Posts Tagged ‘festival’

Battle of Ideas: This Weekend

This weekend I’m taking part in the Battle of Ideas Festival at the Barbican- a fantastic event that gets 350 illustrious speakers from around the globe and all walks of life together to ‘shape the future through debate’. There’s a highly pertinent strand of the programme focussing on Battle for the Media, that will be attempting to wrangle the challenges of living in a post Leveson world. I’ll be on the panel Taming Tabloid Tittle-Tattle at 5pm on Sunday, going head-to-head with Roy Greenslade of the Evening Standard, journo and commentator Patrick Hayes, journo and former press secretary to Paddy Ashdown Jo Phillips, and broadcast and print journalist Nathalie Rothschild.

With sessions over the weekend including Social Media: Good or Bad?, Capitalism: Kill or Cure?, Who Needs Art Anyway? and the ominous sounding Media-Bashing Live, it’s doubtless going to be a weekend to get the cogs whirling and pulses raising. Do come on down if you can.

Tupac Rises and Forsythe Shambles Forth- What British Stuntsters Could Learn from Across the Pond

It looks like Tupac Shakur’s back on top for the foreseeable future- it was announced today that his frankly rather terrifying hologram will be going on tour following its first outing at Coachella festival.  More than anything else, this is proof of the remarkable power of a great stunt- and is a blow for the great American tradition of stuntsmanship. Just think, Coachella dug up Tupac, Hop Farm dug up Bruce Forsythe.

As the megalithic rapper burst onto the stage with a cry of “What the **** is up Coachella? Throw up a m************ finger!”, a cynic could hear the jingling of thousands of eager pockets as the entire live entertainment industry collectively calculated the potential posthumous income of a galaxy of late stars.

Money aside, though, this was everything a stunt should be: audacious, loud, unexpected, genuinely groundbreaking (Digitial Domain Media Group Inc. reckon this is the first time totally new 3D footage of a star has been used in this way) and, best of all, just a little bit silly. Supposedly, too, the bill behind this wasn’t negligible- most valuations are coming in at around the $1/2m mark.

Whatever Coachella pixies were behind this should be applauded: in the entertainment space, faint heart never won the hearts and minds of the fickle crowd. Let’s hope those with the power on our side of the pond are taking note and getting ready to listen to a few wild ideas. Ones that don’t involve billing Bruce Forsythe alongside Bob Dylan, that is.

How to Regain a Million Quid

Bo Burnham’s been making up for the PR slip that saw him – or possibly his PR company – reject his nomination for the Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award. And he’s been doing it with grace.

It’s hard to tell if it’s his PR doing it or if – and this is perfectly possible – he’s so plugged in to the web that he’s acting on his own. His digital promotional skills are pretty strongly evident – just look at his YouTube channel and the large following it has. His online fan club shows his social media prowess of to very flattering effect. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Lose a Million Quid

The Malcolm Hardee Awards are getting a good rise out of their latest crop of nominees – or one of them in particular. The awards honour Hardee – one of the greatest festival pranksters and publicity magnets – by giving out semi-satirical awards.

This year the committee chose to nominate US stand-up Bo Burnham for the inaugural ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award. Burnham’s London PR company, whose clients include a Wealth Management company and an insurance broking, risk assessment and financial services company, wrote to the Award organisers saying of Burnham: “making money is not what he’s driven by at all and (we) don’t think he’d be at all comfortable with receiving this award.”

As a consequence, the Malcolm Hardee judges have now nominated Burnham for their main Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality because “for a modern day stand-up comic not to be interested in money is entirely original”. Read the rest of this entry »

Advice for a Young PR Hopeful

Whilst I was in Edinburgh last week a young publicist, just starting out, bounced up to me, having recognised me, and asked if I’d give her some advice on the publicity game.

We sat down for a cup of coffee and I asked her what she was working on. She told me that this was her second Edinburgh and that she was working on three shows for a producer who was going places. Alarm bells went off in my head at this, so I quizzed her a little about her circumstances.

It turns out that, after the 13 hour coach journey up to the Festival, she was bunked down in a flat procured by the producer, which she was sharing with two other people, and that she was earning £100 a week for the entire four week run of the Festival.

This struck me as deeply exploitative – a producer who wouldn’t even stump up the train fare had hooked an enthusiastic young publicist on the promise of greater things to work on if all went according to plan. Read the rest of this entry »

Stunts and the Art of Celebrity Maintenance

Today’s Independent features a story about stunts at the Edinburgh Festival, mentioning me and a number of other Edinburgh stuntsters, notably Malcolm Hardee. The article uses a number of the stunts that made it into my online and on the streets #Twithibition, as well as a number of more recent stunts and is a good, brief guide to the great stunts of Edinburgh past and present.

Sheep in Edinburgh

Sheep in Edinburgh

“PR expert Mark Borkowski , who is a veteran of the Fringe, has a record as colourful as Hardee’s, having been responsible for launching the extreme, chainsaw-juggling, circus group Archaos on an unsuspecting Edinburgh public in 1991. In order to promote their show, the troupe were pictured sawing a car in half on the Royal Mile and leaping over parked cars on motorbikes on the mound.

“Later in the Nineties, Borkowski took on the Jim Rose Circus, which provided the PR another opportunity to wind up the press and the authorities. Among numerous well-documented occurrences, Rose discovered a forgotten by-law that allowed sheep herding up the Royal Mile before 6am and duly obliged. Some of his flock entered the council offices before being herded out again, a not-so-sheepish gesture of anti-authoritarianism.

“This year, [the publicity stunt is] a craft that will be celebrated by a new award called the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. Already being considered for this award is Shed Simove, the Ideas Man, whose publicity material will over the next three weeks be printed on lavatory paper and put in toilets all around Edinburgh. ‘Pooblicity’, as he calls it.”

To read the full story, click here. To follow my #Twithibition, click here and search the site for #twithibition. For more information on the stunts recorded in the #Twithibition, click here.

Hype, Glory and a Question of Talent in Hay

I’m still recovering from a sold out Hay Festival appearance and the blazing sun. I’d forgotten how wonderful the Festival can be when the weather’s good!

mark and marina at hay

The discussion, Hype and Glory, with the Guardian’s Marina Hyde and our excellent chair, Paul Blezard, was wide ranging and got an excellent response from the audience. Marina wanted to reclaim the world from celebrities and wanted real people with real talent to get recognition. Why should Angelina Jolie be the face of the UN when there are committed and talented people out there who, though less glamorous, do all the hard and amazing work that Jolie is employed to make palatable to the people.

The crux of the talk was who will stop the process of fame at any cost and foreshadowed the results and aftermath of Saturday evening’s Britain’s Got Talent final perfectly. The media love a good celebrity meltdown and there is no doubt that the people who own the formats dictate the stars – and the events on Britain’s Got Talent and in its wake prove this without the shadow of a doubt.

It’s great that Diversity won – here’s a group of talented dancers who represent the best of Britain – but it’s the meteoric rise and post-loss wobble of Susan Boyle that will hold the media’s attention for longer. It’s clear that Boyle has problems – she was diagnosed as having learning difficulties as a child – and has invested way too much of herself in the rollercoaster media ride through the talent contest, as her admission to the Priory for ‘exhaustion’ proves.

Jan Moir at the Mail summed up Boyle’s performance as follows: “Boyle did seem a trifle unsteady, not to mention tranquilised during the final. Yet I still phoned in my vote for her, because she delivered the most compelling and thrilling performance of the evening.” To read the entire article, click here.

The programme has a duty of care to its contestants, but how far will they take that when there’s money at stake?

Proof of the sell-out

Proof of the sell-out

Carole Malone, in her column in yesterday’s News of the World, worries about this too: “TV bosses have a duty of care to EVERY contestant on that show-but Susan needed more support and I don’t think she’s had it. I just hope they don’t – but I worry that once BGT is over, the powers that be will wash their hands of her. No one wants to be responsible for her losing it or coming to any mental or physical harm-especially because of a show that purports to change people’s lives for the better,” she wrote. To see her entire column, click here.

There have always been troubled stars – from Gwili Andre, who I have discussed here (and in my book The Fame Formula) before, to Judy Garland. Back in the glory days, however, the stars were protected from the ugly side of fame and the intense scrutiny that is now the norm. Now, of course, we are getting to see the nightmare of fame thanks to the people’s constant, urgent need for soap opera and the media’s willingness to supply it.

On another note, I noticed that David Milliband slipped into the discussion – perhaps to learn a bit more about spin and how to patch up tarnished reputations – just as I was getting into my stride about the need for people such as myself going into schools to talk to children about the true price of fame. It was noticeable that the more political I got about fame the more uncomfortable he got, to the point that he slipped out almost as soon as he’d arrived. A shame; it would have been interesting to get his viewpoint…

David Milliband in the Hay green room

David Milliband in the Hay green room

Thrills, spills, reviews, readings and parties

Thrills, spills, reviews, readings and parties: it’s been 60 days since The Fame Formula came out and it’s been a rollercoaster ride. And, with Festival season upon us, there’s much more to come.

In the brief pause as the rollercoaster climbs up another slope, before I rush on down into the Festival season, it’s time to reflect on what’s happen and bask in the memories in the last heat of the Indian Summer.

It seems much longer than 60 days since the book hit the shelves in a flurry of press and radio, from local radio to the Jonathan Ross show on Radio 2, the Daily Star to the Guardian, interviews on Channel 4 news and American radio. The formula itself attracted a great deal of attention in the early part of August – I was up to my ears in requests for interviews and welcomed the respite of the launch party at the Riverside Studios, introduced by the late, great Ken Campbell. I was even called “the Obi-Wan Kenobi of PR” on the Asian Network – a most flattering description!

For that event, the splendid Shira McLeod, from the Riverside studios, tracked down the only UK print of The Half Naked Truth, a 1932 film based on the autobiography of Harry Reichenbach, who features heavily in the first part of the book. It was an excellent party and the film, despite being rather dated, went down very well.

After the first flush of publicity came the reviews, many of which were positive – Colin Byrne in The Guardian said that “The Fame Formula is a terrific, witty romp through the – often dirty – undies of the Hollywood fame factory…” for example – although one or two reviewers seemed to decide that the history of PR was not a fit subject for discussion. For the least constructive and most unpleasant of these reviews, I decided to reintroduce Jim Moran’s Asshole of the Year awards – a carefully presented, shrink-wrapped pig’s anus sent in a nice little box.

The reviews kept coming, creeping out in the broadsheets over the space of a month, in the Telegraph, The Daily and Sunday Mail, The Sunday Times, The News of the World, The Evening Standard and many more. And reviews are still appearing on the net.

Then came the launch parties. Alice Beer got herself into the press at the London party, held at Partridges, for sticking sold signs on the displays and a great time was had by all. The Gloucestershire launch, at the Lower Mills Estate, was equally successful, despite the untimely death of Ken Campbell, who was due to perform. A troupe of his associates came and took up his baton, improvising on themes from the book.

There have been some good readings and discussions as part of the launch too – an excellent night at The Space in Brighton, a small but committed audience at the Stroud Valleys Artspace in my hometown of Stroud, Gloucestershire, an event at the Edinburgh Festival and much more – all the details of past and forthcoming events can be found on Facebook or MySpace or at the official website.

There are more performances coming – first at the Raindance Festival in London, talking about the movie fame game with Peter Dunne, former Head of International Publicity at DreamWorks. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

This is followed by a reading from the book and audience discussion at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature on October 11th – click here for more information.

Finally, here’s a video of Alan Carr and me ranting about the book…