Feel the Heat debate in Post

The Birmingham Post‘s Media page has a nice “for and against” debate today between Dave Hodgson of Marketing Birmingham and Simon Jones of the Factory Club over the merits of the Feel The Heat campaign (previously blogged here). Unfortunately it’s not on the Post’s website so I’ve scanned it in. Click on the below for a legible version.


Hodgson’s piece is well worth reading as it goes some way to explaining the thinking behind the campaign and how it came about. Whether you agree with him or not it’s good to see this openness from the city’s marketing agency and an apparent willingness to engage in the conversation. Long may it continue. (Although preferably in a venue I can actually link to…)


  1. Without going anywhere near the debate over whether the campaign is a good idea or not…

    “the cities first dedicated arts website” – I suppose he must mean OWNED by the city, as there have been listings and arts dedicated websites for quite some time.

    Not having a pop at the actual site, as it’s good , will get more exposure than others, (with all the promo), and is ceartainy aimed at a different audience to others (people not from Birmingham in the first instance it seems) – but to blithely state it’s FIRST as if they bring us bounty that we didn’t before have…

  2. “we will direct attention to the city’s first dedicated arts website where people can go to find out what’s on in the city” ???

    excuse me ?!

    thanks bounder – indeed ! birmingham alive! has in fact been covering the broadest range of events, genres, & venues in the city since 1998; not only that, in all that time i’ve neither received nor asked for a bean of public or private funding for it (apart from the £50 i’ve had so far since i put google ads on last year), with the only personal benefit derived being asking for the occasional press ticket for an event.

  3. The Feel the Heat listings are infact fed directly from http://www.artscentral.co.uk site, the No1 Arts Listing Website for the West Midlands region.

    Audiences Central, the regions Audience Development agency for the arts in the West Midlands, created Arts Central back in 2004. The site offers all arts organisations a free listings service and the site regularly attracts well over 30,000 visitors per month.

    Listings for arts events are free and as illustrated by this feed though to Marketing Birmingham’s campaign, we are always investing time and effort to share these listings through other networks and forums as part of a wider schedule of audience developement activity.

    If you wish to look at listings across the whole of the West Midlands visit http://www.artscentral.co.uk

  4. i don’t see many independent / unfunded / small venue / rock events listed there…

    you may well offer all arts organisations a free listings service – but in fact so does birmingham alive, whatsoninbrum.co.uk, & many other listings services; 30,000 visitors a month receive an incomplete picture of what’s on in birmingham, whereas my admittedly more modest 6000 visitors receive a far more comprehensive service. how many staff do you have working for you ? birmingham alive is just me, in my spare time, & one other reviewer. how much funding do you receive per year ? as i said, i don’t get a bean for it.

    let me stress, i’m not knocking artscentral or feel the heat – but it does rankle mightily when you claim to be the first to do something when i’ve been doing it much better, with no budget, for nine years.

  5. As a non profit making charity we endeavour to promote listings regarding arts, events and cultural offerings for the whole of the West Midlands region

    As we widely promote this to arts organisations and artists across the region the variety of content does vary from month to month – however to ensure consistency we employ a member of staff part time to solely work on listings.

    Our aim is to provide a comprehensive service that helps grow the diversity and range of audiences and support the whole of the West Midlands Regions arts sector – and of course provide a full range of events to attend for the public – this we do successfully.

    We welcome working in collaboration with other listing sites and sectors and value the work they also contribute in helping to promote the vibrant and broad range of arts across the region.

    A recent survey of artscentral users had outstanding results with 92% of the users saying that they had attended an arts event as a result of finding listings on artscentral

  6. Boy Wonder

    I think Jamie has a point the Arts Central site is very “funded” and quite frankly not very enticing, it works righ enough though. I think the classifiers are very white middle class and lack any diversity. Where is the reference to the cities Hip Hop or Bhangra etc.

    On the subject of the Feel the Heat. Frankly it is better than the previous stuff i’ve seen but really says nothing about our city, frankly far too generic. PS Can someone explain to me the reason for the Birmingham feel the heat website the further information takes you to the arts central website….. is this just more branding bullshit?.

  7. “PS Can someone explain to me the reason for the Birmingham feel the heat website the further information takes you to the arts central website….. is this just more branding bullshit?.”

    This is actually a very good idea. Rather that try and generate the data themselves they’re aggregating it from elsewhere and linking to where more info can be found, in this case Arts Central who have all the requisite links and info. This sort of sharing of information using standardised data is quite revolutionary really.

    I’ve dabbled in doing listing for a few years now and always gave up. Too much hard work getting the data in and no easy way to make it more useful that a big dumb list of events.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that you need two tools. A comprehensive, data rich and opinion free database of the events and a network of blogs and social networks referencing and expanding on that data, giving it some context and tying things up (ie, I like this blogger so I might like this gig they’ve recommended and they’ve provided me with some music links and so on. Or this person likes a band I like so I’ll trust their recommendation. Etc.)

    The Arts Central listing has the potential to be a good data source which the rest of us can mine. Now if only they get rid of points 3 and 4 from their T&Cs (which are quite frankly retarded) and bring in a decent API then we’d be onto something.

    (And, of course, a listing is only as good as the info submitted. If they’re not covering stuff that’s only partly their fault.)

  8. You can’t of course have too many events listing websites, it’s not like they’re pound shops and the internet is Erdington High St.

    My original comment was based on Dave Hodgson claiming the /arts site as a ‘first’ – which only gave a few options to me:

    A – He didn’t know about the other arts and listing websites in Brum. Including the one where his data was coming from.

    B – He did know about them, but didn’t consider them arts or listings websites (?).

    C – Some cack-handed sub at the Post changed his piece to make it read better and destroyed the meaning (I’m sure it happens).

    A and B are pretty damming.

  9. Wow … a hot one!

    Okay – we know that artscentral has some flaws as with all technology you get on at some stage and then you need to continually move forward to ensure a good user experience.

    Having just redeveloped our business to business site http://www.audiencescentral.co.uk we can now refocus on issues towards or public facing site.

    Of course we have ongoing development plans for artscentral and are fully aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the technical specifications and functionality and the editorial and listing short comings in certain areas.

    We welcome collaborations and are constantly addressing editorial areas for improvement.

    As a hip hop, funk, blues, jazz and gig fan I am certainly keen to collate more of this information from around the region to make the listings more complete but like everyone within this discussion from the sounds of things are costrained by the listing editors/admistrators enemy – time resource.

    It still remains heavily used however … but not something we are taking for granted so all the constructive feedback is welcomed (although mainly already known).

  10. “As a hip hop, funk, blues, jazz and gig fan I am certainly keen to collate more of this information from around the region to make the listings more complete but like everyone within this discussion from the sounds of things are costrained by the listing editors/admistrators enemy – time resource.”

    well, i manage to do it – & nobody pays me.

    does artscentral still occupy an entire half-floor of alpha tower ?

    you didn’t answer the question about funding, however i did look on the charity commission website (by the way, if i’m not mistaken you are in breach of charity regulations by not displaying your charity number on there, though i’m willing to be corrected) & see that you receive roughly a million pounds each year; if i can do what i can do for 50 quid, you should be able to blow me out of the water with that kind of dough.

    have you validated your 30,000 visits a month ? ie, do you how many of those 30,000 visits are by people who have found the information they are looking for off your site ? i know for a fact that over 95% of my 6000 people came to my site with the express purpose of finding out what’s on in birmingham, because over 95% of my visitors are referrals from google from people typing “what’s on in birmingham”.

    again, the aggregation of other listings sites is not a new idea – that was how birmingham alive! started, & how now roughly 50% of its content is still gathered, with the other 50% being user submissions.

    it’s grand that you serve the whole west midlands region (shropshire, staffordshire, worcestershire & all that), but that hardly makes it a dedicated *birmingham* arts site, does it ? if a user is looking for what’s on in birmingham, all it does is add confusion to see 80% of the listing being so far away you’d have to stay in a hotel to see.

    you welcome ideas for collaboration – if i were to offer an idea for collaboration, would i get a slice of your million, or even a bit more kudos ? or would it be a case of artscentral grabbing all the credit, at best being patronising about “all these little people who we’ve helped out” ?

    unlike some of the contributors on this issue, i don’t have a problem with public funding of the arts, i welcome it – after all, if taxpayers’ money can go to arms dealers, the nhs, educating other peoples’ children, & the investors in the northern rock building society, then why shouldn’t creative sector get a piece of the action ?

    i’ve been happy up to now to stay out of all this networking malarky, just content to get on with doing what i do & even making it a faff for people to contact me directly. maybe that’s a strategy i should rethink.

  11. oh yes, birmingham alive! has had iCal delivery for over a year now; currently i’m in the process of trying to find time to recode the site to be 100% html 4.01 strict with css layout, which will also make it much more mobile-device friendly. i’m having to fit that around recoding all the sites i’ve done which sit on a server in my flat to migrate them to an offsite commercial server, because it’s difficult to serve websites from the middle of the canal where i’m moving to…

  12. PinHoles

    I’ve just been on the birmingham alive site and seen the copy at the bottom (also below). I say concentrate on arts listings and get off your high horse. It’s just typical for these sites to paint themselves as noble organisations serving their community, but when it comes down to it all they seem to want to be the sole voice for that community and try to squeeze credit (or it seems sympathy) from all they can bleet to.

    “many of our competitors provide details of some concerts which are happenning, but only birmingham alive! provides the whole picture. some of our competitors give you the illusion of being comprehensive by padding out their listings with events in hereford, stoke on trent, & shrewsbury; others pad their listings out with recurring events such as regular club nights in city centre pubs & restaurants. on birmingham alive!, almost all of the events are a bus ride away from your home. our main competitor recently took the interesting step of requiring all viewers to be registered users of their site & having to login before being given access to the listings!”

  13. I really do not understand why such an aggressive angle is being taken by Birmingham Alive towards the http://www.artscentral.co.uk portal and the Audiences Central organisation?

    In answer to your question our organisation does receive public funding of approximately £200,000 not the £1 million stated.

    However this funding is used across all of the areas of our organisations work including audience development projects, marketing services, research, organisational development, professional development, consultancy, campaign management and bespoke support to a full range of arts organisations of all sizes across the West Midlands.

    Oh yeah – It is also used to help provide http://www.artscentral.co.uk – the West Midlands regions No 1 Arts listing website.

    I must respond to you comment:

    It’s grand that you serve the whole west midlands region (Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire & all that), but that hardly makes it a dedicated *Birmingham* arts site, does it?

    No it is not ‘grand’ it is what we aim to do to service and support the full region that we represent. We would have it no other way. However this doesn’t stop us working in innovative ways to share our listings through other networks.

    No it does not make us ‘dedicated Birmingham arts site’ because we support arts organisations across the WHOLE of the West Midlands region.

    If Audiences Central can offer any support to you as someone working within the arts I would be more than happy to discuss this with you.

  14. For crying out loud. If you want to know why Birmingham doesn’t have the status it deserves on the national arts scene, just read some of the above comments.

    It’s not necessarily the comments in themselves – some of which I agree with – it’s the fact of and nature of this debate that is so off-putting to outsiders. I moved here in March to become editor of 4Talent West Midlands, and was concerned that this would be a tougher gig than, say, 4Talent Manchester would be. It’s not, Birmingham and the West Midlands have brilliant arts scenes made up of loads of creative people who deserve widespread recognition – but from the outside, this kind of in-fighting looks parochial and short-sighted. It feels like a band having a huge argument about what they’re going to be called instead of writing some songs and booking gigs.

    Hope this doesn’t sound too rude – obviously I appreciate that people put a huge amount of time and effort into these things, but some confrontational attitudes are helping nobody’s image, least of all Birmingham’s.

  15. I hope that we can stop discussing completely incorrect information regarding our organisation in the public domain.

    I am more than happy to discuss productive, constructive ways to improve either sites, promote the amazing array of arts across the West Midlands to larger audiences or other related topics.

    My offer serioously still stands if you wish to discuss how we may be able to support your organisation.

    Many Thanks


  16. i’ve said my piece, i’ve let off steam, & now i’ll shut up on it.

    would we be all in agreement with each other if i said we need to do is think of ways to actually encourage the city centre to stay open after 6pm in order to encourage people to come out at night, & also encourage bands & their fans to listen to each other when they share a stage rather than buggering off straight away… ?

  17. I’m trying to stop eating popcorn and loving all of this. i would suggest if we’re all supposed to be in a band we should give up now, it’s cheaper. After all, its not the music, its the story behind the music and already we’re doing all right on that one. Oh yeah but of course bands fighting each other is usually down to bad management, or lack of it…and of course for good management read…someone capable of inspiring HOPE…. doh!..who’s been having a go at that then? Are they inspiring hope? That’ll be why the fighting is going on…. ha ha. On a positive note thanks for the tip on artscentral.co.uk I will send them some event listings and see what happens. I notice Birmingham Alive have listed the Music network….6 years and at last…someone is bothering to list it. Thanks Birmingham Alive!

  18. Dave Hodgson

    Hi all.

    I’m glad the piece in the Post has helped to clarify at least a few of the issues raised over the last few days. But having read some of the rants on here I thought id give a view on the website debate. There are NO websites that show EVERYTHING IN BIRMINGHAM that can be watched, listened to, enjoyed, participated in etc etc. and in reply to some comments I have trawled the sites that claim to be the guides to Brum. There are a whole host that have SOME info on, some better than others. And also sites that have West Midlands info on. What we would like to do to help promote the city – which I think is what we are all wanting here – is to get to a position of having the definitive website at some point soon with a one stop shop for anyone who wants to enjoy Birmingham’s Arts scene.

    We are NOWHERE NEAR that yet, we are literally up and running. But we do think if we can use Audiences Central, plus Trinity Mirror, plus the various what’s on sites, plus blog info, plus views from the movers and shakers in the industry, we can get to that point. ie a site that feeds from as many people who want to feed into it.

    Frankly if someone else wants to do it that’s fine, we are not precious and are just looking to get the best info out there. We’d happily have pointed everything at someone else’s site if we felt there was one that did everything we wanted it to do. We don’t want to reinvent any wheels here and actually want everyone to come together to get the best solution. But we couldn’t find one so over time we will look to create one. Audiences Central do a great job and we are happy to be working with them and we also hope to work with Trinity Mirror on their new Culture initiative which again will help to highlight the great breadth of offering the city has.

    The key for me is to try and join things up so we get more bang for the buck. Everyone trying to get their own 15 minutes of fame is fine, but if we can add all the time together then that gets the volume turned up. Hey if creatively you don’t like what we’ve done then fine – that’s what design is all about. But clearly you have to test these things and we did. And we tested it with the core target market for the first phase of the campaign and they liked it – and so the creative debate is fine but if the target audience were positive in research then that’s what counts. We test all our campaigns and they have all delivered thus far. And they evolve and the £15 million of positive PR generated on a spend ratio of 20:1 has to be good for the city.

    The only last thing I would say is that we are here to promote the city and to gain positive comment about Birmingham outside the city. I’d be happy to meet up with anyone who wanted to help, be a part of it, offer good quality resource etc. We get loads of people every day coming to us with new ideas, views, thoughts, etc. But if you don’t engage with us in the first place then its hard to do that. So if Birmingham Alive had wanted to engage with us in the last 2 years I’ve been here then Im sure we could’ve worked together – and still can. But if not then that’s fine, carry on doing what you are doing and so will we. We are about collaboration and helping this city punch its weight on a national and international stage. Anyone who wants to be a part of that and input into it is always welcome. Anyone who just wants to rant and keep bringing the city down and the people who are trying to put it up there where it belongs, well your not really helping are you.

  19. luther blisset

    “There are NO websites that show EVERYTHING IN BIRMINGHAM that can be watched, listened to, enjoyed, participated in etc etc.”

    Including at this point the Feel The Heat one.

    “We are NOWHERE NEAR that yet, we are literally up and running.”

    Wouldn’t it have been much nicer to say “we hope to become comprehensive” rather than to claim you already were? Can’t you see why people get angry?

  20. luther blissett

    It’s difficult to cut and paste from the article (impossible), but that’s kinda not how it reads, to me a least.

    Maybe to do with the odd tense these pieces are always written in – where spokespeople have to always be so sure what will happen in the future.

    What I will say is that you’re right about loads of things, and people only get worked up because they care very deeply (you just have to see how much time, money and effort they expend) – it’s a good thing to have this debate. Before CiB I don’t believe any but the “political classes” would have had the chance to engage on these sort of subjects. Long may it continue.

  21. thanks for a very enjoyable, if not heated, debate on the Birmingham event scene. It’s a shame that the ArtsFest organisers didn’t have that fire in their bellies and passion to promote their event this year! Well done, very entertaining.


  22. we all aim to please…

    but seriously, if dave, jamie, or anybody else would like a custom rss feed from birmingham alive to enhance their own listings sites, i’d be more than willing to oblige.

    There are NO websites that show EVERYTHING IN BIRMINGHAM that can be watched, listened to, enjoyed, participated in etc etc.

    that’s right; i don’t deny it – but if anybody can point to a site which has a more comprehensive picture of live performance in birmingham, i’ll willingly concede.

  23. I certainly would like to take you up on that offer.

    We are always up for collboration for the good of the sector and I welcome this step closer for the common good.

    If you wish to set up a meeting to discuss this with myself and our Programme Director Caroline Griffin please feel free to email me at your convenience at jamie.perry@audiencescentral.co.uk

  24. funnily enough my m.a. in ethnomusicology *was* to have been majorly focussing on classical iranian music, but there weren’t the contacts around at the time there are now, so i ended up focussing on something else instead…

  25. Dave Hodgson

    As we are already working with the Audiences Central guys, it would be good for Lydia in my team to catch up with you on the feed issue when you meet with Caroline and Jamie. We are also setting up a joint meeting with Trinity Mirror and Audiences Central to do the same.

  26. Considering the amount of money that has been poured into the likes of Birminghamusic.com (as an example)shouldn’t somebody somewhere be taking an interest in finding out why so much money has been spent but so little has been achieved that has proved actually useful in the long term? I get the feeling that “Feel the Heat” is just the tip of the iceberg that has taken a slap because the problem is more deep rooted than just the “feel the heat” campaign. I fear that Feel the heat was “the last straw” or a “catalyst” that has stimulated heated discussion…and that it’s not just “feel the heat” that needs to be called to account. What about the likes of Artsfest, Creative launchpad, Creative Insight, Creative Alliance, Creative College in the Community, LSC and Gigbeth, Creative Networks, how can these projects be evaluated properly to identify clear demonstration of best practice versus potential waste of time money and resources. Is there an effective form of evaluation and what lessons can be learned? I can’t believe all of them are “huge Successes” and I’m sure at least one of them must be demonstrating best practice. How do we find out?

  27. WOIB mostly lists club events and live music but there are intentions of spending more time in compiling theatre, comedy and exhibitions in Birmingham. Most of the club events and live music listings are listed by the promoters themselves making the task of keeping it all up to date a bit easier but I do try to cover the whole scene.

    What’s On In Brum? receives around 20,000 – 30,000 hits a week either from people knowing about the site or through Google.

    If you haven’t checked the site out please do: http://www.woib.co.uk

    A new version was launched this week and so any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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