An idea for London

Why not set up Oyster card touch points at each busking semi-circle which could give £1 per tap?

Apple Pay arrived in the UK this month – woo!

apple-pay-cards

And, teething issues aside…

…the launch has only served to further enlighten the public at large that we are indeed edging ever closer to a completely cashless London.

For some, that’s awesome.
For others, it’s a problem.

Specifically, it’s a problem for the buskers of the London Underground.

For those of you that don’t know, the buskers of our fair city’s amazing transport system are all auditioned and then licensed accordingly; they are of a standard.

With 39 busking pitches across 25 stations with an audience of up to 3.5m commuters every day, these talented guys and girls have a huge opportunity to turn in a few quid by pleasing the ears of the frequent passers by.

That is, if they carried a few quid on them.

Which, as we’ve established, is becoming rarer and rarer.

chart

Source.

SO HERE’S A FREE IDEA:

Why not set up Oyster card touch points at each TfL busking pitch that could give £1 per tap?

Think about it.

I’m pretty sure the technology wouldn’t need that much of an update to allow for this adjustment. You could start in Zone 1 and work out, or vice-versa, and go from there.

It should be simple from a logistical perspective as well. For example, given the already acknowledged stringent licensing that takes place, it follows that the talented musicians that grace the tunnels beneath our streets would probably have to book into their respective slots in advance. Meaning there must be a database somewhere that tracks who plays where and when.

Simply marry that data up with the money tapped in during those hours, and at the end of each day (or at the start of the next), said talent collect their money from a TfL window or a collection point of some description.

From a cost angle, TfL/Oyster could lift 1% of the donation to cover costs or if they were really savvy, they could get a brand to partner up on it and they could pay the costs as part of the sponsortship.

That’d make sense wouldn’t it?

What about safety? TfL handles millions of commuters every day and those tunnels and walkways have to be kept clear BUT if there’s room for a girl with a cello, there’s certainly room for a wall-hugging Oyster ‘tap-to-donate’ button.

Right? Right.

In short, it frustrates me when I hear great music and/or singing and am unable to show my appreciation because of the lack of shrapnel about my person. With a busking Oystercard touch point, I’d be able to give a pound every time I liked some music.

Which would be ace!

With the advent of Apply Pay, contactless payments in London have never had greater mindshare. If we truly give a monkey’s about our city then we should be working hard at lowering the barriers to donating to charity wherever possible and fundamentally making it even easier to move towards the progressive-yet-caring cashless society we’re so ardently idealistic about (maybe that last past is just me).

Try this: next time you’re in the Underground and you hear a busker that you enjoy, I want you to think about how much would it please you if you could just tap-to-donate them a pound as you wander by.

If TfL made it happen it would be:

  • An extra bit of pocket money for TfL.
  • A potential not insignificant lift in busker-income.
  • A way of helping the commuters of London feel better about having the cashless pockets that society is granting upon them.

So come on TfL, let’s make it happen.

——-

(not from TfL? Click this to let them know)

 

 

 

Walking the Thames Tunnel

From Wapping to Rotherhithe and back again.

From Rotherhite to Wapping and back again.

Back in May, my friend Robbie and I managed to bag a couple of [super rare] tickets to walk the original Thames Tunnel.

If you’ve never heard of the Thames Tunnel before, it’s the underwater tunnel that lives between Rotherhithe and Wapping. You’ll know it today as part of the London Overground network.

Thames Tunnel location

Hang on, let me look it up on Wikipedia:

The Thames Tunnel is an underwater tunnel, built beneath the River Thames in London, connecting Rotherhithe and Wapping. It measures 35 feet (11 m) wide by 20 feet (6 m) high and is 1,300 feet (396 m) long, running at a depth of 75 feet (23 m) below the river surface measured at high tide. It was the first tunnel known to have been constructed successfully underneath a navigable river, and was built between 1825 and 1843 using Marc Isambard Brunel’s and Thomas Cochrane’s newly invented tunnelling shield technology, by Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The tunnel was originally designed for, but never used by, horse-drawn carriages. It now forms part of the London Overground railway network.

On its opening day in 1843 it is said over fifty thousand people paid a single penny to walk through Brunel’s tunnel and within three months it is reported that over one million people had been through.

Amazing.

Some 170 years later, I paid 1800 pennies and descended into the tunnel myself but not via the stairs of Londoners old, instead by way of platform 2 at Rotherhithe station.

I don’t think there’ll be many of you that can say that they’ve walked on the tracks around London. It’s definitely worth doing (even if it is a little hairy when you first get down there).

Once the first part of ‘OMG! We’re on the frickin’ tracks!’ excitement subsided, we entered into the main event.

And we were not disappointed.

IT WAS SO AWESOME.

If you know me even slightly then you probably know that I’m a massive tube geek. I love this stuff. Be it snapping deserted underground stations in the name of #EmptyUnderground or even headed down to the disused tracks of Aldwych Station – if it’s to do with the London Underground, I’m all over it.

You could argue the Thames Tunnel was the first true ‘London Underground’ and even though it has found its home as part of the Overground network, I’ll never pass through it feeling the same way ever again.

I don’t know how often these walks are arranged (I’m guessing only a couple of times a year, maximum) but keep an eye out for them, they’re totally worth it, and all the money goes towards the upkeep of the Brunel museum nearby – so it’s helping a good cause too!

The guide we had was pretty awesome, told us about the huge dinner parties they used throw down there and the different uses that it had over the years. I could recount those stories here but you’d be better off just doing the tour yourself.

Additional reading:

 

 

Exhibiting at the Saatchi Gallery

Yup.

Whatley @ The Saatchi

BACK STORY

In March I wrote a post about the reason why I use Google+. In short, it’s only really down to one thing, and that thing is a little feature known as ‘Auto Awesome‘.

What Auto Awesome does is automatically add special effects to the photos that it thinks could do with them. Obviously this is all done separately from your main folder, so you don’t ruin your originals, but the net effect is actually quite fun and cool.

The awesomes themselves vary but my favourite is definitely when Google+ spots a batch of photos that look similar, and then throws them together to create an animated gif.

Like so:


THE COMPETITION

Shortly after that post went live, I was alerted to a Google-sponsored Motion Photography competition at the Saatchi Gallery (that obviously lent itself to the creation of these Auto Awesomes).

Google+ Motion Photography

Of the six categories available, I entered this one into the Urban category –

 

I didn’t win.

Boo.

_________

BUT I DID MAKE IT AS A FINALIST!

Which means:

  1. My work was judged by film director Baz Luhrmann, artists Tracey Emin, Shezad Dawood and Cindy Sherman, and Saatchi Gallery CEO, Nigel Hurst – AMAZING!
  2. I got my name in The LondonistBRILLIANT!
  3. My work is at this very moment on display in the Saatchi Gallery – SPEECHLESS!

 


And that’s pretty darn awesome.

As you can see, I’ve already been to see my stuff (and the rest of the entries, including the rather excellent winning entrants) and the whole exhibition is pretty special.

It’s an odd feeling, having work up in the Saatchi. It didn’t really hit me until I was leaving, just how lucky I am to have stuff there. The other work that has appeared in that building. The other artists. The effort.

I’m still a bit dumbfounded by it all really.

_______________

The Motion Photography Prize is on display on the top floor of Saatchi Gallery, King’s Road, SW3 4RY until 24 May.

Getting my coffee fix at #illyschool

Technically, it was the illy university but hey…

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image via TikiChris

Last week, thanks to the lovely people at Espresso Crazy, I was invited along to the illy university of coffee to learn about (and taste!) the amazing coffee available from illy – and it was pretty darn awesome.

This is my Illy apron (I'm gonna be a barista!) #illyschool

— I got an apron and everything —

For those that don’t know (I know I didn’t) illy runs its own barista training class over in London’s Islington Business Centre, near Angel. Here, they hammer into the new recruits exactly how to make the perfect cup of illy coffee and here is where we were all to meet.

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Things we learnt:

  1. Decaffeinated illy coffee tastes gorgeous, who knew?
  2. The £139 illy coffee machines for the home make pretty much the exact same coffee you can get in a coffee shop. Not. Kidding.
  3. Drinking a lot of coffee at 9pm in the evening is a sure fire way to be up all night and to write notes like a crazy person.

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Joking aside, the guys from Espresso Crazy were kind enough to not only throw us each an illy X7.1 (which I obviously had to unbox on Vine – so cool) but also gave me a link offering any of you lovely lot 20% off any purchases from Espresso Crazy* (head to http://www.espressocrazy.com/promo/ILLYSCHOOL and the code will automatically be embedded in the checkout). – Offer expired Jan 10th, 2014

I’m sure you’ll agree, all of this is yet again pretty darn nice of them.

Finally, the X7.1 (maybe do something about that name guys? how about ‘amazing coffee maker of win’? yeah, that’d do it) is a bloody fantastic little machine. I’m using it pretty much every day, AND I’m making proper latte milk with the whoosher** too.

Now, where did I put that apron…

 

 

*The discount covers new machines and coffee. It will allow a max of 3 items per order and will expire 10 January 2014.
**Am pretty sure it’s called a steamer, but I prefer whoosher.

Hanging out at the #GoogleHouse

See what I did there?

GOOGLE_HOUSE_2013-23

Last week, a friend of a friend at Google invited me along to find out how Google will change the future. The pitch?

Let’s face it, we’re all busy. Whether you’re plotting the fastest public transport route across London, trying to order a drink in Paris en Français, or cheating at a pub quiz, Google is there to help you get the information you need. Fast. We’d like to invite you to Google House, where you’ll see first-hand how Google can help make the lives of you and your customers easier.

And they weren’t wrong. But first, let’s take look awesome #GoogleHouse is (or was).

GOOGLE_HOUSE_2013-21

The Kitchen

GOOGLE_HOUSE_2013-1

The Teenager Bedroom

GOOGLE_HOUSE_2013-14

The Living Room

Basically, this beautiful four storey house in London’s Fitzrovia was turned into a Googley-fied house of the future.

And it was awesome.

Glass.... and me. #googlehouse

Obligatory ‘Whatley wearing Google Glass’ photo.

Three things I learnt:

  1. Google Chromecast? I want one of those. It’s a bit cheeky of Google to demo a product that isn’t currently available in the UK (EDIT: Amazon UK has Chromecast available now!) but still, it was really cool.  In fact, any of you reading this in the US, I’ll PayPal you the money right now. Come on, let’s do this.
  2. Google’s voice-activated search and translation is incredible. It’s unbelievable how much it has come on over the past year or so and it easily blows Siri out of the water. Everything from contextual awareness re previous/current searches, through to actually translating a conversation between two people, LIVE, is amazing. Very, very impressive indeed.
  3. Google Glass was cool, but not for me (yet). I used someone else’s set, and it was a noisy room, and they weren’t connected to my device (which is a key part of the experience). So yeah, not yet.

Overall? I had a LOT of fun and it’s great to see Google step up their game in the consumer-facing market here in the UK.

Long may it continue.


PS. Big love to the amazing guys over at the Sorted Food. They ran the Google/Kitchen demo and I’ve been watching their videos ever since. Check them out.

PPS. More photos over on Google+ (natch).

 

That time I was in SPAMALOT!

Starring as ‘Sir Not Appearing’

Sir Not Appearing!

[click to embiggen]

This past week, thanks to a rather awesome Christmas present from the girlfriend, I was given the chance to appear in a cameo role in the current West End run of Monty Python’s SPAMALOT!

AND.

IT.

WAS.

AWESOME.

Looking back on it now, a good four days later, I still can’t believe it happened! It’s difficult to communicate (using just the written word) how great the whole thing really was. So it’s a good job I took a load of pictures to help me tell the story!

Part 1. Arriving at the Stage Door
The crew greeted us warmly, and were just super super nice about EVERYTHING. ‘Hey! James is here!’ – ‘Is that the Sir Not Appearing?’ – ‘Yeah!’ – ‘Hey everyone! Our Sir Not Appearing is here!’

I turned up with literally zero knowledge of what I was going to be doing or what my line was (didn’t I mention? It was a speaking part too!) as I was kept in the dark right up until arrival. So this whole ‘Sir Not Appearing’ thing? I had no idea what they meant…

The stage manager met us and explained everything:

There’s a part in the play, around two thirds through the first act, when the narrator, after King Arthur has rounded up his men, reads through the names of the Knights of the Round Table… and the last name he reads is ‘the aptly named ‘Sir-not-appearing-in-this-play’. You come on at that point, you say ‘Sorry!’ and then you leave. Easy! Don’t worry, we’ll be rehearsing at around 730pm, plenty of time!

Any fan of the original Monty Python and the Holy Grail knows that this only a slight variation on the film’s script:

NARRATOR: The wise Sir Bedevere was the first to join King Arthur’s knights, but other illustrious names were soon to follow: Sir Launcelot the Brave; Sir Galahad the Pure; and Sir Robin the Not-quite-so-brave-as-Sir-Launcelot who had nearly fought the Dragon of Agnnor, who had nearly stood up to the vicious Chicken of Bristol and who had personally wet himself at the Battle of Badon Hill; and the aptly named Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Film. Together they formed a band whose names and deeds were to be retold throughout the centuries, the Knights of the Round Table.

Part 2. Costume!

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[Note – for reasons that will become clear very shortly, I had to shave off my beard. I look about 12yrs old! ARRGH!]

3. Meet the star!
For this run (initially scheduled for a limited six week run but now, thanks to its popularity, on an indefinite extension) of SPAMALOT! King Arthur is played by the one and only Stephen Tompkinson.

And what a bloody nice bloke he is too.

Me and Stephen Tompkinson

Part of the evening’s plan (aside from being a special guest star (ahem, yes – that’s me)) was to meet Stephen backstage and chat to him about all things Python. Again, something I didn’t know was happening until the night and again, something equally brilliant for me to do!

Things Stephen told me about Spamalot:

  • His daughter, with whom he has watched Monty Python’s Holy Grail several times a year, every years, since she was six years old, was the one to convince him to take the role! ‘You’d make me so proud, Daddy!’ – she said to him. ‘How could I say no to that’ he said. Awww!
  • His rehearsal process was a mere ten days. TEN. DAYS. Mental. Alright that’s a pretty intense ten days, but still – I can’t imagine. Fortunately for Stephen, he is only one of two new additions to the cast (the other being the quite brilliant AJ Casey, as The Lady of the Lake) so the ensemble already in place not only welcomed him with open arms but also supported him every step of the way.
  • The name of the game [on this production at least] is Fun! That’s what the director told Stephen on his first night – ‘Just forget your troubles, get out on that stage and have a riot. The audience want to have fun with you, so just have a ball!’
  • This new [ish] version of the play is a lot more inclusive and open than it was in the Palace and is updated accordingly to very current affairs – songs as well!

What a lovely chap. And there was still so much more to come!

4. Rehearsals

Rehearsing with the SPAMALOT gang :)

Again, another moment for the cast to be warm and welcoming. I got my part right first time, and they all cheered and whooped.. Ha! Just, brilliant.

5. Waiting!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIOLB3L_12g?rel=0

6. Final adjustments
Hat, moustache, beard (yes, that’s right – I shaved my beard so I could wear a fake one, brilliant), mic, and a wish of good luck from the girl.

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Before showtime!

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7. The show!
Backstage the atmosphere was, how can I put it? Hilarious. Laughter, jokes, and merriment were spewing forth from everyone – and that was before anyone was on stage! It was such a great group of people to be around; they clearly loved their work very, very much and every single person who walked past whilst I was waiting in the wings stopped to wish me luck, before they themselves stepped out in front of 700+ people.

Just lovely, lovely people.

When my cue – ‘and the aptly-named…‘ – came I strutted out on stage and beamed at the audience – ‘…Sir-not-appearing-in-this-play!’

Sir Not Appearing!

In four beats: the knights looked at me, I looked at them, I looked back at the audience, and then came the line:

‘SORRY!!!’

And the next thing I knew, I was off again – to roars of laughter!

Exit stage right!

The audience’s reaction was great, and I was grinning from ear to ear.

I was [and still am really] utterly dumbfounded that the whole thing took place at all. I can’t believe it. It was just brilliant.

The team backstage told us that the role of ‘Sir Not Appearing’ is usually played by one of the ensemble however they often throw it open to special guest stars such as celebrities and/or comedians who can come on and kill with that role. In other words, for me to get the opportunity to do it was very special indeed.

Just. Wow.

And while I can’t guarantee that I’m going to be in it next time, I can 100% guarantee that seeing this play will make you laugh. A LOT. I laughed like a madman, both backstage during act one and then again when I joined the audience for act two.

Two last things to say before I finish this epic blog post –

First: Go and see Spamalot. Please. It’s AWESOME. Hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, and… and the cast just has so much fun. It would be unfair of me to mention the epic corpsing that took place during the Knights that say Ne segment, so I won’t. But I nearly died laughing.

Second: I have to say thank you to my amazing girlfriend, Jen, for managing to swing what is quite easily the Best. Christmas present. Ever. You rock x

 

 

Five things on Friday #49

Things of note for the week ending December 7th, 2012

1. The Hawkeye Initiative
There are tons and tons of completely amazing blog posts pointing out the continual (and not to mention completely and utterly sexist) objectifying of strong female comic book characters today but now –  finally – someone seems to have come up with a way to test whether or not the sketch in question is insulting to women or not.

Ready? It’s this simple –

‘If your female character can be replaced by Hawkeye in the same pose without looking silly or stupid, then it’s acceptable and probably non-sexist. If you can’t, then just forget about it.’

So, what we need then is a blog post that collates said efforts…

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you – The Hawkeye Initiative

An amazing (and hilarious) way to draw attention to a very serious issue.

Good job.

2. McAfee
He’s all over the news (and he got a mention last week too). And, even though the story has developed a lot since it was published, this New York Times piece ‘Hide-and-Seek in Belize‘ is a damn good read.

3. This is not Eros

Piccadilly Circus, London. Home of bright lights, buzzing tourists and this beautiful statue of Eros. Right?

WRONG

Thanks to awesome Serena, I found out this past week that this isn’t Eros at all. This is in fact Anteros, Eros’ twin. Confused? Yeah, you should be.

Let me *cough* Wikipedia *cough* explain

Anteros is the subject of the Shaftesbury Memorial in Piccadilly Circus, London, where he symbolises the selfless philanthropic love of the Earl of Shaftesbury for the poor.

The memorial is sometimes given the name The Angel of Christian Charity and is popularly mistaken for Eros.

Yeah. I know.

Right?

MIND. BLOWN.

(and TFL aren’t helping much either)

4. Dumb Ways to Die
OK, so this has already been seen 30m times but I’ve only just got to it. Yes, it’s super sweet and super brilliant and hey, even you have seen it already, you should watch it again. Because it is SUPER.

5. Matt Muir wins the internet today
This – lifted from Matt’s brilliant (yet sadly, final) blog post for H+K today [EDIT: post now removed – can’t think why] – is quite possibly the best thing I’ve read all week.

“There is a client we have, whose name shall remain nameless, who produces biscuits – you will agree, a fine and noble profession. As part of our work for said client, we were required at one point this summer to work with other agencies in that hideous parody of friendly collaboration that is the ‘loop team’ (you will doubtless have experienced this; various agencies sitting around a table, smiling at each other with the dead-eyed sincerity of sharks or insurance salesman, nodding and making vacuous promises to ‘work collaboratively’ whilst simultaneously imagining violating each and every one of their competitors with a splintered fencepost) in order to promote a NEW THING. The process of promoting said NEW THING would involve the collaborative production of a DECK (why? WHY? WHY DO YOU ALL USE THIS BLOODY WORD?????? Is it because it makes it sound more important or interesting than ‘73 slides of powerpoint that MEANS NOTHING’??? And, as a tangential aside, Powerpoint – WHY? Why do you all persist in taking a medium that was designed primarily for the communication of visual information and not for extensive prose and then MAKING US WRITE BLOODY ESSAYS ON THE SODDING THING???? If it’s more than 100 words of copy, USE WORD. There’s a clue in the name. Christ’s sake) which was to be compiled by us with input from all of our other agency FRIENDS. Fine. Great.

So we receive submissions from other people, and start to look at them. And then this happens. I chance upon a slide which has very obviously taken ‘inspiration’ from the raft of interactive advertising that our industry has become so enamoured with this year – you know the sort of thing I mean; bus stop ads that either smell nice, or dispense free samples; that type of idea. That’s ok. There’s no such thing as a new idea, etc etc etc. I look at the slide. On it is drawn (very nicely, I must say – the agency’s art department was really rather good, so credit to them for that at the very least) a bus stop, with in clear view the advert on the inside panel. Clearly visible is the brand logo (nice and big!), a video screen, and a small, letterbox-type slot. The only other thing on the slide were the following words, and it was these that pretty much pushed me over the professional edge:

“Insert Biscuit To Receive Content”

Let me read that back to you one more time. “INSERT BISCUIT TO RECEIVE CONTENT”. Now, let’s just break down exactly the process that this one line of prose and a (very competent) illustration seem to be suggesting might take place:

  • Consumer prepares to leave house in morning to go to work; consumer grabs biscuit product to snack on to abate feelings of gnawing hunger and existential inadequacy that can often afflict one in the hours before 9am.
  • Consumer walks, whistling, on their path to work
  • Consumer passes bus stop
  • Consumer stops, thinking “Hm, well, you know what? I might be quite hungry, but there’s a video screen on that bus stop that looks like it might offer me the opportunity to watch 30-seconds of poorly made branded ‘content’ [read – advertising] if I give it a biscuit. Hunger be damned!
  • Consumer inserts biscuit
  • Consumer receives content
  • Consumer cries, bitterly, as they realise what they have just done and the sort of awful, dystopian, Blade Runner gone wrong nightmare that they are living through

ON WHAT PLANET, I ASK YOU, CAN RATIONAL MEN AND WOMEN WHO I PRESUME ARE OF REASONABLE INTELLIGENCE ACTUALLY THINK THAT THAT MAKES ANY SENSE AT ALL???? WHO CARRIES BISCUITS WITH THEM WHEREVER THEY GO IN THE HOPE THAT THEY MIGHT AT SOME POINT BE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO TRADE THEM IN FOR SOME MOVING PICTURES THAT ARE TALKING TO THEM ABOUT HOW GREAT THEIR LIVES WOULD BE IF THEY HAD MORE BISCUITS??? ARE YOU ALL INSANE???

And for that reason, I’m out.”

This is just one excerpt from Matt’s post today and the whole thing is amazing.

A-MAZ-ING.

And what’s worse, it’s all completely true too.

Matt’s just finished at Hill & Knowlton so, aside from following him at once, one of you should probably go hire him or something.

EDIT 2: The post has been taken down but fortunately for you lot, Google cached it]

———–

Bonuses this week are this piece about Twitter and its [dangerous] contributions to continuous partial attention; the honest trailer for Dark Knight Rises is hilarious; and ‘How a video game saved my life‘ is both moving and inspiring in equal measure.

 

Whatley out.