Death is a Fascist Bastard

“I feel sorry for you, you zeros, you nobodies. What’s going to live on after you die? Nothing, that’s what!

This house will become a shrine! And punks and skins and Rastas will all gather round and all hold their hands in sorrow for their fallen leader! And all the grown-ups will say, ‘But why are the kids crying?’ And the kids will say, ‘Haven’t you heard? Rick is dead! The People’s Poet is dead!’

And then one particularly sensitive and articulate teenager will say, ‘Why kids, do you understand nothing? How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems?’”

Rik Mayall as Rick in The Young Ones RIP

Oh God, why am I so much more sensitive than everybody else?
Why do I feel things so much more acutely than them, and understand so much more?  I bet I’m the first person who’s ever felt as rotten as this. Could it be that I’m going to grow up to be a great poet and thinker, and all those other wankers in my class are going to have to work in factories or go on the dole?
Yes, I think it could.

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

Quit Bumming Around – Do Something – An Open Letter

When I went through some very dark times, seven years ago, I was given some of the most invaluable advice I’ve ever received,

“If you find yourself in a bad place, find someone in a worse place than you and do something to help them. Amazingly you both find yourselves in a better place.”

Dear Bummer, Party-goer, Generous-giver or Performing Artist,
If YOU can MAKE THIS HAPPEN please make contact and SHARE as widely as possible !!! This event is the opening weekend of the EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL – so if you’re a comic or a performing artist it’s your last chance to try out ‘work in progress’

I am helping Juliette Sheerin, a friend from my childhood, to organise a fudraiser for the Intensive Care Unit in Dundee. Her son Sean was invovlved in a 200ft cliff fall, sustaining multiple injuries, a number of weeks ago and has only just come out of a coma. She and her son live in Arbroath but they are both from Rochdale originally and her uncle is the councillor in Castleton, the ever popular Billy Sheerin. Not my politics but he’ll always get my personal vote!

Juliette is keen to “give something back” to the ICU who have been tremendous. I on the otherhand just need to keep busy and keep the ‘black dog’ at bay.

Arbroath100To raise even more money for the ICU in Dundee I have designed a greetings card based on my draft promotional poster. A limited edition of 100 of the cards will be numbered and signed by Juliette and Bobby Nitro and sold for £5 each. Packs of the greetings cards will also be available for sale, suitable as birthday, anniversary and get well cards – we hope that these will be available at the hospital too, who will be the beneficiary of all of the sales.

It is also intended that a small number of large posters are produced, to be auctioned on the night. These posters will be a greater asset to the cause and have added QUODOS if they are SIGNED by sportspeople, CELEBRITIES or even Bobby Nitro himself!

Arbroath OrtonTo keep the printing costs of the large posters to a minimum I propose a redesigned poster using only red and black ink – this might replace the original greetings card design too.

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

A Star Is Born!

Well, what can I say?  Those who follow me on twitter know that I have difficulty limiting myself to 140 characters or less.  Well away from the cyber world and inviting the real world in to make one of its increasingly rare guest appearances, I can publicly announce that the secret is out.  Yes I have been ‘outed’.  There are two of us, or maybe three.  As my late mother used to say, “Us three make a fine pair if ever there was one!”  Me the consultant, writer and occasional blogger, known and loved by many (Note to Editor: Check facts before publication) and my alter-ego Mr Bobby Nitro.

Last night I made my Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival debut, delivering a thirty minute set as part of the Square Mile Smiles Showcase.  Leicester is one of the top five comedy festivals in the world according to the Guardian and it was a sell-out.

I’ve fought the ‘outing’ for a while.  Don’t worry I’m not buy-sexual, I don’t pay for it!  I was in two minds for long enough about the day job meeting the after-hours job but clients should fear not.  Names are always changed to protect the guilty.  So if you are that Whitehall mandarin and you’re worried about that ‘pickle’ that you got yourselves into before you invited me in to help-out (you know the one that was so bizarrely unbelievable that no-one would ever believe it) you’re safe! (clears throat).

facepic AndrewSo I’m now featured on the UK’s largest promotional website for comedians, appearing alongside the likes of Peter Kay and fellow goldbug Dominic Frisby (though it is a well documented fact on Kitco that all of my gold was lost in that boating accident!).  As the promo piece on Bobby Nitro says, “Everyone has talent. What is rare is the  courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads”.  Well in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king (I lost my left eye on a ’visit’ to Israel via Dhekelia Garrison eons ago).

I’ll be interested to see where the published article takes us, opportunities or repercussions?  Whatever the outcome, there is only one individual behind the mask and he continues to be driven by integrity and positive intent.  So your criticalfriend slays dragons, tilts at windmills and does ‘stand-up’ too but he remains a trusted advisor, he just needs to vent occasionally.

“‘Bobby  Nitro’ is the alter-ego of management consultant, writer, satirist and mentor  Andrew Hutchinson.  As the founder of criticalfriend.eu, featured on BBC Radio 4′s World at One, he has mixed with academics, politicians  and entrepreneurs whilst working for household names and government departments.  As a tested after-dinner  speaker, for an informed and educational take on leadership, management, the  economy, politics or the stories behind the headlines, Andrew has a growing  reputation for providing a unique take on events which is both challenging and  thought provoking, as he educates and entertains with positive intent.  With a wealth of material to  draw upon he has, by popular demand, added stand-up sets to his offering  enabling him to push the boundaries even further as he satirizes and ridicules  his paymasters.  Names are changed to  protect the guilty.

He believes in ‘working to  live’ and not ‘living to work’ and you are just as likely to find him jamming with  a French rock band in Burgundy, doing stand-up comedy in Budapest or delivering  after-dinner speeches in Sweden, as you are in the boardroom.”

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

Using the Press

A fascinating fact has just arrived in my inbox from HARO, one of the leading platforms used by independent journalists, researchers and media professionals. Do you know what two thirds of North American journalists do once a week? Abusive responses, ignored. They use press releases. Don’t be too shocked, even in the age of tweets, pins and likes, press releases are as relevant and vital as ever.

B photoYou can learn all that you need to know about maximizing this important vehicle with the mononews e-Guide to the Press Release. It features everything from best practices in preparation, format and content to how to construct sharable releases for the social web. This thirty-five page document is no less than the ultimate resource for a new generation of press releases. And it comes from a reliable source since mononews is the leading lifestyle news distribution service in Canada. It is a must-read guide for all communications professionals and those wanting to learn about the industry.

All rights reserved © 2013 Andrew Hutchinson

Interview Tips

As a consultant, a blogger, an article writer, or simply in looking for new material for my presentations and stand-up sets, I get to interview a lot of people.  In this brief article I’m going to share some of my tips with you.

In general:

  • Don’t over schedule – 3 x 1 hour interviews are a full day’s worth of work;
  • Save the big cheese to the last – when you’re more informed;
  • Find a comfy nest – pleasant, casual and neutral, with a few armchairs, a whiteboard, coffee-machine and no telephone;
  • Prepare – several pages of questions;
  • Don’t tire of asking, “Please give me an example?”

Remember that the main purpose of an interview is to gather stories and illustrations, so:

  • Measure your effectiveness by the number of sagas produced;
  • Don’t stop digging until you understand.;
  • Ask stupid questions, you’ll feel stupid afterwards if you didn’t ask the obvious;
  • Think small – get the details!

A Adefoun 2

Particularly in a work setting:

  • You want practical illustrations of things which work, or don’t;
  • Discover “the way we do things around here”, get the interviewee to jot down 10 statements which characterise the culture OR bring your best culture statements and ask interviewee to score on a 10 point scale from agree to disagree;
  •  Picture” a day in the life”;
  • How, exactly, did you spend your time yesterday?

And no matter what the setting, who you are interviewing or why you are carrying out the interview:

  • Don’t let your notes age;
  • After each interview write down 6 impressions and fill in the gaps in the notes;
  • Practice and observe other great interviewers;
  • Watch the processes others use and reflect on own;
  • What did you miss or fail to follow up on?

Good luck, feel free to let me know how you get on.

All rights reserved © 2013 Andrew Hutchinson

Life Instructions

Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO at HubSpot and Blogger at OnStartups.com has ruffled a few feathers with his post on How To Get Press: Don’t Pitch Your Product on LinkedIn.  He tells us all that most pitches fall flat and are likely to be completely ignored.  He tells us that when we offer to help people we should solve problems and help them to learn from our mistakes.  By doing this he suggests that bloggers and writers will be a lot more interested.  You know I think that he makes a very good point.  While you may think the “5 steps to” or “4 ways to” approach is overdone, keep in mind readers love them… and even if I decide not to frame the story that way, developing mental bullet points ahead of time is a great way to organise your information.

Well my accumulated wisdom boils down to a very simple set of rules:

Life Instructions

It really is that simple.  So whatever you do, wherever you are, see if they make a difference for you and let me know how you get on.

Room With A View

A recent conversation about things that matter got me thinking and prompted me to dig deep and share a story, a fictional one of course.

Two men, one young and one old, shared the same hospital side ward. The older man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The younger man had to spend all of his time lay flat on his back recovering from a motorcycle accident. The men talked for hours on end.  The older spoke of his late wife, the son and his family that he was estranged from, his war time experiences in France and Korea and his adjustment to ‘civvy street’ and the monotony of a back room desk job.  The younger shared his stories of ‘nights on the town’, his girlfriends, his music, his love of travel and his anxiety over the the things he may never be able to do again and the places he may never see.

Every afternoon the older man, with his bed by the window, would sit up and pass the time describing all of the things that he could see.  He would describe in detail the pretty girls in their summer dresses, the birds returning to the nest with food for their young.  Every evening the younger man’s mother and father or some other family member or friend would make the long journey and visit.  The love was always there but the conversation though always polite were sometimes strained as he had to tell his visitors not to worry, that he was alright, that everything would be okay.  Inside he didn’t know if he believed it all himself, he felt angry, frustrated, tired.  He read that you never appreciate the freedom of movement until it is taken away from you, the freedom to get up and walk from one place to another, to stretch, to run, to leap.  The older man always slept through his roommate’s visits.  As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months the young man lived for those one hour slots when his senses were exercised and his world came alive as the old man shared his view of the park, the trees, the sun shining on his face, the rain which sounded so refreshing, not like the drizzle that the young man remembered.  He heard an ice cream van once and the old man described the young lovers he could see sharing an ice cream, God he could taste it the image was so vivid.  The life, the colour, the fun, all of it out there beyond the window, all of it waiting for him.  Yes there were loves to be loved and a life to be lived.  He would ride that bike again, he would leave this bed and he would live a life.

He remembered the previous night’s routine of being woken up to take his sleeping tablet but this morning he came around more slowly than usual.  Usually he was shaken from his slumber by one of the morning rottweilers in green, given his meds and dabbed with a damp flannel but not this morning.  He strained to look sideways but could only see the top of the curtains drawn around his bed.  There were hushed voices and the noise of a trolley being wheeled away, then silence.  A long, long silence.  He waited until later in the day and when it seemed appropriate asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse checked and returned later with a colleague, happy to oblige.  Just one week later and he was free of his contraption, free of his shackles, free of the weights and pulleys.  Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take in the view, to see the pretty girls, the birds in the trees, the office workers strolling in the park.

A wall, a bloody wall, a side on view of another building.  No park, no trees, no pretty girls.  Months in here and he’d never shouted.  Months in here and he’d always used the buzzer, waiting patiently, never shouting, “Nurse, nurse”.  He was shouting now, “Nurse, nurse”.  God they flooded in.  “So what happened, when did they build that?”  Later he lay there still, motionless, smiling, a tear rolling down his cheek.  They’d told him that the building had always been there.  When he told them what the old man had shared with him, what the old man had seem, they just looked at each other puzzled.  They just smiled.  The words echoed around his head, “He was blind”, the old man was blind.  He’d lost his sight as a young man in Korea and his wife who had cared for him had died six years earlier before he was diagnosed with his illness.  He’d fallen and broken his hip and not had a single visitor.  He’d had no-one but he’d given the gift of hope to the young man who shared his room.

IMG00414-20110505-1821crash

The origin of this story is unknown but I do know that when you have nothing to give, you can share happiness and you can give hope.  You can have every material possession that you ever needed or wanted but there are still those who will be richer.   If you want to feel rich, just count all of the things you have that money can’t buy.

All rights reserved © 2013 Andrew Hutchinson

17 Ways to Murder an Idea

It must be ten or fifteen years since I first came across 17 Ways to Murder an Idea.  I think that they were published by the Synectics Corporation in one of their promotional booklets of the time. Their excellence in the field of creativity and ideas generation is second to none. It fact at some point I’ll talk about synectics as a technique and how I’ve used it to great effect over the years but for now…….

Still as relevant today as they were all of those years ago.  Enjoy!

17 Ways to Murder an Idea

  1. See it coming and change the subject
  2. Ignore it. Dead silence intimidates all but the most enthusiastic
  3. Feign interest but do nothing about it. This at least prevents the originator from taking it elsewhere
  4. Scorn it. “You’re joking, of course”. Make sure to get your comment in before the idea is fully explained
  5. Laugh it off. “Ho, ho, ho, that’s a good one. You must have been awake all night thinking that up.”
  6. Praise it to death. By the time you have expounded its merits for five minutes everyone else will hate it
  7. Mention that it has never been tried before. If the idea is genuinely original, this is certain to be true. Alternatively, say, “If the idea’s so wonderful, why hasn’t someone else already tried it?”
  8. Say, “Oh, we’ve tried that before” – even if it’s not true. Particularly effective with new-comers. It makes them realise what complete outsiders they are.
  9. Come up with a competitive idea. This can be a dangerous tactic, however, as you might still be left with an idea to follow up.
  10. Stall it with any of the following: “We’re not ready for it yet, but in the fullness of time…”; “I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time, but right now…”; “Let’s wait until the new organisation has settled down…”
  11. Modify it out of existence. This is elegant, you seem to be helping the idea along, just changing it a bit here and there. By the time the originator realises what’s happening, the idea is dead.
  12. Try to chip bits off it. If you fiddle with an idea long enough, it may fall to pieces
  13. Make a strong personal attack on the originator. By the time he or she has recovered, the idea won’t seem so important
  14. Appoint a committee to sit on the idea. As Sir Barnett Cox observed, “A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured, then quietly strangled.”
  15. Drown it in cold water, as in: ‘We haven’t got the staff to do it…the intangible risks would be too great…that’s all very well in theory, but in real life…’
  16. Return it to sender with, “You need to be much more specific about your proposal.”
  17. If all fails, encourage the originator to look for a better idea. Usually a discouraging quest!

All rights reserved © 2013 Andrew Hutchinson

By the Riverside

Leicester’s Riverside Festival has been taking place. This waterfront extravaganza centred on Bede Park, Mile Straight, Western Boulevard and Castle Gardens is Sponsored by Riverside, the housing association (yes the same outfit as the one which I developed a landscaping and grounds maintenance tender for). I will say that the grass was cut to perfection and going off some of the smiles I was being given, possibly being smoked too! (I may be prepping for a video-interview on RT but believe me I have a face for radio, it does not invite smiles but sniggers.)   The Riverside Festival is the sort of event which brings together a rich and diverse mix.  My clan are the mavericks, the vagabonds, the mad scientists, the gypsies, the theatre people, the artists, the musicians, the deviants, the radicals, the outsiders and you … and you … and you.

R MUSIC R M2The festival was launched by City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby whom I caught up with in the fruit ‘n veg section of Tesco the evening before (we knew each other from my days as ‘bagman’ to former council leader Roger Blackmore – whose son Julian’s hit musical Spandex has just opened Off Broadway in New York and is featured on Fox News).  With a full programme of musical performances including Kenworthy, the Pamella Moo Band, winner of the Kinks’ Cover Competition, and Leaving Party, the winners of the Original Band Showcase everyone was fully entertained.

Also in attendance were the Mile2 team from De Montfort University.  Square Mile is the brainchild of Professor Dominic Shellard, the Vice Chancellor of DMU.  The idea came about as a result of his belief that ‘universities are a public good’.  The ethos of the project is to provide life-changing opportunities to a community within one square mile of the university’s campus.  One of the many initiatives is to train up amateur comedians, as home-grown talent,for a show as part of the Leicester Comedy Festival with coaching provided by comedian and promoter Alan Seaman.  Those who know me via my alter-ego Bobby Nitro will know that this is a project close to my own heart too.  The whole range of M2 initiatives are a wonderful endeavour, worthy of your support and time, so step up, especially if you’re local.

The Arts Street Market was for me a particular winner, as part of my quest is to promote entrepreneurial initiatives, all the better if they support a green agenda of sustainability and provide a utilitarian offering too.  Wood sculptor Ian Freemantle demonstrated his skills inspired by nature to onlookers young and old alike, wielding his chainsaw – impressive! (The oak stool featured is now part of my collection.)

R STOOLR CARVE

Basket maker Maggie Cooper’s full size model of a horse was a talking point for revellers and provided some shade for those who had made an early start that morning - not knowing whether they were going to suffer from sunstroke of frostbite, such are the peculiarities of the English Summer.

R HORSER MAGGIE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course sustenance is never far from the mind of this real ale drinking, Chesterfield smoking consultant-cum-comedian.  To quench the thirst, some excellent cask ales were provided in the beer tent by the Orange Tree group (yes, I worked with the founders prior to its launch in 1997 at ‘Faulty Towers’, also known as the New Walk Centre, they in media advertising, me as a consultant in the Chief Exec’s office at the top of the ivory tower that is Leicester City Council’s hub).

From an early age my love of all things spicy taught me to put a roll of toilet paper in the fridge last thing at night before retiring to bed.  Well the spicy offering from the transition deli stand certainly didn’t disappoint.  Transition Leicester, who were offering their wares is a growing network of local people working together to develop positive solutions to some of our communities’ major challenges, including: climate change; dwindling fossil fuels; and the economic crisis.  Everyone is a volunteer, following their own interests or getting support for seed funding.

Staying with the food, the offering from master pie makers Brocklebys didn’t disappoint either.  The Beaver Pie with tender pieces of local beef steak in a rich Beaver Ale gravy wrapped in a short-crust butter pastry parcel went down a treat. Best served with a rich gravy I was advised by Tim as I found a rival to my comedy routine.  I await the launch of the Brazilian Pie, a trimmed pork sausage offering, where using a little milk on a brush they glue the pastry flaps holding the sausage roll together when it’s in the oven.  Perhaps that’s one pie best taken with a pinch of salt!

R samosaR BEAVER

All rights reserved © 2013 Andrew Hutchinson

Be Outraged

Thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends and colleagues of Drummer Lee Rigby, of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, from Middleton, Rochdale, victim of the cowardly and barbaric attack in Woolwich.

Rigby

What happened on the streets of London yesterday was savage, barbaric and indefensible.  Footage emerged afterwards on the ITV website, of a man wielding a bloodied meat cleaver speaking to the camera, making political statements, saying: “We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

I share the sense of outrage. I share the anger and revulsion and I expect that the darkest depths of hell are reserved for those who perpetrate cowardly acts of savagery such as this, attempting to decapitate a man, after running him down with a car and subjecting him to a disembowelling in a frenzied machette attack.  Humanity has every right to feel a little less human.

It was Stalin who said, “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.”  It is on a single act of savagery that we can reflect because a single act, directed at a single soul echoes the thought that there but for the grace of God goes each of us.  It is identifiable, recognisable and relatable to each of us.  The tragedy of the lives lost in all acts of terror, be they the victims of IEDs, suicide bombings or drone strikes is just as great but somehow they get lost, sanitised in the daily diet of death and destruction that invades the comfort of our living rooms, that desensitises and eats away at the humanity of each of us on a daily basis.

I understand the desire for revenge, I know the demons that make the blood boil, the venting of anger on social media that gives way to a vicious circle of anger and despair.  Let none of us lose the opportunity to reflect.  Do not let hate destroy us.  Redirect your energy into your own personal journey of self-discovery, which in turn advances the journey of humanity.

Do not let our Government hijack this tragedy to advance its own agenda.  Terrorism is the act of instilling a sense of terror.  Successive Western governments have post 911, used a climate of fear to advance an ever more sinister agenda in the name of freedom.  George Orwell’s 1984 has been seen not so much as a novel but a user manual.  In the words of Benjamin Franklin those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.

Our entire system is politically, morally and intellectually bankrupt.  According to the National Audit Office, the UK National Debt rose by £850bn as a result of the Bank Bailout. This is a figure which is nearly two times the country’s total annual budget.  That’s funding the NHS for eight years; the education system for twenty years or Job Seekers allowance for two hundred years.

Forget the service sector, financial terrorism is our growth industry, whether it is rigging LIBOR, mis-selling PPI, breaking trade sanctions or laundering money for drug cartels.  HSBC which now owns three NHS hospitals in Barnet, Middlesex and West Middlesex was recently found guilty of creating a whole subsidiary bank in order to launder money for Mexican drug cartels, whose victims have been decapitated by the roadsides.  Over ninety pieces of tax payer funded public infrastructure, mostly schools and hospitals, have been transferred into the ownership of banks who set up shell companies, registered in offshore tax havens to complete the deals and avoid paying taxes.

I was once given some wonderful advice:  If you don’t know what to write about, write about what makes you angry, what pisses you off.  Well this angry ‘young’ man is pissed off.  I am no ‘clean skin’.  I was a socialist at twenty, a conservative at thirty, a libertarian at forty and I can see the merits of anarchy at fifty.  I will not be a terrorist at sixty and I do not wish to see any more martyrs or terrorists.  Be outraged but redirect your anger.  Give to Help for Heroes, give to your local mosque, support your church, close your HSBC account.  For God’s sake do something and advance the cause of humanity for we are all its children.

Postscript

Should the family of Drummer Lee Rigby, of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, be in agreement I for one would like to see his funeral marked by a national two minutes of silence to commemorate his sacrifice and that of all of the fallen.

All rights reserved © 2013 Andrew Hutchinson