Monthly Archives: April 2011

Tea’s up.

A few years ago, when I was young and carefree, I contributed to a blog managed by my good friend Richard. My postings were rare, sporadic and rarely touched the standard he set on an almost daily basis. I urge you to have a look, it’s called The Tech Horn.

One article I compiled in May 2008, a mere piece of whimsy, was a statement of my deeply held feelings at the time towards tea drinking. Those feelings haven’t really changed if truth be told, although I recognise that I’m somewhat in the minority – please don’t judge me too harshly on this.

The image is of a metal plate purchased yesterday on Edinburgh’s Cockburn Street: I’m looking for somewhere suitable to hang it.


Media Release (AnTea 2008.05.19)


Australian National Tea Eradication Assembly
Canberra / Monday 19 May, 2008

Australian academics have announced preliminary findings from a multi-disciplinary study into the effects of tea drinking on the nation’s society and culture. Long considered a staple of community interaction, this research turns many preconceptions on their head in a clash between common sense and proper work that took lots of effort.

When asked to choose from a list of possible emotions, the majority of tea drinkers claimed the beverage produced feelings of ‘warmth’, ‘comfort’ and ‘tastiness’. The fourth option, ‘giddiness’, was a distant fourth except among stereotypical Dutch contributors.

In an open question, the survey also asked respondents to say what they felt tea had brought to Australian culture since its introduction by Kerry Packer in 1987 to celebrate Fremantle’s hosting of the America’s Cup. Younger people liken tea to familiar experiences that they can share with friends and family. Examples include:
  • soap operas
  • sports team
  • family pets
  • family holidays
  • book clubs
  • breakfast cereal
  • warm hugs

Older respondents displayed typical symptoms of those for whom tea is a relatively recent introduction to their lives. They remember an older, more primitive Australia, with tea linked to:
  • corrupt politicians
  • Ned Kelly (‘he put one over on the English’)
  • losing family members to spiders and sharks
  • nearly losing family members to sharks
  • whatever it was we used to drink

Both of these symptoms were said to be worrying, according to lead scientist Rev. Prof. Michael A. Fiest. In a statement to accompany the preliminary report’s publication he said: ‘Hopefully our work will begin the process of turning people away from tea drinking. We have consulted widely through this great nation’s communities, educational establishments, politics and some trendy coffee shops – now is the time for politicians to act.’

Key findings from the report include some damning indictments on today’s tea drinkers, revealing for the firsttime that:
  • making tea is a waste of time: your time, my time, everyone’s time
  • water is much nicer and easier to prepare
  • with less paraphernalia and expense
  • and washing up
  • remembering to offer tea when people come round is a drag; it’s better to turn down the offer when you’re at their house so you’re not obliged to do the same when they come round
  • paradoxically, making tea is far too easy for folk in coffee shops to make: it’s just adding hot water to a cup with a tea bag in, better to have some hot chocolate
  • these findings are not just restricted to tea – coffee’s not even very tasty
  • leaving tea to go cold is an unfortunate, yet inevitable by-product of making the drink on a regular basis – the results are still going to be disappointing
  • some people get the shakes after drinking tea, which isn’t helpful or funny
  • Earl Grey tastes of flowers
  • if you’re the one doing the washing up, what are you supposed to do with a tea bag left in the cup when it’s soaking wet and your hands are covered in bubbles?

The most damning part of the report concerns the role of the United Kingdom government in forcing tea on Australian society. A clause in the Commonwealth of Australia legislation, enacted on 1 January 1901, demanded that Australia’s states and territories support the work of the Honourable East India Company. A quirk of British bureaucracy meant that the Company’s name could be used during the lifetime of Queen Victoria, who signed the death notice of the spice importer in 1858. Had she died 22 days earlier, and thus predated Federation, the clause would have been scrubbed from the legislation.

Instead, the British government placed pressure on Packer to introduce tea to the country, tying a nation to its addictive effects. Asked if this was similar to the Opium Wars of the 19th century, Rev. Prof. Fiest said that was ‘taking it a bit far’,
it was more like ‘British tea suppliers crashing our party and selling us stuff that’s actually turned out to be quite popular’.

A representative from the Western Australian government said it was deeply regrettable that the memory of the America’s Cup should be sullied in this way: ‘Just as we use Vegemite to fight the Brits and their awful Marmite, so we shall take on their tea culture!’ No further details were available on what might be pitted against UK tea, although declining capacity in the country’s river system suggests a dramatic response is not far away. Experts have suggested it may coincide with publication of the full report.

For further information, contact Crystal Tips:

Message ends





Breda, day 3: collaborations and communities

Day three of three and perhaps the most mixed of my April trip to Breda. I was pressed into service for a couple more classes: students studying International Leisure Management, a course predominantly taught in Dutch. These were smaller groups and we took the chance to be more interactive, relaxed and reactive to what the students are most interested in. There was time here to go into more depth about the relationships between Edinburgh’s festivals, the nature of the Fringe and work being done by the Festivals Innovation Lab.

Much of what I talked about was in the context of a professionalising events and festivals industry, with more investment, higher expectations and closer examination of the products and their outcomes. Scotland has a great deal to offer here, whether it be the formalised objectives of the central and local governments, the creation of EventScotland or the popularity and diversity of its event management education. From what I heard this isn’t out of touch with other countries, but perhaps there’s something about the size of the country that means this work has taken on additional momentum – not for us the provincial barriers of England’s Regional Development Agencies. Does it result in better events? Do we reach the objectives we are set more quickly, more effectively and more efficiently than would otherwise be the case? Are we teaching people the right things and discussing topics that will benefit the students and the industry? I say we keep asking these questions, developing our research tools, building links between the academy and the industry and continue to facilitate the sharing of ideas between nations and communities.

Now, regrettably, I won’t be able to return to Breda for one such opportunity: the inaugural meeting of the ATLAS Events Special Interest Group, more information here. I shall be otherwise engaged, yet the themes are relevant to my PhD ideas and my interest in events more generally. Here’s hoping I can tap into some of the discussions in some way – maybe someone will blog while they’re there. Needless to say I met several people in Breda who are involved in the conference and I share their enthusiasm for this work.

Shortly after this I met with a student who is coming to Edinburgh on an entirely different project to the one I’m working on; she is one of fiffy, arriving at the same time as the others: there’ll now be 140+ of them in town! I’ll help out where I can, but all this makes me despair at the poor turnout I get when trying to organise a day trip to beautiful snowy Perthshire each January.

My final chat was with Klaus Hoven, who teaches and researches events and social media, augmented reality, communities, capital and similar themes. It was a very enlightening discussion – one of those where I switch from thinking ‘my PhD ideas seem to be pretty innovative’ to ‘what a lot of catching up I’ve got to do’! I hope that I can keep in touch with Klaus and continue to tap into his knowledge, understanding and innovative thinking in these areas.

And now I’m back home where the national narrative has been dominated by the royal wedding: the BBC version and the often (though not always) more caustic Twitter accompaniment. I shall not go into depth on this subject, thus reflecting the degree to which other world events have been given equally short shrift by the media, whether it be broadcast, print, social or otherwise.

Meanwhile, here are some images advertising festivals in Breda and nearby Tilburg:


Got red hair? Head to Roodharigen in Breda!

Breda clearly has the best festival in the world for anyone interested in red hair. From the simple premise that not many people in the Netherlands have red hair comes an event to celebrate the lucky few. The website is and the poster for 2007 is below.

September 3rd and 4th this year: 5,000 people are expected!


Breda, day 2: theatres and theory.

Day two in Breda and a grilling from some of the 2nd year students about the different Edinburgh venues they???re researching. For the record that???s the Festival TheatreChurch Hill TheatreStorytelling Centre and the Royal Mile (particularly the High Street). I did my best to answer their questions, although I suspect that for some this project will only fully come together when they reach the Scottish capital and can experience the atmosphere and goings on at their chosen venue.

All the groups I spoke to were organised and professional in their approach (written agenda, minutes, etc.) and although these were supervised meetings with their tutor the students were driving the discussions. Ingraining these operational skills and attitudes early in the degree programme is important and I assume helps set the tone throughout the course. (There were a few disapproving comments from classmates if someone said they wouldn’t be able to make it to the next meeting.) In general though the focus was on engaging in the research process, ensuring validity and reliability in their work and establishing the next steps for the group within the limitations they are faced with.

I also had the chance to present to a different group of students, this time a more ???academically??? focused class who are predominantly Dutch (rather than the international mix on their way to Edinburgh). I fear that I tried to cram too much in, although I warned everyone that this was due to be the case and they let me off. The subject was partly a discussion on stakeholder relationships (drawing on comment from Getz and others), partly an Edinburgh case study, partly a review of some work from Richards and Palmer in their ???Eventful Cities??? text. By discussing these ideas in an explicitly international environment I probably took a more considered approach to how they affect Edinburgh: I couldn???t rely on my audience???s familiarity with the city, so had to do more to contextualise the information for broader relevance. Likewise I also had greater freedom to speculate perhaps: ???This is what works in the UK, what about the situation here in the Netherlands????

Dinner was with colleagues from the university and it’s perhaps reassuring that some of the same themes crop up from one country to the next: feedback, management, academic leadership, student expectations, the learning experience, course design and flexibility, placement opportunities, appropriate technology, primary research and more. Some simple lessons that I’d like to take from this and apply at my institution include…
– doing more to promote overseas placement opportunities to the students
– encouraging a more professional attitude in the earlier years of the course to enhance engagement
– reviewing and monitoring the balance between programme flexibility and academic coherence
– getting a clearer idea of why the students are doing the course and what they really want to get out of it

Meanwhile, some photos of Breda and the leisure/events campus.


Breda, day 1: hello and hospitality.

It???s only a few days since Daniel Turner posted from America about his experiences at a US college, with reflections on the disparity of resources and opportunities open to students on campuses countries. I now have the opportunity to match that after dining at a student-run restaurant in the Netherlands: I was very well looked after.

I???m spending three days in Breda, in the southern Netherlands, as part of a joint project to bring some students to Edinburgh (as flagged in an earlier post). The flight over was very early this morning [last Tuesday], so I???ll keep this post short as I begin to flag, but the connections were all efficient. It???s great to be back in Breda, replicating last year???s visit in the inaugural running on this project. The centre of the city is beautiful, full of history and character.

Dinner was at the university’s very attractive Institute of Hotel and Facilities Management: photos are below, I love a nice neat clean line in my architecture and interior decor. Our visit coincided with assessments for the students, but I got the impression that a tour of the venue and the kitchens is all part of the usual experience. The students are clearly very proud of working in some great spaces, which encourage them to put on events and develop their skills. First year students must complete 80 hours work here in order to progress in their courses, from cooking to waiting to barista work and whatever else needs done. Second year students meanwhile take on many of the planning and development roles (including devising menus, etc.). It???s an impressive outfit in one of Breda???s nicest suburbs; it certainly doesn???t look out of place.

I am therefore envious of the investment that has gone into these resources. It would interesting to see how the addition of such facilities would enhance the student experience at Edinburgh Napier, but perhaps there???s also a need to make better use of the resources that the university already has, but are not put to educational use.

The earlier part of the day saw me deliver an introductory lecture for the students due to come to Edinburgh in a couple of weeks. I employed my usual mix of pictures, unnecessary animations and bullet points to put my points across. It???s a good sign that there were questions at the end: I look forward to following up on similar themes in tomorrow???s class discussion sessions.

Meanwhile, I hope I get more than three and a half hours sleep tonight: I???m not conditioned for such early flights just at the moment.


The Net Works ??? 100% Open


As I’ve always said, this blog is written largely for me. A place to record thoughts, experiences and progress. But it’s also where I keep useful links with a little comment as well: a more engaging Delicious perhaps. So here’s a link, tucked under the image above, to a Roland Harwood (@rolandharwood) post on networks. My comment is to suggest that I read it again the future and if I encourage others to have a look as well that’s all fine by me.