Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Jubilee Flotilla

It’s like. Wait. Um.

All I know is I feel like I need to write all this down. And I know I’m not actually writing it down. But when I think about writing it down, it feels like I’m writing it down. Even though I’m not. Not writing it down.

I think I am tilted towards the ground, at an angle, like a syringe or a skydiver. It’s all grey, or all white. Hardly a second has passed. Or maybe a year has passed? A year seems more likely. It’s hard to tell.

My hands are stretched in front but I don’t see them. I don’t see any of me. I remember them, so I see their memory – through the grey/white... what is this? Air?

I feel the memory of my hands and feet and my eyes looking around me. I remember the hot air smashing them, smashing my eyeballs, and the reddish-grey juice splashing all about, pouring and pouring towards me, like a Mexican wave of silent wetness carried on a current of... is that flame? Yeah, flames all over the river.

It was hot. It’s not hot any more, but I feel the memory of it getting hot. In 1989 I was within ducking distance of an IRA bomb. I have always remembered how the air was bent out of shape, the noise was interwoven with the silence, the blast.

I feel the memory of something like that again. I feel like my legs and stomach were punched clear of the South Bank, high into the London sky. I smell my hair burning, I feel the memory of a pair of teenagers bursting against the river wall like cheap market fruit. I lost my shoes and... what else?

I flew, a little, then I was quiet and in this grey/white. For a second? A year? I don’t know. I just know that I feel like I should write this down.

As I feel like this, I see more of the scene. Or I see the memory of the scene, as it must have played out. Although it feels like perhaps I wasn’t there.

I feel like I remember a lot of noise, a lot of fear. There was a large boat, some flags, the water boiled and four, no, five men smothered the woman dressed in blue. I was flying through the air, smelling my hair, seeing those teenagers and remembering my hands while one of the men roughly slapped a face mask onto the woman, like a gas mask. The others pulled her to the deck. One of them took flight, like me, but quickly stalled at about 30 feet and span in two pieces to the water.

In the woman’s old face I could see her thoughts, or the memory of her thoughts. I can see them now. Something was getting to her, something from this scene. She was being rushed away from it all – and she knew that was the right thing to do - but she also didn’t know if that was the right thing at all. There was guilt and shame and pity in there, and I could see it all. And I could see that she knew she would be pulled clear of all this and most people would not. And I could feel the memory of it all.

And I felt like I should write it down. Because it might just be useful, and the more I feel like I should write it down the more I think I can remember things to write down. And I will remember it all, I will. But first, I think, I should have a little sleep... just a little sleep.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

Channel 4's excellent Dispatches programme promised to lift the lid on the shady world of ticket reselling. And, boy oh boy, it certainly did.

But while it should come as no surprise to anybody that companies such as Seatwave and Viagogo make a killing from huge mark-ups over face value prices, what DID come as a shock was the 'industrial level' of the corruption. Specifically, this country's biggest concert promoters are alleged to be complicit in large-scale ticket touting.

You would think SJM, Metropolis, MCD and Live Nation would be keen to stamp out such scalping activities. But undercover reporters discovered that an incredible 29,000 Take That tickets were allocated to Viagogo by tour promoters SJM in 2011.

The same company, together with Metropolis and MCD, allocated 4,500 V Festival tickets to Viagogo last year. And 9,000 tickets for the upcoming Coldplay tour were allocated by SJM and Metropolis to Viagogo for sale at premium rate.

This stinks, of course - for a number of reasons. The tickets sent to Viagogo could and should have gone on general sale to genuine fans. Instead, they were offered for vastly inflated prices (£539 was quoted for a Coldplay ticket, for instance) through the secondary agent. According to the programme, 90 per cent of this marked-up ticket price is handed back to the promoters, with Viagogo taking ten per cent and their booking fee.

Promoters negotiate with agents to book artists for a certain price - and a ticket price is generally established within such an agreement. If 9,000 Coldplay tickets are sold out of the back door for a hugely inflated price, then who is being ripped off? Are the agents kept in the dark over this? Are the band and their management? Or are they taking a slice from it too?

Channel 4 should be commended for an excellent piece of whistle-blowing. And Live Nation, Metropolis, MCD, SJM and other promoters should be held to account for their actions. They didn't use their right to reply on the programme itself: Channel 4 was only able to obtain a quote from umbrella organisation, the Concert Promoters Association, which missed - or avoided - the point in hand by commenting instead on the security of booking tickets through an established secondary agency.

The fans are being ripped off - of this there is no doubt. But if the allegations in the C4 programme are found to be true, and the people who promote our concerts and tours are deliberately touting their own tickets at a higher price to illicitly obtain a greater revenue for themselves, then they need to explain how - on God's green earth - they can possibly consider this as acceptable.

Andy Barding