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The Vacuum - Issue 14 - Media spacer The Vacuum - Issue 14 - Media
Media, Media, Media
by Bill Drummond
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Right now I am in the Arcadia Café chopping up vegetables and adding them to a big pan that is sitting on the stove. The pan is on a low heat and the vegetables are sweating a treat. I'm making soup; I call it Big Pan soup. This rather vague title allows me to play fast and loose with the recipe depending on what ingredients I can get my hands on. Stephen Hackett, the editor of this publication just popped into the Arcadia a few minutes ago and asked me to write between 800 and 1200 words about the media. 'What aspect of the media?' I asked Stephen. 'Whatever you want,' he replied.
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I guessed he was asking me because in the past a number of the things I had been involved in existed primarily within the realm of what we these days call the media the chattering of radio, television and the press. Some people might even have made the observation that I have used the media as my medium.
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For those of you who don't know, the Arcadia Café is in the North Street Arcade, Belfast city centre. It's the type of café every city should have. I have thought this ever since I first dined here in May 2000. It is warm and friendly, and vaguely bohemian but without pretensions. A place where the sexually diverse and the third-generation goth can take their time over a cup of tea. Debbie and Mark Hadden run it. I don't know if they would approve of the way I have described their place.
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Has what I have written so far got anything to do with the media? Maybe not, but making this soup has. I got up this morning at 5.45, then drove to Luton airport. Got the EasyJet over to Belfast International in order to be at the Arcadia Café with my two bags of vegetables and other ingredients by 10am, when Debbie opens up.
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I started chopping vegetables at 10.05, onions first. The soup has to be ready by 12.15, and I'm concerned it won't be ready in time. Like love, soup can not be hurried. I have written elsewhere why making soup is important to me so I'm not going to write about it again here. 'Sod why or why not soup is so important to him, he still hasn't written about the media.'
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At 12.15 in the John Hewitt (a public house not 100 yards from the Arcadia) Sean Kelly will take to the mike to welcome a packed bar full of men and women from the media to the press launch of the 2004 Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. I will be there with a big pan of soup, ladling it out into polystyrene cups to the aforementioned media folk in an attempt to promote my involvement in this year's festival. 'And that is?' 'To construct the Irish section of The Soup Line.' 'And that is?' I will negotiate with Stephen Hackett that in lieu of payment for these words written about the media, this Issue of Vacuum will carry a full-page advertisement to inform the readers of the whats, whys and hows of The Soup Line.
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And yeah, before you start going on about how it is I can be writing all this down at the same time as making soup, I'm not. What I'm doing is thinking the words up while I'm chopping a bunch of celery in the hope that I can remember them long enough so that I can then write them down in my notebook on the flight back to Luton later today.
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Some time ago, over 12 years ago in fact, I was involved in pop music. Now we all know that without the media, pop music couldn't exist. From the lowly fanzine to the might of MTV, pop music is defined by the media. As the media evolves, so does pop music. As the download generation expands, the ways in which pop music is made, financed, promoted or not will radically change. You know that. I know that. Every soddin' student on a Media Studies BA course knows that. But do they know how to make Big Pan soup?
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After I brought my involvement with pop music to a close, my creative partner, Jimmy Cauty and I embarked on The K Foundation, a venture where everything we did existed almost entirely in the realm of the media. It was either The K Foundation placing adverts in the media, or the media discussing what The K Foundation was proposing in these adverts. At least with pop music there could still be communication between the artist and the individual who was emotionally moved by your music in the seclusion of their bedroom or on the dancefloor of a club.
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At the time, the K Foundation thing seemed to us so much purer and simpler than making even more commodities that the world didn't need. We thought what we did could stand as pure idea in people's minds and not be sullied by the comings and goings of the market place.
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What we didn't reckon on was that when we took the commodity the actual thing you can touch, look at, listen to out of the equation, what was left was not pure idea but the chattering of the media. People experienced and judged what we did via this chattering and we had no control over it.
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So we stopped. Or at least I retreated. But I found myself in a situation where whatever I did was judged within the context of media chatter about my past doings. Of course my situation was nothing new anybody who has ever done anything that has ended up in the public gaze will have had their subsequent actions judged in the same way.
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As my urge to create has not diminished, I found myself attempting more and more to evolve outlets for the satisfaction of this urge without my name and whatever baggage that comes with it being involved. I hoped that this output could stand alone and exist in its own right, not be dragged down by my own history.
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Some of these activities have been more successful than others. This soupmaking has been one of the less successful. Making soup and sharing it with others is in itself a pretty straightforward activity. It needs no explanation, occasions no chattering from the media. Even wanting to make something called The Soup Line is innocent enough. But making a poster, the one that I hope is printed as an advertisement in Vacuum not too far from this text, is not. It drags with it all the baggage that I want to escape from. The subtext, whether I like it or not, reads, 'Have one of those blokes who made a record with Tammy Wynette and then burned a million quid come round to your house.'
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So while I have been thinking all of this I have almost finished making the soup. It is 12.10 and I'm just about to walk the 100 yards from the Arcadia to the John Hewitt, which will now be crammed with those men and women I spoke of before. And making this soup has had nothing to do with what I originally wanted making soup for people to be about. This is little more than a publicity stunt to promote the Soup Line thing in the media.
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