You Shall Not Pass

I used to work as a secondary music teacher and music technician and despite not working in this sector any more, I have kept a keen eye on the goings on in education and felt the need to ramble a little about my own opinions on the current state of affairs. It will likely not change anything one jot… but maybe I’ll feel better for sharing.

 

I’ve thought for many years now that assessment and exams in education seem much more about the results serving as an advertisement campaign for schools/academies etc. themselves, rather than doing any good for the students they are supposed to help to be honest. The basic premise of assessment used to be “This exam will show us (and you) what you do not know, and therefore highlight what area you need to work on to improve”. In itself that is a sound idea on the surface, such as mock exams helping students to target learning, but I wonder whether the overall effect of assessing children in a final exam scenario is actually doing more damage than good in a world that is changing and developing all the time.

 

You would think that the first thing to change with the times would be how we educate our young people. But in reality the industrial revolution and the ‘teaching to the bell’ method of running schools is so strong and embedded, yet we send our children to school under the illusion that this is the best way to teach discipline and to allow creativity to blossom. In reality I think it is madness to think that creativity could flourish to its full potential in a template of tick boxes and time limits, especially when sprinkled with “is your tie on straight?”. Teachers working in schools strive to build students confidence and learning, and to help personalities to develop, whilst the infrastructure above goes against them and tries wholeheartedly to take that very same personality away, by making everyone look the same and by assuming that everyone learns in the same way, and that if you do not learn in the way deemed best that you are some sort of moron who does not deserve as high a grade as someone who happened to understand that method, that day. To explain further it would be helpful to watch the following film.

This film is extraordinary and it utterly changed the way I look at education.

Changing Education Paradigms

 

I am very much in the same opinion group as Sir Ken Robinson. When I saw this little video many years ago now, I sat on the edge of my seat and was shouting “Yes! Yes! Yes!” In my head at almost every turn. I couldn’t help but think to myself how wonderful it would be when this way of delivering education finally comes to fruition, and how freeing it will be for the students and young people who would benefit from this way of doing things. But it hasn’t happened. This video is from 2010 and yet 8 years later we are still floundering under the influence of the industrial revolution. Every time I spend any time thinking about all this I despair now at the direction that the education sector seems to have gone.

 

This is the way I see it and what I have experienced.

 

The rules at the top trickle downwards and the teachers and students who have to live by those rules are being stifled and caged. The end result of the latest school systems seem to be “did you behave for long enough? Did you do as you were told for long enough? And on the flip side of that if you are someone who doesn’t conform and misbehaves, then you are allowed to break the rules a million times before any real action is taken, and that results in a student being sent home… which is likely what they wanted in the first place because… they can’t stand how schools are run.

 

“You did not do it our way… so you are a naughty person.”

 

Schools are just a new business venture. If a school falls slightly behind then a bigger more successful school with more money is invited to come along and “fix” the failing school. In reality this is where a school that is better at making itself look fantastic, by finding ways to display its ‘unbeatable results’, takes over a school that essentially ‘did not spend as much time cooking the books of results’ because it was too busy taking care of the individual needs of the students in its care. The “perfect” school then superimposes its “winning formula” on to the “lesser” school and suddenly everything is tickety-boo. Well it is not. These takeovers never take into account the personality of the students and the surrounding area and environment that the “lesser” school is fabulously aware of and has been aware of for many years. For example, the “lesser” school knows about little Jimmy’s grandma and that on Thursdays he needs to leave five minutes early because mum and dad both work up in Scotland together on Thursdays and he can’t get to his grandma’s if he misses his bus that goes from a different bus stop further away. The new “perfect” school comes in and counts 3 terms worth of missing five minutes of Thursdays lessons and reprimands Jimmy at the end of the year by soiling his attendance report with a crap record instead of praising him for his amazing community work on the school’s garden project that the new “perfect” school is stopping at the end of the year due to “administration reasons”.

It is a business. The leaders at the top are business people who pretend to be people people. Underneath them are people who used to be people people, and they succeed or fail and move jobs depending on how well they turn into business people, while the ones who really run the school are the ones who learn how to make themselves look like business people, whilst secretly being people people. Without those people, the school falls flat on its arse. Underneath those are teachers who know their students and know about little Jimmy’s grandma but who are not allowed to do their jobs because that involves thinking and responsibility points and you simply can’t have teachers running around having opinions and making decisions now can you? It is completely pathetic. These days a school is a business, before it is a school. That is absolutely shite.

 

It seems utterly bonkers to me, to put children into boxes. Imagine if assessment was simply good grammar and basic arithmetic and the odd mock exam within lessons, and that we got into college by having a casual interview where the question was not “How did you score on your GCSE’s?” but was “What’s your opinion on this?” or “What would you do if that happened?” or “What are you watching at the moment?”. Imagine if the questions were aimed to find out if the person in the interview really wanted the college place and if the course was genuinely suited to the person… wouldn’t that be… sensible?

 

It has been known for a long time now that exams are a completely inefficient way of assessing someone’s capability and learning. The film mentioned earlier explains brilliantly how the current setup of schools and how students are churned through an inefficient learning environment that removes creativity and as students get older, they are conditioned to put their own ideas aside and to do things the same way as everyone else.

 

I witnessed this first hand when I was at school and am very grateful for the result in what was essentially a complete balls up. I was in a school where we were put into sets for Maths and English and Science. In English I had found myself in set 3 in year 8 and I worked hard and was told at the end of year 8 that I was going up a set to set 2 in year 9. When I started year 9 I found to my dismay that I was let down by the system. I was told that there was no room for me in set 2… and also that there was no room for me in set 3 where I used to be. You will find this hard to believe but it is completely true… I was a set 2 student, and I was moved down 3 sets to set 5. Yes. Set 5. I was too young to shout about it and complain and do anything other than what I was told… but it actually made me grow up as a person… because I met Mrs Drabble. Mrs Drabble was one of the finest teachers you could ever wish to have. She let you be yourself. She gave assignments that were creative writing… I could write stories instead of read them out loud so rather than read Wilfred Owen I was writing my own stories, one called “Escape from the Enchanted Forest”. We had to write a made up diary story like Adrian Mole, and I called mine “The Life Of Ryan”. Mrs Drabble gave me the confidence to do things my way. I did not have to conform… I could create and reach my own potential, not the potential that the school tried to place on top of me. I remain (hopefully) one of the only students ever to move from set 5 to set 2 in English at my old school.

 

The point this raises is that teachers have brains and learn how to teach the young people who are sat in front of them. They do not need to obey some uniform ruling that all members of staff must wear a blazer. Children should not be told that it is not acceptable to have green hair, and they most certainly should not be told that if they work hard enough that they will be demoted 3 sets in English instead of being put in set 2. As it happens, I met another fantastic teacher in set 2, and I did ok in English, but reading Wilfred Owen taught me bugger all about English. Writing “Escape from the Enchanted Forest” taught me loads about English, and more importantly, about who I was.

There are millions of ways to teach things, and schools are too often hindered to teach the main 3 ways as that normally works for 80% of the students in the room… and teachers know that if the template was different that they would change it to include the other 20% of the students… because if there is one thing a teacher knows… it is their students and HOW they learn. But they are hindered by the powers above them, all the way to the government, so that if they do not meet their GCSE result quota, or get enough signatures on the A Level course sign-up… that they will not get pay rewards, will not be able to run the A-Level course at all, and will end up as a one or two person department if they do not teach English, Maths, or Science, and those core subjects are bullied to teach things they don’t want to teach just as much if not more than the other subjects, so that they teach “how to pass an exam” instead of Trigonometry, Poetry or Biology.

What about Art? Music? Drama? These subjects are dying before our very eyes and all the Government seems to care about is producing the next accountant who knows how to turn up on time. Where is the next Victoria Wood going to come from? Or the next David Bowie? The people who inspire the rest of the world with art? Surely it has to be from inspirational teachers who go against the grain and manage to reach through the administration and get the message across that it is perfectly acceptable to want to make a living as a musician or an actor or a writer or a painter and to go for your dreams, when the rest of the school system is shouting… “Go for your dreams as long as it is straight into a job with security and a pension scheme and all the perks”.

 

The Government has a lot to answer for. Education and how schools are run has become a façade. Good teachers leave because they realise that they are not allowed to teach what they know how to teach, and they know that they are compromised. The good teachers who stay behind try desperately to sneak their own teachings in to the mix, through the cracks, in-between the rubbish that they don’t agree with teaching.

 

Imagine, if Sir Ken Robinson was put in charge of education in this country. An actual education specialist who knows a thing or three about how to move education forward and give power to the teachers… but no. As things stand the public vote for someone in their constituency to represent them in parliament. They base their decision on the candidate’s opinions and promises. They do not get access to the candidate’s skills in how much they know about running the NHS or the educations sector. We then elect a Prime Minister who chooses someone who has never had anything to do with education suddenly have a new job as “Education Secretary”, because that makes sense right? It is like putting a normal member of the public into an F1 car, or a Fire Engine and expecting them to be amazing at that position when they have absolutely no chance of doing anything other than a mediocre job at best. We put people in charge who have absolutely no idea what they are doing.

 

It is completely INSANE.

 

Our young people deserve better than this.

 

 

 

 

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That’s A Copy? Right?

I have just discovered this latest story about Ed Sheeran being sued over similarities between a song he wrote called Photograph and a song by someone called Matt Cardle called Amazing.

 

Ed is being sued for 20 Million dollars.

 

As a singer-songwriter myself I find myself drawn to this story. It begins as many stories have before it… someone writes a song, someone else writes a different but similar sounding song, but does well with it… someone decides it must have been copied and files a lawsuit.

 

The laws seem to work on certain assumptions that I inherently disagree with. Here’s why.

 

When I was at school I studied music at GCSE and one day, during our GCSE composition module, I was sat at my table, busily writing out crotchets and quavers for my composition “Steel Alley”. A friend of mine was sat at the piano with our music teacher, going through his own composition, and our teacher was playing what he had written down to make sure his notation was correct. On hearing his melody leap forward from the piano, I cheekily quipped “ a bit of a do, a bit of a do… we’re going to a bit of a do…” I sang this quietly to the theme of the 90s Sitcom “A bit of a do” which was a sitcom on the telly starring David Jason and Gwen Taylor, and instantly our music teacher and I recognised it… but my friend did not… this was the thing… my friend had never watched that program… he came up with that same melody and phrasing completely on his own. Did it sound like it? Yes. It was exact. Did he copy it? No. No he didn’t.

We joked about how we wouldn’t be able to hear that melody now without thinking about the words I had just sung and my friend sarcastically thanked me for my “spoiler” moment… but I saw first-hand how it is utterly possible to compose the same tune as something that already exists *without* prior knowledge of hearing that tune.

 

In Eds case I do not see how anyone will be able to prove that he had definitely heard Matts song before composing Photograph. If a song sounds like another song, it does not prove that it was copied. Unless there is some connection between those two professionally that I am unaware of.. I can’t see how A) It will stand in court or B) How it has taken this long to surface… So I’m guessing this is a rogue accusation with no connections between the parties.

 

Music is a palette of colours that are organised to form a soundscape using structures and phrasing like any language. In fact, that is a good comparison to use I think… Art and music.

If two musicians use a C minor chord in their song have they plagiarized? No. That would be like saying you copied me because we both used red in our paintings.

 

If a melody or section of melody is similar, then the equivalent in Art might be to say that the paintings are of the same subject… for example a sky scene… both paintings have sky in them, both use blue, and white, and paint clouds… has one copied the other? No. are they similar? Probably.

 

This leads me to the next bit… If sounding similar does not prove it is a copy, then… who cares?

 

The person who is not making money… that is who cares.

 

Musicians do not “borrow” or “steal” music from each other as the norm in my opinion. Musicians use the same palette of colours to paint their songs with, and sometimes similar paintings are created, sometimes, as in paintings, bits of paintings might seem to be exactly the same, but as a separate entity, both are works of art in their own right, and neither can be assumed to have been copied of the other.

 

Plagiarism *can* exist of course when the two parties are connected beyond doubt… maybe 2 colleagues who have worked together… that is very different and is more like a divorce than a plagiarism case. Maybe it is a direct stealing of someone’s lyrics? Again very different despite the similarities, it is far easier and accepted to accidentally compose a similar melody from the restricted range of the musical language compared to the intricacies of written text and the countless thousands to one odds it would be to write something that “happens to be exactly the same lyrics for a whole verse”… Then, it is much harder to deny that a copy has taken place and as such of course should be treated differently but I digress…

 

On this occasion I am focusing on Matt’s allegation, and from listening to both tracks, I only see 2 paintings that look a bit similar and both have some sky in them… other than that, I really think Matt is clutching at straws for his own reasons *if* my guess that they are not connected is true.

I do not know either way of course… Maybe they are connected somehow? Maybe this is one of those record company things where someone manufactured the song so hard that it got re-worked or something… A lot of maybe’s and I guess the case will reveal the truth in time so I won’t rule out that as a possibility but I have to say, my experience of Ed so far has been very positive, and I rightly or wrongly believe that he sits and writes his own songs diligently, and that if he *thought* a song sounded like another he would have taken it further away, not copied it… just like most other musicians would… which is why I think he hadn’t heard it at all. I can speak from my own experience though, and as a singer-songwriter, I strive to compose something unique as my default. and Ed does not come across as the “shit I’m running out of songs” type to me.

 

Yes I know I’m not a copyright expert… as ever I am just exercising my whimsical thoughts and I will learn much from watching what happens with this case… but I expect it to get thrown out, as it should. I was rather hoping to learn a great deal from the recent Stairway to Heaven case too but isn’t it funny how that has all gone very quiet now? Hmmm. ;)

Anyway… I happen to have my opinion, on something I do not have all the facts about, but I felt compelled to say my piece because, well… I don’t think the songs are similar enough to warrant anything other than an “oh yeah”. Fundamentally, it is a different song, it is not *exactly* the same, and I for one am perfectly happy for both songs to exist, one happens to be more successful commercially, being the driving force behind the others allegations I suspect.

 

“Excuse me waiter?”

“Yes?”

“I’m afraid I’m suing your chef…”

“You are? Why is that?”

“This meal uses exactly the same chicken and aubergine ingredients that I used for my own dish I’ve made for years.”

“…”

 

You see?

You can’t sue someone for using red. That’s fucking stupid.

 

 

 

EU-by-Gum

I have been mulling it over for some time now, and it is time to put my sixpence in, for what it is worth.

There is now less than a week to register to vote for the upcoming EU decision. To do so, visit here> https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Now there have been a few factors to consider, and some issues that the Government want me to worry about, that I couldn’t give two hoots about… so here’s how I see it.

To leave.

I cannot bring myself to believe any of the hypothetical numbers that have been bandied around by both sides. The financial stuff bores me to within an inch of my life. I actually don’t care if I am going to be better or worse off, the simple fact is, if I thought the result of being poorer for longer would actually do something towards changing this country fundamentally with how it is run, and how it is organised, then I would take that chance in a shot… a UK where the NHS is not a political football and along with education is protected somehow, and maybe looked after by independent means with people who are experienced in their field… like having Ken Robinson involved with the direction of our education for example. If the result of being poorer was to actually change the status quo of the privileged few being protected at the top, and gave a chance at redistributing the balance of wealth in this country eventually so that the poorest are supported properly, and the money dished out where it is actually needed, instead of being used to fund a bogus conservative election campaign for example, then it would be a serious consideration… But that is not what is on the table… We are being asked if we want to leave to… take control? To regain control of our borders? To return sovereignty to our country? To govern ourselves?

This is where I struggle.

The evidence in front of my eyes, and the way my life is affected everyday by this Government has revealed to me, that this set of politicians is not fit to run a pound shop, never mind a country. Look at the U-turns that have happened recently… All schools to be academies. Oh. No not really. We were kidding. Serious issues over junior doctors contracts… we’ll just make as many people suffer as we can before doing what we always would have had to do all along. It stinks… and the one that affects me the most… health and the benefits system… This Government, are responsible for mental health in this country being completely and utterly under-funded and under-supported, leaving a ginormous hole in the nook of society, forcing people like me to live an undignified existence where I basically have to keep proving over and over to an un-qualified person that I am indeed too ill to work and whether I am worthy of having my rent paid is decided purely on the basis of who I was lucky enough to get in a dehumanising health assessment test. Myself and thousands like me sitting indoors with depression, waiting for months for treatment and merely existing in the meantime. This Government has seriously let us all down, and now they want us to politely hand control of Human Rights, work policies, equality laws, the whole caboodle… to this set of corrupt arseholes? No. No fucking way.

To stay in.

It is the only option for me. I do not feel English, and I do not feel British… I have always felt like I am European. Now the freedom of movement does not affect me quite as much as others, being that if I take another step, it’ll be the furthest from ‘ome I’ve ever been… but the benefits seriously outweigh any negatives in my opinion… I mean… What negatives? Some people, seem to think for some reason that immigration is a problem… whereas personally I believe it to be one of our biggest achievements and proudest moments… it is 2016 now… and I’ll be damned if I believe the spiel the Government and media feeds me that immigration is the cause of so many problems… I do not think it is. Lack of competency, and manipulation of the media… that is the issue, if you ask me.

I believe from the very bottom of my heart, that to be a member of the EU is to take on a role of great responsibility, and that the whole point of being a member, is to be a part of the umbrella that defends us from the very thing that is happening at the moment… when Governments get corrupt… like ours is… in the pocket of the media and the huge corporations, manipulating marketing and everything we see to maximise the majority doing exactly what they really want us to do… by making the decision as scary and muddy as possible and focussing on in-battles and ridiculous figures… it’s all a sham.

When we vote for the General Election, we also effectively choose who gets to nominate our EU representative… this time round it was the Conservatives who nominated… and so if we are struggling in the EU, then it is down to the person the Conservatives put up to represent us… in my eyes, that just means the Conservatives let us all down yet again, but half of the Conservative party are on a power trip, and they seemingly want to have a go at running the pound shop themselves. No thanks. I just have no confidence in the current Government to be able to do that in a million years.

As we can see from the investigations going on into the Conservatives election campaign, Democracy can be manipulated, through mis-advertising and loading the odds with financial weight. The EU needs to be the umbrella that it is, to ensure that joe blogs, me and you, don’t get absolutely shafted by our Government. I guess I’m saying, democracy is great, if you can afford it, but sometimes a committee mind-set is needed to protect everyone, and that is what the EU does, not as well as it should, but it protects each and every one of us despite which Government gets in power. In my eyes that is essential. Have we any idea what this Government would try to enforce if we didn’t have the EU to protect us anymore? No. But it’s a scary thought to me.

So that’s it. I’m voting in. Those are my reasons. Whatever you do, just make sure you vote, and make sure you know deep in your heart why you have voted how you decided to in the end. Just make sure you vote one way or the other… this is a big one.

All the best folks.

R

Kill Bill

What follows is a made up version of what I believe might be said if the terrorists of the world ever sat down to negotiate with the leaders of the western world. Although fictional… after writing it and before posting it I have to say that it feels truer than it ought to do. It is a short story designed to highlight the ridiculous position the modern world of politics has gotten itself into.

 

“Oh my word you are different to me… I *hate* you.”

“You must believe in the same things I believe in or else nasty things will happen to you, your children, and your children’s favourite teddy bears.”

“I hate you so much, I am going to convince someone to blow themselves up next to you.”

“That’s it now. Anyone who even looks like you, is having a retinal scan and their dental records keeping on file on WOPR, and if you so much as look at me or anyone like me a bit funny, I’m going to kill you, your children, and your children’s favourite teddy bears, until they are dead.”

“You have killed innocent people on our streets because we are free and therefore we must die.”

“You have killed innocent people on our streets because a select few idiots have decided to attack innocent people in your streets and therefore you must die.”

“Yes but you killed people on our streets and did not declare what we would need to do to be able to have you not killing people on our streets.”

“Yes well you didn’t ask. We’d like you to stop killing people in our streets.”

“Really? Well we’d rather like you to stop killing people in our streets too.”

“But we’re not scared of dying in the streets… just so you know.”

“No and neither are we… but we would rather like to get on with some shopping. If it’s all the same to you.”

“Well your shopping has nothing to do with us. We just struggle to tolerate you thinking in a different way to us.”

“Well we struggle with that too. You seem to like killing people.”

“You seem to like killing people too.”

“Oh no that’s not right! We like to make people feel like they are always about to be killed… that way, there is much less shouty business.”

“Oh I see. Well we think that when we die, we reach a more amazing place… more amazing than a mall even. It’s pretty special. They do nice food and everything.”

“Sounds nice! We think a bit differently to that. We think it’s all about making money while you are here and using any methods to manipulate everyone to make them buy what we want them to buy so that we can sell you these missiles.”

“Oh yes. Thanks for those. They came in very useful. We traded them in for some explosives and got a great deal.”

“You see! It’s all about business in the end!”

“Do you have your catalogue handy?”

“Of course! Here’s the latest in missile technology… fully equipped with cameras so that you can see which street it might go off in.”

“Excellent. How much are those?”

“About 2 oil fields.”

“Fantastic. I shall have my people sort the details out with your people. Would you like to buy some Teddy bear’s?”

“Sure!”

 

Here’s an idea…

Just stop killing people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Formula

After the announcement that drivers are soon to ask fans to comment on the state of the sport, I find myself compelled to write my feelings, as a long serving lover of F1, to stipulate what I think needs to be considered to bring the sport back to the fans and the right side of the track.

The first issue (and these are not in any particular order) is the phenomenon of money, and how it has changed the ethos of the sport to promote an ethos of disillusionment and mediocrity. I am of course referring to the Pastor Maldonado effect. I have nothing against Pastor at all… if anything he amuses me, but that is at the cost of the safety to himself and of the other drivers. The truth of his situation is this… He has his own finances backing him, which has meant that he has landed an F1 seat, regardless of previous experience or merit. He has bought his way into F1, whilst more talented and proven drivers who do not have those finances, like Paul Diresta and Bruno Senna for example, sit languishing in an alternative line of the sport, instead of at the cutting edge where they belong. Pastor is not the first or only driver to be in this position, as many know, the sport has been setup this way round for some time now… but at what cost? It does not mean that there is no such thing as a great and talented driver who also has the required reservoir of personal finances backing them either… But the fact that the sport is littered with Teams who would struggle to exist without the finances the driver brings, regardless of talent, is a hole in the bucket of F1 and has been now for long enough.

It is fundamentally incorrect in my opinion to promote to the young people of today that those with the most money succeed and those with the most talent get nowhere without money. It is what has soured the sport and spoiled it for the past 10 years at least… people from the outside of the sport looking in scratch their heads as another Lotus flies over the bough of a Ferrari whilst knowing that sat at home somewhere is Paul Diresta… A driver who has no financial backing, but who has more talent in his little toe than Pastor does. That sounds harsh… but Pastor is the perfect example of this issue which highlights it as night and day. The simple fact is… if you have money… you’re in. That is not the right message to send to our youngsters and long-serving F1 fans around the world.

The message has to be about excellence and the promotion of hard-working your way to the top and that hard work and skill combined merit reward. Look at Stuart Bingham in World Snooker… He has served his time and earned his World title, with more public support than most snooker players have enjoyed in years, *because* he has gone out and earned it. That is no accident… it is a fundamental ingredient to successful sport. Allowing “paying drivers” to top trump talented ones who have proved their worth in the lower formulas completely undermines and belittles the very excellence that the sport should be trying to portray. The image should be to the public that F1 is the cream of the crop… the best, racing toe to toe… not the best getting a DNF because Pastor Maldonado took them off at the first corner… again. Who wants to watch a team of 500 people who work at 150% only to be shouted at whilst enabling the 500th member of the team to whizz round a track doing what they are told at 80% of their limit capacity? Not me… but I have done for too long now because I love this sport so much. F1 has been diluted, and now the sport is in how the teams cope with the ridiculous constraints placed upon them, rather than in the excellence with which they perform. Now, the sport is contrived, with Teams being shouted at to produce the goods when they already do, when in reality the winner is not who is the best, but who made the fewest mistakes.

In my opinion it should be against regulations for a driver to be able to financially assist the team that they drive for, in shares or any way whatsoever. Obviously a backing company might simply tell teams to employ a certain driver and that they will buy into that team if they do… but to combat this there should be a requirement that Teams can only approach drivers who have achieved in the sport through the ranks with victories in the previous formulas and other agreed divisions. Again, just another suggestion. At the end of the day whatever method gets decided, the overall message and purpose needs to be the priority… get F1 back to the top of excellence.

The finances in F1 have been an issue for teams for a long time now, and this does need to be tackled as a matter of urgency. I have no magic answers for how to fix this, but the fans want Manor and teams like them on the grid, for the same reason… because of the belief in sport that maybe, just maybe, a Manor Team might just earn their right to a win one day… because they’ve earned it through hard work, not because they got financially lucky. This is why the FA cup is so successful after all… this HAS to be harnessed in my opinion, to pick F1 up from its current Slim-Fast diet, and plonk it on the table as a proper Sunday roast. To achieve it, and to generate that buzz for the fans and to make the sport more accessible, prices for F1 weekends simply HAVE to come down too.

I am a bigger F1 fan than I am of any other sport… I love it more than football, more than snooker, more than rugby… and have followed it for the longest time of all the sports comparatively through my life. My earliest sport memories are of the yellow Jordans racing in the rain and when I was growing up, I wished people would ask which F1 team I supported, rather than beating me up because I didn’t support Manchester Utd. As a fan of F1 the only realistic race I could ever get to would be Silverstone… and that would cost anything from around £177 to £410. To get a good seat I would have to spend more than a month’s rent. That is fucking ridiculous. How can I justify going to something, regardless of how much I LOVE it when it is more than my rent!? I can’t. Judging by the numbers in the stands… Many others can’t either.

Do you want 100 people attending paying £100 each? Or do you want 1000 people paying £25 each. Easy maths.

Moving on I have to pass comment on Bernie Ecclestone’s ridiculous statement regarding the commentators in F1 media “speaking in a complicated way”. I’ve rarely felt so patronised as I did when Bernie made this rather odd statement. Whichever media outlet you choose to watch the F1 on, the lingo and explanations of what is happening are pitched absolutely on point. There is now an interaction between fans and commentators through social media too, meaning that any misunderstandings can be asked anyway so at all times things are kept very clear. I can only imagine the faces of Martin Brundle and David Coulthard when Bernie made this ridiculous statement. I’m sure I speak for the majority when I say, that the media coverage is actually very good on all channels, when they decide to show the F1 in the case of the BBC, but the link between fans and the sport is at an all-time high, and so to suggest that the complicated nature of commentary is alienating audiences is ridiculous… the reverse is true, the commentators from all quarters enable the fans to understand the tactics and deeper levels of the sport in such a way as to always introduce newcomers by revisiting facts that seasoned fans already know and understand all too well. The media do a great job in F1, and my only quibble is that the BBC let the ball drop massively when they underestimated the interest in F1 and find themselves squabbling for the right to show a race, sending a message to fans that the BBC don’t care about F1 enough to give it full coverage throughout the season for every race. I’ve never known a sport where as a fan you actually struggle to find a method of watching the sport I love, and many fans are affected by the availability and the recent development of paying £6.99 for 24hrs of SKY sports on Now TV is at least a big step forward, but even this is a saturation of the corporate nature of the sport… It has to come back to the fans, and currently we have to struggle way too much to be able to watch a race weekend with no interruptions or switching channels and pressing red buttons. It’s a mess, and it’s not because of the lovely commentators.

Another major problem is the inconsistency of F1. How many rule changes and attempts to get the recipe right are we going to witness as fans before we get an excellence based sport that is exciting and fair and maintainable? If football changed its rules as often can you imagine what state the game would be in now? The overall effect of the constant rule changes is what alienates fans. Commentators *have* to explain what is different this time round to last time round, and that is down to the lack of consistency of the rulebook. Safety measures are the only aspect of the rules that should be regularly reviewed… but what the sport needs is a number of years with the same rules being applied… *this* is what will bring F1 back to the fans and allow teams like Manor to have a ten year plan, instead of a two or one year plan. The ability to hard-work your way up the ladder suddenly becomes much more viable if the rules are kept consistent. I would much prefer to see a delay to the start of a season, if it meant that a time-out was made available to spend the time that is needed amongst all teams and management to finalise the rules that will be in force for a set time period *longer* than a year or two. Sustainability can only truly come about if this consistency is applied in my opinion.

As far as the big money goes, there is no easy answer, and Bernie is in a right old pickle, quite rightly. There is a status quo that simply must be broken if costs are going to be brought into the here and now, which is, that it has to be regulated from above, and some people have to accept some loses for the sake of the sport. Customer cars are not the way forward. Fans want to see talent driving the best cars in the world, not the richest people. That will BREAK the sport forever if that is allowed to happen. What must be considered is a period of finishing up of business for the current setup of how things are… but with a firm date that say from 2020, some financial regulations come into effect and that is that. All must obey. Maybe after that then there should simply be a maximum limit on spending per major branch of development. X amount for aerodynamics, X amount for brakes etc. but that if money is saved, much like in the current development points system, teams could earn extra development points in another area for saving resources somewhere else. It’s an idea.

Refuelling. It’s dangerous and expensive. I beg the sport not to do this. I don’t find seeing people engulfed in flames a very nice way of spending a Sunday afternoon, and I’m sure the person being burned doesn’t either. Despite the obvious advantages of smaller fuel reservoirs taking weight and increasing the pace of the car, I honestly believe the speed gains that are hoped for in the new proposals are achievable through different means. Horsepower, aerodynamics and fuel quality (richer mix) and wider tyres might take the cars forward by around 5 or 6 seconds which would be enough in my opinion. If refuelling does reappear then one idea might be to have the fuel tanks exactly half or 2/3rds the current size to ensure one fuel stop is required per race only. Maybe the safety requirements should force that one fuel stop to be a specific fuel stop that takes a longer amount of time to a tyre stop and observes a different pitting procedure which maximises safety. The problem with refuelling before was that the act of putting a flammable substance into a car at high speed is simply not safe when you are in race mode… accidents happen even during tyre stops, and so to not develop the old refuelling system to a modern day equivalent if we really do have to have it back in the sport would be going backwards and someone will end up getting hurt.

Tyres. Pirelli need a competitor to really give the sport a boost. If the cars are going faster, the tyres will be eaten more, and so current tyres will need to be developed anyway. I really do hope that a second and even third tyre company will come into the sport in 2017 and provide some much needed competition to Pirelli. When Bridgestone and Michelin were the suppliers, a whole race could be in the balance depending on which Tyre Company had been utilised by a certain team and that only added to the excitement of the racing back then.  I don’t know a single F1 fan who would not love to see this happen to be honest.

In any event the cars need to be quicker and the drivers need the facility to put in 100% physical effort. I don’t believe for a second that Lewis Hamilton has not earned his World Championship and that what it took to achieve that was extremely hard and demanding and it is important not to undermine winning in an F1 car in this day and age, as the current skills needed to win are just a different set of game rules where the outcome happens to have not pushed the driver physically as much as they could have… however I’d be brave enough to stipulate that Lewis himself knows that winning in this day and age is very different to Senna winning in his day… It means there is a hole in the skill set and I believe the current drivers know this and that they would love the opportunity to race “properly” at 100% capacity.

I do not believe that people want to see cars crash. The fear factor as it has been described needs to be treated very carefully. Fear in sport should come from the fear of not completing a race… not a fear of crashing and being injured. It’s because of this that I think the cars need to be a little more robust, so that a single tap to the back of someone’s wheel does not end someone’s race, but allows them to recover, even if they have lost a few places. Maybe this is too hard a thing to achieve, and I don’t know how it could be implemented, but either stronger tyre walls or wings that aren’t as sharp might be a place to start looking.

Right. I’ve made my case and I’m delighted that there is a survey that I can take part in to give my opinions and hopefully help get the sport back to where it needs to be… at the top, being the shining beacon of excellence it ought to be.

To take the survey yourself visit this link and have your own say… hopefully it will make a big difference.

http://gpda.motorsport.com/

Ryan Mitchell-Smith

 

 

 

 

Politics for Vegetarians

I used to be a vegetarian, many years ago… and now the election is upon us I feel like one again, only I’m in the ridiculous position of having to choose either pork sausages, beef burgers, chicken nuggets, or bacon sandwiches for my next 5 years of meals.

It turns out, that the pork sausage company only sell to its own staff… and guarantee loyal customers the best rates, by ensuring only their own staff buy their sausages.

The beef burger company only sell to the shop owners who in turn sell their burgers… with a promise that the shops selling the burgers will always be “looked after”.

The chicken nugget company are only willing to sell to the bacon and beef burger companies, as they believe chicken nuggets work better as a side order, but actually the beef burger and bacon companies end up sending the stock back when they realise the boxes are actually filled with crabs.

The bacon company are selling bacon sandwiches to everyone, and making sure that there are enough Rennie to go round if any of its customers get indigestion, whilst promising to bring ketchup and brown sauce to the table once the tea has finished mashing, but they are not sure how long the shop can stay open.

There is a vegetarian option, that normally would suit my old vegetarian way of thinking, however they’ve gone and put Quorn on the menu, and only have one shop and it’s bloody miles away from where I live.

Sigh.

Bacon sarnies it is then. ;)

‪#‎politicsryanstyle‬