Is Cardiff Britain’s binge-drinking capital?

St Mary Street has a reputation as a binge-drinking hotspot

The image of a drunk woman staggering along St Mary’s Street, underwear around her ankles, was one many Cardiff residents would rather forget.  Unfortunately images such as these now represent perceptions of the city’s nightlife.  The Sun published this controversial photo in light of the new drinking ban on Cardiff’s streets.  The national newspaper branded Cardiff Britain’s binge-drinking capital and described its need to reclaim the streets from “late-night revellers”.

But as more schemes are established to tackle binge-drinking in the city, many believe this negative press is unfair.  The police, licensees and voluntary organisations are working together to clean up Cardiff’s streets and feel their efforts have gone unnoticed.  So does Cardiff really deserve its boozy reputation?

At a first glance, it’s not hard to see why Cardiff is known as a binge-drinking hotspot.  Polish photographer Maciej Dakowicz documented the city’s night-time antics for his Cardiff at Night project.  The results did not paint a positive picture.  Pub and club-goers were captured on camera lying unconscious, falling into rubbish and initiating fights.  Dakowicz said he had never witnessed anything like it before.

Despite these encouraging statistics, perceptions of Cardiff do not seem to have changed

However, recent statistics tell a slightly different story.  Despite the negative perceptions of the city’s nightlife, alcohol-related crime has dropped considerably in the past two years.  This bucks the national trend, which has seen no significant decline in alcohol related crime since 2006.  In Cardiff, the number of alcohol related-crimes went from 2442 incidents to just 1552 in the same period.  This is not much higher than Nottingham, a smaller city, where 1153 incidents were recorded in 2008.

Detective Sergeant Jamie Holcombe believes the media are not giving sufficient attention to these positive statistics.  “The media shows many images of local nightlife and it can be blown out of proportion,” he says.  He argues that developments such as their award-winning scheme to reduce alcohol-related crime are not widely recognised.  “I know for a fact that crime has generally decreased across the years but perception hasn’t necessarily dropped,” he explains.

Street Pastors co-ordinator Ruth Samways agrees.  She works with volunteers to provide Cardiff’s vulnerable drinkers with on-the-spot help.  But despite braving the city’s busiest streets every weekend, Ruth believes the problems have been exaggerated.  “There are plenty of other cities where binge drinking does go on,” she points out.  Furthermore, Ruth says she has noticed some encouraging changes since the launch of Street Pastors.  “The atmosphere and culture on Friday nights has changed dramatically,” she says.  “It’s a lot quieter now.”

So why has Cardiff attracted such bad press recently?  Ruth says new developments in the city may be a contributing factor:  “I think the city centre has changed. It’s got a lot more to offer people and we have a lot more visitors now.”  However, she admits that the concentration of pubs and clubs on St Mary Street creates a bad impression.  “Cardiff seems worse because it’s got the nightlife all together in one place,” she says.

Kitty Flynn's has taken action to crack down on binge-drinking

Laura Evans works on St Mary Street and agrees the area can appear out-of-control, especially with the increase in visitors to the city. As the relief manager of Kitty Flynn’s bar, she and her team have taken action to discourage binge-drinking.  “We’ve stopped happy hours and we’ve stopped serving cocktails but we can’t stop people from coming out,” she says.  Laura feels that although licensees have a duty to promote responsible drinking, the onus is also on the drinkers themselves:  “We’re doing all we can but other people have got to help us by doing what they can.”

As more schemes are introduced to crack down on binge-drinking, it remains to be seen whether drinkers will respond.   The Designated Public Place Order was passed in October to give police the power to confiscate alcohol on the streets.  The council recently launched its Don’t Serve a Drunk scheme to remind licensees of the existing law.  Keith James, group leader for Cardiff Council’s Licensing Department, believes these measures are essential to keeping Cardiff on track.  “Alcohol-related crime in the city centre has gone down year by year but we can’t rest on our laurels,” he maintains.

The DPPO aims to stop alcohol being consumed on the streets

However, the efficacy of these initiatives has been called into question.  Detective Sergeant Jamie Holcombe is unsure of how much difference the DPPO will make, as he rarely comes across people drinking on the streets.  Laura Evans believes the Don’t Serve a Drunk scheme is a useful reminder, but argues that even well-trained bar staff can find it hard to judge the situation.  “It’s difficult at the bar, especially when it’s busy, because drunk customers might get a friend to buy them a drink,” she explains.

The way forward for Cardiff is not clear and the bad press is unlikely to disappear any time soon.  Pictures of drinkers enjoying one too many will undoubtedly still be splashed across the newspapers.  However, collaboration between the police, licensees and charities does seem to be prompting changes in the city.  Perhaps this work will allow Cardiff to finally put a cork in its boozy reputation.

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Only 5% would pay for online news

Rob Andrews, editor of paidContent:UK, came to talk about media business models last week.

As a specialist in the subject, he had looked at a variety of business models from the pay-per-view to the free-for-all.  But instead of going down the simple “to pay or not to pay” route, Rob believes we should look at each publication as a separate entity.

Paid content, he says, has worked well for some specialist titles.  The Financial Times has seen profits soar since implementing a pay wall on their website.  People have not clicked away from the site because they place a real value on the FT’s advice.  The value being that it is trusted content and not available for free elsewhere.

I can't imagine paying to read the latest on Katie Price (Photo courtesy of Phil Guest)

But this structure falls down somewhat when it comes to general consumer news.  Let’s imagine that Rupert Murdoch has his way and puts up a pay wall on The Sun website.  The Sun is boasting another attention-grabbing headline about Jordan having plastic surgery/dating a cross-dresser/eating unspeakable delicacies in the jungle.  However, to see the article you must first submit a small fee to Mr Murdoch.  Would you be prepared to pay?  The media mogul seems to think you would.

I, for one, wouldn’t.  Not because I don’t secretly enjoy reading about Jordan’s antics, but because I don’t need to pay.  I can easily get my Jordan gossip fix from a free consumer news website.

Will any of these titles be able to successfully implement a paywall?

As Rob says, unless you have an attachment to a particular news brand, you are very unlikely to pay a fee to access something available free-of-charge elsewhere.

The figures back this up.  Recent research from paidContent:UK and Harris Interactive shows that only 5% would pay to read their favourite website if it started charging.  Unless your content is unique, consumers just aren’t buying it.

However the figures did reveal a possible light at the end of the tunnel.  48% would be prepared to pay a fee if this included a free or discounted paper subscription.  The public response has also been more positive to Readers’ Clubs such as the Guardian’s, which charges readers for benefits such as advance concert tickets.

So it seems there’s no clear way forward.  The talk raised quite a few questions in my mind.  There are an endless number of possibilities for journalism going forward.  Which of these possibilities will be adopted is seemingly anyone’s guess.

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Jordan’s a celebrity, why did she get out of there?

So, Jordan’s left I’m A Celebrity and many would say good riddance.  But I for one will miss her.

The glamour model was nominated for seven consecutive trials

The glamour model was nominated for seven Bushtucker trials in a row (Photo courtesy of Phil Guest)

I know, I know.  Katie Price knew what she was getting herself into when she signed up for I’m a Celebrity. She was hardly the nation’s sweetheart when she went into the jungle, famed for pushing the boundaries of human suffering.  But I think the British public should give her a break.

Yes, her split with Peter Andre may not have shown her in the best light.  But unlike Peter, who seems to have been told to stare wistfully into the distance and talk about his kids every few seconds, Katie did what any self-respecting celeb would do.  She went to Ibiza, got trashed and nabbed herself a cross-dressing, cage-fighting boyfriend.  Ask yourself this question:  if all celebrities were like this, would the world not be a far better place?

And like all true celebs, she has an alter ego.  Beyonce has Sasha.  Jennifer Lopez has J-Lo.  Katie has Jordan.  By day she is Katie,  the average, stay-at-home type, but at night she becomes Jordan, the surgery addict who likes to play with the notions of human decency and taste.  She is almost like a modern day superhero.  And to top it all off, she is willing to eat a kangeroo anus to win favour with the British public.  If that isn’t true star quality, I don’t know what is.

No, I’d keep an eye on Stuart instead.  His dazzlingly white teeth and chiselled jaw may have blinded a few people, but I just don’t trust him.  Look at how long he was prepared to stand holding water in a tube to escape nominations.  And after all that, he moaned about his immunity and claimed he was “taking one for the team”.  Unless he has an unusual fetish for saving water, something doesn’t quite add up, methinks…

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An alternative to paid content

Steve Buttry has come up with a business model which could provide an alternative to paid content for newspapers.  It’s called the Complete Community Connection and it involves making media companies an integral part of community life.  Whatever your opinion may be on the paid content debate, I think it makes an interesting read.

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The paid content debate rages on

Joanna Geary, Web Development Editor for The Times, came to talk about her career in the media last week.  She started out at a local newspaper, built up her profile in the blogging world and is now charged with the daunting task of introducing a paid content system for The Times.

The paid content debate has been raging on for what feels like an eternity.  On the one hand, you have those in the Rupert Murdoch camp.  He argues that internet news should never have been a free service.  People pay for newspapers, so why not online content?  He is now planning to introduce a pay wall on all his news sites and to remove them from the Google search index.

On the other hand, there are those who believe paid content will never work.  Why pay when free news sites and blogs are so readily available on the web?  Introducing pay walls and removing your site from Google could only induce a downturn in traffic and advertising revenue.

However, few seem to have come up with a viable solution.

Joanna is now trying to implement a strategy which takes both schools of thinking into account.  Yes, Rupert Murdoch is right that newspapers cannot carry on the way they are.  We cannot simply dismiss the idea of paid content.  But introducing strict pay walls may well drive traffic away from the site.

You would pay for a newspaper, but would you pay for online news? (Photo courtesy of Matt Callow)

Despite this debate, I think Joanna has a point when she says the internet is not our only problem.  Like it or not, most people don’t make time in their day to read the news.  They barely have enough time to spend with family and friends and tend to consume news while doing something else.  They listen to the radio while driving the car, they watch bulletins while eating their dinner, or they check news sites while at work.  People are busier than ever before and the news needs to fit into their hectic schedules, not vice-versa.  Instead of simply focusing on paid content, perhaps we need to also address the issue of making news a more convenient commodity.

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Rory Cellan-Jones: From typewriter to twitter

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones spoke about the huge changes in journalism last week.

The days of the typewriter are over, but Rory Cellan-Jones remains positive (Picture courtesy of Valeriana Solaris)

Rory started out in the days before multimedia journalism.  He went out, got a story, and typed it up.  ITN and BBC were the only noteworthy competitors in the field.  It is what many refer to as the ‘Golden Age’ of journalism.

However, Rory maintains that the Golden Age is not in the past.  He is living proof that those who trained before the age of multimedia are able to adapt to the new demands of the industry.  Now he twitters, he uses social networks and uses new technology to enhance his reporting.

Yes, the competition is now tougher.  There are now far more rivals to consider than ITN and BBC.  The number of news providers is countless, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out.

But Rory believes that, with the right attitude, the Golden Age of journalism may be ahead of us.  And although it may feel like everything has changed, the basic principles have still stayed the same.  It’s easy to get lost in the world of social networking and blogging, but Rory believes in the good, old-fashioned method of talking to people.  As he says on his blog, “I still find you need to look your boss in the eye from time to time”.

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Jedward song choices

So Jedward delivered another monumental performance on Saturday, inspired by 90s rap legend Vanilla Ice.  Simon even gave them their own country of “Jedwardland”.

Now that my love for the twins has become public, I thought I would address the one question on everyone’s lips this week:  what will the twins sing this Saturday?  Here are a few of my suggestions:

1.  Chumbawumba – Tubthumpin’ Perfect for the boys  – they get knocked down, but they get up again, you ain’t ever gonna keep them down.  Plus it doesn’t have much of a tune – although Jedward are becoming less vocally challenged, I’m still not sure they’re quite ready to attempt the high notes.

Could the twins rock the 90s look?

2.  PJ and Duncan – Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble After Louis suggested the twins could be the new Ant & Dec, it seems only right they pay homage to one of their 90s numbers.  And who didn’t secretly love PJ and Duncan?  I can see a classic Jedward outfit coming on – nineties fashion at its best.  Tracksuits would also  make a welcome move away from their PVC numbers…

3.  Beastie Boys Fight for the Right to Party Jedward may be too young to remember who the Beastie Boys are, but I think they could do them proud with this song.  If they manage to incorporate any of their ground-breaking dance moves in with it, all the better.

What do you think?  Any suggestions welcome…

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