Wednesday, 15 June 2011

From Hollywood to Gateshead

Hearing pitches from film companies last week seemed like a great excuse to put on dark glasses and pretend the glimmer of Newcastle sunshine was really Los Angeles. This may sound frivolous but the objective was serious - to commission a company to make films of our Relu Awards finalists. These will be shown at The Sage Gateshead on 16 November so that delegates at our conference "Who Should Run the Countryside" can vote for the winners, X-Factor style. We do know how to do glamour at Relu. While the Hollywood mogul act from the customers may have been unconvincing, all the film companies seemed to know their stuff. We have now commissioned Xube, a London-based company to produce a five-minute film of each of the finalists and a ten-minute compilation that will include some interviews with our Director. I just hope I can persuade him to remove his dark glasses.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Killer cucumbers

One of my colleagues tells me that cucumber sandwiches are being left on the shelves at the shop where he buys his lunch. It's bad news for royal garden parties and I don't suppose there are many customers for beansprouts either. And yet we still don't actually know the source of the E coli bug that has infected over 2,400 people, caused serious kidney-related complications in hundreds and killed 24, mainly in Germany. The economic consequences for vegetable growers across Europe are also very serious. In communications terms the whole episode has been a disaster. Could the German authorities have handled it differently? I have a lot of sympathy for them and I wouldn't have been volunteering to do their media handling. In a situation of such uncertainty, when leads can only be followed up and verified by careful research and meticulous microbiological tests, can the authorities hope to keep the 24 hour media monster fed? Or are journalists bound to chase after red herrings? Maybe everyone has some lessons to learn: consumers need to have more information about the complexities of the modern food chain to help them make choices and there need to be clearer responsibilities along that chain. It would also help if the media had a better understanding of uncertainty, and we all stopped demanding instant answers. In the meantime, I'm still eating cucumber, but I wash it thoroughly and make my own sandwiches.