Monthly Archives: January 2010

Is Chester safe after dark?

I’m not much of a night owl these days. With a small child at home, I’m more likely to be found reading bedtime stories than out on the town.

An article on the Guardian’s website caught my eye, however. The piece about Chester’s budget eats is more top-10 standard fare. Some of the tips are pretty decent, although Cestrians may baulk at inclusion of DeliKate (below, right) with its surly staff.


But the comments section – you gotta love the comments section – provides a more stimulating read, especially the bit about Chester par nuit. Try this for size:

‘In the evening the town centre seems to be entirely populated by youths in Corsa’s and Saxo’s driving at breakneck speed and slowing down only to stick their pimply little heads out the window to shout racial abuse and tell you to go home.’

I’m hardly a regular at the Cruise nightclub, or often found propping up the bar in Brannigans, but is Chester really that bad after dark?

The comments come soon after local tourism authorities revealed plans for a £20m economic boost to the city, aiming to of attract an extra 200,000 visitors.

The centrepiece of the initiative is Rhino Mania, a project involving 70 life-size fibreglass rhinos to form a tourist trail around the city.

Hoodies in Corsas or rhinos hiding in the bushes – has anyone else had a bad experience in Chester after dark?

And is this harming Chester’s image as a tourist-spot city?

Post your comments below.


Filed under Chester

A night in the Lake District – for £9.99pp

The Open for Business campaign in the Lake District rolls forward in the aftermath of the flooding last November.

The natural disaster cost the region some £2.6m in lost business.

The latest initiative is for a bargain Sunday night stay with breakfast at one of 40 accommodation providers across the region. It runs until the first Sunday in February.

The press campaign is now under way, directing people to the bookings website.

Amongst the featured properties is Number 43 at Arnside, an über-cool boutique guesthouse in the South Lakes.

I’ll be blogging more about ways to support tourism in the Lakes in the weeks to come.

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Filed under Lake District

Rewired: the future of journalism is online

You couldn’t move for TweetDecks and iPhones at City University yesterday for the news:rewired conference.

Having relaunched Hit the North over Christmas, I was there to hear the speakers speculate on the future of journalism and ponder how I’ll apply these ideas to my own travel writing.

Overall, there was a lot of talk but not many conclusions from the day. Travel was poorly represented with just @coastmag and @timestravel joining me on the delegate list.


Fast evolving

A few common themes did crop up consistently throughout the day. Firstly, the media all changing so fast that nobody really seems to know where it’s heading.

In the words of Kevin Marsh of the BBC College of Journalism, “If you think you’ve got the answer, then you didn’t understand the question.”

His advice: “Accept the mindset you need to relearn; cruise and surf to find the best; think about what you do well and extract the value of new skills.”

A good story

The other recurring motif is the need for quality content. In other words, while the technology can facilitate new ways of presenting information, technical skill is no replacement for a well-written story with a strong angle, compelling characters and direct speech.

Multi-media journalist @adamwestbrook spoke of finding the narrative arc in an audio slideshow, while radio expert @newsleader advised to understand how each platform enriches the story telling and use it to the best advantage.

The last word

Wrapping up, Greg Hadfield, the recently departed head of digital media at, says “Newspapers are about to die in one sense. The future is about trying to build a new breed of journalism. You cannot be a good journalist now without being an entrepreneur.”

There’s an audioBoo extract of his talk here.

The next move

So, where does all this leave Hit the North? Making my own way through the ever-changing landscape and learning as I go.

Expect more experimentation on this site and join me on the ride into the unknown.

* You can follow more of the discussion on Twitter at #newsrw.

* There’s an update on the Hadfield story here.

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Filed under Online writing, Travel

Morocco or Manchester – why I’m staying local this year

Atlas Mountains

La Palmerie, Marrakech. The first week of January. I’m sitting in a chic, riad-style guesthouse and pondering freelance life.

Palm trees sway above the open roof, Moorish stylings set the mood and a waiter pours mint tea with the extravagant histrionics that come with years of practice.

The setting could ideal but staying in La Palmerie feels like a hollow experience.

Major reservations

Maybe it’s the perennial poser of the travel writer living beyond their budget and finding myself counting secretly Euros while perusing the lunch menu.

Maybe it’s the way a brief stroll outside the ornate gates contrasts raw poverty with the hushed reverence of the dining room back within the compound.

Or maybe it’s the simple fact that there is – dammit – no saleable angle on this place.

Hometown holidays

Before I left for Marrakech, I was reading a post at the blog Tourist vs Traveller. One of Fiona’s resolutions that caught my attention was Fiona’s ideas about hometown tourism.

The much-hated word ‘staycation’ is pure dark arts but there is a lot to be said for building specialist local knowledge and uncovering backyard gems that mainstream media overlook.

The Art of Travel

Then, while feeling underwhelmed in Marrakech, I was re-reading Alain de Botton and thinking about new directions for Hit the North, the previous incarnation of which you can refer back to here.

The waiter poured the tea, the palm trees swayed and dogs howled outside. As the sky darkened, I read the section where de Botton quotes Nietzsche.

‘… we are in the end tempted to divide mankind into a minority of those who know how to make much of little, and a majority of those who know how to make little of much.’

All points North

Manchester Airport

So I decided which way Hit the North will head this year with its new home and reworked format.

From the floods in western Cumbria to regeneration in Blackpool via the new walking trails of North Wales, there’s plenty to talk about right on my doorstep.

A week in Morocco is all very well. But I’ll be making much of little and keeping it close to home this year.


Filed under Tourism