Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The right time to open the closet

When referee Mike Riley came to Bulgaria for the match between Levski and Schalke 04, he had no idea that at the end of the game he would hear the most offensive word on the pitch in the country. Levski’s president Todor Batkov called him a “British homosexual”.

In an EU country which decriminalized homosexuality long before the change from communism to democracy, one might expect to see a tolerant society. In reality, 80 % of the population disapproves of gay lifestyles and media is reinforcing negative stereotypes. Tabloid websites flood their pages with lists of likely gay/bisexual football players and the remarks are cruel.

In contrast

Gay and bisexual football players in the UK find it easier to come out according to a charity that is dealing with challenging discrimination and working for positive change.

“Clubs have definitely moved on. They are more corporations rather than football clubs, “says Kevin Coleman, a grass roots development officer at Kick It Out campaign.

Kick It Out is football's equality and inclusion campaign in Britain. There are 4,000 players in the professional league and currently no one is openly gay. Coleman considers that if 10 per cent of the population in the UK is gay/bisexual 400 players are possibly gay/bisexual too.

Back in the days...

He speculates that people are not willing to come out and are scared of the consequences because of the media attacks. In 1990 Justin Fashanu was the last openly gay player in football and he received the harshest welcome would any player ever received. His brother John publicly disowned him, whereas his manager Brian Clough called him “a bloody poof!” Fashanu ended up committing suicide.

Kick It Out is trying to educate people to step forward and would help the players if they ever came forward but “no players ever came forward to us”, says Coleman.

Moving on

That is changing. Last year British Lions rugby legend Gareth Thomas announced publicly that he was gay. Recently he wrote in the Daily Telegraph, “There comes a point where you think that the whole world is against you, and then you say to yourself “I can carry on in this dark little world or I can be honest with everybody and live the life I want.”” Thomas is the first openly gay professional rugby union player who is still playing. He expected a big backlash, but in fact he got large support.

In the 606 debate web page of the BBC Celticjinker writes: “Well done Gareth and thanks for all your years as a player for Wales and I'm sure it won’t make a bit of difference to your many fans.”

The 20 year old Anton Hysen is another player who was not afraid to come out. He did that at the start of his career. Unlike Fashanu, he was not shunned by his brother, but his mother is concerned that he’ll get beaten up. That doesn’t trouble the young player. He said to the Guardian,  “People tell me I’m a celebrity now, and I shouldn’t be. But if there’s anyone afraid of coming out they should give me a call”.

...because it's better for the club

Kevin Coleman thinks that one of the reasons for the change of the mentality might the corporate thinking of the clubs. “We are just waiting for one player and there will be a wave. People have moved on. Clubs have definitely moved on. The club would be more supported whether they are more acceptable or not, because of the corporate image of the club.”

Don’t expect to hear such statement in Bulgaria soon. The last time there was a piece on homosexuals in football it was an interview with a famous drag queen who said that she slept with many professional players.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Two decades after he took the stage, Usher still makes us saying OMG after we leave his shows

If you’re expecting a crowd of predominantly teenage girls to an Usher concert, you’re wrong. If you went to his show at the O2 and thought that his main idea was to emulate Michael Jackson, you might be wrong as well.
Usher started the concert on a flying platform. He looked around and saw a very diverse audience. It was not only screaming teenage girls waiting for him to take his shirt off (which he did). There were the parents of these girls, fathers with their sons and mates who were drinking beer and enjoying the show.
The star filled the stage with his personality. Usher’s voice and moves are his competitive advantage and he exploited that to the maximum last night in front of approximately 20, 000 of his fans.

Let's Take a Ride
In the two-hour experience the Dallas native offered a musical journey - from his debut single You Make Me Wanna, to Love in This Club and the medley of his previous hits.
There was a good selection of songs. The fans seemed more excited about his previous singles than the ones from Raymond V. Raymond, although after the concert the only thing you can hear at the North Greenwich tube station was “oh, oh , oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh…” from OMG.
During the performance of You Reminded Me the four female dancers pretending to be his previous lovers haunt the singer in a dramatization where he’s acting like a player. 

The happiest girl in 02
In Trading Places an attractive blonde girl from the crowd went to the stage. Usher got very intimate and I heard someone from the audience saying, “That b*tch is so lucky.” The performance was a little dirty, but that can be forgiven.
Usher just got divorced, he’s a bachelor again and there’s nothing wrong with a little display of raunch. On the other hand, it helps selling more albums. That’s probably is one of the reasons why he also took off his shirt and had all these suggestive moves.

Overall the dance performance was slick with some choreography reminding of Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveShow. The dancers were professional and demonstrated good skills when they used pyro or other light effects for the numbers.  
Usher paid a tribute to his idol Michael Jackson with a dance on the intro of Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough.
There are reviews in the British press that claim the main idea of the artist during the concert was to imitate the King of Pop. I don’t think that was necessarily the case, but I believe that Usher has the capacity to fill the void for an inspiring pop act that appeals to mass audiences.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Classic ballet meets street dance at Oxford Playhouse

It was supposed to be a typical Saturday night out in London - spending at least 30 quid on booze and clubs.

Instead, I decided to go to Oxford and watch a dance performance. The experience cost me less than that including the train tickets. Money well spent.

No need for a translator
I have always been a big fan of dance. Thanks to nonverbal communication it tells stories without words, giving your imagination a room to put the right words for you.

Danish Dance Theatre was created 30 years ago.With choreographer Tim Rushton they are making their first tour of the UK.

There were three pieces in his program. The quality of the production was amazing - from the light that was measured with a high degree of precision, to the light movements of the well built dancers, to the carefully selected music.

The biggest impact

Kridt was the best work of the show. It was the most touching piece based on Peteris Vasks' Musica Adventus (which you can find in the album Viatore). It tells the story of a dying man whose life is remembered by his friends. The shapes of his moving body are jot down on the wall and he's dancing until his final breath when sand comes out of the sky to bury him. It's striking and makes you think about life.

The other two pieces had their appeal as well. CaDance shows five of the male dancers competing with sharp, aggressive movements under the influence of live drums playing on the background. In Enigma, which started the performance dancers struggle to understand each other. Beautiful duets and the music of Mathias Friis-Nansen that inspire a additional sense of mystery.

I enjoyed Danish Dance Theatre on Saturday and was not the only one. At the end there were three curtain falls at the Oxford Playhouse.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

When I say Tinie, you say Tempah!

The 40 minute wait in the freezing cold last night was totally worth it. Tinie Tempah owned the stage in a wicked show in front of a sold out crowd at Camden’s Koko.

MTV launched its annual Brand New campaign. There are ten nominated acts this year; most of them will be huge in 2011. Watching the previews you can tell who’s favorite. People went crazy for Far East Movement, Wretch 32, Ruff Diamondz, Willow Smith, and of course Labrinth. Five strong contenders, though I would include Jamie Moon as well.

Thinking of Miami and Ibiza

40 minutes waiting in temperatures below 0 was quite challenging for me. I survived and at around 7.30pm I was in; found a good spot on the balcony on the second floor and waited. Around 8 some MTV employees started moving around. The show was about to begin.

Show time

Labrinth kicked off the event and proved to be the strongest nominee. Not only Let the Sun Shine, but ever y song he performed kept people cheering and dancing.
The grime MC Wretch 32 appeared later and prepared the atmosphere for Tinie Tempah.

Disturbing London is the company

Around 10 Tinie Tempah himself took the stage opening with Simply Unstoppable from the Disc-Overy album. I knew it pretty well because just like 90 % of the people there I had the album.
Hit after hit Tinie entertained the under 18 and over 35 jumping across the stage, smiling, and basically enjoying himself. His casual look and attitude is what got the fans.

Of course, his microphone was covered with expensive precious stones, and the cost of his watch probably was the same as my tuition, but that was not what mattered. The only thing I remember from his outfit is the Disturbing London T-Shirt. This is what I want for Christmas.

He was not allowed to swear on TV, but I forgive him. His album just became platinum. And there is a reason for that. Every song could easily be a TOP 40 hit. Five out of 13 have already entered the charts, including the new one Invincible with Kelly Rowland.


Tinie got personal performing Let Go (with the vocals of Emeli Sande). This is the last song on the album and his favorite. There was a surprising Coldplay song during his set. He and his band were enjoying singing every word from Viva La Vida.

Where’s my clap, where's my encore?

Everybody was waiting for Pass Out and we got it at end. Tinie and Labrinth joined forces and people were jumping up and down so hard that for a minute I thought that the balcony might fall out. That was the moment when Tempah reminded who is his favorite for the MTV Brand New for 2011.

Five star show

Overall the show was success and for me the main reason was Tinie Tempah’s personality. You can tell that he was there to have fun with his fans.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Some American girls just love European boys

The end of the week, outside is freezing cold and inside I’m having fun watching some comedy.

It is fair to say that American girls are obsessed with European men. Why is that?

When I was in the U.S. I’ve been told that the accent turns them on. One of the girls said: “If someone with British accent tells me that 2 + 2 = 5, I would (imagine Valley girl accent here) like totally believe him. That’s awesome!”

I guess it's the accent
Accent is part of the charm I guess. The other thing may be the way we spend our money. In Europe we love to spend on clothes and products. We also love to flirt and generally tend to be players. It’s just my narrow-minded assumption.

I saw this crazy, outrageously funny video on about Katherine ChloĆ© Cahoon who wrote a book on the subject. It’s definitely something you need to see. She acts like a character from Legally Blond and you just can’t stop laughing. It’s obviously a joke, but some people take it seriously.

Now it’s time for a European girl to write book about the American guys. They tend to be manlier than the Eurodudes and probably more faithful, again, a narrow-minded assumption.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

“Some colleges are not selling education, they are selling immigration”, Sir Andrew Green, of Migration Watch talking to the BBC

What a great debate topic. I haven’t been debating for a long time. This issue is a perfect opportunity to test my debate skills.

I came to study journalism in London at the University of Westminster mainly to learn how to make documentaries that impact peoples’ lives. At this stage I’m not thinking of staying after my graduation, but even if I decide I’ll have something in mind: some people here want me to go home.

Sir Andrew Green, of Migration Watch was guest on the Today program on the BBC Radio 4. “Not many people realize that now we’re admitting to this country about a thousand students every day of the year. There are no interviews before they’re granted their visa and there’s no check on their departure. We’re totally in favor of having foreign students at our universities if they go home again. If their purpose is actually to come and stay, they add to population and we don’t need that.”

The debate

In times of recession is almost necessary to put immigration cap. There are fewer jobs for home workers to take up. Cheap foreign labor impacts the domestic low-skill workers and they pay the heaviest price. The welfare of the needy citizens should be a top priority for the government.

On the other hand, the free movement of labor is not only an individual right. It is also beneficial to the host country. Many Western countries grew faster in the past as a result of hiring non-citizen workers. When there is more competition for a position, companies would employ more people including citizens. Economy expands and the unskilled citizens are protected socially.

True, this might help the local economy, but that deprives another country of skilled work force. The lack of such workers in any country is detrimental to its economy. Especially if we talk about the European Union its integrity depends on the strength of each member.

Yes, the European Union’s integrity is important, but does it to make compromises with the right to free travel and labor?

In conclusion

Once again, missing the point of the European Union. As for the British education, I'm satisfied at the moment and confident that it will be helpful. The front page message on the Education UK web site verifies : “UK education is all about you. No matter what level, you’ll have the flexibility to shape your study to suit your needs. This freedom; combined with a centuries-old tradition of excellence and an innovative approach to teaching makes UK education recognized and respected all over the world.”

Saturday, 20 November 2010

How come nine out of ten Britons listen to the radio?

There is a legitimate reason for newspapers in the UK to publish radio listings. People here love their radio. Why? Because it listens and talks to them. 

I have always been a fan of radio. At the same time, I have been involved professionally as a broadcaster since 1996. I love conversations about radio especially with people who share the same passion. Gillian Reynolds is a critic for the Daily Telegraph. Her article "Radio critic? It's the best job in the world" inspired me for this post.

I've been trying to figure out why radio is so big in Britain. Now I think I know the answer. The managers don't make any compromises with the content of their programs. The listener is what matters.

Back in Bulgaria

In a way this is what the government or public owned (in Bulgaria is really hard to define the state media) radio is trying to do. The only bad thing is that ghost of communism and government influence is still present there. For the listeners it is not a problem. Horizont is on the top of the ratings. (The link is in Bulgarian)

The private radio will turn twenty next year. However, it still misses a very important point. People can switch off radio at any time. You need to work harder to get their attention. First, try to please them, not the advertisers. Second, don't be on the stage under the spotlight, be with the listener. Third, try to leave the comfort zone of the market research data, be a pioneer.

My favorite radio moments

It is difficult to point out my top radio moments from the Bulgarian radio history. There are definitely dating back to before I started work for radio after high school.  These are the moments that inspired me to become a broadcaster:

A weekend afternoon show on the local branch of the National Radio

I don't remember the name, but I do remember how listeners could call in and talk on the radio. I was impressed by the opportunity to share ideas and talk about things many can relate to.

The VOA Europe

It was the first non-government radio in Bulgaria. I enjoyed the music service of the Voice of America with friendly DJs, good music, and perfect quality of the signal.

The BBC/VOA radio features

This is what I'm trying to learn now at the University of Westminster - how to create programs that tell compelling stories challenging attitudes and making people think.

Still searching

It is strange that I don't have a contemporary favorite Bulgarian radio moment. Probably I see everyone else as competition and just need to distance myself and become a consumer for a bit. On the other hand, owners in Bulgaria should think about why 90.6 % of the population in Britain tune in to radio each week.