32 Reasons To Leave Belfast For Ibiza…or anywhere

In honour of Made In Belfast’s Emma Bricknell who recently announced that she was leaving Northern Ireland for the sunnier Mediterranean island of Ibiza…I began to wonder what could motivate such a clearly outrageous plan…I mean, what possible reason could someone want out of our wee province? It was a struggle, but I came up with these…

You know you should leave because;

1. Because you treat bomb scares like there’s just an annoying bluebottle in the room

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2. Because you’ve heard so many acronyms for terrorist groups that you wonder what Taliban stands for

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3. Because you think chips are now an acceptable breakfast food

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4. Because “Supper” now just means with chips…the last supper was just Jesus and his friends having their last “with chips”

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5. Because some local politicians think that velociraptors are only a couple of thousand years old…and the giants causeway was just caused by Noah doing a handbrake turn on his ark

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6. Because you treat taxi companies like off licences

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7. Because no driving exam could ever prepare you for the roadworks here
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8. Because Belfast has 7 quarters….and 5 seasons

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 9. Because this is what passes as street art…

Mural

 

10. [REASON REMOVED DUE TO PETITION OF CONCERN FROM THE DUP]

Censored

11. Because you can no longer tell if someone is drunk or just speaking Ulster Scots

Ulster Scots

12. Because you’re not sure what a Pasty is supposed to be…

Cornish Pasty Chip Shop Pasty

13. Because when you order scallops there’s no knowing what you’ll get

Fish Scallop Potato Scallop

 14. Because you don’t want to share an island with Larne anymore

Riverdale flats, Larne. June 2005

15. Because even yer ma says yer ma to you

Yer Ma

16. Because you don’t want to risk confusing these 2 in an emergency anymore

Potato Peeler PSNI

17. Because Michelin won’t give any of our restaurants a Michelin star, as all we do is burn their tyres

Bonfire Tyres Michelin Guide

18. Because this is our city centre after 5pm

Belfast City Centre

19. Because you’ve begun to give everybody nicknames by just adding “sie” on the end of their surname

Nickname

20. Because you’re sick of having to explain to tourists that they can’t have a glass of wine with lunch at easter but they can sit on the street and drink all the white lightning they want

Cheap Cider

21. Because you just can’t be bothered holding on to bank of england notes anymore for holidays

Money

 22. Because you don’t want to live in a place where “Glass” is a verb

Glassed

 23. Because you can’t bring yourself to buy “Going Out Pyjamas”

Pyjamas

24. Because you’ve started to get xenophobic about foreign crisps com’n over ‘ere

Tayto Walkers

 25. Because you’ve began to think of Ikea as the worlds largest hot dog stand, that also happens to sell some furniture

Ikea Hotdog

26. Because in your heart of hearts, you know that Sam really ISN’T yer man for a bargain. Is there even a Sam? Who knows anymore…

Sams Yer Man

27. Because you no longer consider the Glenshane pass a road…but a challenge

Glenshane Pass

28. Because you no longer laugh when you see “Ballybogey” on a sign or on the weather forecast

Ballybogey

29. Because you’ve stopped pointing out when someone on the telly is from here, and you no longer tell everyone that you’ve met that person that was on the telly but that they were up themselves

30. Because you are sick of colour co-ordinating your daily clothes based on what area of town you might venture into

Orange Shirt

31. Because you have used the following line at least once when complaining to a company “I’ll call Nolan on ye so I will”

Nolan

 

32. Because there is no such thing as Noise Cancelling headphones that work in Belfast during July

Breaker Faire PNG 0525N breakerfaire 309

BONUS – 1 Reason to stay: Because despite everything else…we have Crisp Sandwiches….

Crisp Sandwich

 

Any reasons to leave of your own?

Simply Crispy – A Café Evolved

A cursory google right now tells me that Simply Crispy, the brainchild of The Ulster Fry satire website and Andrew McMenamin (Owner of That Wee Café on Bedford Street, Belfast) has in every definition, gone viral.

Simply Crispy Wall Sign

The Mirror, The Independent, The Telegraph (And the Belfast telegraph of course), Metro, Buzzfeed…to name just a few. How can such a niche business result in the kind of PR that multiple-premises retailers only dream of (or pay for…).

The concept is simple enough, we all remember putting crisps in a sandwich, whether by design or because we didn’t have long enough to eat our packed lunch so we’d throw it all in between 2 slices of bread…I used to add a flapjack but I suspect that won’t catch on quite as easily… There is the element of nostalgia of course, but it seems more than that…nostalgia is great but it will only get you so far, clever branding, savvy consumers & a good product are needed for success to follow. The link has been drawn a thousand times over between Simply Crispy and Cereal Killer in London…I’m sorry but to me this is just tangential, the creators of Simply Crispy have gone on record stating the influence but that’s all it is, an influence. In the same way that every time somebody mentions a modern boy band, the Beatles aren’t necessarily thrown into the conversation… Cereal Killer showed the world that you can be a one trick pony and make it work, that’s where the comparison ends for me… Everybody eats cereal, it’s nothing new, you’ll find it in every hotel breakfast bar and many other places besides… Where on earth can you purchase a crisp sandwich? Simply Crispy.

I’m a massive over-user of the phrase all style and no substance, and having not been to Simply Crispy yet to judge, I won’t…what I will say is that they sold out in a matter of hours… Belfast folk aren’t shy in voicing their opinions, if customers eating inside thought that the product was poor or the service unacceptable, I’d bet my last George Best £5 note that they’re going to tell people, both as they leave to the queue outside and online through social media… My £5 note is safe, the response from customers has been resounding, it’s a good idea done well. £3.50 for crisps, sandwich & soup? That’s easily comparable to some less-than-respectable fast food outlets, and with the amount of occupied office space in the city centre being at the levels they are, there should be no shortage of customers.

Variety is key, as Subway have espoused for so long, and even local Burger joint Build-A-Burger have build their USP around the concept of customisation, Simply Crispy has approximately 30 crisp varieties on offer, at least 4 bread types, the option of ham and/or cheese, buttered or not buttered and with or without monster munch croutons…offering your customers over 1000 different decisions to make is a bold move but it seems the smoothness of the operation provided the busy lunch trade with precisely what they needed.

Simply Crispy Launch Photo Group

Will this spawn a plague of rip-offs? Will every town centre in the UK end up with its own incredibly-niche offering? I can’t think of many concepts as established in the conscious of the nation already that would work… It takes a certain type of business also, I can’t imagine existing restaurant wanting to expand whilst at the same time narrowing the scope of their business…But from what I’ve seen over the last few months, Andrew McMenamin is precisely the kind of operator who could…he has the attitude to the food/drink industry I adore, the “we are what we are” approach tells customers exactly what to expect, that it won’t be some homogenized plastic experience where everything including personality is modular…we are famous for our demeanour here in Northern Ireland, our sense of humour and our attitude towards life, That Wee Cafe endorses that proudly and Belfast should endorse Simply Crispy with the same approach.

Simply Crispy Sample

Hopefully they’ll go from strength to strength, and I know that operators That Wee Cafe have been in the process of renovating their mobile operation via a crowd funded campaign, with the aim of being on the road in a couple of months, whether that is distributing Crisp Sandwiches to the wider Belfast area or another venture entirely remains to be seen, but I’ll be eagerly awaiting developments

Is it a Million Dollar idea? No. Is it a great idea and worth doing? I think so, and it seems the Belfast public do too…now, on to day 2!

PS: If Andrew or the guys from The Ulster Fry are reading this, 2 words for you…premium crisps…you have the state school nostalgia down, but what about the old campbell students? The bourgeoisie won’t stand for any of that Tayto nonsense, oh no…get yourselves some beetroot, parsnip & kale crisps and charge them £10 more for it, they can afford it…

Me? I’m wanting some Bikers in a ham and cheese granary roll.

Larne Museum & Arts Centre – Who’s a “Dick”?

Whoever is in charge of Web management at Larne Museum & Arts Centre needs a talking to…they unfortunately didn’t know that when you put an image online there is a setting whereby you can name the caption…This bearded fella is apparently a dick. It is available for all to see in the gallery section of the website…simply click on the thumbnail image of the poor guy to see what Larne Museum & Arts Centre think of him…

of course, he could just be called Richard. Do you know him? Do you work for Larne Museum & Arts Centre or Larne Borough Council? Let me know!

This guy is a Dick according to Larne Museum & Arts Centre

This guy is a Dick according to Larne Museum & Arts Centre

The 8 Essential People in Every Workplace

8 Essential People

Every workplace is a melting pot of the dull to the bizarre, but I believe there are some individuals that you just can’t do without no matter what the business. See anybody you recognise? Yourself maybe?

Drunken Mess1. The Nutcase 

Every single workplace, whether it’s the most professional of offices or the most casual of cafés needs that person..the one who stumbles in 4 seconds before they were due to start still carrying last nights guilt heavily on their shoulders. The one who has a Vokda Martini for breakfast just to “Take the edge off”, that begins each day with “you won’t believe what happened to me last night” but you do believe them, of course you do. The one that can’t remember what season it is never mind what day, but still manages to put in a good shift. It’s important for those in the workplace who never socialise or go wild to have someone to live vicariously though, and for those who occasionally do like to let their hair down and photocopy their various body parts…they serve as a cautionary tale, a reminder of what happens when you ignore that voice in your head that says “sure, we’ll just have one more…”

Jobsworth2. The Jobsworth

There has to be one person in every business who thinks of nothing but getting the job done, everything else is superfluous and pointless. Partly so that someone is doing work the morning after the night before, partly because as much as we might bitch and moan about them, we know that they know what they’re doing and if things get really bad and you’re lost…do what they do, you can’t go wrong. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then imitating the jobsworth is the most efficient form of flattery.

Gossipping3. The Gossip

There are 2 types of people in this world (those who use the phrase “there are 2 types of people in this world” and those who don’t…) those who gossip and those who don’t…and even those who don’t gossip like to overhear those who do every once in a while. You may not give 2 shits about what Donna got up to last night, but you never know when that titbit of information might come in useful, and at the very least, listening in on others gossiping is occasionally a great way to feel better about yourself…

Career Climber4. The Career Climber

These people are among the most useful types of employees…they always want to be seen to be doing more than their fair share, which means should you need help/someone to do your work for you, they’re more than willing…leaving you free to concentrate on getting past level 650 on candy crush. They are often favour-bookkeepers, so must be used sparingly lest you have to help them move house or go nursing-home browsing with them for their elderly mother to enable them to get the house…

Genius at Work5. The Genius

If your workplace doesn’t have one of these then you need to get whoever hires employees to sort out this travesty. Who else is there to go to for all types of advice? Can’t put together your chest of drawers? They’ll know a tip. Can’t work out how to install that essential piece of software on your computer? They know the score. They are often only too keen to help as social interaction can be difficult for them and they also want you and everybody else to know quite how smart they are. They are experts on everything, and when they aren’t they will make their excuses from a conversation to go to the loo, do a quick bit of googling and come back so knowledgeable on the subject matter that you could stick them on mastermind and they’d sail right through. They also tend to know a guy who knows a guy.

Office Exercise6. The Fitness Fanatic

You know you need to lose a bit of weight, you know that exercise is a priority, but you just can’t find the time in between work at work and work that goes home with you…the lines have blurred so much that you consider walking to the back of the lift akin to taking the stairs…(you could just stand there next to the buttons but no, you take those extra steps because you care about your body…) Every workplace needs that person that cycles to work in those ridiculous tights, brings with them some sort of pumpkin and kale smoothie for lunch and springs around the office with the energy of a greyhound on uppers. They may frustrate you but there is some part of your brain giving you an inner bollocking…”if they can do it, why can’t you!” and you shouldn’t want to imitate them, lets be honest…they’re exercise extremists and insufferable at the best of times..but maybe once in a while you take note of something they have shared about their latest diet or exercise fad and give it a go yourself, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Email Bottle7. The Nostalgian

That 1 employee who still thinks Email Fwd’s are de rigueur. That still sends you those email chain mail messages from their freeserve address. That criticises your phone for being nothing but bells and whistles and that their 2001 Panasonic does all the jobs you need from a phone. They remind us where we came from, like a living history display, their modern social etiquette is often so far behind the rest of us that we could in fact learn from them. They are not disturbed by work emails at 10pm at night because they were on the landline at the time so the email couldn’t come through. We complain about how intrusive work can be at all hours of the day, no such problem for the nostalgian…watch and learn. But get a new phone dude, seriously…and stop changing the channel on the TV with your watch.

Office Social8. The Social Hub

These folk are fantastic. And annoying…very annoying. They believe that because we work together, we should do everything together, and that 5pm is just the clock telling is we can move this conversation to the coffee shop/pub/flat. It’s great sometimes that there is someone organising a staff night out or the secret santa, that knows when everybody’s birthday is, gets a card and goes around so we can all sign it…they know when Michelles husband gets out of hospital or how many years its been since Jeremy told us his daughter started Guitar lessons…they make the potentially awkward encounters that bit less awkward, they are a 1 person HR department without the business card and you remember how terrible things were when they were off sick for 3 weeks…chaos! They are great! Just stop inviting me to see you outside of work…Outside of work-me hates! But inside-work me thinks you’re awesome, we all love you, you’re the greatest!

#CVWatch – Who applied? A rundown…

Some time ago I ran an advert on the Job Centre website for 1 Full Time bar staff vacancy…I expected a strong response, I did not expect 316 people to apply in just 2 weeks… I began to go through the CV’s and was absolutely shocked. A large proportion of society seemingly have very little knowledge of how to apply for a job, what information to share (and not share…)…just the basics. Our education system perhaps isn’t doing enough to teach people the correct skills…sure, we ALL know what a cumulonimbus cloud looks like and that the chemical element of Gold is Au…but how many people know that Comic Sans isn’t an ideal format for a CV or that maybe prospective employers don’t need to know that your relationship status is:

“Single…but looking ;)”

I shared some particularly bizarre samples originally but I found time since then to go through and collate some statistics from them, and produced this little wonder.

There are also some standalone curios below the infographic

Who wants to work in a bar? These are the aggregated responses of people applying for 1 Full Time bar staff position in Belfast 316 Applicants Where Applicants live 77% Greater Belfast (within 10miles) 11& 10-20 Miles Away 9% 20-50 Miles Away 2% 50-100 Miles Away 1% Overseas Education 3 PHD's 17 Masters Degrees 106 University Degrees 8 People with swimming certificates 3 people with education received courtesy of "The Mcdonalds Education Company" What People Say About Themselves 241 People enjoy socialising 209 people are team players 2 people "play well with others" 129 people are "enthusiastic" 86 "highly motivated individuals" 15 people forgot to attach a CV 6 people shared their starsign www.belfastbarman.com www.twitter.com/BelfastBarman

Some of the previous careers and skills of applicants are strange enough in their own right…here are some gems

1 Person who listed their English level as “Fully Speaking, Fully Understanding” & “Fully Writing”….except I only discovered this thanks to google translate…their entire CV was in Lithuanian

1 Applicant from Downpatrick who indicated “Work History” as “N/A” although did give me a 129 word rundown of what their drama class did for their end of year project

1 Person who misspelled her own name…One spelling in the Email, different one in the CV

1 Person who decided purple was the colour du jour for their CV…and as part of their work experience, “provided shadows for counsellors”…I presume their job was to relieve a light source for a few hours so the lamp can go and gets its lunch

1 person who has competed at Scuba diving. I’m not saying this is entertaining, I’m just shocked there is such a thing as a Scuba competition…

1 Person who lists a personal achievement as “Meeting Brian O’Driscoll”…and a job role for a church hall “dismantling a large stage every night”…I can’t help but feel that perhaps…leaving it up for the next nights use would have been a good efficiency saving if not a wise career move

1 Person who proudly states “My Mother is Dead, so I am fluent in BSL”………yep. That’s real

1 Person who lists a previous duty as “cooked alcohol”…your guess is as good as mine but I did IMDB their name in-case they were on moonshiners

1 Person who loves “travelling to new countries..such as Paris, Benidorm, Alcudia & Menorca. They also enjoy researching different world wide tourism destinations and meeting new people from “all over them world”…I presume the research is still ongoing…

1 Person who has had “3 songs played on the radio, with multiple plays for each song”…well done Kanye…still, I suppose its more than Nizlopi can say

1 Person who lists in their previous duties “poured countless pints”…as opposed to the rest of us bar staff who keep a running tally…just 492,000 more and I get a free keyring

Another person who has “served over 300 meals in their career to date”

1 Person who lists a duty as “making ice”…there I was thinking temperature did most of the work, how wrong was I!

1 former McDonalds employee who lists their job description as “Take Order, Pack Order, Give Order, Put Chips Down, Lift Chips Up”

I think it’s important at this point to remember that these aren’t lines from a sketch show or sitcom…these are real CV’s….unfortunately

1 Person who lists a personal achievement as “School Punctuality not being below 95%”….Well done, you only missed 1 day in 20, do that in a job and you’ll be missing a lot more soon enough

1 Person with a 14(FOURTEEN!) PAGE CV! I discovered this after clicking print. A mistake I won’t make again…

1 Person with a “2:1 BACHLOUR of honours degree in Marketing & media communications”

1 Person who lists as a duty for a construction position “Building the Odyssey”…Now, I didn’t live in Belfast when the Odyssey was under construction, can anyone who was around then confirm if it was in fact just 1 man doing it? If so then I’ll hire him…On the other hand he also states under hobbies “I love socialism with friends”…

1 Person who has a job history reading thus…I almost feel sorry for them that it didn’t work out…

  1. Nightclub “A” – selling jelly shots, commission based
  2. Nightclub “B” – selling jelly shots, commission based
  3. Nightclub “C” – selling jelly shots, commission based
  4. Nightclub “D” – selling photo key rings throughout the club, commission based
  5. Teeth Whitening Clinic – Administering cosmetic teeth whitening procedures
  6. Nightclub “E” – Selling Jelly Shots, commission based

1 Person who…well it’s easiest just to copy and paste this one, I’m not going to pass comment on it because there is nothing I can add to make it any better…

“I have already helped restore and transform a delorean into the time machine as seen in the back to the future movies and am currently inventing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”

1 Spanish man who has as a hobby “Using Legs”…poor translation or just proud of his own mobility?

1 Person who worked in a sales company…in a very specific division…she was in the “Customer Utility and Networking Team”… At what point in your job do you start to think that people are mocking you…

1 Person who was a pilot for a Tunisian airline…

1 Person who sent a cover letter saying simply:

“Dear Sir/Madam

If you want something done ill do it”[sic]

1 Person who worked at a “Pisseria” as a “Pisseria chef”

1 Person who kindly informed me who their form tutor was in High School…FOR EACH AND EVERY YEAR. Including 2 in 1 year due to an unexpected departure of Mr Patterson…I hope Mr Patterson is doing well now, his leaving really made the narrative of your CV a tense affair

1 Person who did a week of work experience at “the pet shop”…not any specific one…just the pet shop

1 Person who worked in a Fish & Chips shop where their duty was “Making fish every day”…now, i know what you mean…but still…you MADE them yourself?

1 Person who at the age of 19 was a self employed business consultant…but at 20 he was working in McDonalds…so he quite clearly didn’t take his own advice

1 Person from Omagh who subscribes to the RSPB magazine as a hobby….

1 Person from “Palencia, Spain” who enjoys playing Horseball…now either that means Polo or PETA have a lot of work to do in the iIberian peninsula

1 Person who wrote this cover letter…

I have attached an cv
and I want to apply for the job as follows
and I have 2 year experience in waiting
and I have worked in fine indian cuisine as well
and I have worked in a restaurant on ####### road for 2 years
so I have great experience in front of house
and I have passion for food and wine”

And finally, if you’re still with me then well done… last but by no means least…

The one person who worked as bar staff for the girlguides…I’m suddenly understanding more about what’s wrong with the youth of today.

So if you’re applying for a job, get a friend who you trust to check your CV for you… I recently read an article where a poor (misguided) fool sent his CV to a friend to proofread, his friend did what was asked and sent it back at which point it was distributed prior to the CV owner reading it through again…having not heard anything back for some time he checked through his CV and was somewhat surprised to find that under hobbies it read:

  • Football
  • Socialising
  • Exercise
  • Chronic Masturbation

Poor guy

£421.82 For The Arts or is it 13p?

13p per person per week for the arts.
£6.76 per person per year for the arts.
£421.82 per person per lifetime (18-80.4) for the arts

On the face of it, 13p For The Arts is a worthy and well run campaign, and of course those within the industry should campaign against cuts being imposed, I do however feel that the figures presented are far too simplistic. Naturally, the arts industry is one of creative thinkers, so when presented with £1.38m worth of budget cuts, the best and brightest available came up with a catchy title, some well designed graphics and also roped in some of our most publicly noted individuals. I am a supporter of the arts, you are too, we all are. Whether you know it or not, if there’s a local band you like, there’s a good chance that The Nerve Centre in L’Derry or the Oh Yeah Centre had some involvement in their early existence. If you enjoy a play or a musical, even a panto at the Grand Opera House, the arts affect everyone.
So too do street lights, gully emptying, road maintenence, winter gritting, hospital beds, A&E departments, hospices, teachers…the list is as varied as our society. So why should 13p For The Arts be any less affected by cuts? I have heard the whole scale of reasons, from how much it benefits society as a whole, how much it brings people together, how “it really isn’t that much money…” which is where my problem comes.

As someone within the hospitality industry, we have a strong link with the arts, venues I have run have hosted countless gigs, trad sessions, poetry readings, play recitals, I’ve even regularly let bands use a function room for rehearsal just for what I refer to as “Good Business Karma.” I love going to the Theatre and would struggle to cope day-to-day without Music (although weirdly, I absolutely abhor musicals). I’m not alone, and even the Belfast Telegraph has got behind the campaign, although considering how much of their weekly print run features reviews and event listings alongside local interest stories along with the arts, this isn’t that surprising. It’s all a bit too simple. So I’d like to take a deeper look at it.
Arts 1 Arts 2
40,000 people are employed in the arts

…that’s mightily impressive…the hospitality sector has more, and we don’t have our own dedicated government department (in fact it could be argued that the hospitality industry has a department dedicated to restricting it). The hospitality industry is not subsidised or held aloft by grants.

Ulster Bank Festival at Queens 2012 generated £577,180 Tourism Revenue

Well done. This financial year, the festival is being funded by the NI Arts Council to the value of £189,150 or an entire years worth of 13p’s per week from slightly more than the entire population of Coleraine.

1 Day – How long the arts budget would sustain health, social services & public safety

this is a very ambiguous figure, I see how they mean it to be read, however if as part of cost cutting measures, the DHSSPS suggested shutting down all Health Dept buildings, hospitals, doctors, hospices for 1 day…how many people would sign THAT petition

Equally

4 Days – How long the arts budget would sustain the justice system

Once again, suggest removing policing for 4 days a year and we’ll see which campaign has more backers.

This is just based on their stylish graphics…lets look further.

The NI Arts Council who are behind the 13p for the arts campaign, have an executive of 5 members, led by Chief Executive Roisin McDonough. Lets ignore the 13p per week, lets look at the £6.76 per year (because nobody really counts per week), she is paid just shy of £80,000 p/a, which is £6.76 from just more than every single citizen of Cookstown and Downpatrick. The 5 members of the executive board are in total paid £295,000 per year…or £6.96 from every person in Ballymena and Armagh COMBINED. Obviously they do a fairly high profile and important job and jobs need paying for, but the proposed cut of £1.38m isnt even enough to cover the 2012-13 wage bill of the Arts Council as whole (£2,119,474). To cover the entire wage bill for the 48 members of staff for the NI Arts council, you would need to take £6.76 per year from every person in Londonderry, Lisburn, Newtownabbey, Bangor, Craigavon, Lurgan, Portadown, Newtownards AND Banbridge….combined.

In spite of earning a salary nearly 4 times the Northern Irish average, the chief executive of the NI Arts Council still doesn’t have to pay to enjoy the arts, 2013-14, including 9 different performances at the Ulster Bank Festival at Queens in the space of 11 days. One of which was 2 tickets for Jose Carreras at the Waterfront Hall…ticket value, £260. £520 that could have been perhaps sold to a person who wanted to contribute to the arts and enjoy a concert, went as a freebie to the CE of the Arts Council, spare a thought for the other staff member who also received a freebie ticket who had to enjoy it alone and in a cheap seat (£50). In fact £775.50 worth of free tickets went to employees for the festival, although to be fair to the rest of the staff, £627 of that was for the Chief Executive.

We’ve been inundated recently with calls for the Ulster Orchestra to be saved, well in 1 year, £616 worth of tickets were freebies for people working at the NI Arts Council, perhaps if those most involved in the campaign decided to start paying for tickets to things, the situation wouldn’t have to be portrayed as so dire.

Looking through the current job opportunities listed on the NI Arts Council website, is a £2500 funded role available to “Build peace through the arts” in Barnesmore…..Co. Donegal. I’m not completely familiar with all the nuances of the Good Friday Agreement, but why is the NI Arts Council funding an art installation in a different financial jurisdiction?

If the Arts Council do find themselves strapped for cash, they could always sell their 3 Steinway Model D Grand Pianos, worth an approximate listing price combined of over £200,000. or perhaps the infamous RISE (Balls on the Falls to you and me) could be sold for scrap metal…it cost £400,000 in the first place, I wonder if somebody kept the receipts?

Street lights in Northern Ireland are currently too expensive to replace, we can’t afford to change a bulb…how much would it cost? £2.3m p/a. It has been suggested that next winter we may not be able to afford to grit roads…£3.1m per winter(£6.96 per year from nearly 450,000 citizens. The 13p for the arts campaign has simplified a very complex area of the economy to try and drum up sympathy, the problem is, the arts are indeed a worthy cause, but perhaps look at the bigger picture before drawing your conclusion based on some snappy graphics and a catch tagline. Yes, the arts are important to society, but when we are struggling to keep schools staffed to operational levels, why are we spending £189,150 on arts projects for prisons….(£6.76 for every person in Newtownards….or £94 PER YEAR spent for each person in a Northern Irish Prison or Young Offenders Institute.

I’m not saying don’t fund the arts, I’m saying perhaps the arts should be as creative with solving the problem itself as they have been at imploring wider society to take pity on the situation, if an arts event wants some publicity right now, instead of paying for an advertisement or perhaps taking on a marketing company, photograph your cast with a “13p” placard and you’ll probably end up in some newspaper. And if you all want to buy me a Pint, it’ll only cost every citizen of NI £0.0000019

So You Want To Start A Political Party…What Now?

What do the DUP, PUP, NI21, Protestant Coalition, NI Conservatives, TUV, UKIP, Irish Republican Socialist Party, Workers Party, SDLP, 32 County Sovereignty Movement, Alliance, Socialist Party, Green Party, Socialist Workers Party, People Before Profit & the Workers Party of Ireland have in common?

Every single one of the mentioned parties have formed from another party. In fact there is not a single party currently registered in Northern Ireland that didn’t exist prior to the troubles (or possibly even world war 2) except for the UUP & Sinn Fein. Many of the “new” parties formed from movements within other parties, some are splinter parties, associated parties to the UK…but not one of them is an original political party.*

We hear so much these days about the “silent majority” the “disaffected middle ground” those of us, myself included, who don’t see a political party that they feel completely at home with. So lets say that you and I decided to form our own party, I am a bar manager and other than a placement as an a-level student with a conservative MP, I have no political experience, I shall assume that my co-founders amongst you also haven’t stood in an election or been a member of a party before, so what do we do next?

We need to register. So lets register our party with the electoral commission, lets call ourselves “Square One”. We also need an emblem, but with a name like Square One, that pretty much designs itself. We need a description, so what shall we go with? Apparently we can have up to 12 descriptions, I’m starting to see that the identity crisis faced by most parties is encouraged from the offset…We’ll just pick one, lets say “The future of Northern Ireland starts at Square One”…catchy, and didn’t cost me the earth to come up with… which is handy because we haven’t even began fundraising yet. Before we can ask people to give us their money, we need some party officers, this could be a tricky one, you need to absolutely know who you are getting into bed with…as recent “start-up” parties have discovered. So I need to find some like-minded individuals who believe in the same vision as I, I need to research them well enough to trust them to have a prominent position within this organization from the start… We’ll assume a few of you stepped forward and I now have the party officers registered also. So officially, we’re now a party.
HOORAY!

What now?

Now, for the money. We hope one day to compete with long-established parties, I spoke with former UUP & NI21 deputy leader John McCallister about what comes next…if you register a party that already has an elected MLA, as NI21 did, you immediately have access to to “financial assistance for political parties” money, £59,300 per year. Square One will have however much I and you who join it can afford to pay into it. When we get a bit more traction, we can charge people membership of the party, the Alliance Party charge £46 per year, which I’m sure is very helpful in helping a party maintain its advocacy, however nobody is going to pay to join us yet, we’ve done nothing! On the plus side, when it comes to election time, we’ll get our postage free to a certain extent, so we’ve got that going for us…not much else though. I think an ideal suggestion would be to cherry pick the industries our first few members came from, someone from Marketing, Accounting, Graphics & Design, Computer Science, Law…then we would have a knowledge base…without that, we’d be shooting in the dark (which paradoxically, is literally how some political parties started out…). I’ve heard many people lambasting the political expenses system, “why should they get any expenses, sure I don’t!” I see your point and I understand what you mean, but could you afford to be an MLA? Could you afford to hire an office, employ some staff, drive to different events and meetings sometimes across the province on a daily basis? The expenses system exists to protect the elected positions being solely the reserve of the financially better off, from becoming an oligarchy of sorts. Yes, people abuse it, but for our new party, could we afford any of these things? We would be grassroots by very definition, with no existing roots from which to draw advice, so I asked John McCallister for his notes on what we should and shouldn’t do…

Johns tips would for starting a party:

“Ensure you have a narrative”
“Know your people”
“Give time to grow”
“Find likeminded people, preferably some high profile people, who are prepared to get the message out there and work hard”
“Perhaps even identify prominent citizens already embedded within communities and approach them.”
“Don’t try to be all things to all people, don’t spread yourself too thin, know your limitations and your abilities”

I also asked what mistakes we should try to avoid making:

“Make sure you vet your candidates and your core team”
“Make sure everybody knows the party rules”
“Don’t defend the indefensible, the party comes first”
“Don’t be Naive”
“Don’t start a party with Basil”

So we have these pearls of wisdom, we can learn from mistakes other parties have made and we now have our core team of hard working individuals who form a cohesive group with a strong narrative and a sense of collective identity and purpose…

What now?

Perhaps we should get someone with experience…but then the status quo is perpetuated

There needs to be a concerted effort for a politically agnostic engagement of society, free from nuanced directions towards what already is, future – Northern Ireland needs to go in a new direction, only those who benefit from our failed-state could possibly object to a new heading with a new map and compass, maybe a rudder that isn’t attached to an anchor…and some more sailing metaphors too…for we are in the doldrums, we need to find the wind in our sails, I don’t see that happening from our current position and I believe few do… But there is no easily-accessibly format for a complete start-up party. NI21 have hamstrung any party in future from trying to drive for that middle ground, but what if a new party was an actual new party…with no established faces, no ex-tv news presenters, no “public spokesperson for [insert group here]”, what if it actually was a group of united citizens trying to make the future better by going back to square one…

Anyone know how to do it?

No?

Maybe we should just ask some MLA’s if they’ll jump ship, sure we’ll get near £60k just for having them!

*

DUP (Protestant Unionist Party – Ulster Protestant Action Movement – UUP)

PUP (Independent Unionist Group – Hugh Smyth was already in NI Assembly)

NI21 (UUP)

Protestant Coalition (UDP – UPRG – BNP)

NI Conservatives (UK party)

TUV (DUP)

UKIP (UK Party)

Irish Republican Socialist Party (Official Republican Movement – Workers Party)

Workers Party (Sinn Fein)

SDLP (Republican Labour Party, National Democratic Party, Nationalist Party, NI Labour)

32 County Sovereignty Movement (Sinn Fein)

Alliance (New Ulster Movement – Ulster Liberal Party – UUP)

Socialist Party (Labour Party)

Green Party (UK Party)

Socialist Workers Party (Peoples Democratic Party)

People Before Profit (Socialist Workers Party)

Workers Party of Ireland (Sinn Fein)