It was Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian born guru who in the 1960's coined the phrase, THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE, and The Global Village and his book was the 'must read',when I was on my graduate Radio/TV Media course at The University of Texas, 'Oxford on the Range'.
Well, it takes something special for me to cancel a trip to Glasgow to watch Celtic on a Saturday and Rangers on a Sunday, but that's what I did at the last minute when I heard about the weekend SPORTING WORDS Festival www.sportingwords.com taking place over 4 days at Leeds Met Carnegie at the Headingley Carnegie Stadium and later at the Cedar Court Hotel in the gracious spa town of Harrogate.
In a word it was SUPERFRAGALISTIC!!(or something like that). A wonderful weekend. I have been to conferences world wide but this was the first encompassing all aspects of The Beautiful Game as far as the media is concerned. Applause to Organizer Neil Howson at the Harrogate Festival Office, a life long Leeds United fan and former PR guy at Elland Road, and a rock musician, or so I was told. Harrogate have literary festivals, crime writing festivals and murder mystery weekends and this is where the famous author Agatha Christie of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot fame was 'lost to the world' for a few weeks in a mystery of her own in December 1926 and 'found' 11 days later in a Harrogate hotel suffering from amnesia.
Probably one of THE MOST innovative universities in the world, Leeds Met Carnegie were in partnership, with Dr. Jill Adam, Tony Collins and other academics leading the charge. The university sponsor and own part of Leeds Carnegie Rugby Union team, who play alongside World Rugby League champions Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire County cricket at the 'double' stadium Headingley Carnegie with both a rugby stadium and cricket stadium that has hosted historic Test Matches.
My first session was in The Long Room at Headingley Carnegie with mementoes of the greats such as Sir Len Hutton. To play for Yorkshire you have to have been born in the county, and they are very proud of their cricket. There is a huge new Carnegie Stand, a year old at the rugby stadium and it houses class rooms and brings the students and the sportsmen closer together. We started with a WOW ! session, Digital Friday with a report of the fantastic progress made by the world's media and in particular the BBC. Ben Gallop, in charge of digital media for 'Auntie', as the BEEB is nicknamed, floored me with figures, podcasts, videostreams and digital this-and-that that blew my mind, and of course London 2012 will be THE BIGGEST Challenge and an exciting future.
We had fan blog writers From the Terraces to the Laptop such as Love Mick Jones and other blogs to prove that loads of common folk still love Leeds United and the thought that the long suffering but supportive fans can be as articulate as the well paid media types with their photos above their stories and based 'down there' in London. Of course you go to any stadium and see fans with their phone camera sending live feeds to their mates and onto the web.
I was most intrigued by a young wizz kid, Mark Fletcher who founded PITCHERO www.pitchero.com as soon as he graduated and jumped off the academic bus running and gives amateur football, rugby and cricket clubs (more sports later) a free web site and lots of information on all their members and teams of all standards and age groups. Just take a look. Even your grannie can find it easy to look at her sons, grandsons and friends. I love it. Then Professor Lawrie Madden of Staffordshire University and SKY TV, who had just driven along the M62 from Manchester United's training ground at Carrington, came to discuss interview techniques.
We had only just started and so I jumped on the No 36 bus to Harrogate to take in the evening session NORTH v SOUTH for an historic debate. 'The South has the Opera and the North has Football' Kevin Keegan once said. Well, I will tell you more later.