Putting on Another of These Bloody Things

If you’re sick of them, imagine how I must feel.

Anyway! This is (probably) going to be the last one until September/October time, as Question Time is off-air during parliamentary recess. You know, that time when, despite having no governance or instruction from the hallow’d halls of Westminster, the country still manages to keep pootling along.

So if you’ve been meaning to come, you should probably come.

COMEDY FROM… Tony Law! Grainne Maguire! Nadia Kamil! They are all ace. Plus all the usual: Dimbledancing. The BBCQT Drinking Game. Tweeting. Yelling at the screen.

Wear your most lurid tie.

Tickets here.


In Self-Promoting News…

Two bits of irritating self-plugging!

(NB self-plugging; WORST. SEX ACT. EVER???)

1. I was on BBC 5 Live last night talking about gendered marketing on Men’s Hour. You can listen to it here for the next week. My first radio experience; it was good fun, everyone was very lovely and I managed to not vomit live on air. Listen from 38 minutes in, unless you enjoy hearing people drone on about cricket.

My favourite bit is “You’re a woman… seemingly.”

2. I’ve just announced the lineup for the next BBCQT Watchalong! This month we’ve got uber-blogger and political editor Sunny Hundal (@sunny_hundal), leader of the Pirate Party UK Loz Kaye (@lozkaye), and badass protest-singer Grace Petrie (@gracepetrie). Her song ‘Farewell to Welfare’ makes me well up every time.

You can grab tickets here

BBCQTwatchalong Website

Flabberghastingly enough! I’d never navigated the rocky terrains of purchasing a domain & finding somewhere to host & building a website before. It turns out it is not too difficult, as long as you you have a massive twitter support network to get advice from. Which I do. Lalalalala. How do people who aren’t on twitter ever get anything done?!

So I’ve made a website for the BBC Question Time tweetalong wot I put on “every” “month”, you can read about things that are happening soon there if you like. I’ve bunged the BBC Question Time Drinking Game up on there as well!


The entirely wonderful Tom Humberstone (or Tomberstone, as he is now to be known, FOREVER) has also done me a new poster slash avatar. AMAZE.

How Twitter is Putting the ‘Social’ Back into Social Media

I tried to flog this piece to The Guardian Comment is Free, but they sent it back and said it was “a bit too meta for CiF”.  I thought that this was literally the funniest thing anyone had ever said to me ever.

There’s been a slew of articles of late about how Twitter is revitalising television viewing; recreating the shared experience of watching telly together that’s been lost since families stopped arranging their lives around the TV schedules, and transforming we lonely couch-potatoes into sparkling social media butterflies who can amass hundreds of followers just by saying something sarcastic about [INSERT POP CULTURE REFERENCE HERE].  Lucy Mangan wrote about it in The Guardian (‘How Twitter Saved Event TV’), as well as Simon Kelner in the Independent (‘How Twitter Has Become the Virtual Sitting Room of Our Time’).

There is, I can attest, something about the shared experience that makes everything televisual suddenly far more entertaining, as long as you can handle the necessary multitasking element.  Suddenly, I can’t remember how I ever managed to enjoy a TV programme without knowing which of my peers are watching at the same time and what their views are on the latest plot development.  And it seems almost impossible to believe that we ever tuned into unabashedly crass, lowest-common-denominator telly (the sort of thing tedious people tediously like to refer to as a “guilty pleasure”) without the opportunity to snigger behind our laptop screens at it, retweeting pithy one-liners from people far funnier, hotter and more cuttingly satirical than us.

Admittedly, a lot of it’s to do with ego; even the hardest of souls can’t fail to be compelled by the self-esteem boost that comes from making a particularly good joke and then seeing it retweeted to all and sundry.  There’s just something beautifully ephemeral about that perfectly-formed 140 character thought being passed on, and passed on, and passed on; until it develops a whole life of its own and goes off dancing and spinning through the meme-pool, sparkling like a gadfly for one heady moment in the sun.  But it’s also to do with community; feeling as though you belong.  So what if you’ve always felt a bit alienated from the rest of your peer-group for enjoying listening to The Archers omnibus of a Sunday?  Here’s a ready-made peer-group for you, all under one handy hashtag and all raring to discuss the goings on in Ambridge as they unfold.

Lately, however, I’ve been noticing a pull back in the other direction.  People are enjoying this new communal experience so much that they’re beginning to (in a step that can be seen as strangely regressive and counterintuitive) bring their online conversations back into real life (or ‘meatspace’, if you want to use the more derogatory term).  I’m not talking about anything so crass or simplistic as actually communicating verbally (after all, what would be the point? There’s nothing ‘social’ about that; you can’t even Like it), but about enjoying Twitter whilst also spending time with other people.  As in, actual people, who exist in all three dimensions and everything.  I’m talking about putting the ‘social’ back into ‘social media’.

That’s why the BBC Question Time tweetalong I run each month at Hackney Picturehouse is proving so popular and (can I actually write this word and still forgive myself?) zeitgeistig; people want to take their online experience and transform it into something more tangible and sociable.  We all enjoy sitting at home, yelling at the telly with a bottle of wine in one hand and a smartphone in the other – and it’s just a small step from that to doing it together, in a room full of like-minded people.

I’m not alone in having picked up on this trend.  A cursory glance down the list of upcoming shows on the SRO Audiences website reveals a new panel game presented by @wossy (Or ‘Jonathan Ross’, as he’s more commonly known IRL) called ‘Trending Topics’, as well as a show BBC Comedy are producing called ‘@cuff’, billed as a “night of live improv and stand up where your tweets and status updates make the comedy happen – the only gig we know where you are told to keep your phones on throughout!”.

At the BBCQT Tweetalong, we try to make it a bit more a mixed bag in terms of entertainment: comedians and political speakers kick off the night, there’s time to hobnob with each other in person between acts and (most important of all) a fully stocked bar.  But there’s no denying that it does make for a slightly strange atmosphere at times; even though you’re physically in the same location as the people around you, you only really feel connected to them when you open up your twitter client and tap in the appropriate hashtag.

So where is this leading?  There’s more than a smidgen of the Black Mirroresque about the idea of people sitting in rooms together, staring at a large screen on the wall and communicating with each other only via handheld devices.   But the school of thought that says modern technology is making us more and more antisocial is a complete nonsense; we’re simply moving towards new, more fluid models of interaction where there’s less emphasis put on the importance of face-to-face conversation.    And personally, I welcome that.  In real life, I never know what to do with my arms.

#BBCQT Watch & Tweetalong (or, how to crowdsource a whole event in a fortnight)

NEW AND EXCITING NEWS!!! (is new news a tortology? yes. probably.)

I am putting on a thing!

I didn’t used to watch Question Time, or indeed be particularly politically engaged at all. This all changed completely (as did many things) when Twitter came into my life.


Now I LOVE it and I literally read the news every day. I just cannot get enough of the news.

Twitter has a clever knack of making live events, and shared events, much more fun; even if they’re things that, perhaps, on your own, you would find mind-numbingly dull. I’m not talking about Question Time here; obviously I’m talking about X Factor. I in fact watched all of last year’s series of X Factor, simply because the shared jokes and japes and piss-taking on Twitter made it such a joyous experience. And it’s the same with Question Time (probably the first time anyone’s compared Question Time to the X Factor in any way ever???); even the dry bits and the awful bits are a lot more fun with a feed full of people doing SATIRE and making JOKES and getting ANGRY AT THE GOVERNMENT. Normally, all on their own, in front of their computers slash tellies, yelling at the screen, drowning their political anxieties with whatever liquor comes to hand.

So! I thought. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all this together, sometime? The drinking and shouting and laughing? “When I move to London,” I thought, “I might look into that.”

Then! I moved to London.

I met Mediocre Dave (@mediocredave [otherwise known, occasionally, as Martin]) in a pub after we had both been to a myth-busting talk that Zoe (@stavvers) & some other people were doing about anarchism. It was a nice talk and I liked it!! I was concerned, however, that the fact that it was on a Thursday might make me miss Question Time. I DO NOT LIKE MISSING QUESTION TIME! IT IS MY FAVOURITE TIME OF THE TWITTER-WEEK. I mentioned this to Dave…Martin….Dave….and we got onto discussing the idea of holding a watchalong/tweetalong in a pub somewhere, with everyone in the room’s tweets projected onto one wall and the programme itself onto another. AMAZING, we thought. “Is this just a slightly tipsy pub-talk,” we said, “Or shall we actually do it?”


Question Time is on fairly late, though (10:35! Practically bedtime!) and I thought that this would be an odd time of night for something to start. “We could have political speakers, and comedians, beforehand!” I said, “To get us in the mood! We could play the #BBCQT Drinking Game!” My friend Chris Coltrane (@chris_coltrane) runs a lovely night called Lolitics, which I’d been quite inspired by, though I didn’t want to centre around stand-up comedy too much – I wanted more of a “Twitter on a Thursday but IRL” feel.

I went onto Twitter and crowd-sourced the rules of the #BBCQT Drinking Game, since everyone has a different version each week. HILARITY ENSUED. This was the result. I’ve since pruned it just a *tad* and you can read the finalised version here: BBC Question Time Drinking Game.

Dave & I contacted some politicos that we thought might like to do slots and they thought it sounded nice! This was encouraging. Becky Luff (@speckl) allowed us access to her massive brain-library of comedians and helped us get in touch with a few likely people. I found a lovely venue in Islington, The Compass, who were very keen to get involved, and said they’d give us the room for free if we brought in a successful, regular night. The wonderfully obliging Steve Maclean (@steven_maclean) whipped up a poster. John Rogers (@lampyjohn) and Mike Hillier (@mikehillier) offered their support on the tech/audio side of things. DIMBLEBOT (@dimblebot) thoroughly endorsed the project.

Anyway, without further ado, I present – the first #BBCQT Watchalong/Tweetalong.

#BBCQT Watchalong Tweetalong

Twitter, I love you, and you are all fucking stunners.

See you there x