Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Why I'm Voting to Stay IN

As John Oliver says in this video "There's an innate British desire to tell Europe to go fuck itself."
This is very true, and when American friends refer to me as a European I have always been very quick to inform them I am English first, British second, and not a European. Tomorrow the UK has the opportunity to validate that statement, but I realised some months ago that leaving the EU could be a disaster of epic proportions for this country. We have just emerged from the worst recession in living memory and now have a healthy, growing economy. The 5th largest in the world, and as an EU member we are part of the World's largest trading bloc. A Brexit vote could plunge us straight back into another equally deep recession and economic chaos for years to come. We would also, as a consequence, most likely lose Scotland, and see Europe lurch further towards its far right parties. It may also be recalled that for a 1000 years or more we were never able to play nicely together and have now enjoyed 71 years of peace in Europe.

Oliver sums up the EU: "It's a complicated, bureaucratic, ambitious, overbearing, inspirational and consistently irritating institution and Britain would be absolutely crazy to leave it, especially because it can reap all the benefits whilst still being a total dick about everything. And that is the British way!"

Tomorrow I will be voting to stay IN

I run Media48, a Colchester based graphic and website design and marketing agency where we know a thing or two about how to market a business. If you would like to find out more about what we can do for your business then give us a call on 01206 642245.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

The Adventures of Mike's Big Red Mug

Once upon a time, back on 2003, I went on holiday to Jamaica for the first time, and there I became friends with Mike, an American from Tampa in Florida, who was there with his wife Mel.

Mike had taken with him his 
52 oz thermal insulated 'Big Red Mug' which he would get the bar staff to fill with water and ice to sip on throughout the day to keep cool in the blazing Caribbean sun.

I was so impressed with Mike's mug that I asked him if he would buy me a similar mug on his return to the USA and mail it to me. But Mike, whose heart is as big as the mug, told me he wanted me to have HIS big red mug... and that's where the mug's adventures began!

No sooner had 'Big Red' reached the UK than it found itself being photographed in all kinds of places, and amidst all kinds of drunken craziness. I even roped in David Blaine and a Page Three Girl in to help (clothed). These pictures were of course emailed to Mike in the USA, and the ones that are suitable for publication are below.

First Big Red was unpacked from the car after the trip home

Then it went to the pub with us

 The following weekend Big Red went to the beach

Into Colchester to see the castle

A night out in Wivenhoe watching some bands on the playing field

 My daughters, now both grown up, made a special effort for July 4th

 Big Red took it's first trip to London, along with a real life Page Three Girl

There's that model again

Then we popped along to Tower Bridge where David Blaine was living in a box for 44 days suspended over the Thames


                                              On holiday to Side in Turkey

                                                           Back home again


Big Red has some company now

Further adventures are planned...

I run Media48, a Colchester based graphic and website design and marketing agency where we know a thing or two about how to market a business. If you would like to find out more about what we can do for your business then give us a call on 01206 642245.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Why I'm so angry about Tollgate Village

I’ve never really been interested in politics. I have my political views, which are pretty much down the centre, and have always ended up feeling somewhat let down by whatever party is running the country. So much so that voting at elections, whether general elections or local council elections, has always been something of a chore for me. At least that is how I felt for the last twenty years while I was living in Wivenhoe.

All that started to change recently when I moved back to Colchester to live within a stone’s throw of the town centre. Over the previous twenty years my visits to the town had mainly been for shopping on a Saturday, lunch, or a rare night out, none of which really exposed me to the reality of how much Colchester has changed. And boy has it changed! And in many ways, in my opinion, not for the better.

There are acres and acres of new homes being built, but little in the way of infrastructure for all the new residents. The town’s roads are at bursting point, though I have to say that the Northern Approaches is a godsend for getting in and out of the north of the town, well except for the nightmare between ASDA and Avenue of Remembrance.

This is the town that people once flocked to for its shopping facilities. The town with Lion Walk Precinct, Williams & Griffins, an historic market and the country’s flagship 
Marks & Spencer store at the time of its reopening after it was extended in the 1970’s. Parking was ample and affordable. People used to come from all over, Ipswich, Chelmsford, Braintree, Witham etc to shop in our town. But not any more. Even people who live here don’t want to shop in Colcheter.

In recent years our neighbouring towns have raised their game. Chelmsford town centre, a once drab grey 1960’s planner’s creation where my grandparents brought up their children and from which they all fled, has been transformed and is now a vibrant city centre with a pedestrianised high street that hosts market stalls, and organised street entertainment. The city also attracts major employers. Colchester can't pull that one off these days. Braintree raised its game when it gave Freeport the go-ahead, attracting shoppers from miles around. Factor in too the continued growth of Lakeside, the opening of Bluewater, the ease of accessibility of Stratford’s Westfield and what does Colchester have to compete? The dated Lion Walk and Culver Square, Tollgate struggling under the volume of people trying to find somewhere to park to buy white goods and carpets, and Turner Rise for the outdoors lifestyle, Iceland and a few bargains.

We had an opportunity with Tollgate to swing the balance back in Colchester’s direction. Tollgate Village, planned for the outskirts of the town, just off the busy A12, promised retail, restaurants and a new out of town cinema. Just the kind of attraction this town needs for its growing population and to attract people from the surrounding area, including neighbouring towns, to come and spend their money in our local economy. Not forgetting creating 1000 or so new jobs. Colchester would have become a shopping and leisure destination instead of just a declining market town. Declining? Yes. The town centre is in a sorry state with its countless empty shop units, and other businesses still closing, including the other day the successful CafĂ© Rouge restaurant due to high rents. There's a sea of charity shops and an ocean of casinos and nail bars, and never mind Queen Street/St Botolph’s lawless ‘Kebab Alley’ where at night there are kebab shops and takeaways, fist fights and serious assaults aplenty.

Colchester is in such a sorry state that the town is actually excited about the prospect of British Home Stores being replaced by Primark. Yes really. It's got that bad.

So with the golden opportunity of Tollgate Village handed to the town on a plate what did Colchester Borough Council do? There was a planning meeting and the plan was passed. But, as this went against the recommendation from the borough planner, it went to a second meeting, for which the ruling administration pulled out all the stops to ensure that the plan got killed. They told tales of woe with their predicted figures of how much trade Tollgate Village would take from the town centre, all guesswork of course. There was talk of town centre stagnation and displays with ‘Stagnation’ written on them for all to see throughout the meeting; a letter from Fenwick’s (owners of Williams & Griffin) solicitors basically wanting their investment protected; and talk of the town’s Vineyard Gate development never happening. That’s right, the Vineyard Gate development that was going to transform the Vineyard Street/Queen Street/Osbourne Street area of town that we have been waiting eight years for and gets scaled down every time the council mentions it. Well guess what, it’s NEVER going to happen!

And of course, as you probably know by now, at this second meeting, in which two councillors who voted for the plan at the first meeting were replaced with two who voted against it, the plan for Tollgate Village was thrown out. All on the recommendation of an unelected planning officer, and eight councillors who refuse to listen to the people they represent.

And why? Well one can only guess, but it all stinks of the council wanting to protect its OWN Northern Gateway scheme to the north of the town near Colchester United’s Weston Homes stadium. No talk last night though of how much trade THAT scheme will take from the town centre, or consideration of how the two schemes could co-exist to make Colchester the region’s leading retail and leisure destination and actually have the knock on effect of encouraging people to also visit the town centre to spend their money. And don't even start me about the tourism money we lose out on every year because this council can't get it's act together and capitalise on the town's unique history to pull people in from far and wide like York does. Hear this CBC, it's not all about the bloody castle you know! 
The councillors stuck two fingers up at the people they represent who were overwhelming in favour of the scheme, and made that known on the Gazette newspaper's live poll last night.

The councillors who, instead of having a plan for the town centre to help it evolve and find its place on the 21st century try to 'protect' it by killing any competition... except from their own scheme of course.

If you are as angry about what they have done as I am then email them and tell them why you are angry. And send them packing in the May local council elections.

And sign the petition HERE

I’m so angry I'd seriously considering running for a seat on the council just to try to do my bit from within to make this town a place to be proud to live once again.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Social media has made the business world a smaller place…

Good or bad?

Social media has made an enormous difference not only to our personal lives, but to our business lives too. It has opened many new doors, created countless new opportunities, and brought people into our lives who we might never have known without it.

In the 21st century we keep in contact with our friends and family on Facebook without having to send them a letter or pop round to see them because their timelines inform us of how they are doing, their latest news, where they are on holiday, and even a picture of their dinner. LinkedIn updates us about their job and career achievements, whist their tweets provide minute by minute updates about what they are watching on television and what they think about it, their battle with insomnia, their morning wasted waiting in for a delivery… the list really is infinite!

From a business perspective social media really has been a game changer. By making the world more accessible it has indeed made it a smaller place. With Facebook and Twitter we can build an audience of potential customers, alongside our existing ones, who have opted in to receive our messages. Yes, opted in. Now we don’t have to place our marketing messages in places where we hope our target market will see them… television, newspapers, leaflet holders in hotels and supermarkets, bus backs et al, now we can deliver them directly to their Facebook walls and Twitter feeds. And even better stillwe can finely tune our Facebook advertising to pick the exact demographic that we want to reach, right down to targeting fans of our competitors. How’s that for accurate marketing? And, as if that isn’t clever enough, you can run a Facebook campaign to drive people to your website, where a Facebook pixel will capture their information so that with your next campaign you can specifically target people who have visited your website…

You can run but you can’t hide!

So this is all good, yes? From the above how could you disagree? A new, smaller world which is easier to reach out to and engage with. What could possibly go wrong? Well it comes at a price, and that price is that too many businesses think that ‘getting out there’ on the Internet will be all it takes. It’s what I call the Field of Dreams Syndrome ‘If you build it they will come’ where a business has a snazzy new website created by a skinny jeaned and Conversed up team of directional haired young web developers working out of an industrial chic studio with bare brickwork and dangling light bulbs that could double up as a trendy wine bar in the evenings, and a Facebook page and Twitter account that “I run myself rather than pay someone because I like to keep my hand in…” What you mean mate is you just enjoy doing it, you only have half an idea what you are doing, it passes the time and is a bit of contact with the outside world.  And for some this is just dandy and they enjoy great success, but for others it becomes a never-ending cycle of lots of enthusiastic ‘likes’ on their posts but little in the way of enquiries and new business. Sadly, for many, the art of picking up the phone and calling a hot prospect, or even an existing customer who has been a bit quiet for a while, and actually speaking to them, has been lost, or in many cases has never been developed, and possibly never will be.

There’s a lot to be said for kickin’ it old skool sometimes… rocking up at a company you would love to do business with, asking for the name of the person you need to speak to, then leaving a brochure and your business card for them with the message that you will call them in a day or two. It doesn't hurt, it does actually work, and it gets you away from the computer and out in the fresh air for a change. Then, when you've left your comfort zone, hit some networking events, but don’t just turn up once and expect to go back to the office with a hat full of orders, it doesn't work like that. Keep going, get to know your fellow networkers and build relationships with them because you never know, once you've earned their trust some of them may want to do business with you, and even better, every man and woman amongst them knows other people they might just recommend you to.

In conclusion then, social media is an amazing tool for businesses to harness, and harness it they must, but it ain’t the be all and end all. It’s just one activity out of many we should be undertaking to grow our businesses.

I run Media48, a Colchester based graphic and website design and marketing agency where we know a thing or two about how to market a business. If you would like to find out more about what we can do for your business then pick up the phone and give us a call on 0800 756 1470 (we even pay for the call)… or Facebook us if you really must.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Roy McDonough - Football's Hard Man

Of all the players and managers who have come and gone over the years at Colchester United, Roy McDonough is still the one who is remembered most fondly by many fans. He was certainly one of the most charismatic. And controversial.

So, with it being 20 years this very year since one of the most memorable seasons in the club’s history which culminated in the Boys of ’92 earning promotion back into the Football League, along with the little matter of the club’s first ever Wembley appearance, I thought with Big Roy’s autobiography Red Card Roy, which he has co-written with Bernie Friend and which Amazon describes as “ …the jaw-dropping story of terrace cult hero Roy McDonough - Britain's wildest footballer who was sent off a record 22 times in a career of more than 650 games, 100s of goals, thousands of beers and, allegedly, 400 women” being released next month, it would be a good time for a chat with the great man himself.  So I caught up with ‘Big Roy’ in Spain where he and his wife Liz have been living for the past nine years.


Roy’s last competitive game of football was back in 2003 playing for Harwich & Parkeston, where he played two games under former Us teammate Steve McGavin who, at the time, was the non-league club’s player manager. With his boots finally hung up for the last time a new life in Spain beckoned, and Roy is now enjoying success a second time around as a partner in a Spanish property company.

"Big Roy, There's Only One Big Roy"

During a playing career that saw him make over 650 appearances, and score some 150 goals, for a host of professional and non-league clubs including Birmingham City and Southend, with of course two spells at Colchester, Roy earned himself a reputation as one of the game’s ‘hard men’.  Did he model himself on anyone in particular? “Not at all. I think I was a full blooded, honest player who took no prisoners when going for the ball. Everyone should be the same for his team. Roy Keane and Mark Hughes were two of my idols for obvious reasons.”

It was a philosophy that saw him earn the record for the most career dismissals, 22 in total, with him being shown 13 of those red cards in the Football League, a record he shares with former Leicester City and Coventry defender Steve Walsh.  Does he think his record will ever be broken? “Probably not,” he says, dismissing the very notion.  “The modern game is full of pussies I’m afraid.”

Bloodied Roy gives his all

For Us fans it was Roy’s second spell at Layer Road as player manager that earned him legendary status and the gratitude of generations of fans. At the end of the 1989/90 season the club had dropped out of the football league into the GM Vauxhall Conference. Roy’s predecessor, Ian Atkins, had failed to get us back into the League at our first attempt, in spite of having a full time squad, and there was a very real fear that we would end up a part time club and never find a way back up.

"Always See Him in the Lamb on a Saturday Night" 

However, in a moment of brilliance, the board appointed Roy player manager when Atkins, who had brought Roy back from bitter rivals Southend United, departed the club. He then set about putting together a squad to win promotion, and instilled in them the battling mentality needed to get the job done

There was only one other Conference side capable of spoiling the party, Martin McNeill’s Wycombe Wanders, and they quickly became our bitter rivals.

Big Roy puts a nervous ref on the back foot

The tight stadium and atmosphere at ‘Fortress’ Layer Road has often been credited with giving the Us an edge at home, well when things were going our way at least. I ask Roy if he thinks it made a difference in our home match with Wycombe that season. 20 years later Roy is still quick to dismiss O’Neill’s efforts : “We didn’t need an advantage, we were far better than them all season! A full Layer Road did create a great atmosphere though.” It’s classic Roy, one of the game’s great characters who liked nothing better than to wind up O’Neill, and never more so than when we were  3 - 0 up in that same game and he looked over at O’Neill on the bench and said to our players “No more goals, let’s play keep-ball”.

“We had to take the piss, it was lovely. Trust me” Roy reminisces, adding that these antics extended to using the local press to rattle O'Neill. “Some herbert who worked for the Gazette was a Wycombe fan, so the odd remark thrown their way didn’t hurt, did it.”

Honest Ref it was this big

Roy’s mickey taking would have stung O’Neill all the more when, at the end of the season, it was the Us, and not Wycombe, who were crowned Conference champions. And just to rub his nose it in even further Roy also took us to our first ever Wembley Final in May 1992, and won it in style of course, adding the FA Trophy to the club’s trophy cabinet. It was the town’s biggest ever day out and it seemed like nearly everyone in Colchester made their way by car, coach and train to the famous Twin Towers to see the Us demolish Witton Albion 3 - 1. It also led to unbelievable scenes in the High Street a couple of days later as 1000s turned out to welcome the team home.

And Roy’s fondest memory of that season? “Winning the Conference the last game of the season.”

But of course.

Holding the FA Trophy high at Wembley
with team-mates Paul Roberts and Dave Martin

The following are my own photographs and memories of an amazing day out at Wembley and the scenes of jubilation on Colchester High Street that followed.

We gathered at The Globe Tavern on Baker Street before making our way to Wembley Stadium

Yes I really was young once. And skinny. And I smoked.

The Us 1 - 0 up on the Wembley Scoreboard

The victorious Us parade through Colchester in an open top bus

Roy's double winning boys show off the silverware

Personal safety was the last thing on some Us fans minds
as they tried to get closer to their heroes and the cups

Is that Dave Beard up there?

Who could have imagined then that two year later the club that Roy had done so much for would sack him. But sack him they did. In his own words “I thought it was bang out of order, but Mr Heard had gained full control over the board because of the money he put in and he wanted his say, so that was never going to happen with me.”

To this day many still find it hard to believe.

"Roy McDonough's Blue and White Army"
Fast forward 20 years… yes it really is 20 years, and Roy was back in Colchester in May for a reunion with the Boys of ’92 squad, including American Mike Masters who had flown in from the US especially for the event. Roy was also inducted into the Us Hall of Fame, and told me in typical style when I asked him how it felt “Delighted pal. I think the whole team should be in the hall of fame”.

And his thoughts on the Weston Homes Community Stadium? “The new stadium is great.” But would the kind of facilities the Us players enjoy these days at the new stadium have helped give the Boys  of ’92 an even greater edge over Wycombe during the epic promotion battle 20 years ago? I’ll let Roy have the final word “To be fair we didn’t need an edge over Wycombe because we easily beat them most times when I was there.”

Red Card Roy by Roy McDonough and Bernie Friend is released on August 20th. You can order your copy on Amazon.

Follow Roy on Twitter @RoyMcDonough

I run Media48, a Colchester based graphic and website design and marketing agency where we know a thing or two about how to market a business. If you would like to find out more about what we can do for your business then give us a call on 0800 756 1470 (we even pay for the call) or email me