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The Guardian Open Weekend: Roundup

By on Wednesday, 28th March 2012 at 11:00 am

One of the scariest ideas for a newspaper editor is to let the public into your offices. Just think of the havoc they’d cause? Stories leaked, interviews ruined and coffee supplies exhausted: it just doesn’t bear thinking about. But what if you invited your loyal readers into your hallowed domain and actively encouraged them to get involved and contribute to the success of the stories happening around them. But what newspaper would be daft enough to consider this notion? The Guardian.

This past weekend (24-25 March) saw the Guardian doors flung open for all to see as 5000 Guardianistas filed into Kings Place for two days of eye-opening discussion, heated debate and high quality journalism.

The charismatic, charming and ever-so-slightly odd Grayson Perry took the hot seat in Hall One as he was interviewed by Decca Aitkenhead who took the bulk of her questions from tweets that had been sent in, including one from Grayson’s wife who asked “What’s for dinner?” Grayson talked openly about his influences, the art world and other artists, stating “the only interesting thing about Damien Hirst is probably his bank accounts”. As Grayson answered questions both from Decca and the audience for an hour, he had the room hanging on his every word. Despite being quite media-friendly, Grayson is always a joy to listen to as he describes his relationship with Alan Measles, therapy and Claire. You can watch highlights of the interview here.

It wasn’t long before the Guardian heavyweights arrived at the Open Weekend to show the public how journalism is done. Chaired by Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow, a debate entitled “What does the phone hacking scandal tell us about Britain?” featuring investigative journalist Nick Davies, Tom Watson MP, former Daily Mirror editor David Banks, Guardian journalist Amelia Hill and as a special treat the editor himself, Alan Rusbridger. Tom Watson – who has been at the forefront of the Leveson enquiry – blamed “weak political leadership” from as far back as Thatcher and that there almost certainly had been occasions when MPs refused to speak out for fear of a tabloid backlash against them. Nick Davies – the man who broke the Milly Dowler phone hacking scandal – even suggested that ‘dark arts’ were prevalent in TV news and that we’d have to wait until it came out. At times it was a gang of Guardian journos against the ex-tabloid leader, but even Davies slammed the Guardian for covering the ‘tabloid story’ of Jade Goody’s death. But for an audience of Guardian readers, it was like watching the masters at work.

One of the heroes of the phone-hacking scandal closed the Saturday in an interview with Alan Rusbridger himself. Steve Coogan revealed that overall it cost him £400,000 in legal fees and to gather enough evidence to take News International to court, and he only received £370,000 in compensation, but it was about the principle. Coogan had no qualms about the fact that the stories reported by News of the World were true, but they were “no-one’s fucking business” and that what happened to him wasn’t extraordinary but “typical”. He talked freely about being stitched up by Andy Coulson’s “bad behaviour” and how he was trapped by NotW. Watch highlights of the interview here.

One of the most hyped talks on Sunday was the “Will the internet ever be open?” debate, with guests Richard Allan (director of policy of Facebook in Europe), Rachel Whetstone (global head of communications and public policy for Google) and internet boffin favourite Clay Shirky (professor at NYU). China and Iran’s internet policies dominated the discussion as each of panel gave their thoughts on an internal internet and censorship. There was a definite degree of animosity between Allan and Whetstone and the audience were very aware of the online privacy issues that Facebook is the poster child for. Allan tried to quash these stories by explaining they don’t sell personal data, targeted advertising could go to all people of the same age with the same interests, but advertisers don’t have your personal information. This still didn’t settle with the audience.

For something musical (don’t forget you’re still readingTGTF), the Guardian’s music editor Caspar Llewellyn Smith hosted a discussion on “Music’s global revolutions” with guests DJ Abrantee, editor of fRoots magazine Ian Anderson, co-founder of Africa Express Ian Birrell and DJ/producer Johan Hugo, part of the Very Best. The primary theme of the talk was that African music, especially traditional music from Mali and Madagascar. As western music tries to reinvent itself and bands keep trying different things, bands such as Vampire Weekend are notable for being influenced in their later material by African tribal beats. Hip hop too has made itself known across the globe with different countries and institutions stamping their own sound firmly on it. But it’s the traditional, original sounds from traditional African instruments that impress these seasoned musical aficionados and are keen to see more African artists gain more exposure in the UK. Make it happen, people!

There are already rumours of another Open Weekend happening next year and if so then try your hardest to get there. Where else can you find some of the best journalists in the UK – arguably the world – under one roof, ready for your questions and input? The Guardian.


The Guardian Open Weekend: TGTF’s Top Picks

By on Tuesday, 21st February 2012 at 11:00 am

Next month the prestigious Guardian newspaper will be opening their hallowed doors to the public for the first time ever. Ordinary Joe Bloggs can wander freely around the Guardian building interacting with journalists, columnists and general industry bods alike. Throughout the weekend there’ll be a whole range of lectures and workshops led by some of the biggest and most important names in quality journalism. So here are TGTF’s top picks for the weekend…

Charlie Brooker
The incredibly witty and nihilistic G2 columnist Charlie Brooker is answering questions put to him by the audience. With a number of hit BBC Four (and sometimes BBC Two) TV shows under his belt and one of the Guardian’s most popular columns, this is surely going to be one of the highlights of the weekend. It’s a great opportunity for any fan of the acerbic writer to have their questions answered and learn from the metaphor master.

The Guardian’s Pop Quiz with John Harris
Music critic extraordinaire John Harris will be presenting an “eight round interactive spectacular” with full audio and visual effects. With questions written by a journalist who’s been published in Q, The Rolling Stone and Mojo amongst others, you’re going to need a truly musical mind to conquer this quiz.

Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons) interviewed by Laura Barton
Despite being in a band that splits opinion here at TGTF, seeing the frontman of one of Britain’s biggest folk bands being interviewed by the fantastic Laura Barton will definitely give some pointers to wannabe music journalists in the audience (ourselves included).

Music’s global revolutions, chaired by Caspar Llewellyn Smith
The Guardian’s Music Editor chairs the debate that asks where western music can go from here. Will it embrace music from other continents or evolve in its own narrow-minded way? Hear from Choice FM’s Drive Time and Afrobeats host DJ Abrantee, the co-founder of Africa Express Ian Birrell and the Senegalese singing supremo Baaba Maal. A talk guaranteed to provoke thought and intrigue throughout the mainstream music scene.

How to DJ with DJ Yoda
Voted by Q as “one of the top ten DJs to see before you die”, DJ Yoda will be giving budding turntablists valuable advice from his 14 year career. Also in attendance will be the team behind Malawi’s Lake of Stars festival. If you’re a fan of scratch DJing, mash-ups or just spinning records to have a good time, this ‘How to’ session has something for everyone.

How to blog
As a user of the internet you probably have/had a blog. If you’re not a blogger but want to get involved with the world of user generated content and don’t know where to start, look no further than the panel of freelance writer and blogger Cath Elliott, author Owen Hatherley and the editor of political blog Liberal Conspiracy, Sunny Hundal. If you’ve got something to say but don’t know how to say it, this is the talk for you.

Unfortunately the Guardian Open Weekend is now sold out, but if you were lucky enough to buy tickets then get yourself along to the above events. From the narcissistic nature of Charlie Brooker to the DJing wizardry of DJ Yoda, it’s popular culture at its best.


Preview: The inaugural Guardian Open Weekend

By on Friday, 3rd February 2012 at 9:00 am

Ever wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes behind the broadsheet newspaper? Just yesterday it was revealed that the Guardian, incidentally a national publication whose music department has recognised our hard work here at TGTF, will be allowing the public behind their previously closed doors to find out.

This 24-25 March at their offices in King’s Cross, London, the Guardian will be holding their first Open Weekend, giving people the opportunity to participate in lectures and debates by their editors, writers and columnists, as well as outside speakers from Egypt, India, Pakistan and the U.S. This event is a great extension to what the Guardian already does in its online presence: engaging the public in their unique, collaborative way.

Over 200 sessions will be offered to participants, ranging from topics from Hackgate to the current global economic climate, from the future of the NHS or David Cameron in politics to (ooh!) the kind of thing that makes us hot and bothered, like Guardian writer Laura Barton in conversation Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons, discussing their band’s upcoming album release. Like food, sport, cartooning, crosswords, fashion? Have kids who have curious minds? This event has got you covered. This blog post can’t do the Open Weekend’s programming justice, so we invite you to read the official press release on the Guardian Web site or watch the informative video below.

Day tickets are available for Saturday at £40 and Sunday at £30, and a weekend pass costs £60.
Passes allow access to all festival sites and activities, but you will have the opportunity to reserve tickets for up to four programming sessions starting the 1st of March. Children under the age of 16 can attend the festival for free, provided they are accompanied by a paying adult. One adult may bring a maximum of two children, and please note that children’s passes must be booked online at the same time as the accompanying adult making the purchase. You can purchases passes at this link.


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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