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Pledges for my new beer book - Miracle Brew - are now closed. Book is out 1st June and available for pre-order here.
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Sunday, 17 June 2007

Media hubris - holding the tiger by the tail

So The Culture Show dropped the feature on pubs that I spent half a day filming with them, after coming home a day early from holiday to do it. Shit like this happens, and I'm getting used to it - it just makes you feel a bit daft after telling everyone it's going to be on, having the top bods at the British Beer and Pub Association set their DVDs, and then... nothing.

They could have let me know, that's all. But then, the people I'd been working with on the piece had spent a week travelling around the country, working until 3am some mornings then getting up and starting again early the next day. Maybe they were too pissed off and personally affronted at the feature being dropped to even think of letting me know.

I've got an ego - anyone prepared to see a book through to completion does it because they're either egotistical, or a genius who will go mad if they don't get it out of their heads, and I'm pretty certain I'm not in the latter camp. And anyone who stands up in front of people to read their stuff, or go on TV or radio to talk about it, or have a grinning picture taken for a newspaper, genius or not, has to have a pretty strong ego. Guilty as charged, and it hurts the ego when you get dropped from a show because they've got a big interview with someone like, say, Lou Reed. I mean, who? What has he contributed to popular culture over the last 40-odd years?

But the desire to see myself on screen is not just an ego thing and something for my mum to talk about, it's also driven by the desire to see beer and pubs get a better deal in our national media. So while there's a temptation to throw my toys out of the pram and wail that it's not fair, you have to take it on the chin and get back in there.

Beer is the UK's most popular drink - more than soft drinks, more than wine. And yet there is no single UK magazine or newspaper that features regular coverage of beer (they nearly all have weekly wine columns). And even people who don't like beer would readily admit that the pub is a pretty major part of our cultural DNA. The last TV series about beer was Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter - which was made in 1991 and hasn't been repeated since it first aired. There are people now approaching legal drinking age who were not born the last time there was a TV series on air about our national drink.

So what can we do? We keep trying. (And that's not the royal we - this situation is something many of my fellow beer writers are wearily familiar with). Doors are starting to open, media people are becoming more receptive to the idea of giving beer some airtime, they're starting to initiate contact with beer people themselves, without us constantly selling the idea to them.

My BBC Radio Wales interview lasted half an hour, and apart from the rather worrying fact that the host felt the need to insert a "now remember, we're not advocating heavy drinking, there are real dirnking problems and you should always remember to drink responsibly" disclaimer every time I spoke about actually drinking the stuff (I hope this is not the start of yet another paternalistic trend) it went really well, and it was obviously of interest.

And I recorded an episode of UKTV Food's Market Kitchen this week, and Tana Ramsay, Gordon's wife, even seemed to quite like a couple of the Golden ales we were tasting. Barring Lou Reed showing up to cook a mean Eggs Benedict (it somehow seems like Lou's signature dish - I don't know why) that episode will be airing on June 28th.

If you want to see more stuff about beer on your TV or in your newspaper, write in and tell them. It's going to happen eventually. But it would be nice if things sped up a bit.


BLTP said...

Not to mention that my nephew missed Dr Who bacause his parents where glued to BBC2 waiting for your bit to come on. I wouldn't have minded but the delightful Lauren's interview with Lou Reed would have made Lorriane Kelly blush it was so lightweight. Also Lou god love him has never said anything remotely interesting in interview ever. And why Andrew Graham Dixon couldn't use a water bus in Venice instead of spending my £119 licence fee on a water taxis is anyone guess, you were robbed mate. Also Graham (the other one from Leeds) will never believe me you exist now he thinks I have a made friend who "writes" books and "appears" on the tv.

Stonch said...

Your nephew missed a good episode of Doctor Who. Derek Jacobi was in it and the Doctor's nemesis the Master returned. Excellent stuff.

BLTP said...

Thanks for the plot spoiler stonch I usually watch it on a friday! They can't sadly as they live in valleym with no digitial not until 2010 or something. Shame about Pete's beer film though.

Stonch said...

bltp, sorry for the spoiler, still it's been heavily hinted at in trailers anyway!

Pete, it is a shame about your film. I'd stress I'm not a professional writer (you can probably tell from my blog!), but I was unexpectedly commissioned to write something recently. Did so and then it didn't get used! Bloody annoying really. So I have an idea of how you feel!

Cheers pal

thebeergod said...

sorry to see that you weren’t used on the TV on Sat, I completely forgot about it after watching Dr Who, was trying to get lad to go to bed but he wanted to watch that rubbish UK-has-no-talent. Lou Reed doesn’t even like the media, there was an interview with him in the Telegraph mag recently and the journalist had to sit through lunch with LR and his manager and Reed didn’t address him once until it was time for the interview; what’s he done that’s been any good recently, Berlin, er that was 1973, the Velvets’ Loaded album…that’s it.
Beer will have its day…