Tag Archives: london

Ealing Half Marathon 2016

Last Sunday I ran the fifth Ealing Half Marathon in London. It was my first time running the Ealing marathon, which only started after I moved away from Ealing to São Paulo.

I had been training all over the place in September and my travel schedule was a bit crazy just before the race. Leading up to September 25th (race day) I was training in Serra Negra (São Paulo), São Paulo itself, Oxford, Montreal, New York City, and London. Even though I had quite a few flights this month, I still managed to get up and go out for a run each day. One day when I was travelling from Oxford to Montreal that meant taking a run at 5am in Oxford then catching a 7am train to the airport and being in Montreal by 5pm that same evening.

The Ealing race was really well organised. The race day team were excellent and there was no stress collecting my race number or dropping my bag off at the start. The weather was perfect too. It had been raining early in the morning, but had cleared up for the race start at 9am. It was a little chilly, but dry, so it was perfect for a long race.

I started the race intending to aim for a 1:45 time, but I found myself soon following the 1:40 pacers and finding that the pace was OK. I decided to stick with them as I was not having any trouble. There are a few long gentle hills in the race, but the pacers were excellent. Not only did they let us know when the hills would end, they got the crowd excited as we passed by.

Once I was 3-4km from the end and I knew that I could finish even if I put in more effort, I started running faster than the pacers. Eventually I completed the race in 1:38:21, which is my best half marathon time.

It’s a great location and a great race and really well organised. I know that I live far away, but as the 2017 race is on my birthday I might have to find an excuse to be back in London for that one!

Join me at #EalingTweetup on Sep 8!

If you Google “Ealing Tweetup” thousands of results pop up. That’s because this event is still one of the biggest social media focused events in London, even though it has retained a strong community-focused non-commercial spirit.

I kicked it off back in 2009, but I’ve been living outside the UK for over 4 years now so it’s fantastic to see that the event is still regularly running in Ealing. Michael Greer is now looking after it with the Ealing Hour team and from what I can see online it is still a great event.

I’m leaving Brazil tomorrow and after a quick stop in New York I will be in London by Saturday. I’m going to be at the next tweetup, which is on Tuesday September 8th at The Forester in Ealing. Tickets are free and I’d love to say hello in London.

Click here to register for the event and please say hello on Twitter before the event. I’m @markhillary on Twitter, Periscope, and Instagram 🙂

Is Rio Excited About the Olympics in 2016?

Here’s the thing. A few days back was the one-year-to-go point for the Rio Olympics. The Olympic committee seemed pretty confident that most things are on track for the games. Some of the venues are ready now. Some are almost ready. From what I read there only seemed to be one venue that was really struggling to meet deadlines.

But we still have a year to go. Who can forget the images from Greece before the Athens 2004 games where it seemed that venues were still being constructed days before the events were to start?

But what I find really funny is how the media – in Brazil and globally – are all saying that nobody is looking forward to the games in Brazil. Ticket sales are low. People are worried about the economic situation. The Guardian even went so far as to suggest that people in Brazil are still upset about Germany thrashing Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup last year.

What is worth remembering is that this happens before every Olympic games. Take a look back at London. Perhaps I’m biased because I am British, but it was one of the most memorable Olympic events ever in my opinion. From the amazing opening ceremony to the way the volunteers changed the way the entire city operated. It was a time to remember in the UK. Ask most people in London about the Olympics in 2012 and they will have fond memories of a month when people were friendlier than usual – there was an improvement in the way the entire city functioned and people enjoyed it.

But a week before the 2012 games it was all different. I wrote about it at the time in the Huffington Post. The press were wailing that there was no security in London, that missile launchers were being erected on buildings, that bus drivers wanted to strike, that the tube would not run, that the Olympic bus drivers had no idea how to find the stadium, and that the budget was out of control… the 2012 Olympics was generally hated by the media.

That article was published one week before the 2012 games began and my point was generally to say, “look let’s get behind this now because the whole world is watching London.”

What response did I get? Almost 100 comments on the article and every single one saying what a complete tosser I am for suggesting this. Every comment complained about the Olympics in London.

Spin forward a week to the opening ceremony and every Brit was laughing at the Queen with James Bond, Mr Bean, singing Kinks and Beatles songs. Suddenly everyone loved the fact that the entire world was watching Britain and enjoying it. Suddenly people felt proud of being British.

But this hasn’t happened in Rio yet. In fact I expect it will not happen until the opening ceremony because until the event is really underway, it’s not “real”, it’s just a future event that could always be a disaster. At least that’s what the press tells us.

So I for one am not listening to a word about how the Brazilian psyche has been so disturbed by Germany’s goals in 2014 that it is now impossible for them to enjoy the Olympics. Or that any questions of economics will make people enjoy sport less.

The sports pages are full of so much garbage. The bottom line is that Brazilians are going to welcome the Olympics to Rio next year and I hope I’m there to enjoy it with them.
Mirante Dona Marta - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

The Picture of John Gray: for Wilde fans in London

One of my favourite books has always been ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde. It’s the only novel Wilde ever wrote and has such a preposterous idea at its centre that it could almost be science fiction.

For those who don’t know anything of Dorian Gray, it is about a beautiful man who never ages in person, yet his portrait – hidden away in an attic – gets older in place of the man changing. All Dorian’s sin and hedonism is absorbed by the portrait – he can live the most extreme life and yet remain young and attractive.

Oscar Wilde was actually infatuated by a man called John Gray – they had a brief relationship in 1889. Wilde used Gray’s name for the main character in the novel, but the actual relationship ended and nothing more was heard of the real Gray.

A new play is set to open next month at the Red Lion Theatre in Islington, London, titled ‘The Picture of John Gray’. Written by CJ Wilmann the play aims to explore the real relationship between Wilde and Gray and what happened to the real John Gray.

I really loved this book and even the modern update by Will Self ‘Dorian’  is a great read. In that version, the work of art is a web installation rather than a portrait. When I read that book, I registered the URL for the art installation as featured in the novel. I was surprised the publisher had not reserved it and I left it pointing at my personal home page.

Eventually I tired of annoyed Will Self fans emailing me asking why I had any right to own the URL featured in the novel. I let my ownership of the URL expire. I don’t know who bought it after me, but perhaps I should have offered it to the publisher directly.

It’s a shame that I’m almost certainly going to miss this new play as I live in Brazil and have no plans to be in London during August. In fact, I’m actually planning to be touring the Pantanal in August. However, I’m sure the script will be available online soon.

If you are in London, do go and let me know what the play is like! 🙂 And don’t forget to check out this song about Dorian written by my friend Enda Mulloy and his band, The BibleCode Sundays…

Details of the play, including the venue and tickets, can be found here.

Grave of Oscar Wilde

Farewell Tom: The End of an Era in Ealing

In May 2009 I had noticed that quite a few of my virtual Twitter friends seemed to be living or working quite close to me in Ealing, west London. This was not as strange as it might seem, there were a lot of media people in the area with the BBC and Sky close by plus quite a few advertising and PR firms in the area.

But I still found it intriguing so I tweeted a message suggesting that any other Twitter users from the area come and join me in the Rose and Crown pub on a Friday evening. And so on Friday May 29th 2009, the Ealing Tweeting – better known as #ealingtu – was born.

If you Google “Ealing Tweetup” now, it gets mentioned around 8,000 times. That’s because it grew into a regular gathering of people in west London with an interest in social media up to the point that when I left the UK, the last tweetup I managed to attend had about 250 people attending, a couple of live bands playing and free drinks from the bar!

Ealing Tweetup - July 8 2010

On that first occasion in May 2009, there was no sponsorship or free drinks or live music. However, there was around a dozen people who randomly came together to have a chat with some strangers just because of a tweet. And the nice thing was that they were not all from the media or PR or advertising businesses.

There were local politicians, teachers, journalists, photographers, actors, charity workers, and business consultants. It was a real mix of professions and everyone was drawn together because of where they lived and the use of Twitter.

The event was never formal or organised. Sometimes people complained that they wanted it to be more structured, with name badges and a list of attendees, but I never really saw it that way. Even when I convinced some companies to shell out so we could have free drinks, what they got for their money was very much up to them.

If you had a pub full of bloggers then what would you do? I think the very last thing would be a hard sell on your products or asking people to tweet in return for a pint. The companies who supported the event could see the value in it and the event has persisted.

I left and moved to Brazil, but Hayden Sutherland took over as organiser, and when Hayden moved to Glasgow, Michael Greer took over and he continues to organise regular tweetups.

I have managed to attend a couple of tweetups since I left London, but it’s clearly not easy being a very long flight away – they need to coincide with one of my business trips back to London. And so unfortunately I am going to miss the next one on February 26th.

This one will be special because Tom Tucker – the boss at the Rose and Crown – supported the idea from the start and he helped it to grow and now he is leaving the Rose. He promoted the events when many customers would ask what on earth a tweetup is all about and he had the good fortune to see it grow and become one of the biggest social media gatherings in London – right there in his pub.

Tom is off to a new challenge in Brighton, but the next tweetup is going to be themed as his leaving party so if you are in London I urge you, go along and see what it’s all about. It is possible to have a social media gathering that is not dominated by people talking about sentiment analysis and how their client reacted to a negative tweet. This is normal people who use social media getting together to have a chat about how it works in their life.

You can sign up for the next Ealing Tweetup here. As always, it is free – just bring some good conversation.

Tweetup

Flickr is ten today!

Photo sharing service Flickr turns ten today. This news has been a little overshadowed by the news that Facebook was ten last week, but I still love Flickr, even though it is now part of the Yahoo! empire.

This is the most popular photo I have ever uploaded to Flickr. It’s my Staffordshire Bull Terrier Matilda wearing a pair of boxing gloves in London. As I write this blog today, this photo has been viewed 12,980 times.

Staffie with boxing gloves

This photo of Matilda on the beach at Woolacombe in Devon is considered by Flickr to be the most interesting photo I have ever uploaded – with interestingness being different to just views because it includes a measure of how many people commented on the photo or made it a favourite photo of theirs.
Matilda on Woolacombe beach

However, this Rothko image from the Tate Modern art gallery in London comes in a close second…

Rothko - Black on Maroon

My photos on Flickr do still get quite a few views. Today they have been viewed 10,693 times and in total my collection of 30,008 photos has been viewed 4,130,107 times. Yes, that’s over 4 million views on my photographs on Flickr!

So happy birthday Flickr and here’s to the next decade 🙂

Two Steps to Organizing A Great Corporate Event

Last week I was invited to chair a business event in London that was focused on celebrating the 20th birthday of technology company IBA Group. The company is one of the biggest IT firms in Eastern Europe and they have just opened an office in London, so it was almost a double celebration — an office warming and birthday party.

When IBA asked me to host their event I asked them how they intended to make the evening flow. A birthday party is always nice, but the harsh reality for a company like them is that London is full of parties and events almost every night of the week. I suggested that they need to think about doing a bit more than just offering some free drinks and expecting hordes of people to arrive full of interest in what they are up to in London.

Fortunately, they actually listened. They asked if I had any suggestions for the event that would make it interesting and worth attending for the business community, as well as fun. This makes a change. So many companies today are happy organizing a “panel debate” where a series of experts are lined up on stage and asked questions by a host in front of an audience waiting for the free booze.

I suggested that we get a group of experts together and make them compete. As the entire event was going to be a celebration of their 20 years in business, we should get some experts together and give them five minutes each to predict the next 20 years in the technology business.

Of course, nobody can realistically predict the business environment two decades out, but it would be interesting to ask people to do this within the constraint of having to give a sensible talk within five minutes.

To make it more interesting I suggested that the audience would be able to vote for the speaker they found to have the most interesting or credible ideas — and the winner, based on the audience’s vote, should get a prize worth having.

In the end, the event went really well. They managed to get four experts from different areas of industry: Martyn Hart, the chairman of the National Outsourcing Association, John Garratt, editor of IT Europa, Colin Beveridge, industry analyst at Better Practice, and Derek Parlour, head of commercial at National Rail Enquiries. This meant that they had the predictions of an industry analyst, journalist, trade body leader and a major buyer of IT services — a good mix.

We all know that industry events can be a bit boring, especially when you look at the agenda and see that there is still an hour to go and the speaker is only on PowerPoint slide 6 of 75, so I would congratulate IBA for bucking the trend a little and just trying something different. It made life a lot better for me as the MC because I could see the audience actually enjoying the talks, and with them all being so short, it meant we could zap from one speaker to another before anyone started to find the interior decorations more interesting.

And that would be my second piece of advice to any company organising a corporate event, do it somewhere interesting. This event was held inside the Wellington Arch in London. I have travelled past the Wellington Arch many times and I never even knew that you could go inside, yet there is a museum in there focused on the work of John Betjemen who led the post-war movement to get classic old buildings listed and protected.

It makes a difference, and having access to special buildings can be a draw in itself. It may be convenient to just host a conference inside a hotel, but nobody is coming because of the hotel. It shows a lack of imagination to host a corporate event in a hotel in a city like London when there is a classic or interesting building on every corner.

So, make the talks shorter and more interesting and find a great venue. It should be just common sense, but I’ve been to so many corporate events that ignore this advice – it was a pleasure to actually attend a technology themed event where there really was some useful information in addition to the good wine!

Wellington Arch

 

Photo by Studio Tempura licensed under Creative Commons

IT journalists in London – know about outsourcing?

One of my clients, the technology company IBA Group, has asked me to come over to London in September to MC their birthday party event on September 10th at the Wellington Arch.

It’s their 20th birthday, they have a great and historic venue and corporate birthday parties always feature plenty of Champagne so it should be fun, but London has no end of parties so I suggested they add a little bit of business value to the event for the people who will attend.

Of course, it’s a party so nobody wants to listen to endless speeches about SAP integration or how the cloud is affecting the future of IT. What I suggested to them was to invite a group of IT journalists to the event to give their view on the next 20 years in the technology business – especially how outsourcing is changing.

The CEO of IBA will open with his summary of the past twenty years, then each journalist who wants to try giving their view will have just 5 minutes to predict the future. The audience at the event will all have voting cards so they can vote for their favourite futurist…

As an incentive to the journalists, the one who is judged to be most compelling by the audience gets an iPad.

It’s only going to be about 40 minutes of talks, then a return to the drinking, but it should be quite interesting to see how different IT experts see the future playing out. I might even try to chip in myself, though if I win then it will be suggested that I fixed the whole event as I’m supposed to just be chairing!

If you are a London-based tech writer and think it sounds interesting – plus it means you get to spend an evening in the company of a bunch of other tech writers – then drop me a message here or on Twitter.

Videographers

 

Photo by Richard Masoner licensed under Creative Commons

OFAH fans – please help me with cockney bingo!

Only Fools and Horses fans, I need your help!

I’m a member of the Serra Negra English club here in São Paulo, Brazil. It’s a group of people who meet every two weeks to practice their English and all the membership fees for the club go into helping local charities.

In two weeks I am hosting the club at my house. I wanted to try something linked to the use of some more unusual English words, but to make it fun. So I thought I would try a bingo game with Only Fools and Horses. I’d issue some bingo cards featuring Cockney slang words, we all watch an episode of OFAH and people check off the words as they hear them – hopefully with a winner found before the end of the show.

It will be entirely Brazilian people playing this game, trying to improve their English and learning about some of the unusual Cockney slang used by Del Boy and Rodders. Hopefully it works as a fun way to show them that not everyone speaks English like the Prince of Wales…

What I need from you is a pointer to a particular episode that might work for this game. I need the following:

  • It must be one of the early half-hour shows so the game is not too long, so I expect it will feature Grandad.
  • It must be a fairly simple story setup – I need to brief everyone on what OFAH is all about as they will have never seen the show, so a more complex relationship-based story is probably out (though most of that came later in the show anyway).
  • It must feature a lot of slang I can use for the game.

So, OFAH fans, can you help me to set this up and help a whole group of people in Brazil better understand how to speak if they are ever in Peckham? Leave a comment here on the blog or tweet me on @markhillary – thanks!

The Reliant Regal Supervan used by Delboy and Rodney Trotter

Photo by David licensed under Creative Commons

New York City “ballet” : Nutcracker

I went to see the famous New York City Ballet Nutcracker last night. I’ve seen this show once before, back in 2007, and I left feeling unsatisfied then and I did again yesterday.

It’s not that the show isn’t worth seeing – it’s a great spectacle – but there are some major flaws when compared to the Nutcracker as generally performed by European ballet companies.

In short, the problem for me is that I go to the ballet to enjoy the music and dance, to see some fantastic dancers, great choreography and incredible live music. But the Balanchine Nutcracker is essentially a Christmas show for children that skips over major plot points within the ‘Nutcracker and the Mouse King’ story leaving it as essentially a disjointed series of skits – nice to look at, but not very satisfying if you came to the theatre expecting to see some ballet.

Of course there is some dancing, for example the pas de deux in the second act just before the apotheosis, but this dance is usually enjoyed by Clara and the Nutcracker. In the New York version a couple takes the dance with no explanation as to who they are.

The Royal Ballet in London use the 1984 Peter Wright version of the Nutcracker choreography, but Wright himself drew heavily on the much earlier staging from London, which had in turn come directly from the Imperial Russian Ballet.

In short, the role of Drosselmeyer is explained, the family connection to the Nutcracker is explained, the main characters actually dance – they are not cast as children who just watch the other dancers perform. It’s a proper ballet with a wonderful score and there is even an epilogue drawing the various threads of the story together.

The NYCB production is a nice little Christmas show and they must make an absolute fortune staging it every December – it has been produced in this format for almost 50 years now. But if you are a ballet fan and expect to be watching some great dance then it might be wise to save your cash for another show – there are Broadway shows with more dance than this.

Beautiful Concentration

Photo by Pat McDonald licensed under Creative Commons