Amelia judged and I sketched history in the making at the Rag Factory last week. Well, almost: the first event was in Germany the week before so this was not an actual first. The concept I’m sure already has your mind a-boggling. I’m allways fascinated by how random little scenes and pockets of interlapping creativity and culture come together in these sorts of things. Circus explore the rich territory between print and web, passion and fashion and er, people and other people. I’ll talk more about the beautiful bookazine itself a bit later.
The competing bloggers were somewhat of a motley crew, in that the content was a little inconsistently weighted, a lot of fashion and two examples of male dating based humour blogging, a genre of which I was previously unaware. This was fair enough in a sense, the theme of the Bookazine issue is fashion, but it did make the handfull of bloggers on other themes seem a little incongruous.
The slammers were judged based on the scoring categories of originality, concept, delivery and “blogability”, a made up word. Aside from our own Amelia the jury consisted of Wafa from Sketchbook Magazine, Ben from quality Sheffield based Article Magazine, and Chris Osburn from the Londonist. All small press stars of substance and style of course. The competing bloggers performed from an old school church pulpit – a nice touch I think, sort of makes you think about how we choose who we listen to and respect these days, or it just looked pretty anyway – and were also interspersed with some readings from contributors from the bookazine.
First up was Marian Librarian, a high flying international proffesional social media blogger of sorts, who talked affectingly about why she refuses to censor her blog, even after she was detained at immigration for swearing. You can read the entry she read here She has a healthy and sensible attitude to the importance of reality and personality in online content.
Next up was a brief reading from fashion haiku‘s Kate Ironside who was rocking a serious classy jersey and pearls type ensemble.
I cannot express the perfection of the fashion haiku as a form of art, it’s such the perfect medium for expressing the wry mix of beauty, meaning and superficiality that is fashion – anyway I can’t express it like I said so if you follow one link today, make it this one and go read some. Your day will be enhanced.
Toast and Biscuit from the Wed or Dead Wager.
Second actual competing slammers (btw, I can’t type the word slammers without thinking about pogs) were a blog double act who use fake names as a matter of neccesity since they write with warts and all accuracy about their manic dating life in a race to get married. It’s a bit like an unrealistic romcom, but much much longer. They were very funny with self deprecating anecdotes, definite crowd pleasers. I think they had the advantage too of having an actual real life story to tell in their blog, it’s engaging and sympathetic and fresh.
I’m so used to hearing the female perspective on the frustrations of dating from my friends, the cliches that men who are confident enough to come on to you are usually after just one thing, or worse turn out to be creepy stalkers seem all too often to come true. So it’s quite nice to get the male perspective and hear about women’s strange behaviours in the dating arena with some pragmatism, while still coming from what is essentially an aim to settle down with someone nice, which creates a sort of reverse cliche.
The next blogger, Godwyns Onwuchekwa “We are united to say: Never again, at least not by our own action.”
Godwyns is a serious political and LGBT rights blogger who performed a very moving blog post he had written to mark world AIDS day this year. He began by saying that following the Toast and Biscuit performance he would be boring us with serious stuff. He wasn’t boring, but he wasn’t wrong that it was a contrast. Escpecially as the next to stand up was in a similar romantic comedy vein;
Alright, maybe this is not news to you, but if you thought that the Wed or Dead Wager was a dose enough of apparently brutaly honest but at the same time surreally romcomesque male dating bloggery, Scalene may actually take you a step further. His blog allows internet strangers (the same people who comment on youtube videos) to make multiple “choose your own adventure” style decisions about his actual real life love life. In the recent post he read out he ended up actually honest to goodness chasing a girl to the airport. If there’s any justice this project will end in him being voted into not showing up for his own wedding. That’s the other thing that always happens in movies but NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENS IN REAL LIFE. RIGHT?
Tejasvi looked particularly angelic in her floaty white top (sorry I lack the fashion nause to describe it accurately) in the pulpit. Her blog Clandestine Cigarettes is perhaps a more serious and romantic take on fashion, she read a very poetic piece but was sadly I think too nervous and lacked the projection to do it justice.
Lilly Smiles of Laughter Lines, diary of a “fleet street fox”.
Lilly Smiles trod an interesting line between the serious and comic camps with her reading, which was from a blog post written at an extremely raw and hard time in her life – the details were hazy (understandably) but it was during an episode in which she was charged with attempted murder. It was heart rending, clear, honest and well written, but still witty. She almost painted tabloid journalism (her background) as a caring profession and she pre-empted her reading by telling us she burps when nervous. In a way this was the perfect piece for the evening: managing to keep the tone seperate and yet compelling, honest but sensationalist. Possibly this is what blogability means.
Muireann Carey-Campbell or Bangs and a Bun.
Another reading from the Circus Bookazine; Muireann described herself as a humour fashion blogger but the piece she read was quite serious, looking at issues of the fashion industry’s epic denial the fatness of society. It was pretty interesting and she was a charismatic speaker, I’ve since started following her on twitter and she is an avid tweeter. She looked fabulous and clearly knew her stuff.
The final contestent in the blog-off arrived just in time to perform. She’d been in Norwich and rocked straight up to the pulpit and started channeling Lady Gaga, actually interspersing the reading from her blog ‘musings of an innapropriate woman’ with bouts of karaoke style singing.
Rachel Hills with gold slit sunglasses – when they were down she was Gaga.
This is the blog post she read, but like all of the night’s blogs, it’s the tip of an iceberg. Rachel’s blog is a smart mix of gender, popular culture, creativity and general life observations; I like her because she’s not afraid to mix pop culture references with theory and critique. If I didn’t have an essay to write I might spend my whole weekend reading her back catalogue.
So with that the blog slam was concluded, there was some complex vote counting while I mused on the variety of performances. Really the variety of different styles and subject matters didn’t lend itself to a fair comparison, ideally there could have been a number of bloggers from certain categories and an award for each. But it wasn’t the Oscars, it was an experiment and to have done so might have made the whole thing seem overworked. In the end we were treated to a slice of a mix of what the blogosphere has to offer.
the four minds and bodies behind the event and circus bookazine, preparing to award the prizes.
Rachel nabbed third place, probably as much for having rocked up at the last minute and being memorable in golden glasses and singing as anything else. The two top spots went to the romcom boys, Scalene in second place and Toast and Biscuit nabbing the top spot. There were a lot of qualities on show at the Rag Factory that night, but ultimately entertainment value probably bagged the biggest points. The number of people at the end of the night wearing the AIDS ribbons Godwins had given out is testament to the fact that the serious content was most surely not swept under the carpet.
The Bookazine (which, strangely, is somewhere between a book and a magazine) is a thing of beauty divine from a design point of view. You can see the love and thought that has gone into the project. The content is given room to breath and interspersed with sumptiously simple printed patterns. There are little nods to the web format of the blog that the book connects with, like the love you link page and tag cloud at the back. Part of the reason it’s so thick of course, is that all of the content is in English and German, which makes the project even more impressive – working with so many bloggers, writers, artists and translators must have been an epic undertaking. If only I had time to actually read it.
images courtesy of Circus Bookazine
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