Thursday, 19 November 2015

Article in the EDP

Thank you to Kathryn Cross for interviewing me and putting together a double-page spread in the Eastern Daily Press. If you'd like a look, the digital version is at and the print version is at

Monday, 16 November 2015

Cambridge TV interview

On Armistice Day I went into the studios of Cambridge TV for an interview. Thank you to Karen Thomas and the team who made me feel very welcome and did a great job of editing to include some pictures of the exhibition and illustrate the stories that I was talking about. You can see the interview at

Monday, 9 November 2015

A day is a long time in book publicity

Last week I went to visit a book shop in Holt to see if they would like to stock my book. The first question I received was "Is it connected to Norfolk?" and when I answered "No", I soon realised that I wasn't going to get much further. No attempt at persuasion led to an iota of budge and in the end I accepted I was in the presence of a closed mind encircled by a brick wall, so picked up the box of my beautiful books and left.

This in microcosm is what I have faced throughout this project. There are a lot of people who think that because the men in the group photograph aren't famous then they won't be of interest to anyone but those with some kind of material connection to them. "Well, I suppose their families must be pleased with what you've done" or "Have you shown this to people in Berkshire?" or "The Regimental Museum must be interested". It's as if people see that what I'm doing is family history and military history and immediately decide that it is therefore like all the other family history and military history they know. The fact is, though, that when people actually do see what I'm doing (rather than what they think I'm doing), they are surprised. OK, the stories are of specific men and specific families from specific places doing specific things, but some of those stories are good stories whoever they're told about, and I have used all of the stories to make things that are aimed at connecting with all of us who step upon this strange planet with its mysteries and compulsions and horrors and opportunities. In amongst traditional means of showing history, I make use of technology to tell old stories in new ways, allowing connections to be made that are not generally seen. I have very few answers but I hope that what I do stimulates interesting questions. And it is gratifying when I get the sort of effusive reaction that so many people have given me when they have been to one of my presentations or seen the exhibition or the book.

Being human, it is somehow easier to hold on to the knockbacks - particularly when I've been hearing the same things for over 21 years (repetition makes the heart growl longer). So I would be dishonest to say that when I left the bookshop in Holt I did not feel a mite despondent. By this advanced age, I should have learned that life can go up as well as down, but still it was a welcome surprise to open my post the next morning and find a letter from Melvyn Bragg containing the phrase "It's a magnificent book". I know one is supposed to treat triumph and disaster just the same, but it would seem churlish not to allow me just a hint of basking glee.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The First Post

Have you any idea of how difficult it is to get people to get publicity for an exhibition? At the moment I have an exhibition out in Ypres in Belgium. It fills a hall two full tennis courts in size. The response to the exhibition from visitors has been fantastic. And there are quite a lot of visitors - even before the Centenary of the First World War, In Flanders Fields Museum was getting 400,000 visitors a year. Pretty well every pilgrim to the battlefields, whether on an organised tour or with their school or on their own, visits the Museum. But visitors to the Museum don't necessarily have the time or the energy to go to the temporary exhibition as well as the permanent exhibition, and there are people who would get something out of my exhibition who are not First World War pilgrims or there are people who have done their tour to the battlefields and won't necessarily be going again - and how do I reach them?

Unfortunately I wasn't in the position to do much in the way of publicity before the opening - it has been full-on all year with preparations - creating the artwork and putting together the book and making arrangements for the Gathering of the families for the New Group Photograph and the opening of the exhibition. I didn't have any pictures of the exhibition to use in publicity because the exhibits didn't get built until the week before the opening - and there was no point sending out some of the components of the exhibits because it is the scale of the big installations that is original and has the particular impact.

What has happened since the opening? Well, the press in Belgium didn't provide much coverage. There was an article in the local press where the journalist didn't contact me at all but just cobbled something together from the previous version of my Group Photo website (with added inaccuracies) and used my photo from Facebook to illustrate the article. An article in the national press, Het Nieuwsblad, focussed on the taking of the new Group Photograph but made no mention of the exhibition or even of the Museum. And other than listings in What's On guides, that appears to be it. 

Now I am trying to get something happening over on this side of the Channel. As an outsider to the media, it's difficult to get any response at all. I had nibbles from someone at The Guardian and from someone at the BBC but I was obviously using the wrong bait and they weren't hooked. I've had more success with local media. Last night I was interviewed on BBC Radio Norfolk's drivetime show - it's up on iPlayer until 3rd December 2015 - see - my bit is from 01:44:59 for about 10 minutes. I was speaking on Skype so I sound like I'm speaking from inside a metallic box but otherwise I thought Matthew Gudgin introduced me really well and asked just the right sort of questions to enable me to get across the essence of my project.

Today I've had more encouragement, with a contact from a journalist on the Eastern Daily Press who would like to do a feature.

Friends have suggested The One Show and Saturday Live. I've so far had no response, but in my experience it's better to have other people blow your trumpet than to blow your own, so if you'd like to have a go via their contact forms on then that would be fantastic.

Again I learn the lessons of my project: be persistent & never give up, and go with what is working and see where it leads.