Saturday, 28 June 2014

There was this fella called John...

Over ten years ago while I was looking for something else on microfilm in the British Library I came across a newspaper story of a Halesworth man who won a TV talent show. 

Nobody had heard of him and there wasn't anything in the local museum so I tried to research what happened to him. I found that after releasing a couple of singles, one performed with what became 10 cc, he disappeared into obscurity. I contacted his former manager Harvey Lisberg who didn't remember him. I wrote to him through the Peforming Rights Society to ask about his connection to Halesworth but they said he had asked them not to give me his address. They confirmed he was alive but it seemed there was a tragic story why he didn't keep banging on the door of success.

Then recently I came across in our local museum the actual photo used in the newspaper story because the negatives of a local photographer that were donated to the museum have now been digitised. That's two happenstances upon him a decade apart.

According to the Halesworth Times singer Paul Jones (born Reginald John Davidge) was working as a chef in the town when he won the final of the Granada TV talent show First Timers in October 1967 and the prize of a management contract with Harvey Lisberg, the manager of Herman's Hermits, plus a contract to play in Blackpool. His prize was presented to him by Englebert Humperdink who Lisberg also managed. Another winner of this talent show was Amen Corner.

Apparently Davidge sometimes used the name Reg Gray on the stand-up comedy circuit but he used the name John Paul Joans (a nod to the American patriot perhaps?) when he released a 1970 Christmas single called The Man from Nazareth co-written with Kevin Godley and Lol Creme who were also managed by Lisberg. In the UK he used the spelling JOANS to distinguish himself from the bass guitarist of Led Zeppelin - born John Baldwin - who had a prior claim but it seems this appropriation was Lisberg's ideaThe single reached #25 in the UK but in the USA the single was released as J. P. Jones until Led Zeppelin's manager Peter Grant stepped in and the subsequent US pressings were credited to a mononymous 'John'. However because the names sounded the same on the radio; the outlandish things that Joans said in interviews were attributed to JONES and that didn't endear him to influential people in the music industry.

Davidge's next record The Miners' Song was released in 1972 in support of striking miners under the name John and City Lights but it apparently fell afoul of the BBC for being "political" along with Paul McCartney and Wings' Give Ireland Back to the Irish. This was years before Band Aid. The seven-week miners strike was the first since 1926 and at the time miners were amongst the lowest paid workers in Britain. Power cuts, a state of emergency and a three-day week was imposed by the Heath government. Davidge and Lisberg must have parted ways by now because in a striking act of solidarity or a clever publicity stunt; the BBC in turn was banned from playing the record by his manager and owner of the master Maureen Prest.

Between these releases, Davidge also made a memorable appearance in a 1971 Granada TV documentary called There Was This Fella... about club comedians in which he is introduced by Bernard Manning simply as 'John'. His style of comedy is very different to his contemporaries and Manning warns the audience "he's a bit way out..." John's intensity comes across like an early prototype of the politically-aware comedians yet to come from the Comic Strip.

It's claimed that Bob Monkhouse once described Davidge as Britain's answer to Lenny Bruce. I read on web forum posts now deleted that he was the victim of a car accident and is now no longer able to work. Tim Prest, who is presumably connected to Maureen Prest, has posted: "he went to Ireland to help the peace movement, Betty Williams had asked for artists to perform, he had a strong social conscience wanting to help, he was knocked down by a hit and run driver, he almost lost his life, he sustained many many injuries, that was the end of his career."

Nobody seems to have heard from Davidge since then and so he has become a footnote to pop history. Davidge is briefly seen performing Man from Nazareth at the 18:07 mark in a disparaging cheeseboard of popular music Rock Bottom presented by John Peel broadcast in 1992. Recycling clips of Top of the Pops is a cheap way to fill BBC schedules and it's highly subjective in its choices. Shameless sentimentalism such as Grandma by St Winifred's School Choir can take the knocks having spent two weeks at number one and 11 weeks in the charts but Man from Nazareth seems an odd inclusion as the only song with a serious social or religious theme. I hope the royalties still find their way to him.

He sounds like an interesting fellow and I think he deserves more recognition than he got. Last week I heard that an exhibition to raise awareness of overlooked Sixties and Seventies British Civil Rights campaigns is being prepared. I have now passed this along.

Saturday, 15 February 2014


Poster by Richard Hollis


In July 1968 the National Conference on Art and Design Education [sponsored by the Movement for re-thinking Art and Design Education {MORADE}] asked itself 3 key questions:

1. Why art & design education?
2. What is a school of art?
3. How should art schools be organized?

The Conference soon found itself to be in agreement that the purpose of art & design education is to develop critical awareness,  to allow potentially creative people to develop their aptitudes, to encourage questioning and to stimulate discovery, and to promote creative behaviour. 

It was also generally agreed that this purpose could not be served except under conditions of freedom far greater than obtain at the present – freedom from external control by bodies unsympathetic to and uncomprehending of its purpose, freedom to select students without constraint by irrelevant criteria, freedom to develop courses without regard to inappropriately academic national standards, and freedom from inhibition by too rigid structures of internal control. 

The conference recognized the urgent need for reform by the immediate removal of some of  the impediments but it also recognized that reform in the longer  term would need much further study and might well involve the reorientation of art teaching throughout the educational system as a whole. Voices were not lacking to remind the Conference of the equal need for realism.

A recurrent theme was the relationship of ‘Art’ to ‘Society’ and,  therefore the role or roles – actual and potential – of the artist and designer today. A wide diversity of views was expressed from which it emerged that the need for solidarity in confronting a world unaware of art’s value or purposes outweighed the need that might arise for distinguishing differences of function and approach between say ‘artist’ and ‘designer’.

It was made apparent to the Conference, by the remarks of Sir John Summerson, that even within bodies nominally constituted to represent their views there is an alarming and – in the present situation – possibly crucial lack of fundamental understanding. It was agreed by the Conference, therefore, that a primary function of art and design education is the extension of understanding and that a world which does not know ‘what art is about’ will neither be able to use it rightly nor concede to it a proper status. In this ‘chicken & egg’ situation the need for internal reform is paramount and urgent.

Geoffrey Bocking.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Some thoughts on recording town council meetings

The Accountability Act will soon enable the public and news media to make recordings and take photographs in council meetings. The new guidance explicitly states that councils in England should allow the public to film, blog and tweet council meetings.

I am not a lawyer but as a photojournalist I try to keep abreast of copyright and privacy issues. As a town councillor I am interested in making local government as open and transparent as possible.

Unless mentioned otherwise, for the purposes of this paper, recordings mean both sound recording and the taking of photographs, both separately and synchronised and both still and moving pictures.

I consider there are four areas of this topic where different laws or practice might apply:

  • The recording of meetings by the council itself.
  • The recording of meetings by the public.
  • The publication of council recordings.
  • The publication of public recordings.
I consider councils will need to prioritise forming a policy around the public recording of meetings as these recordings are more difficult to enforce any rights or protections due by them and there is less case law and practise to refer to.
There are many advantages for a council in allowing and making recordings. Firstly, access by media is generally beneficial; it disseminates knowledge of the work of the council and promotes engagement with the public. Recordings remove any doubt in the minutes taken and it also discourages any physical or verbal intimidation by members of the public or town councillors in the proceedings. It could enable councillors to give a verbal report if they haven’t prepared a written one.

Since the public will not be restricted from recording meetings, if the public regularly exercise that right, it may put an onus on a council to make and keep their own recordings as an official record in case there is any dispute over the content of recordings. Recording sound from the public area is unlikely to be under optimum conditions. It has been my experience that journalists have sometimes sworn they have something on tape and have written stories with supposedly verbatim quotes but when the published story is checked, no such quotes can be found.

The council making its own recordings presents a number of technical challenges as many meeting are held in multi-purpose rooms. If a recording is made it will have to be stored and must be accessible under FOI. It would be an ideal situation if the council had the means to offer recordings as an online archive and also stream the audio or video of meetings live but I doubt many can afford to.

The concerns that subjects of recordings naturally  often have is that the recording will be used out of context or in a way which will subject them to unwanted forms of public attention. The potential for that exists for as long as the recording is extant. The editing of video into a ‘mash-up’ to literally put words in people’s mouths as a form of satire or the recording say of an inadvertent ‘clothing malfunction’ could subject them to ridicule. There are several defences to exploiting recordings in a manner that could embarrass the subject but are in the public interest or protected as free speech. However for the councillor standing to speak, that is one of the burdens of civic service.

The council cannot restrict the recording of proceedings for a legitimate purpose but it may be able to restrict – as condition of giving access – the dissemination of recordings for other than for a legitimate purpose. It would be worth getting more guidance on this area. 

It’s important to bear in mind there is a difference between recording and to publishing. In general, to ensure an open and transparent government, recording of council meetings should not be restricted but publication of such recordings should only be for that purpose too and so may be restricted to that. The question arises how can that be imposed and enforced?

It could be argued that the council retains a right to set reasonable conditions on the publication of recordings, so long as the citizen’s right to record and observe meetings are not unduly or unreasonably hampered. There are potentially several ways to enforce those rights.

If the publication of the recording has no legitimate purpose connected with the activity of the council, it may be possible to impose that as a condition of  access. Reporting on the delivery of government whether specifically or generally by professional news media would be generally held to be legitimate. The use of recordings of the council as the basis for an advertisement of an unrelated product could be a misappropriation and so publication would require the permission of the council, which in turn might require the permission of every subject with regards to their ‘image rights’.

At present in English law there is no basic right to privacy. That means that you can freely record anyone, even children, in a public place, so long as the act of recording does not cause alarm or distress or another kind of nuisance. There are some challenges to concept of unfettered recording in public under Human Rights legislation but these have not been fully tested in the courts yet.

It is perfectly legitimate to take a photograph any person in a public place without their permission but if you use that photograph to infer any kind or endorsement or make direct reference to a recognisable person saying or implying something untrue, you could violate their rights. 

There is the case of an anonymous man photographed crossing Wall Street. The photograph was cropped to show him prominently and used by the New York Times for an article discussing “The Black Middle Class: Making It.” The man in the photo Clarence Arrington was recognised by his friends. He successfully sued because although he was African-American, he did not agree being called “middle class”. However in the US the publisher was safe under First Amendment rights but the photographer was found liable to Mr Arrington because the photographer had sold the image for commercial gain.

There can be reasonable restrictions put on recording activity. Bringing equipment like lights and tripods into the council chamber could be a safety hazard and noisy camera shutters or beeping electronics and flash photography are distracting, so that can be barred from the chamber. But if the equipment and the operators are professionals, accredited media should be given reasonable accommodation in recording public sessions of council meetings. The question of accreditation I will come to later.

There are various ‘duties of care’ applied to photographing vulnerable people and children in care but these are often misinterpreted and applied  globally to the taking of any photographs. Nowadays many parents are prevented from photographing the school play. Actually the duty of care is limited to very few types of person and meant to apply to the identification of people in published photographs. This is very hard for schools to manage, especially with social media, so a culture of banning all forms of photography in schools has arisen.

I recall a local case where a child under a care order and living with foster parents was photographed amongst many other children at a birthday party and a photo was put on social media but the names of the respective children were not published. However the children in the photo began ‘tagging’ the photo with their friends’ names. Thus the identity of the child was searchable to anyone with a computer, including the child’s estranged parents.

Therefore the council may have a duty of care to restrict photography to solely the council business and under data protection requirements, the publication and identification of members of the public recorded solely in observance of the council meeting should be restricted. In the past councils have cited 'data protection' as a reason to bar recording at meetings but it's clear that Mr. Pickles' advice overrides this.

A security system may be already recording members of the public but access to and publication of those recordings is covered by data protection. The distinction is needed to be understood; “data protection” does not generally restrict the making of recordings for a legitimate purpose, it prevents the dissemination of personal data except for a legitimate purpose. The council will be responsible for its own recordings but since it must permit the recording of meetings, it cannot now be held liable for the actions of others and the same burden of liability falls on all those making recordings.

In general the right to take photographs on private land upon which permission has been obtained is similarly unrestricted. However, landowners are permitted to impose any conditions they wish upon entry to a property, such as forbidding or restricting photography. The question of what is a public space is complex but I would think that a council chamber to which the public are admitted is for the time in effect a public space and the presence of the public is so permitted and so such restrictions on the basis of landowner’s or occupiers permission may be found unenforceable if tested.

There is no legal definition or accreditation for a journalist in the UK. A ‘citizen journalist’ has the same rights and responsibilities as a BBC reporter and has the same privileges of access to government and vice-versa. The UK Press Card system is sometimes used as an accreditation to give priority to working media by police forces. The cards are recognised by APCO but in law give no authority or privileges, but are accepted as a means of identification by UK Police forces who may, at their discretion, give cardholders access beyond that afforded to the general public.  Possession of a press card is not an accreditation but it does give some implied warranty that the person holding it understands the duties of a journalist to the council and the public.

APCO recognised Press Cards are issued by:

Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematographic and Theatre Union (BECTU)
British Press Photographers' Association (BPPA)
Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIOJ)
Foreign Press Association (FPA)
ITV Network Ltd
International Visual Communication Association (IVCA)
National Association of Press Agencies (NAPA)
National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA)
The Newspaper Society (NS)
Professional Publishers Association (PPA)
Sky News

I consider councils should permit the unrestricted recording of open council meetings by accredited journalists who are employed by established news organizations and are attending the council meeting for the express purpose of gathering news and information to provide editorial coverage of the council. It would be reasonable to ask journalists to submit their media credentials to the clerk for notation in the record of attendance and to 'fast track' the provision of guidance on the recording of meetings. “Citizen Journalists” or those without a press card can be similarly credentialled on signing acceptance of the council’s media policy of no commercial exploitation of the recording except for legitimate editorial coverage.

This would not restrict the right of the public to make recordings but with that agreement in place, the council would be more able and willing to accommodate the ‘citizen journalist’ better in order to make more useful recordings.

With specific reference to the right of the public to ask questions of the council; it could be impractical from the council’s purpose to prevent or restrict audio recording in this instance and that recording is necessary as a public record. The recording devices under the control of the council and accredited media should not be restricted from recording those members of the public asking questions.

Eric Pickles’ guidance says “the council should consider adopting a policy on the filming of members of the public speaking at a meeting, such as allowing those who actively object to being filmed not to be filmed, without undermining the broader transparency of the meeting…”

In most instances of interaction with the council, a person’s name becomes a public record such as on an application to the council for funding, a comment on a planning or licensing application, which must record the applicant’s name and address. At public meetings the clerk notes the name of the person asking questions and their name has to be given to ensure they are a proper constituent of the council.

It seems reasonable then that a person asking a question of the council does not have the absolute right of anonymity. The recording of a reply given by councillors to a question would lose some of its context if the question was not recorded. Pickles does not insist that people have the right not to be recorded but that it should be considered. In which case I would suggest a compromise is a policy that only the council business can be recorded and a person asking a question does not need to be filmed but the audio can be recorded. If a person insists that there is no audio record of their question, then they can put the question in writing to the clerk who will read it out, acknowledging that the person is a proper constituent.

Draft Recording Policy

The recording of council meetings by members of the public and accredited media is permitted and otherwise unrestricted on the following conditions. 

The presence of persons in the chamber during the council meeting is deemed to be their permission to be recorded in any medium.

Press representatives, members of the public or individual officers or elected members making their own full or partial recordings of meetings must respect the law, including Human Rights and Data Protection legislation and intellectual property rights where they apply. They will be responsible for any allegations of breaches of the law which may results from their use of recorded material and are admitted to the Council Chamber on the basis that they accept this responsibility.

Press representatives, members of the public and elected councillors are permitted to make their own recordings of meetings from the public area, subject to the provisions of this policy but they must notify the Chair of their intent to record prior to the start of the meeting.

Recording equipment or the process of recording cannot interfere with the proceedings of the meeting, nor interfere with public observance or impinge on public safety and all public and media recording must take place from the public area. The use of tripods or lights on stands or placing equipment on seats or in a gangway is not permitted unless previously agreed with the council’s chairperson. All recording equipment must operate silently and no flash photography or any form of extra illumination is permitted. No microphones, cables, booms or stands, recording or transmitting devices may be placed around the council table and seating area or used outside the public area without the expressed permission of the council.

Recording by members of the public is only permitted for the legitimate purposes of recording for reference or reporting on the business of the council or other uses reasonably in the public interest. Recording may only take place after the opening of the meeting by the chair and must stop at the closing of the meeting (gavel to gavel).

The copyright in any recording of the council business remains with the council, though the media it is recorded on can belong to another entity. Any rights associated with a recording or parts therein of the councils business cannot be sold or let or available for hire nor commercially exploited without permission of the subjects. The publication of video or audio recording on commercial media channels such as YouTube generating advertising revenue is not permitted without the expressed agreement of the council unless it is clearly and demonstrably in the public’s interest; such as offering a verbatim, unedited account of the proceedings to enable public participation in local governance. The editing or mixing of the recording with other media for any purpose unrelated to editorial reportage of the council is not permitted.

The subjects recorded in the council chamber must be pertinent to the council’s business. For common courtesy and for data protection, the members of the public attending in observance should not be recorded except when interacting with the council, such as when asking questions or when otherwise relevant to the council in matters of safety or security. Those making recordings are asked to show courtesy to other members of the public and refrain from directly filming members of the public who are asking questions of the council or submitting comment (such as licensing or planning) although audio recording is permissible.

To ensure compliance with data protection, the recording of subjects not pertaining to the meeting or council business is not permitted in the council chamber. The copying of documents except those in the public folder (unless those are marked confidential) is not permitted. The copying of private notes taken by councillors – with the use of a telephoto lens for instance – is not permitted. However, notes taken by councillors can be subject to FOI request.

The council may operate its own recording devices and make recordings either automatically or by persons authorised by the council. These recordings will be logged in the register of council property and marked with the date of recording and accessible by FOI request and kept in a reasonably accessible format and stored for as long as regulation requires.

The council is not obliged in any duty to make its own recordings but if a recording is taken by the council it must be noted on the minutes. If the council’s recording of a public meeting has been started it cannot deliberately stop recording a because a matter of confidentiality arises. Except for equipment malfunction, if a recording of a meeting has begun, the recording must capture the entire meeting to its close. If confidential matters need to be discussed “off the record” then the chair must close the meeting and exclude the public and hold the meeting in-camera, according to the rules of in-camera meetings in its standing orders. In the instance that confidential matters arise inadvertently, the recording must be treated as confidential and may be redacted before release under FOI.
At the start of the meeting, the Chair must remind all present that a recording is being made.

Recordings will not be made by the council, or by any elected member or any other individual for any part of the meeting where the public and press are excluded.

A press representative or member of the public or councillor making a personal recording must comply with any request to cease recording, as instructed by the Chair. Any member of the public recording the meeting must do so from the public area.

The Chairman of the meeting has the absolute discretion to stop or suspend recording if, in their opinion, continuing to do so would prejudice proceedings.

This could include but not be restricted to:

  • Public disturbance or other suspension of the meeting. 
  • Exclusion of the public and press being moved and supported. 
  • Recording by an individual or individuals considered to be disrupting the proceedings of the meeting. 
  • Recording is preventing any other individuals from viewing and listening to the meeting. 
Access to the council’s recordings can be restricted by the Monitoring Officer if they consider that it is necessary to do so because all or part of the content of the recording is likely to be in breach of any statutory provision such as Data Protection and Human Rights legislation, or libel and defamation laws.

The Council takes no responsibility for any recording made by a third party or its subsequent use. Any third party making a recording of a meeting shall be taken to have indemnified the Council against all actions, proceedings, costs, claims, demands, liabilities, losses and expenses whatsoever relating to the making of that recording.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Hustings Statement

I am standing to serve the people of Halesworth because fourteen years ago, after living abroad for eighteen years, I came to live in Halesworth by choice and my satisfaction with that choice hasn't wavered since. Despite the many challenges we all face in today's economic conditions, I am convinced Halesworth still has the potential to remain a thriving, vibrant town and can grow sustainably as a place that offers a future for young people.
I am politically independent. I firmly believe a town council must be independent of party politics.
If elected, I pledge to always consider what is practically in the best interests of the whole town and not short-term political gains to assure the whole community's long-term survival. I expect this will entail sometimes difficult and pragmatic decisions when competing interests will pull us in different directions but I offer you my commitment to transparent deliberations in consultation with the community so that everyone in Halesworth will always have a voice and can take collective responsibility for taking these decisions. Electing me to your council may relieve you of the chore of attending every meeting but it does not repeal your responsibility to participate in democracy by supporting and guiding your council and it is on that basis I expect to serve you.

If you want some assurance of my competence; I have had a career in film and television production where realising ambitious visions with very limited resources has taught me a great number of management and budgetary skills. I have also had a career in news media which has taught me to be a communicator and I now work in community development; helping people realise their ambitions for their community.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Promoting your community event in Halesworth (or anywhere else)

From my varied perspectives as a community development officer, volunteer and journalist I offer here the benefit of my experience in trying to ensure news of community events reaches an audience.

Except perhaps secret societies, adequate publicity is essential to almost every community project. Whatever event you are promoting probably takes a lot of other people's time and its success depends on how well the message reaches the potential participants. It’s crucial you get your marketing right but very simple errors can scupper your ambitions.

So I have set out what I know about the media landscape in Halesworth, Suffolk. If perhaps you know more or different, I welcome you to share your knowledge and so improve the chances that everybody in the community is engaged with the efforts made on their behalf.

The first step is to consider what the message about your event is and who is it for. It sounds obvious people would know this but then I could shame a lot of people with a rogues gallery of poor advertising. Just trust me it happens that people often forget the basics.

How to start

To begin with the most important person to get onside promoting your event are journalists in the mainstream media, they are the gatekeepers to your largest audience. In these days of social media and citizen bloggers they have less power than they used to but they can considerably influence the numbers that read or hear about your event.

To attract this particular readers’ interest (actually any reader) you should think of the news of your event as a story. It has a beginning, middle and end. It also needs what journalists call a ‘peg’ to hang it on, that is shorthand for a topic of current interest. If you don’t have an idea what ‘pegs’ your local media are interested in, then it’s worth researching by reading their publications. News has constant shifts in focus and fashion. There are seasonal activities and holidays and natural events driving the news and offering unlimited pegs for stories.

There is another reason for thinking in terms of 'story' and 'pegs' which is that you will want this news to travel by word of mouth. What's an interesting point of the story? What is its relevance to people's concerns? Most people enjoy being able to say "have you heard?.."

Different stories need different strategies. For a benefit concert, the draw is more probably the quality and type of music rather than the cause it is for, though both messages need to be conveyed. It's hard to find a news angle on a jumble sale, so maybe the sale format could have an innovation? If you are publicizing an appeal for donations or jumble even, then the value of the outcomes would need prominence. This poster above was tweeted to me and looking around at how the event was publicized with social media, it is a good example of what I will suggest here though I can nit-pick on a couple of tiny points which I hope you will be able to as well.

I suggest you package the information about your event into two formats to reach an audience; a press release and a poster. To make either you will have to start with assembling all the basic contents of the story. The content is much the same in either format; the headline information of the press release should be on the poster and the press release should expand the headline information in the poster.

The press release has a particular structure I will go into later. It needn't be long, the more concise the better. The press release will go to media outlets that will usually ‘editorialise’ your story though some may just print it in full. They will only need the basic facts to put your event into their listings calendar but they really need some background information to make a story out of it. Whatever goes into your ‘press release’ is also the content of other announcements you might make, such as to associates, so start thinking about the content of the press release first.


Ideally a poster should tell the ‘story’ of your event quite directly and simply at a glance. While cryptic ‘teasers’ might be a way Hollywood markets blockbuster movies, you need people to know as much as possible about your event midst a great deal of visual background noise. 

Hand drawn poster which is only 180 KB as an attachment.

The traditional way remains the best way and that is a poster with strong iconic image with a minimum of text. Then again you can break the rules and make the quantity and style of the text itself interesting. You should aim to catch the eye of a passer-by and entice them to stop and read it. If you have a strong image, people will read the poster so text can be smaller to give the image room but if you should only put up such posters up where people can read them.  A great poster with small type won’t work as a placard on roadside verges for instance. The poster’s style and choice of fonts should reflect the event and can I just say please avoid any use of Comic Sans.
  • Use all the space at your disposal, but do not cram in the content - white space is an important part of the layout, and good use of it can make a poster elegant and arresting.
  • Use colour sparingly - limited use of a few colours is more striking than a 'rainbow' approach. Think about why you are using colour; it is especially useful for emphasis and differentiation.
    • Avoid colour combinations that clash (e.g. red on blue) or cause problems for people with colour-blindness (e.g. red and green in proximity).
  • Use white or muted colour background (e.g. pastel shades)
  • The flow of information should be clear from the layout; if you have to use arrows to indicate the flow, the content could probably be arranged better.
  • The title text should be readable from 6 metres away.
  • The body text should be readable from 2 metres away.
  • Choose a clear font with large inner space (i.e. the space inside the loops of letters such as 'o', 'd', 'p'). Good examples are Arial, Verdana, Georgia or Helvetica.
  • Keep the word count as low as possible.
I had a particular success with posters for a lecture given on water towers that were produced to look like a Victorian musical hall poster. That poster was almost too successful as people took several posters down as souvenirs before the event happened.

This poster broke the rules to stand out effectively

To save costs your poster could be produced in a format that works both as a wall poster and a quarter or eighth page advertisement.  Your poster should conform to the A6 – A0 aspect ratio and be portrait in orientation. In asking around Halesworth I found many shops and places are willing to put up posters but they viewed posters larger than A4 size such as A3 in landscape format as an abuse of hospitality, as that takes up 2 x A4 spaces. You can also print your poster as a card at A6 (4 on a sheet of A4) which are good as handouts and fit in display racks. You can make A3 and larger posters but this usually requires access to specialist printers and naturally is more expensive. We have in Halesworth a very capable print shop, it's worth asking them what they can do for you.

There's a simple explanation of paper sizes here.

A busy poster also used as a flyer but an email attachment was a 2MB JPEG

You can produce your poster in a variety of widely available software (or make it by hand) but it will eventually need a digital version. You can scan hand-drawn graphics but that digital file should be as widely compatible as possible, which these days is the Graphics Interchange Format where the data file ends in .gif  

The GIF is limited to 256 colours but can make a large crisp image without being a large data file if you have designed your poster with that in mind (such as limiting your colour palette). With a GIF you can send out an image that will print well on A4 to make a colour poster but won’t clog people’s computers (and phones) with 2MB – 10MB files as the equivalent JPEG.

I see a lot of posters sent to me by email as MS Word files. People presume it is universal but its not, but if you have used the most up to date version of MS Word, then you might find people can’t open your document unless it’s saved to be compatible with older versions; your files should end .doc instead of .docx

Do not expect people to open files in MS Publisher or obscure formats. Adobe's PDF is fairly safe, in fact ideal for a multipage document but actually I don't recommend any of these formats. I advocate putting posters into GIF or JPEG as a PDF or other formats will need conversion into a GIF or JPEG to be viewed on a website or viewed ‘in-line’ with an email reader. GIFs can be instantly ‘tweeted’ on social media and viewed instantly whereas a PDF has to be hosted, downloaded and opened before it is viewed. As we’re talking about posters which are one-page documents, the GIF format is better. Your GIF poster should accompany the press release you email out but should not replace it.

If you have a poster as a MS Word file you will find you can save it as a GIF or JPG but you can save it as a PDF. You can then use an online tool like to convert it to a JPEG for online use.

poster made with MS PowerPoint art tools in A3 size then saved as GIF

You should aim to make your poster as clear and simple as possible. Even if you are expecting to print very large cards for both shop windows and roadside placards; less is always more. Use colour if you can but sparingly, keep it to one or two besides black or white. If you are organising an event with lots of other events, such as a fete, then think of your poster in two halves, the top half with the one-line 'Grand Village Fete’ and below almost as a separate half poster you can list the times of the vegetable judging and so on.

Poster Making

In creating a poster you may find MS Word can be very fiddly in setting text and pictures and MS Publisher should have been strangled at birth, so I’ll tell you a little secret; make your poster as a MS PowerPoint  presentation, but only with one slide. You can set the slide to be the paper you expect you use; A3 portrait is ideal then position your art and text as you wish and save the document as a GIF. You can line up your text and image boxes with single pixel accuracy by selecting them and then moving with the Ctrl + arrow key. You might have found that you can’t save a MS Word document as a JPEG or GIF, but from MS PowerPoint you can save the 'slide' into these and other formats.

Fly Posting

There are 79 ground floor shop premises in Halesworth which could host a poster in the window but I have found only around 20 of them will do that. It is not reasonable to expect that every one of them would. The Post Office in the Thoroughfare has a national policy not to put posters up but it will allow a few leaflets (leave those mini-posters here). Nor do most of the financial institutions. There is a community notice board inside Barclays Bank with space for only 4 A4 portrait posters. Always ask permission before putting up a poster on a notice board as nobody’s walls  are public property and several  sites have policies about what services or events can be advertised on their premises. There are also a couple of sites around the town where ‘fly-posting’ is tolerated but please don’t create new ones. The wooden fence by the entrance to the town car park and the fence by the RADAR toilet have for some time been unofficial community notice boards. Anywhere else is not encouraged. 

A community event in Halesworth is reliably likely to get posters into these places.

  • Library – see the librarian. There is a charge for posters viewable outside.
  • Doctor’s Surgery – see the practise manager (some restrictions on content)
  • Town Council Notice Board (middle of Thoroughfare) – see town clerk
  • Halesworth Book Shop – see Peter, some space for A4 posters in the doorway
  • Halesworth Area Community Transport – small postcards or leaflets can be given to passengers of the 511 bus.
  • Halesworth Fish & Chip Shop  & Seashell Fish & Chips
  • Schools - see receptionist
You should walk the Market Place and Thoroughfare with your posters and some Blu-Tack and drawing pins. When you ask a shop if they would put a poster up, it’s worth explaining a bit about the event and why it’s important to the town. The word-of-mouth of the shop staff speaking to their customers is invaluable. All of Halesworth's coffee shops are helpful about posters but some don't have much space because of their layout. Your prime spot is the back of the till. If your event has tickets, some shops will sell them.

It's also an oft-forgotten courtesy to go round at take down your posters after an event. This does a few other things; it allows you to thank the host and share the news of your event's success and showing such courtesy will probably foster future permission and more prominent placement.

Press releases

Your press release and posters must include the basic information of the Five Ws: Who, What, When, Where and Why. You would think it is obvious that every story should have that but I often see notices missing something crucial. 

The typical news story usually follows the inverted pyramid structure.  It opens with a single headline and then goes into deeper details. Your press release should follow a similar structure.

File:Inverted pyramid 2.svg

If your press release is emailed to regional or national media, it will arrive with thousands of others. The journalist looking for a story to fill their pages, radio show or whatever else will want to quickly ascertain what your story is about and whether it meets their needs so make sure you put the salient points early in the first paragraph, then expand on them in later paragraphs.

In this instance I am talking more about getting your event listed rather than running a PR campaign and ‘pitching’ a news story and snaring a reporter to cover your event which is complex craft of its own. But make sure your press release has:

  • Who - which organisation is responsible for the event.  Also essential you have a contact for more information on your press release. I would suggest having just one contact person. Both an email and a phone is ideal and don’t presume people know your area code, include the whole telephone number.
  • What - describe the event in explicit terms. If you say “Grand Bazaar” you conjure up some expectations, include some descriptions of what’s on offer.
  • When - the date and time of event; give the day as well as the date and don’t forget the year. You’ll be surprised how long your information might linger out there as a poster or on a website. You never can tell when people will find your information, so let people whether it’s current by including the year on your poster. As well as the start time, the end time is useful to know. So the basic minimum on a poster is : Monday, 18th March 2013, 10AM to 1 PM.
  • Where - the location of the event; it’s a good idea to include the nearest postcode on the poster and the release. This is important to people using public transport.
  • Why - what is the event in aid of? What outcome do you want from the event? This can be the most important thing that brings the audience to you. A footnote to say "in aid of village hall funds..." is not a great pull. "In aid of a new sports facility..." might have more pull to the media and audience if you can say a bit more about who and why.
Halesworth Library charge £5 PCM for 'street'  facing A4 posters. Inside are free.
For a simple local event you won’t need to make your press release a masterpiece of prose, a simple announcement as if it was a letter to another person will do fine. An annual flower show could probably be listed for under 50 words but then that flower club may need to find new members and so you now have a great chance to explain the benefits of joining the flower club. In that case you will need to hone your story-telling skills.

There is also a detailed handy guide to this craft. 

Choice of media channels

There are any number of routes a message can take to get to its intended audience, so called 'channels'. You can distribute your information by these basic routes:

  • Personal networks; such as ‘Round-Robin’ emails to all your contacts to forward onto their contacts
  • Social Media; twitter, Facebook and the like
  • Listing in news and events websites and forums
  • Editorial and advertising in newspapers and parish newsletters
  • Posters and leaflets
  • Word of mouth
  • Radio and television: news or on-air mentions
In this multimedia world, many of these media outlets have a presence in other media; for example the newspapers are available on the web and radio stations have websites with local event listings and now newspapers have online TV stations. Many newspapers have forums and that allows a two-way feedback from consumers of the news. This is very useful as details of community events are rarely set in stone and details can be updated as they become confirmed.

My advice is that you need to use all of these channels to ensure your message reaches its audience but remember not all formats are appropriate to every channel. You should send your press release and images to the mainstream media and bloggers but its generally discourteous to clog ordinary people's emails with large attachments so just send them your poster with brief request to circulate it encapsulating the what and why etcetera. 

News and events websites

I was saved a great deal of time in writing this when I found local blogger Des Fisher of Near The Coast has put advice on his website about supplying him with listings information. I wholly concur with his advice:

  1. Tell us - If we don't know about your boot sale, underwater golf team or coffee morning we can't tell the world about you.
  2. Tell Us By Email  - We're not going to use ourselves up keeping track of bits of paper, telephone calls or people stopping us in Solar.  Email us and put your press release in the body of the email NOT in an attachment.
  3. Tell Us What, When, Where, How Much and Who  -  Is it a dance, a boot sale, a bank robbery?  When is it happening?  And not just the date, but the start time and if you really want to go for it the probable end time.  Where is it and sufficient info that a punter can find it.  How much is it?  Free is always very popular but we have to be told.  Finally tell us who to contact for more info and a phone number really helps.
  4. Pictures, Pictures, Pictures - Supplying pictures will instantly make your item stand out.  If you don't have a digital camera you will know someone who does and remember the second law of photography "you can't get too close".  If you don't know how to attach a picture to an email then learn.
  5. Tell Us Before It Happens - Telling us anytime is better than not telling us but telling us a couple of days before hand, unless it's a surprise concert by the two remaining Beatles at the British Legion, won't get you the best result.
  6. Use The Near The Coast Bulletin Board - Keep interest in your event alive; thank sponsors, explain ticket prices, in fact do more to help yourself.  Give us (your media hosts) something to link to from the home page.
  7. Tell Us After It's Happened  - Raise the profile of your organisation and generally increase interest by telling afterwards how much you raised for retired trees, how many fallen women you saved or how large the marrow was.  Reporting a disaster, as well as a triumph, creates a human interest story.
I shall expand on some of Des’ points:

Word of Mouth

1. Publicity is essential. If you think you've done enough publicity you need to do more.  You can’t just rely on the web, nor is a mention in the local free-sheet enough. You will need posters or flyers, you will need word-of-mouth and you will need to find people and outlets that will actively pass on your message for you. I read somewhere it takes SEVEN impressions for the audience to act on your message. Posters and web listings are quite passive but the best publicity is the active forms of media and people mentioning your event in their conversations is the most effective publicity of all. 

It was said by a local politician once, and I know it to be true, that you can line the Halesworth Thoroughfare with posters, run adverts in the Community News and there will still be people who will grumble they didn't hear about your event. “Nothing short of adverts in the midst of Coronation Street or X-Factor can reach them” it was said of this cohort.

There is still a huge ‘digital divide’ in society. Certain groups are cut-off from using the Internet and social media and they don’t own mobile phones and rely on traditional media. They still buy the papers or read the free-sheets. Other groups, such as the young, hardly engage with traditional local media these days. Whilst a local free-sheet newspaper may be delivered to their home, they may not read it. Many people give our local free-sheets a scan when it drops each month through the mail box but if the details of your event are buried deep in the text, they may not notice or register it. Readers and editors of the local free-sheets  or parish newsletters appreciate concise announcements of events in the first paragraph with detail in the second and third which can be omitted if necessary.

Word of mouth advertising that reaches people that the web, print and television can’t reach is actually easy to access and quite cheap. National campaigns like the BBC Digital Switchover recognised this and actively recruited the kinds of people that meet and talk to people in their community such as taxi drivers, community transport drivers, volunteer centre and day centre staff, community nurses, PCSOs, food servers, shop assistants, hairdressers, school teachers, health visitors and so on. If you can mobilise everyone involved in your event to take a flyer and hand it personally to such people and answer their questions, (rather than just send them an email) then you are likely to find these ‘word of mouth’ outlets are very effective.

You should also contact local community groups and organisations and ask if they can inform their members about your event. The W.I. in this respect is truly a force to be reckoned with. If you can, it's always best to send a representative to speak for a minute about the event and answer any questions. Your request should also include an offer to reciprocate for their events.

2. Nearly all of the media ‘outlets’ I have listed at the end have an email contact. If you do send information in a ‘Round-Robin’ email to all your contacts asking them to forward it to theirs and so on, and you have a poster, you might think to attach it to your email. But if you do this and you want to send attachments, you would be better off to have those documents hosted somewhere and then include a link to them.

Asking people to circulate attachments to all their contacts is an imposition. It’s not the single email that is the problem but the cumulative effect of many of them.  As a CDO I might get 50 emails per week with attachments of 1 – 2 MB each from organisations telling me about their events. If I and everyone in my organisation forward those emails, we will create thousands of duplicates of those attachments. Those attachments slow down our network and also fill up our servers.

Hosting a poster or documents elsewhere and just having links to them in your email also enables media "conversion". I would more readily read your email and then ‘tweet’ a link to the content or post it on a social media site such as Facebook or Streetlife if there was a link to a website and any documents. I can’t do this if there is only the email with its attachments as my email is not a 'host'. Info about hosting follows.

3. The Five W’s I have already covered.

A key moment in the play 'Keepers' One photo that stimulates interest

4. Des is right about pictures. Publishers love visual content but don’t send out lots of pictures to the media and don't send them to your friends, use the poster instead. Just pick one picture if you have it that says what your event is about. For example, a cake sale in The Thoroughfare can include a photo of a close-up on a cake you've made. I've seen a study of what people look at on a newspaper and web page; I think a photo is worth ten thousand more impressions.

If you want copyright-free images for use in your posters, these are sites you can search: 
  • MorgueFile - probably the best single source of free photos.
  • Wikimedia Commons - archive of free multimedia content submitted by Wikipedia users.
  • JISC Media Hub - Free images from the Getty collection.
  • Google Images using the 'usage rights' filter.
  • Flickr Creative Commons - an index of all Flickr images for which the owner has specified a Creative Commons licence (which usually means you can use it)
  • A collection of free photographs for private non-commercial use.
  • Image*After - large, free photo collection, with images free for any use.
  • The Creative Commons search allows you to search Google, Yahoo, Flickr and other sites for material that is licensed under the Creative Commons - which usually means you can use it without charge in a non-commercial context.
5. Respect deadlines, especially if you are submitting information and expecting free publicity. Do take the trouble to find out each particular publication’s deadlines and submit well in advance. With regards to publications around Halesworth, it’s safe to say they generally have more potential content than they have space for so you should try to keep your material short and to the point and the only way to guarantee inclusion is to purchase advertising. There is obviously a cost to them of producing the free publication and they naturally will give prominence to their advertisers. Taking out a small ad can get you a lot more editorial coverage as well. 

6. Keep the conversation going. Wherever your story has an online presence, have a conversation with readers there. Check for comments and make sure you follow up and respond to them.  Although Facebook is enormously popular, many people don’t like to use it and won’t be pleased that Facebook will make them join to access a page you’ve set up there. The portal owned by Archant is focused on listing community events around a particular locality so I prefer it.

7. Likewise, follow up the ‘buzz’ you've made about your event with outcomes, send out thanks, photographs and give a trailer to when you will hold the next event.

Making the push

Once your press release is written and your poster is made, you can sit down and push the story out to the media.

enable participation

Your first step is to find a host for a kind of simple web page for your event on which can host your poster and the full text of your announcement (based on your press release). Ideally your organisation has a website and you can create a page for your event with the details and the poster and you can include the link to this page in your emails.

If you don't have a website, you can quickly set one up as a single page with a blogging platform such as Blogger or Wordpress but if that's too daunting, it can also be done easily on other social media such as Facebook or I have also found it quite workable to list an event on Blythweb’s calendar, then link to that page or do the same with Near The Coast. There was a useful service called Posterous which enabled you to host PDF and word documents on the web for free but it has closed. By now there may well be replacement.

When your event is listed somewhere you can then link that page in the message you send to all of your email contacts, including the request that they send it on to their contacts. This they will do more readily if they don’t have to forward attachments. Don’t send your personal contacts your press release, unless they’re journalists, but use the content of the release to craft a short message and point them to the listings page if they need more information. It's important your message is interesting, short and sweet and the links work so test them. In blind-sending by emails, the interest threshold is low. Your message may end up in 'SPAM' filters but it can be ignored as 'bacon' too it's best to just send to people you know and ask them to send to people they know.

Pointing to a listings page for details and links in your emails makes listings publishers very happy as you will be driving visitor traffic to their site.

To the media you can send attachments but the content of your press release must be in the message body. Do not expect journalists to open attachments to find out what your message is about. Your subject line should say it’s a press release but also include the topic so it can be routed to the right person, or ‘for attention of the event listings editor’ as appropriate.

You may need to pitch your message slightly differently for mainstream radio and TV. From local radio the best result you can expect is a quick phone call from a presenter to talk about the event before it happens. Have someone prepared to do this if you haven’t got the nerve yourself. If you can be troubled to go into the studio, it gives a much better impression on the listener and also helps you build a rapport with the staff at the station for your next event.

simple press release, big result

With the press and TV news you should be explicit about what access you can offer them prior to the event and on the day of the event. Line up a couple of photogenic and garrulous people to talk to the press and pose for photographs. If you offer something photogenic, food is always good, then you might attract coverage but I would avoid the 'big cheque' handover and the balloon release. They may wish to report your event if you have piqued their interest but their schedule might require they have to do a photo set-up before the actual event. If you are planning a regular series of events, you can invite them to come to one event knowing their report will run after your event but that could be ideal for trailing the next event.

challenging yourself and others is a good story

Don’t forget specialist media if your event has a niche audience. The number of websites and magazines for listing music events would overwhelm this brief guide but East Anglia’s Grapevine would be the first place to list gigs.


Sometimes events issue invitations and require people to rsvp and the round-robin will often include an attachment with a form to complete and return by email, either a MS Word file or a Adobe Acrobat file which can be filled in. Again I suggest you consider hosting those forms somewhere else rather than an attachment or even setting up a Survey Monkey questionnaire instead to capture your invitation responses.

A summary of the steps I have described is outlined in this chart.

Where to send info

Halesworth Town Council now has a calendar of events. Please send listings to

These are some media contacts I've used in the past. This list seems to cut & paste into Excel alright if you want to add them to your contacts.

Halesworth Community News
Wenhaston Warbler
Wenhaston PC
Town Herald
Joe Cassells
Southwold Organ
Dominic Knight
Southwold Gazette
Southwold Press
Ipswich Star
Holton Post
Holton Post
Eastern Daily Press
Beccles & Bungay Journal
The Beach - Radio
Tindle Radio
BBC Radio Suffolk
Look East
Anglia News
One  Suffolk
SCC, WDC etc.
Near The Coast
Des Fisher
Iceni Post

Discover Suffolk
Discover Suffolk
Best of Southwold
Tracy Hazell
Where Can We Go
Wherecanwego Ltd
Visit Waveney Valley
Waveney DC
Visit Suffolk
East of England CIC
Sunrise Coast
Waveney DC
Suffolk Tourist Guide
Sarah Quinlan
Halesworth Website

The glossy Places & Faces magazine lists events and features event-driven stories about local places and people.

Norfolk and North Suffolk edition:

Rest of Suffolk:

The Media Trust and the Press Association offer a pro-bono distribution service. There is an online form to complete at and every day the 20 or so best stories submitted are written up by Press Association journalists and sent to thousands of media outlets.


Community Action Suffolk produced a comprehensive media tool kit for voluntary and community groups at

Finally, you're welcome to share this page. If any of this has been useful to you, do let me know, likewise please help me fix any errors. Hat Tips to @pixlink appreciated.