Archive for the 'leisure' Category

Preparing to cycle Land’s End to John o’Groats

October 31, 2012

“Land’s End to John o’Groats” is a well know British term, but once leaving the island, no one knows what you are talking about. To compare it to the pilgrimage Santiago to Compostela for Catholics, is Land’s End to John o’Groats to any British charity challenger or record seeker. It refers to the ‘end to end’ journey between Britain’s most South-Eastern and North-Western point. The most common means to make this journey is to cycle it, I also heard of people walking it and met a guy doing it by public bus services.


This guy is doing a bus challenge Holt – Land’s End – John o’Groats – Holt

It feels like much longer, but it’s only been five months since I completed the challenge. I am trying to recap why I wanted to take on this challenge in the first place. Around Christmas last year I made the decision to do it. But the intention to do it I made during earlier cycle tours, once from Cranfield University to Dover in 2008 and in 2011 I went from Belgium to Calais followed by London to Cardiff. I loved those journeys as they gave me inner peace whilst putting me out of my physically and mental comfort zone. These tours also changed my awareness of distances and detail of places I am usually passing on long distance travels. So I taught that the end to end tour would give me peace after a stressful time and give me the opportunity to experience the full scope of the UK whilst improving my stamina.

My other tours were made without many preparations. The first touring was with a backpack strapped on the rack and without any accurate map nor camping gear. I learned navigating away from main roads is difficult and making last minute overnight arrangements is challenging and expensive. During my second tour, I decided to stick to the Sustrans National Cycle Network and to take a small pop-up tent with me. I was lucky with the weather being extremely good and realised if it was even a little bit colder, I would have needed cooking equipment.

So for a tour that would take about a month, I definitely needed to be prepared. Staying in B&Bs or hotels and eating out all the time would be too expensive, so camping became the preferred option. Considering that doing a prolonged self supported tour would require more stuff to carry and as a result put extra load on the bicycle, I found out that cargo trailers could reduce the ballast on the rear wheel. Since this tour was an experiment, I did not want to go for the expensive high end outdoors equipment, but it also needed to be of sufficient quality to at least sustain the full tour. This is a video and list of the equipment I took with me me:

  • Bike: Trek 7.3 Fx Disk
  • Trailer: Adventure Ct1 Single Wheel Cargo Trailer
  • Tent: North Ridge Sphinx 2p
  • Mat: Hi Gear Discoverer Sleeping Mat
  • Sleeping bag: Vango Ultralight 600
  • Stove: Wild Woodgas Stove MK II + Spirit Burner
  • Coat: Berghaus goretex + Regatta soft-gel + Regatta fleeze
  • Underwear and T-shirts: Howies Marino light 1 short & 1 long sleeve, cycling shorts, waterproof and wool socks
  • Trousers: Craghoppers quickdry and Mountain Warehouse rainproof
  • Shoes: Karrimor Waterproof Walking Shoe
  • Navigation tool: Sustrans App (OS maps) via iPad 3G
  • Power supply: Freeloader Globetrotter Solar Charging System
  • Action camera: Chilli Technology Action 3 HD 720P Head Cam
  • Head torch, Reelight battery free bike lights
  • Emergency kit, Bike-horn

The trailer has a maximum load capacity of 30kg and I packed my equipment to these guidelines. I also had one pannier where I could store things I needed quick access to during the day such as food, navigation and rain clothes. Now I was ready to do some test riding. I explained a little bit of my test ride to Schumacher College in a previous post. At that time I was able to eliminate about 6kg of luggage that I wouldn’t need. Devon was a good place to start and Cornwall put the test to an extreme. I encountered a few difficulties. First, quick-dry clothing isn’t good enough for continuously being outdoors, second, I still had too much load to carry, especially going up-hill and third I had problems with my disk-breaks vanishing going down-hill. I aimed to cycle from Schumacher College to Land’s End, but these three problems caused me to call a halt to the cycling in St Austell and to take the train to Penzance.

First miles into Cornwall, on the edge of a windy cliff. The gear and rider weren’t tested to the extreme yet.

bottom of hill where my brakes stopped working

I met up with Gordon about two months before the tour and told him about my plans to cycle the end to end. He bought a touring bike a year before and was keen to test it out. I am not sure Gordon committed himself to cycle the end to end but he was definitely up for some adventure. I arrived to Penzance the day before we were supposed to meet, but Gordon informed me he was delayed due to the delay in delivery of a tent he bought on ebay. But no worries, he pointed me towards a very nice campsite I could relax the extra day.

The campsite was at Treen, a tiny village a couple of miles out of Penzance in the direction towards Land’s End. The way to get there was extraordinary, first there were the coastal towns that had a Mediterranean atmosphere, once going up the cliff-side there was a deserted plane than valleys cut along it. These valleys had a tropical micro climate and finally arriving at the campsite felt as being on a Caribbean Island. Despite the beauty I was surrounded by, there was not much time to fully enjoy because of the three problems I had to sort out, i.e. getting waterproof clothing, reducing my luggage and fixing my breaks. This was challenging to organise at a remote place with few public transport links and poor mobile coverage. Luckily I was able to enjoy the beautiful evenings and went to see a musical an open air cliff-side theatre. After one more day, Gordon arrived without his new tent, I got rid of another 6kg of luggage and we were ‘ready’ to go.

‘old’ versus ‘new’ brakes


Musical ‘Titanic’ in memory of the boat sailed along this coastline exactly 100 years ago that day

The next post will elaborate on the route we took:

  • Day 1 – 13/04/2012: Land’s End to Truro (45m or 72km)
  • Day 2 – 14/04/2012: Truro to Bodmin Moor (46.5m or 75km)
  • Day 3 – 15/04/2012: Dodmin Moor to Tarka trail (59m or 94km)
  • Day 4 – 16/04/2012: Tarka trail to Exmoor (51.5m or 83km)
  • Day 5 – 17/04/2012: Exmoor to Tirverton Parkway (26m or 42km)
  • 18/04/2012 – 27/04/2012: break (meditation in Hereford)
  • Day 6 – 28/04/2012: Tiverton Parkway to Taunton (25m or 40km)
  • Day 7 – 29/04/2012: Taunton to Wookey Hole (48.5m or 78km)
  • Day 8 – 30/04/2012: Wookey Hole to Bristol (46m or 74.5km)
  • Day 9 – 1/05/2012: Bristol to Forrest of Dean (30m or 48km)
  • Day 10 – 2/05/2012: Forrest of Dean to Black Mountains (46.5m or 75km)
  • Day 11 – 3/05/2012: Black Mountains to Newbridge on Wye (40m or 64km)
  • Day 12 – 4/05/2012: Newbridge on Wye to Machynlleth (52m or 83.5km)
  • Day 13 – 5/05/2012: Machynlleth to Blaenau Ffestiniog (42m or 67.5km)
  • 6/05/2012: break (visit friend on Isle of Anglesey)
  • Day 14 – 7/05/2012: Blaenau Ffestiniog to Caernarfon (30m or 48.5km)
  • Day 15 – 8/05/2012: Caernarfon to Holyhead (32.5m or 52km) + ferry to Dublin
  • 9/05/2012: break (visit friend in Dublin)
  • Day 16 – 10/05/2012: Dublin to Clogherhead (36m or 58km)
  • Day 17 – 11/05/2012: Clogherhead to Portadown (64m or 103km)
  • Day 18 – 12/05/2012: Portadown to Belfast (35m or 56.5km) + ferry to Cairnryan
  • Day 19 – 13/05/2012: Cairnryan to Maybole (66m or 106km) via Galloway Forrest Park
  • Day 20 – 14/05/2012: Maybole to Isle of Arran (37m or 59.5km) via Ardrossan-Brodick ferry
  • Day 21 – 15/05/2012: Isle of Arran to Loch Caolisport (35mor 56.5km) via Lochraza-Claonaig ferry
  • Day 22 – 16/05/2012: Loch Coalisport to Oban (59m or 95km)
  • 17/05/2012: break (Oban visit)
  • Day 23 – 18/05/2012: Craignure (Isle of Mull) to Malaig (85m or 137km) via Oban-Craignure ferry and Tobermory-Kilchoan ferry
  • Day 24 – 19/05/2012: Isle of Skye to Isle of Harris (64m or 103km) via Malaig-Armadale ferry and Uig-Tarbert ferry
  • Day 25 – 20/05/2012: Isle of Harris to Knockan (48m or 77km) via Stornaway-Ullapool ferry
  • Day 26 – 21/05/2012: Knockan to Durness (55m or 88.5km)
  • Day 27 – 22/05/2012: Durness to Thurso (71m or 114km)
  • Day 28 – 23/05/2012: Thurso to John o’Groats (21m or 34km)
  • total of about 1300m or 2100km

Continuity in disruptive times

October 27, 2012

After some time of silence at this blog, I am back with the first in a series of posts I am planning to write this month. So far 2012 has brought many challenging, changing and exciting moments for me and I want to share with you the highlights of my stories via this platform. I could blame my silence on multiple difficulties I encountered to write blogs on an iPad whilst on the move. But lets be honest and admit that in times the flow of life counts may interruptions, its easier to jump into the action than to document the story.

The previous post was written whilst preparing the challenge to cycle from Land’s End to John o’Groats. The tour took about 30 days and as you probably can see from the pictures, I’ve got a few stories to tell about what happened in between. I’ll keep this for the next post.

Lands’s End 13th April 2012

John o’Groats 23rd May 2012

In my previous post I also mentioned briefly that I took a course at Schumacher College. For over 20 years the college has been a place for transformative courses on sustainability. Back in 2008 I took a course in designing for sustainability which at that time gave me a leap in my professional development. The course I followed this time was titled “Cultivating an Ecoliterate Worldview: Person, Place and Practice”. The two week-residential was an experience that changed my values and reconnected me with the ecosystems we are part of. The course is still ongoing via a global study circle. Although I see the whole experience more as personal development, I might write a post about “design and innovation versus emergence and transition for sustainability”.

Dr Stephan Harding explaining 1 meter will represent 1 million years

During the 4.5km walk references are made to the 4.5 billion years geological and biological evolution of the earth

Last 20 centimetres introduces the human species on earth, last 2 millimetres the industrial revolution

Other personal development experiences since my last post included a ten-day Vipassana meditation course and volunteering on a later course. Vipassana is a meditation technique where, by experiencing the impermanence, you learn to eradicate yourself form misery by controlling deep behavioural patterns of craving and aversion. I would recommend everyone to try a course! An unexpected outcome of a course that only caters vegan meals is that I have overcome my phobia about eating fish.

In July I went to Italy to attend a summer school in designing the semi public space. Izmo associations, the organiser of the summer school, are a dynamic bunch of people somewhere between architects, researchers, design activist and just very nice Italians. I was particularly interested to attend because of the participatory design workshop and the realisation of community based design interventions. As you can see from the pictures there is a lot to tell about this experience, too much for this blogpost.

Participatory design workshop

design team and installation

After the summer school I began actively seeking work, i.e. job-hunting. In hunting terms I can say the climate is changing and this season isn’t going to bring an easy catch, a good time to master some survival skills! How I approach my hunt will be for a next post. What I can tell you for now is that I want to make sustainability happen via design and for this I am looking into three possible types of meaningful work:

  • eradicate poverty by designing products, services or systems in third world countries
  • supporting meaningful and good design by providing qualitative research services to any type of ‘sustainable designers’
  • creating systems change by bringing design-led approaches to policy development/delivery

Another challenge was, and still is, the ambiguity of me being an expatriate versus native. I haven’t relocated yet and have been hopping between the UK and Belgium finding a space to work anywhere with wifi or 3G. It’s an organisational and legal challenge and sometimes creates interpersonal difficulties. I can now say I have an temporary operating base in my hometown, Poperinge, Belgium. This situation not only taught me to travel light, but also to live light. It has also been a time of (re)connecting with friends, family and masters two languages simultaneously.

So the last half year brought adventure, professional development, personal mastering, hunting experience and a nomadic lifestyle. I am keen to use this blog to go into more detail on a few aspects of this transitional period, starting with a long post on the big cycle tour. Leave a reply below if you are interested in a particular story. You can also follow me on twitter for instant updates.

Cycling the UK

April 8, 2012

At the end of last year, I made a decision to leave my job at the Ecodesign Centre in Cardiff and to look out for other adventures. When I made the decision, I came to the realisation I have been living on the island for about half of my adult life. I am not sure yet where my next adventure will bring me, elsewhere in the UK or maybe somewhere totally else on this continent or planet. In any case, I would like to see, explore, experience and get to know the good sides of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). And as a keen cyclist wanting to get closer connected to the real world, I made a plan to cycle the four regions of the UK.

The big tour will go from Land’s End to John o’ Groats via Ireland. Gordon will be my companion along the way and we aim to start on Wednesday morning. I have commitments in Belgium on the 27th of May so that sets the deadline for the challenge.

My weapons of choice are a decent bicycle with trailer, decent camping gear and an iPad. I am not sure yet if the last one will bring me closer to the real world. At least it will help me to navigate and keep you updated on this blog.

I left Cardiff behind me two weeks ago for a warming up tour to Schumacher College in Devon. I left too late to get on time for my course at the college, so I cheated a little by taking the train from Bristol to Exeter. The main learning, from that was I that had too much stuff with me

It will be a cycle tour, not a race so there will be time along the way to reflect, explore, enjoy and to build on a plan for the next adventure after this challenge.

Last night in Wales

Crossing the bridge between Wales and England

Taking a bridleway as alternative for missing cyclepath leading to crossing river near Newton Abbot.

Spectators whilst cooking lunch in Devon.

A road safety question

February 5, 2012

Dear South Wales Police, Cardiff Council’s Road Safety Team and all residents of Cardiff

I am under the impression that cyclist lack acknowledgment as being a legitimate part of the traffic system. This could cause unconfident cyclists to be intimidated and confident cyclists to become arrogant. My impressions have been confirmed as you reported that many local residents raised concerns about cyclist riding on pavements and/or failing to obey red traffic lights.

In addition to this impression, I am starting to develop deep concerns about the polarisation between cyclists on the one hand and drivers and pedestrians on the other. This polarisation could manifest itself in two ways.

Firstly, the lack of awareness for each other’s road position. Businesses and motorist are systematically using cycle lanes and pavements as parking bays, pedestrians are often not expecting cyclists on shared facilities and cyclist thinking they have to ride in the car door zone, in the gutter (secondary position) or even in summer having to dress up as hi-vis Christmas trees.

Secondly, the lack of respect for each other’s road position. Motorists often dangerously overtake cyclists followed by cutting in sharply, the majority of pedestrians systematically ignoring red lights even during rush hour, a minority of outlaw cyclist ignoring red lights and highly skilled/equipped cyclist appearing more arrogant towards cars in order to reclaim their place on the road.
The Times Cities fit for cycling

This polarisation heads towards a culture where cycling is either not recognised as option for mobility, not being recognised as a legitimate activity, or being marginalised to a few minority groups. This is worrying, mainly for maintaining and improving road safety for all road users, but in addition to this, also for making Cardiff a more enjoyable and equitable city for all.

Despite all efforts to improve road safety for all road users, the Department of Transport most recent figures showed that killed and seriously injured (KSI) statistics for pedestrian, motorcycle and car users fell by between one and seven percent in the past year where as cyclist for the same period, however, increased by eight percent, including a four percent rise in the number killed.

These statistics feed my suspicion that the polarisation between cyclist and other road users is counter productive for cycle safety and I am hoping authorities can take action to counteract this trend. On the 25th of January, I was happy to find this leaflet attached to my bike outside Cardiff’s central library with a road safety message. In respect to my deep concerns for the increasing polarisation and decreasing road safety for cyclist, I was hoping to find an encouraging message, but instead read the following:

“In an effort to educate riders of the potential dangers they are creating for pedestrians and other road users, South Wales Police is working in partnership with Cardiff Council’s Road Safety Team to reduce the risk of a pedestrian, cyclist or other users being involved in a collision”

Genuine message? Read again and spot the nuance. This message stigmatises cyclist by hinting they need to be educated because they are the main source of danger on the road. Indeed cyclist can cause injury to other road users, but are you considering ‘a car’ as ‘the road user’? I challenge you to find a statistic that indicates a rider inflicted an injury to a driver. I applaud your attempt to stimulate cyclist to take training in order to gain confidence (further down the leaflet). But saying cyclist need education is failing to recognise that cyclists are legitimate road users.

Moreover, this leaflet highlights all the rules cyclist must or must not obey. I understand these rules are necessary to maintain road safety, however, there is a problem that cyclist cannot obey some of these rules in all cases. By, giving a few examples in the context of Cardiff, I hope to make you aware that there are systematic problems provoking cyclist to break the law.

Rule 64: You MUST NOT cycle on the Pavement.

Some roads are so daunting for cyclist that the pavement is the safer option. Roads with dual, triple or quadruple lanes without cycle facilities where the average speed is above 20mph can be very intimidating for cyclist. If these places are at the heart of Cardiff’s busy centre, it is inevitable that unintended law breaking behaviour is very visible to residents and tourists.

Single lanes with pinch points can also scare cyclist on the pavement. The illustration below is an example where most cyclist will choose the pavement. Where you see the bus, it is clear a cyclist can’t be overtaken. But its not uncommon drivers try to do so at the spot where the google picture is taken. I have found the guts to always take the primary position at this spot but this comes at the price that I am perceived as arrogant cyclist.

Rule 69 You MUST obey signs and traffic lights signals.

Due to improved infrastructure and the increase of dedicated signs for cyclist, cycle facilities in Cardiff are improving. But these improvements are very fragmented and in some cases miss any common sense. I have two examples for this.

The first example where obeying signs becomes absurd is the following. There are facilities in place to avoid the Gabalfa roundabout. But cycling further towards Caerphilly road, the signs will guide you onto the pavement in the opposite direction of a single direction, triple lane road. You can understand cyclist don’t like this. But if it is followed by a sign that makes an abrupt end to the cycle path, cyclist can’t see any logic in obeying signs like these. Moreover as you can see, drivers can not be aware of this and as a result this gives the public an impression that cyclist are law brakers.

Cyclist don’t question the importance of traffic lights, they are designed to allow flows of traffic to cross each other in a safe manner. Segregated cycle facilities are great because cyclist and/or pedestrians can cross each other without having to wait for lights. However, segregated cycle facilities need to link up with the road network. This second example illustrates that cyclist can’t go from the park into Corbett road. Since this google picture was taken, Cardiff Council have made many changes and created a connection to the main road, yet failed to provide cyclist nor pedestrians the option to enter Corbett road. The nearest crossing is 3 minutes walk from this point, one way. Hence many drivers might think crossing cyclist and pedestrians are red light jumpers, however their are no lights in place at all.

Rule 71 You MUST NOT cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red. Some junctions have an advanced stop line to enable you to wait and position yourself ahead of other traffic.

Because cyclist are mainly on the left side lanes, advanced cycle stops provide the opportunity to cut across multiple lanes before turning into a side road. The quadruple lane example mentioned before illustrates advanced cycle lanes are key in allowing cyclist to turn right. Its also great because it gives cyclist the possibility to breathe less polluted air. The following junction below is an example where the advanced cycle lane gives riders the possibility to wait whilst other traffic turns left. This junction is timed to have trafic turning in at the same time. You can imagine it is absolutely crucial for cyclist not crossing the line. But it’s not uncommon to find a car in this advanced cycle lane, note google also spotted the red car. An other aspect of being ahead of traffic is that you know when someone jumps a red light in front of you. Many advanced cycle lane users will be able to tell cars systematically speed up when lights flash amber and as result often jump red lights by split, yet crucial seconds. Jumping a red light on a bike is illegal and can be dangerous, jumping a red light using a motor vehicle is just as illegal but potentially causes a lot more death and injury.

I hope these few examples illustrate that following the cycling rules is not always possible for riders due to poor infrastructure, intimidating heavy traffic or some selfish drivers. Moreover, these unintended law-braking actions give cyclist a bad image. Road safety in Cardiff is everyone’s interest and responsibility. No pedestrian has been killed in collision with a cyclist either on the pavement or following a cyclist going through a red light in London in any of the last ten years. 54 pedestrians have been killed on the footway in collision with other vehicles in London over the last ten years. Cardiff is of total different size but you can see the trend. Based on this and the KSI figures, I have strong reasons to believe the residents’ concerns are based on perceived risk with a strong bias against something they don’t understand, i.e. cycling. I am concerned about this as this could results in inaccurate road safety assessment by pedestrians, cyclist, and motorist.

Cardiff Council has an obligation to facilitate local services such as traffic management and road safety. I know the council has a cycle strategy, did a cycle consultation and has a cycle officer appointed in order to improve cycle experiences in Cardiff. However, since you (South Wales Police, Cardiff Council’s Road Safety Team) distributed this road safety message, I am asking you directly what you are doing to improve cycle safety in Cardiff? I applaud your effort to crack down on outlaw cyclist and the attempt to encourage unconfident cyclist to take training. I am sure you are making more efforts to improve road safety in Cardiff. However is ‘educating’ cyclist the only effort you can make in reducing the risk of pedestrians, cyclist or other road users to be involved in a collision? Many drivers and pedestrians are unaware of cyclist or fail to anticipate to cyclists’ different road behaviour. A small group of drivers are intentionally ignorant to aknowledge cyclists’ rights to use public roads. So can you if your effort to improve road safety, on a regular basis, remind drivers they have obligations and responsibilities in sharing the roads with cyclists and pedestrians aswell.

Hi-vis Nation

May 8, 2011

Cycling and more specific cyclists’ roles and behaviour have been a hot topics of discussion in the UK over the last month. Highlights in this discussion are the revolting comments on a Daily Mail article, the Safe Our Cyclist campaign by The Independent and the AA ‘Cycle Safety Day’.

In my experience of cycling on both the continent and the island, I can say there is a cultural and infrastructural problem in the UK. For example, the flat where I live counts 10 bike racks over to 70 car spaces. Moreover, the five-story building does not have a ground floor any more … I can only find a “Car Park Level”. You can see you already have to be a bit rebel to get on a bike in this kind of place, but to really get somewhere, you have to be an outlaw! The reason for this is that only cars can trigger the gates. This leaves cyclist with the only option for ‘escaping’ or ‘entering the UK road network’ is via cycling on the pavement.

There are so many aspects of the cyclist-driver relationship I could go off in a rant, but maybe the AA ‘Cycle Safety Day’ could be the most relevant.

First, I don’t see why cycle safety should be a one-day concern, but let’s move on. The timing of their action demonstrates they totally miss the point. On the warmest and brightest day, they were handing out hi-vis and helmets. Are these attributes important to make cycling safer that day? The importance of helmets can be discussed (see video below) but I see their enforcement to move towards a hi-vis nation redundant and alienating.

The safety of cyclist in traffic should be paramount and I agree visibility of the cyclist is key in this. However hi-vis nation is not the right strategy for a multitude of reasons:

  • Hi-vis makes sense in dark and rainy winter weather. If drivers still can’t see cyclist during the day, they have a serious problem with their eyesight.
  • Cyclist should cycle in the primary position to be visible, communicate intentions and be able to anticipate to driver-errors. Wearing hi-vis would licence drivers to abolish cyclist’s primary position by intimidate them to the gutter.
  • I associate hi-vis with danger. When I am a cycling in a normal manner, I can’t see how I am a danger towards someone.
  • Hi-vis are not fashionable, they look like radioactive bin-bags! When there are probably 10.000 types of black to get your car painted in, hi-vis only comes in yellow and orange.

China visit (annexes)

December 12, 2010

China visit (part 2)

October 2, 2010

Hey DJ

September 10, 2010

Last night a question kept me awake. But first I should explain how that question came to my mind. I like to cook because this activity relaxes my brain. It’s even more relaxing when I’m listening to instrumental music.

I’m wondering if instrumental music improves the capacity for abstract thinking?

I think this question is relevant because I notice that British culture is rooted with vocal music. For example last weekend I watched on the BBC an enjoyable summary of the headlights of 40 years Glastonbury. Almost every song was vocal (and from a British band), the only exception was the Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela.

To me, vocal songs create a quick release of energy or emotion, while instrumental music either totally relaxes my brain or sparks future thinking.

Why is instrumental music lacking in Britain? Do the Brits pay more attention to the text than the music? Maybe the reason for this could be that they have never been exposed to foreign music.

If these assumptions would be right, can we change the British society (and others as well) to be more future, less short term pleasure oriented, by playing more instrumental music on the radio, bars, clubs and other public places. And than maybe a DJ can save some lives.

Fight the power!

May 5, 2010

Last weekend, I went up to Nottingham to visit a good friend who recently moved there. Like it fits in British culture, we went out to get some beers. But you may know that this culture is getting infamous for violence, vandalism, sexual abuse and other anti social behaviour. This is especially a problem in mid sized cities.
Being misled before, we decided to go dancing in a club that offered four rooms with “different music styles”. Once inside, soon we were dissatisfied with the cheesy one-size-fits-all music style, so we decided to make our way out to get some fresh air and “food”, and return later. We asked the bouncer if we could get back in later that night. He refused and some kind of tens fuss emerged in the hallway. The bouncer gave the impression to be aggressive and wanted to go outside with us. Being a pacifist myself, I argued we paid for a service, giving us access the whole night. The bounces got angrier and guided us to the exit. But ones he passed the counter, he gave back the money we paid to get in and told us “not to come back”. To our surprise, the entrance price was raised at that moment and the bouncer gave us back the actual price. For once “fighting the power” paid off!

But what does this anecdote learns us? It is often argued that the social problems are caused by alcohol abuse of the party people. I agree that this is the direct cause, however I think party people have genially intentions. Moreover, by going out, they strive to fulfil deeper needs of affection, leisure and identity. The strategy to fulfil these needs can be seen as being in a collective and celebrate this by chatting and dancing. So basically I don’t see anything wrong with that, it seems to work in other places and cultures. Of course there will always be conflicts emerging, but why is it a bigger problem in British mid sized towns?
I think the main cause have to be found in the business model the party industry follows. A bar, pub or club perceives every other bar, pub or club in town as a major competitor. So a bar, pub or club feels threatened and this causes multiple problems:

  • They get scared of people not liking the music, so they can’t play new or unknown music any more. The only music you hear are Kylie Minogue look alikes.
  • They get so confused where to innovate, they try to create a place which seems to have everything. Cheap drinks, food available, long opening times, even possibilities to have breakfast at Sunday morning or business meetings during the week, including wifi and other amenities.
  • They get so scared of you leaving, they will intimidate you for staying inside.
  • They also don’t understand they are actually offering a service and not a product. Even a high quality product like a luxurious cocktail is mainly a service, more specific its creation and consumption creates an “atmosphere” in the room. This misperception causes their competition is product (price) and not service (quality) driven.

Going back to what goes wrong in the mind of the party people. It is not only the alcohol that causes the problems, to my belief it is the whole atmosphere that is not fulfilling peoples needs. Monoculture and fake scarcity creates a feeling that is not satisfying identity and is pleasing affection and leisure in an unhealthy way. Maybe alcohol can be seen as triggering dissatisfaction?
Why isn’t the party industry following a business model based on a diverse ecosystem as opposed to only predators? Every place should foster a unique culture and be beneficial to other places. It seems to work in bigger cities and other countries.

To all the party people: Fight the power, not your friends!