Edition 57; dateline 2 August 2011

Brit kids can’t hop
In this world there are theories, facts and something Sidey likes to call ‘received wisdom’. Into this latter category we are forced to accept assertions such as “Miranda Hart, that big lass, is hootingly funny.” It’s not actually true, it’s a matter of opinion, but, since Radio 2 presenters, a lot of people who Twitter and even the editor of The Leisure Review hold it to be true, it quite simply is. Which is bad if what you hold dear has yet to be picked up by the makers of the zeitgeist but good if something you care passionately about finally reaches the mainstream. So it is with the theory that children today are being ill-served by the cotton-wool culture and that by driving them to school, allowing them to be screen-bound rather than ‘playing out’ and by stopping play time at the first hint of rain (wet Tarmac is so-o-o-o-o dangerous after all) adults are producing a nation which cannot run, jump and hop. Except it is no longer a theory, or even just a fact. Thanks to Super Nanny, it is a piece of ‘received wisdom’. Now that Jo Frost, as she seems to have re-branded herself, has ‘investigated’ the lack of physical literacy in primary school children we can hold it to be true that our youngsters will in all probability – and with the exception of the scions of the rich – be so poor at basic movement that they will never have the confidence to take up sport, or even physical activity, and so move into adulthood unfit and increasingly fat. Only question is whether Michael ‘the Hatchet’ Gove caught the Channel 4 programme in between meetings with members of the Murdoch empire.

It could happen here, part 43
The march of the marketeer continues unchecked down under as Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) has set its sights on a digital agency which is using the image of websites “drowning in a sea of competition” to promote its services. Their television advertisement shows a lifesaver running down Sydney streets presumably in a manner reminiscent of Mr Hasslehoff and company but clad not in the red favoured by the Baywatch boys and girls but in a fetching uniform of red and yellow. According to SLSA, the use of these colours could “cause safety concerns” as all SLSA lifesavers sport the classic colour combo and all their flags and equipment are similarly liveried. The truth is far more likely to be that SLSA are only bothered about their bottom line given that they sell replica kit and “allow our partners and major sponsors to use these properties to show their association with Surf Life Saving”. What price the people at bowls copyrighting the word ‘green’ whenever it pertains to grass or the ECB suing anyone who uses the word ‘white’ in the plural?

Tree pints and a tweet please, barman
Despite having to rely on the student intern to engage with Twitter, Sideliner is slowly coming around to the foolish waste of time and energy which seems to be the online answer to the House of Commons (in that it involves a lot of self-promoters shouting their opinions while nobody listens). Without the 140-character updates on the psyches of the rich and foolish we would never have known that golf genius Rory McIlroy thinks that commentator Jay Townsend is a “failed golfer” rather than a man whose opinion we should accord some respect; nor that his countryman Darren Clarke got royally pissed on the night he won the Open; nor that the third leg of the Ulster stick and ball trimester, Graham McDowell, soothed his worries over missing the cut at Sandwich (hoot!) with a couple of pints of Guinness. These Irish lads, they are a tad wild, aren’t they; and terribly prone to drink. At least we know that next time we come up against the American Ryder Cup team we can be sure of winning the boat race.

Oui, je tweet aussi
And while we are in the Twittersphere, we are indebted to L’Equipe for an insight into the mind of the Mardy Manxman, Mark Cavendish. In their column Lu Sur Twitter of 21 July we learn Cav tweeted: “Oups, j’ai encore dit de la merde en directe a la tele. Merci Dieu, c’etait seulement ITV. Si cela avait ete a la BBC il y aurait probablement eu une campagne pour me retirer la citoyennete britannique.*” Cav need not have worried about the Beeb, however, given that the night he stood on the podium on the Champs Elysees to receive the green jersey of the best sprinter in the Tour de France – one of the few globally important events in world sport – the BRITISH Broadcasting Company chose to tell the BRITISH people that Lewis Hamilton had won a car race. Not good enough, BBC, simply not good enough.
*Apologies to all Francophones - and indeed French readers about the lack of accents. Sidey couldn’t find the tool on the laptop and the IT helpline couldn’t help.

Vaulting ambition?
Back in Blighty, it’s good to hear that Istvan Bayli’s oft-quoted mantra that to build an elite athlete takes a minimum of 10 years and 10,000 hours is being challenged in the world of running and jumping. Strictly speaking, we mean running and jumping with a stick as the young woman under the Row Z spotlight this month is none other than Holly Bleasdale, who recently broke the British pole vault record by 10 centimetres, making her sixth in the current world rankings as we speak. Bleasdale took up the event at a come-and-try-it event three years ago. Istvan, mate, explain that!

Shanghai depressed
You may have noticed that The Leisure Review has a new best friend, with the Amateur Swimming Association both submitting an article and taking some advertising space in this month’s edition. Whether that means we shouldn’t mention what has been happening in Shanghai with British swimmers getting world-class wallopings left, right and centre did detain us, but not for long. With American and Chinese swimmers bowed down with medals the British challenge has been, how you say, lacklustre. A final spurt by the old guard of Addlington, Tancock and Payne should not be allowed to put a gloss on GB’s sixth place in the medal table behind Brazil and Russia or the fact that China won five times as many golds as “our brave boys and girls”. However, having checked with TLR’s coaching consultant and discussed it with the lairy graphic designer who swam for his county when he was 15, Sidey has decided that the poor showing was “only to be expected as we are concentrating on 2012”. With Clive Woodward in charge [Surely, ligging about at the back. Ed] everything we do in the next 360-odd days will all be part of some meticulous master plan. Won’t it?

Ongoing communications diminution scenario alert
There is a thesis oft-promulgated around the water-cooler of Row Z Towers [It’s a tap. Ed] that the disjunction between the people who deliver sport and those who are paid to develop sport in the UK is growing ever wider. Those making the case were greatly assisted when our Yorkshire correspondent took time out from the rhubarb harvest to point Sideliner in the direction of the Football Foundation’s document An Introduction to Sustainability, which was published last year. Aimed at grassroots clubs and voluntary organisations, the guide is a candidate for the Plain English Campaign’s Golden Bull Award, which goes to people who write in impenetrable gobbledegook and jargon. Here’s a test. Put on a flat cap, put down your metaphorical plumbing tools and, wearing your replica England team manager’s jacket, read this sentence: “When planning for sustainability, effective communication, marketing and publicity plans will help to keep stakeholders and partners informed and engaged, keep staff and volunteers motivated and efficiently manage change both internally and externally.” As a reader of The Leisure Review and a practitioner in the world of sport, leisure and culture, you will doubtless get the drift; but would an average member of football’s volunteer army? The guide, like so many of its ilk, was written by the profession for the profession and is just another example of the patronising attitude adopted by so many office-bound, jargon-bantering, self-satisfied suits which inhabit a profession once dedicated to supporting sport rather than living off it and explains why, when the money runs out, very few grassroots volunteers will mourn the passing of the sports development officer.


At the Arts End

Burghers back lido show
South west theatre company Listed Theatre is staging a new play about an outdoor swimming pool and Sidey was pleased to hear that it is paying some heed to the movement to protect the rest of the region’s lidos from the Tory axe. The Listed Lido project, which has received £9,000 funding from Arts Council England with a further £7,700 funding from Heritage Lottery Fund, documents the history of Plymouth’s Tinside Lido and will be performed at the recently refurbished outdoor facility. Our favourite line in the entire press release from which we learned of the project is: “Plymouth City Council provided £200 funding.” Such generous support for the arts from the local burghers deserves a special mention.

Is it Art?
The announcement that the England rugby team’s new change strip is black certainly isn’t sport, so we’ll review it here. The marketing chaps at Twickers have hit on the novel idea of making England’s next ‘away’ shirt as black as the ace of spades and in one fell swoop cheesed of Jonah Lomu, New Zealand’s prime minister and a fair percentage of their own “57 old farts”. Our resident old fart thinks it is a wizard wheeze and an appropriately Churchillian gesture to the whole ‘All Blacks as gods’ schtick with which rugby, and latterly all sport, has had to live. Nike’s strapline, “New blood. New skin”, which links the age of some of the men being used to promote the shirt with the skin-tight properties of the latest revolution in sportswear, seems uninspired for a company that brought us “Just do it” but life at the cutting edge of advertising jingle-writing must indeed be tough. En passant, as the hooplah builds for the rugby World Cup tournament itself can we just reiterate a truism which all Kiwis would do well to remember: “Winning it at home doesn’t count.”

All roads lead to Margate
Thanks doubtless to the coverage in The Leisure Review, Margate’s Turner Contemporary has reached its annual target of 150,000 visitors in just three months. Director Victoria Pomery somewhat incongruously congratulated the 156,000th visitor, who was presented with a bottle of Kentish sparkling wine, and said: “Research shows that we are meeting our aim to attract a wide range of local, regional, national and international visitors. We also know that we are appealing to new audiences, with 5% of our visitors never having been to an art gallery before.” Which says a great deal for the gallery’s attractiveness and absolutely nothing for the business-planning capabilities of whoever set the original target.

What have we learned?

Despite your responses to our new feature we have decided to give it another go as it makes the bloke who comes in to mend the photocopier smile.

What have we learned, therefore, from:

The draw for the football World Cup in Rio: that soccerball has finally disappeared up its own fundament, muttering “Pod 6 is the pod of death”, “Avoid France, avoid France, avoid France”, and most ludicrously, “Wales are a credible threat in Group A.” 

One year left to London 2012: that unless the Little Baron gets a grip on a PR department that is shrill to the point of hectoring a great many people, especially those who applied for tickets to the 100 metres final and got dressage, will become anti-2012 and be joined in this stance by anyone who thinks being told by professional liggers with guaranteed entry such as Darren bloody Campbell that its “gonna be great” and by all those people who live outside the M25 who think that Simon Mayo’s comment, “Well, it’s the London Olympics isn’t it?” just a little too smug and a lot too close to the truth. 

The Tour de France: that Thomas Voeckler’s suitcase of courage won’t fit on the overhead rack; that Andy Schleck must get some iron in his soul; and that the only things that work quicker than Cav’s little legs are cycling commentators on French radio.

The Archers: apart from a rather obvious and extended lesson in E coli and its affects on small ice-cream businesses, we have also learned that television criticism’s loss has been radio criticism’s gain as the non-pareil Nancy Banks-Smith is now doing a once a month review of life in Ambridge. The woman is a gentle genius to whom we doff our collective cap. A line, just one line, from her last: “Ambridge throbs with the dynamo hum of women gossiping and every week is a whirl of compulsory festivity. To be ostracised in Ambridge would be loneliness indeed.”

Harry Potter, part the last: that the British film industry is alive and kicking and can still turn out three-hanky weepies, CGI blockbusters and mythical romances, sometimes all in one film.



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