wanted. This made it a real pain to get into anything. There were hundreds up on hundreds of files, most of which seemed to be 15-30 seconds. It too as long to find them as it did to hear them. And that was after you had found the actual numbers it related to. Anyone over 40 would really struggle with this as the numbers were too small, the screen was too small and the whole process to fiddly. Oh for a bit of logical linearity.
Some of the interviews that you could sit and listen to were incredible. I sat through Jimmy Cliff, Kid Creole, George Lucas Grandmaster Flash and my favourite was Wonder Mike from the SugarHill gang, where it went on to play the whole 15 minute song afterward. Just the licensing must have been an amazing deal for this place, let along gathering all these extraordinary interviews. And the headphones were simply superb too. Everywhere, the sound quality was exceptional. But they should be if it’s a billionaire funding it.
The SciFi museum was far more traditional fayre, with a stamp on the left hand by the grumpy staff (as they’re not allowed to sit down at any point), giving you free movement between the two exhibitions.
If this isn’t Paul Allen’s personal obsession, I’m Hans Christian Anderson. It looks like someone who has been collecting Sci Fi memorabilia for years and can now play with the big boys. His collecting grew out of his home and he needed to move it into here to cope.
The Robot from Space Family Robinson was my favourite, but there was little to lift it from the mundane other than the sheer wonder at how complete the collection is in the world of TV based Sci Fi programmes and films.
But jumping back a stage. What else is Seattle famous for?
I answered some of these yesterday, but we’ve found out another now. Jimmy Hendrix is one of its most famous sons as we should have guessed by the amount of material dedicated to him in the EMP.
And lastly about the EMP and the Sci Fi Museum, I have to mention the advertising and branding. I just love this simple ad, which is shown all around the place to show that it’s the meeting of music and Sci Fi. What a lovely simple piece of branding.
And so to Boston. We’re coming right from the West Coast to the East. Losing another three hours sleep and hitting another packed programme tomorrow.