How is Radio still so strong?!

radio1In the digital age that we live in, there is always something that we, as human beings, can turn to to make our lives easier. Cleaning has been simplified by the Vacuum Cleaner, Social Networking has been simpler to access on pretty much anything with an internet connection. But Entertainment is something which hasn’t been changed in any way in its basic form, but the ways in which we are entertained have changed dramatically.

In this day in age, it seems almost impossible to think of a time before digital entertainment didn’t exist, especially in those Under the age of 25. But most seem to rediscover their love of board/card games when there’s a powercut once in a blue moon… But since the early 20th Century, the developed world seemed addicted to one thing: The Wireless. It had everything anyone would ever need, news updates, drama series (entirely in narrative, still happening on BBC Radio 4 with “The Archers”) and even the playing of the music of the day.

It’s well documented that DJs of times gone by weren’t exactly the most socially desirable of the working masses. But somehow, the new era of the “Super-DJ” has managed to turn some of these vinyl-spinners into worldwide superstars. You only need to see the crowds that the likes of David Guetta and Calvin Harris have started to grab to see the utter transformation in recent times. Not only were former DJs described as having a “face for radio”, those poor people now have to suffer through current BBC Radio 1 DJs like Greg James and Nick Grimshaw becoming unlikely sex symbols among their female fans! (Had to be said… The sort of tweets you sometimes see are almost frightening!)

Perhaps what is most striking about this transformation of radio is how it has not only managed to survive this new age of Digital Downloads, it has flourished. Listeners can now customise their own musical playlists by listening only to the music that they want to listen to; but the radio hasn’t suffered from it, it seems. The Compact Disc effectively killed off the tape, the Digital Download has now all but made the CD obsolete, even the almighty TV hasn’t managed to shuffle radio into the status of ‘archaic contraption’. I mean, it’s almost everything that the radio can do, except you can see everything.

Almost everything about the modern era should take a little more wind out of the radio’s sail. But there’s one invention that you could arguably say that the radio has a friend in: Cars. It seems so simple, car journeys are boring. Everyone knows that; especially if you’re on your own in the morning on the way to work. So on the other side of the push of a button, is a more pleasant experience. Different radio stations play almost any sort of music imaginable, so there really is something for everyone out there (corny pun not intended, but the point is still valid!) like the TV schedules, every radio show will have its own staple features that will make people keep listening. To use BBC Radio 1 as the only example (simply because that’s all I ever have on!) Scott Mills has the now infamous “Innuendo Bingo” and the wonderful diary of Chris Stark “24 Years at the Tap End”, Greg James has “Ask the Nation”, Nick Grimshaw has “Showquizness”, and Zane Lowe picks a new “Hottest Record in the World” every day.

It’s also the interactivity and the rapport between DJ and listener that keeps people listening long into the show, because very simply, radio shows are very entertaining. Viewing figures for the most popular shows remain in the multi-millions, and artists still get their best exposure for their new single through radio airplay.

The radio should have suffered the same fate as the Walkman, or Heelies, or at least Tamagotchi by now. But it hasn’t. I suppose some things in the world are able to defy logic somehow…

So it all comes down to Brazil, again…

Motorsports: FIA Formula One World Championship 2011, Grand Prix of AustraliaFormula 1 isn’t exactly new to the concept of a last-race showdown. Anyone that knows the sport will agree that the 2012 season will deserve the grandstand finish that this year’s racing has merited. Two of the sport’s finest drivers, two World Championships each, both looking to become the youngest triple World Champion in history.

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are two of F1’s supposed “Big Three”, along with Lewis Hamilton (whom without reliability problems throughout the season, would almost certainly have been in this battle, too).

Vettel is gunning for his third consecutive title, but this situation will be new to him. This is the first time he will be leading the Championship going into the last race of the season (without having won it beforehand, by a mile…) so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the different kind of pressure. The points situation has been played out many times already, but here it is anyway, in case you missed it:
Vettel: 273 Points
Alonso: 260 Points

This is almost the exact polar opposite situation to 2010, in which Alonso was leading by 15 points going into the final race at Abu Dhabi, only for a strategic problem leaving him stranded behind the then Renault of Vitaly Petrov. Vettel sailed home to a comfortable, almost trademark win, and swiped the title from under the Spaniard’s nose. Who’s to say that that won’t happen again? The track at Interlagos is famous for providing changeable weather conditions, a fast layout and elevation changes that have caught out so many in the past. It’s even decided a Championship on the last corner of the last lap, so don’t go counting your metaphorical chickens too soon…

Some observers have rated Alonso’s consistency and his ability over the season to wrangle his car way beyond its limits as nothing short of staggering. His Ferrari was (now rather famously) 1.5 seconds off the pace in qualifying at the first race in Australia, but he still managed a podium out of it. At the next race in Malaysia, he showed his inherent calm under pressure from a flying Sergio Peréz to take the win in the wet. This relentless consistency has seen him at or around the top of the table all season, and many saying deservedly so. However, this hasn’t come without its problems. At Spa, Alonso was caught in the crossfire of Romain Grosjean testing whether a McLaren could fly into La Source. He was also dumped out of the race at the first corner in Japan, courtesy of a tussle between the sister Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen. Without those, needless to say he would’ve been far better off in the points tally.

The Red Bull of Vettel has had a mixed bag this season. He started the year in the third best car behind the McLaren and the then competitive Mercedes, and it’s safe to say that Vettel’s results reflected that speed early on. But he’s infamously meticulous with his team and he will push them as hard as he possibly can until they have a solid pace. This paid dividends when he had a pit-stop sized lead at the European Grand Prix in Valencia, only for an alternator failure to stop him in his tracks. Ironically, a charging Alonso came from 11th on the grid to take the 25 points there. The RB8 has been improving considerably every race, and they reaped the rewards under Vettel with four wins, a second and a third in the last six races, dropping just 17 points.

For Vettel to win the title, he needs to finish 4th or higher, regardless of where Alonso finishes. If he would be to finish 4th and Alonso won, he would win the title on account of having more race victories this season. So Alonso has to at least finish on the podium to stand any chance at all, a win would need Vettel to finish 5th or lower, a 2nd placed finish would need Vettel to finish 8th or lower, and a 3rd place would necessitate a 9th place finish or below for Vettel.

Unlike previous seasons, there are relatively few title permutations, so watching the race for the result should be relatively simple, for a change…

Alonso himself has said that he has “Nothing to lose”, and for a driver of his obvious pedigree, that is a pretty scary prospect for the rest of the grid. A Fernando Alonso on a mission is a driver that should strike fear into anyone that threatens to get in his way. Sunday will be the greatest test of Sebastian Vettel’s nerve as a driver, and of his overall character. Sceptics of his driving have said that he can only win from the front. Abu Dhabi would have disproved that wholly, to reach the podium from the pit lane is never easy, no matter how many strokes of luck you get.

So the stage is set for a weekend that will see one man placed among the all-time greats. If the rest of the season is anything to go by, prepare for a classic. I’m quite looking forward to this.

Remember, remember, the one night a year where Lewes goes up in flames!

Bonfire procession in LewesNovember the 5th is the day of the year where Britain will celebrate the flawed act of 17th Century terrorism by doing what Mr Fawkes couldn’t: making things explode. Granted, fireworks aren’t exactly the Houses of Parliament, but they’re a colourful and loud metaphor nonetheless. However, out of every celebration in the country (of which there are a few!) the pageantry and tradition of the East Sussex County Town stands head, shoulders, and quite possibly torso above the rest: The world famous Lewes Bonfire. Seven societies (the two earliest being founded in the 1850s) have been competing for over 150 years to put on the best show in the town; each representing a different area of Lewes.

Lewes is unlike any other town in terms of Bonfire Celebrations because it is a complete year-round occupation. When one celebration on the 5th ends, the planning for the next year starts almost immediately. Competition among the societies is such that each have claimed a pub as their headquarters, yet they probably all drink the same pints of Harvey’s when they meet…

The celebrations in Lewes aren’t just kept solely for those based in the town. Other societies from the surrounding towns and villages also get involved, adding to the feeling of inclusion for everyone. As someone that spends every day in the town, I can vouch for the fact that Lewes changes immeasurably for one night of the year. The first sign of the day is the firing of the cannon at 6am sharp. Then everything changes. The ‘Smugglers’ (society members) are all out in the town in the day to try and raise their funds for next year to run, each in their own coloured jumpers. Signs advertising each society adorn the high street and all the safety features are installed for the sudden influx of Non-Lewesians that line the streets four-five deep when the main procession starts.

The procession itself is always something to behold. An orange glow is seen from a long distance from hundreds upon hundreds of torches being carried by those marching, and eccentric period costumes are worn by others. The effigies themselves are kept top secret by the societies until the night itself. Each effort has to outdo that of the year before and that of each society. I happened to catch a glimpse of a society’s effigy (which shall remain nameless!) being moved from its warehouse, and I can conclude that there is definitely a theme befitting this year in Britain, read into that what you will…

Explosives go off left, right and centre; the visiting population is in the tens of thousands; and there are a copious amount of fireworks at the end of the night after each society retreats to their individual ‘headquarters’. Not bad to top it all off, is it? On that note, I’m off to see what all the fuss is about.