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Alex Fenton - University of Salford

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Beacons Greetings - Veedubs at Beacons Festival 2013

Beacons Greetings - Veedubs at Beacons Festival 2013

Posted: Aug 22, 2013

Back in 2008, we heard about a music festival on the Yorkshire moors called, quite cunningly, the ‘Moor Music festival’. At the time they were offering free tickets for VW campervan owners, so we jumped at the chance to bring our camper and see what it was all about. With British festivals, you generally get stunning settings in the beautiful British countryside – and you often get rain. The Moor music festival offered both of these things in abundance flitting from sunny spells to massive downpours.

There were no big name acts or huge stages, just some really carefully thought out, well chosen, quality music and entertainment. We found it to be a real festival go-ers festival. Our van won best VW in our small category. The free drinks and t-shirts did no harm to our enjoyment of the weekend. We also did the mandatory, push a bunch of old VW vans off the festival site on the Sunday.

Fast forward to 2013, we heard that Savages were playing at Beacons Festival in August. We had a good look through the website and thought it looked like a cracking event to take our vans to. With a bit of digging we figured that this was the new Moor Music festival with a new site and a fresh new name. Headliners this year included Sky Larkin, Local Natives, Bonobo, Gold Panda, Ghost Poet and Django Django. Aside from Savages, we had to YouTube and SoundCloud many of the other acts in our ignorance.

Looking at the reviews of last years festival from the top music publications though and based on past experience of the festival – we were excited, and our excitement proved to be well founded. We headed towards Skipton on the Thursday night after work as we’d heard it may be first come first served in the ‘live in campers field’ which costs an extra £30 on top of the £99 weekend ticket (+booking fee). We had a bit of fun and games driving between entrances to get to the right one, but we finally got ourselves into the campervan field which didn’t have as many vehicles as we were expecting.

We had a wander down to the arena on the Thursday night where we quickly found the real ale tent with ales provided by Leeds oldest and most established real ale house Whitelock. What we weren’t expecting though was our favourite Welsh real cider Gwynt y Ddraig. We’d discovered this gem of a pint at The Chester Food and Drink festival earlier in the year. On the festival site, it states that the ticket prices are kept lower by not allowing drinks in the arena. The drinks are priced between £3.80 and £5.00 a pint depending on their strength, so much of the cider was £4.50. It was the same price for Kopparberg, who have their own dedicated shed, disco, bar and free sample counter with fresh grapefruit and cucumber to accompany their flavours. This was a delightful freebie that kept on giving.

On Friday, the festival started proper. There are two distinct areas of the festival – the music and drinks festival with big top stages (rather than open air) and an arts programme area called ‘The Space Between’, where you can take your own drinks. We spent most of Friday in the music area and saw some real gems that we had only heard previously via the festival website. On the Friday afternoon, Lulu James belted out some amazing tunes in the main (Loud and Quiet) tent, the programme read “James has mastered the art of melding futuristic pop and retrospective soul with her commanding vocals”. We were blown away to the point where by the Saturday morning; half of our party woke up humming a Lulu song. We had a quick chat and a photo with Lulu straight after her stunning performance as she headed for the beer tent. It was that kind of festival.

Local favourites from Leeds, Bonobo stitched together samples to bring together an amazing sound on the Friday evening and between some excellent bands in the smaller ‘You have to hear this’ tent, our party of varying musical tastes could hardly believe just how good the music had been on the first day. The fun and tunes continued on to Saturday. Beats from Gold Panda were forecasted to be one of the highlights of the festival and this proved to be the case. The massive main tent was packed out and looked stunning on stage with excellent sound and lighting. There was plenty of dancing and disco going on all weekend at the open air Red Bull Academy, the social and the spectacular RFID dome with its ceiling projections and beats.

We ventured into the Space Between at the other side. This area has several different tents devoted to lectures, art films, installations and various kinds of performances. We were particularly impressed with Dawsons art films chilling out on comfy Chesterfield settees and the Magnificent Tea Company next door. It’s quite a strange thing to move from cacophony in one area to sipping tea from a china cup and being treated to some beautiful Ukulele music in a 50’s style. As we sipped our tea, two prim and proper ladies, Lady B and Miss D set up for a quite remarkable performance, which was half comedy, half poetry. It was all quite eccentric and hilarious – really entertaining.

The Arts programme of installations including projections and large illuminated signs throughout the festival and a fully carpeted ‘Into the Woods’ stage, complimenting an amazing musical line up. The food and shops were a little underwhelming compared to other festivals like CamperJam. Our party ate (nice) burger after burger, but as a veggie, I was treated to a thali plate of three curries and chutneys at Gandhi’s Flip-flop, which is also a regular fixture at Kendal Calling.

Sunday night saw the amazing Savages take to the ‘You Have to Hear This’ stage. A deep and powerful punk performance from the highly rated ladies to an over capacity crowd blew away even our high expectations. Beacons concluded with a literally jaw dropping psychedelic pop craft performance from Django Django. This incredible sound had everyone jumping (and a few people falling by the end of the evening). Other reviews for the band at the festival gave them 11/10. We were a little surprised that entertainment ended completely by midnight on Sunday, but people continued to make their own entertainment into the early hours.

We will definitely be back to Beaconsfest with our vans. Of all festivals, this was the one that held most surprises and new discoveries for us. There is a whole section for kids called Diddy Rascals but generally, we felt that it was best suited for young adults. There could have stood to be more loos in the campervan field, but generally, Beacons is civilized, cool, and very Veedub friendly.

If you cannot see the photographs below, click here for the Flick photos

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Crowd sourcing experiment

Posted: Feb 04, 2013

We asked 100 Digital Journalism students, what are the benefits of an online portfolio or blog. They tweeted on the #digijourno hashtag and these are the words that came out. We then used Tagxedo and wordle to produce the crowd sourced tag cloud below.

Benefits of portfolio tag cloud

wider readership, communication, sharing ideas  jobs, social interaction, computer skills, personal  public viewing, IT skills/knowledge, practice benefits of online blogs - personal, interest based, building of multimedia skills experience, personal opinions, jobs Exposure, ease of access for potential employers and a indication of you. portfolios is a wider readership, communication, easy information access Exposure, ease of access for potential employers indication of you. party time, excellent, experience, jobs, opinions  opinion skills  share your professional writing worldwide scale platform to get your name, thoughts and opinions out there world  feely creative accessible and professional  share content in a range of multimedia formats that reflect personal opinions/views  easy access and quick to share worldwide Everything in one place! Easy to find Spreading the word, so it can be heard Creating a conversation  debate  issues sharing caring  immediate platform broadcast and display your work whilst gaining instant feedback express our points and views on a particular topic and to participate actively in social life  getting a job, promoting your work, getting immediate feedback, store your files demonstrate your skills  mass audience, interactive and professional Share work  help find jobs  space for your thoughts, creating a virtual identity and getting jobs/interest from others keep a record of your work, having your work easy to disperse and share online portfolio benefits, sharing your work, getting inspiration from others, immediate feedback  a bigger audience, immediate feedback, stored  one place, easier for potential employers to view yourself known, possible employment, showcase your work, show off your skills  making a point using multiple platforms for expression  interactive / easily accessible / allows use of multimedia jobs contacts worldwide connections

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Cider Veedubs, caravans and apples

Cider Veedubs, caravans and apples

Posted: Dec 12, 2012

For us, October has been dominated by two things – caravans and apples. We spent countless hours scouring the web and the country for a second hand Freedom Microlite caravan to support our growing family. We have also scratched around trying to lay our hands on some apples to take to the Dove Syke apple pressing, cider and music festival. Our searches finally came to fruition on the final Saturday of October. Apples have been in short supply in some parts this year, adverse weather conditions have badly affected many trees and ours was no exception. We begged, bought and borrowed a few bags of apples from various people for this year’s cider blend, which should be ready to drink in May 2013.

We first heard about The Dove Syke Cider Company back in July. Based in the beautiful Ribble valley, they were developing a great reputation for producing some excellent ciders including the award winning Ribble Valley Gold. We duly Googled the company, found their website and dropped them a line. We were really excited to hear they were running an apple pressing, cider and music event so we quickly booked places for three VW vans.

At the VW events we’d attended this year, we noticed some brilliant tear-drop trailers, pucks and pods. Given the terrible weather over the Summer, these looked really appealing and it got us thinking that we could do with the extra space for the family. Just before we set off for the cider festival, we managed to pick up our new 1996 Freedom Microlite. These little caravans seem to be coming increasingly popular. They are small, easy to tow but have a surprising amount of space inside. We happily sat five adults in the caravan, ate, cooked in it and two of us slept in it that night. The new caravan was an EBay purchase, so we zoomed over to Bradford in the morning to collect it and then raced back to meet our friends to head over to the Ribble Valley and the Dove Syke cider event.

The caravan has a table for four people and a table for two people. The tables convert into a double bed and a single bed respectively. In addition, there is a large cupboard, a sink and worktop units with cupboards underneath. There are also small cupboards overhead and a roof that pops up. All in all, it looks small from outside, but it’s a real tardis. The kids have spent several hours playing in it so far.

It was a glorious day for a change and on arrival at the Dove Syke brewery, the owners kindly showed us to the area where we could camp. They even offered to use their little tractor to help us position our new caravan. It is a truly a beautiful spot. Eleven acres of forest land populated by little Christmas trees and at the entrance sits the very tasteful cider production building with outdoor seating areas attached. We parked up and gathered up our many varieties of apple and brought them down just in time for the 2pm pressing. It was free to press our apples and they went through the same Dove Syke cider making machinery along with many other apples in that session. We had brought along a demijohn and ten litre barrel and the owners kindly filled them up for us from the main tank.

We got some vouchers and then headed to the cider bar which shared the space with the same large space as the apple pressing equipment. There were so many varieties of cider to choose from including the 7.2% Dabinett, ginger cider, mulled cider and of course the classic chilled Ribble Valley Gold. We had tasted this cider once before in our local real ale pub, but drinking cool from the source was a real treat. We all loved the cider and tried several samples before selecting a good half pint to drink. It was a very warm and sunny October day and we sat outside drinking our cider in a very friendly and pleasant ambience. There was apple bobbing of course, which had to be attempted after a few pints. At tea time, we managed to cook and eat in the little caravan and then it was time for a few more ciders and the music. There were several acts on within the main cider area and it was a really entertaining and fun evening with dancing and merriment.

We awoke on Sunday to yet more glorious sunshine, so we cooked our breakfast outside. We got packed up and said our farewells to the owners, who had put on a truly enjoyable event with some lovely people and exceptional cider. We learned also that in December you can buy Christmas trees from Dove Syke and bring the kids along to post their letters to Santa. The next cider event is set for spring when the first cuckoo calls. 

Funplace2b campsites
Back in 2005, we set up a little website called Funplace2b campsites to let VW owners share and recommend their favourite places to take their vans. After many hundreds of members and campsites, the website has been redesigned and improved. The site has a brand new look and lets you share the campsites with your favourite social media sites. If you have a smart phone, you can easily find exciting new places to take your van and submit new recommendations while you’re on location. It’s possible to use an app to snap and share pictures from your phone or you can get a list of all the sites on your GPS.

We are giving away some VW Funplace2b campsite stickers for your van window. Take a look at for sticker details, links, to find new places to go and to recommend your favourite spots. We hope you’ll enjoy using the new website.

By Alex Fenton

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Kendal Calling 2012 with the Kids and a VW T5

Kendal Calling 2012 with the Kids and a VW T5

Posted: Aug 05, 2012

We narrowly missed out on campervan tickets for the much lauded Kendal Calling festival in 2010, so we doubled our efforts, booked early and took our van to the festival in 2011. It was incredible, so with much anticipation, we returned for this year’s festival with more vans and this time brought our two kids.

Booking early is essential for Kendal Calling. The public voted it the UK’s best small festival in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, our camper van tickets allowed us to drive in and camp almost instantly, with the arena a very short walk away. The toilets were immaculate, the music was great and with the amazing décor and interesting features, it was one of the best festivals we’ve ever attended.

We arrived at Lowther Deer Park on the Friday afternoon for this year’s festival with several vans in our party. After queuing for a while and a bit of chaos, we just about managed to get camped all together. Many great festivals expand in numbers each year. We have seen the Beatherder and Solfest Festivals change with more people each year and Kendal Calling is no exception. This year there were 13000 people with plans to expand again next year. Growing numbers and adverse weather conditions can alter the equilibrium of a festival and this was true of this year’s Kendal Calling. The mud levels were vastly less than some of the other festival this year, but the soft ground and enhanced numbers meant we were camped in an entirely different location away from the arena. To take a camper to the festival, you buy a £50 ‘Emperors Field’ ticket. Last year this ticket was well worth it, but not so much this year. The loos in the arena and in the camper van field were a far-cry from last year’s immaculate effort.

The festival itself felt much busier and reminded us at times of the V-festival in the early noughties. Some of the décor and features that give the festival a special edge last year seemed to be missing, but there were some interesting new additions such as Tim Peaks Diner and a new Woodland Stage. Many of the old favourites such as the real ale tent were back. The general consensus was that the beer wasn’t quite as good this year although we did discover an excellent pint from one of the other bars.

We had a walk to the arena and saw ‘Little Comets’ play an exceptional set in one of the many tents. Kendal Calling really know their music. Maximo park blasted out some classics on the main stage on Friday night. The kids loved the circus things in the Ladybird tent, the big wheel and the Helter Skelter (which was a bit pricey). There were also some amazing hammocks which kept them entertained for ages. Our 6 year old particularly loved picking up cups for 10p a cup return. The incredible Blowjangles street band continually entertained marching round the site with their own brand of whacky feel good tunes. Kids young and old enjoyed playing and singing along to some classics like ‘500 miles’ and ‘Monkey Man’.

On the Saturday night, we all watched Dizzee Rascal on the main stage. The cartoon and fairy tale fancy dress again had some brilliant and amusing sights to offer. Mr. Rascal belted out such an incredible and diverse set that everyone from our party from ages 3 to 65 rocked along to the master entertainer. Our 3 year old was particularly impressed with Spiderman climbing up a tree for a better view.

Sunday was a great day. We had booked onto the CAMRA real ale tasting session, which was really enlightening (and tasty). After several mouthfuls of malt and hops (fermented and unfermented) we were in good spirits to see the hilarious Lancashire Hotpots.We first saw them in action at Beatherder, but these days, they seem to get a capacity crowd rocking on the main stage in an afternoon. It’s really very impressive to see and about the best entertainment you could want at that time of day. The Pots belted out some side splitting and catchy classics such as ‘Chippy Tea’ and ‘I fear Ikea’ downing a can between each tune. Sunday tea time, we wandered up to the new Woodland Stage – this is an incredible new area in the trees and has a unique chilled out atmosphere. We watched singer songwriter Alex Hulme play an excellent set from his new EP ‘The Start’. I managed to have a chat with Alex after he came off stage about VW Camper Vans and jamming with Sir Paul McCartney. Alex had recently graduated from Macca’s school of music in Liverpool.

James were the headline act on Sunday evening, and what a performance. Between the incredible visuals, the energy and the vocals this really was a night to remember. The classics just kept coming and James really set the festival alight. It was an inspired and amazing finish to the festival.

The weather had been largely sunny so far, but on Monday morning, there was a downpour. This is never good when you have to drive a heavy camper up a grassy hill to the road. There were two tractors helping out, but we managed to push and pull our vans back onto the road with some cunning strategy and helpful assistance from our fellow campers. All considered, another superb long weekend and I’m sure we will return again to Kendal Calling.

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Aug 26, 2012 : andybailey Says:

Sounds like you had a belting time Alex. I would love to go to a music festival, but the thing that puts me off is the camping side. I'm not the biggest camping fan. When I recently went to the Hawkeshead brewery the Virgin train was delayed, meaning we missed our connection at Oxenholme. We had to get a bus in to Kendal then another bus to Staveley. I must admit I'd never been to Kendal before but I loved the place. I would like to go and spend the afternoon. It seems like a really quaint and interesting town.

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VW Homage to Catalonia

VW Homage to Catalonia

Posted: Jun 06, 2012

When we took the tough decision to sell our beloved T-25 and buy a T5, we always hoped that it would help us travel that bit further. At the end of 2011, we got an invite to one of our best friends weddings near Mollerusa in Catalonia. We went through every permutation possible for the best way to get there with two little ones including planes, trains and boats. When our T-25 owning friends mooted the idea of driving from Lancashire to Catalonia, it didn’t take us long to realise that this was an opportunity of a lifetime – the decision was made and the plans began to hatch.

Soon after, we discovered a book called ‘France Passion’. Essentially, this is a scheme that enables French vineyards, cider farms, horse farms etc. to open their gates for one nights free camping. We thought this sounded ideal, so we bought the book for £25 and started to plot a route based on these free spots and free French Aires. Our original plan was to drive down to Dover, get the ferry to Dunkirk, drive through France to Catalonia and then drive back approximately the same way. We realised however that with little ones in tow and just over two weeks off work that we would be spending a lot of the time driving. With this in mind, we took the decision to spend some time in Northern Spain and get the ferry back to England from Bilbao.

At the end of April 2011, we set off for Dover. We got a Travelodge near the ferry port so that we could catch the morning ferry and give ourselves a chance to get a few miles into France in the morning. The ferry crossing was straightforward – we continued into France and for the first time, drove on the other side of the road. Apart from a couple of instances of driving on the wrong side, it was all quite jolly, if a tad wet. We had clearly brought the weather with us as we pulled into the France passion free spot, which was a Cider Farm in Saint Saire. It was around tea time and we had just missed the cider or any shops, so we raided our cupboards and had a wander round to look at the donkeys and tractors.

I believe that if it’s raining, the best thing to do when travelling around Europe is to head South, and that’s just what we did. In the morning, we set out for another France Passion site – this time a horse farm in Thoury, which is in the Châteaux region of the Loire Valley. This spot was more picturesque and the kids loved seeing the horses. The sun also broke through for us. The next day was truly special. We went to visit the Châteaux of the area, including the spectacular Châteaux Chambord. The parking wasn’t expensive and there was a beautiful little open air market, so we finally managed to buy some local wines and food. We hired a six seater bike and rode around this spectacular fairy tale structure. Chambord is the largest and most recognisable Château in the Loire Valley and it was a truly breathtaking and wonderful day out.

It was late when we arrived at our next France passion site. It was a vineyard, but the pitch was a small concrete car park next to the road. We decided to press on and find another spot. There was another vineyard in nearby Neuville-de-Poitou, which we sought out. We used our best French to communicate with the owners, who told us that we were welcome to stay if we could vacate at 8am. They were lovely people, but their beloved pet was akin to The Hound of the Baskervilles. Once we were parked up, the vineyard owner walked over and after nervously patting the dog, we asked if it would be possible to buy some wine. They very kindly opened up a stunning wine tasting house and we got some bottles for our voyage.

Aubeterre Sur-Dronne was our next destination and it finally started to get quite warm. There had clearly been some serious rain however, so the campsite we went to seemed to be flooded and closed. After some driving around, we finally settled on the free Aires spot. This was essentially a car park next to the campsite, but unlike the France Passion sites, it had basic facilities such as a tap, bin and somewhere to empty the loo, which was a bonus. At tea time, we wandered into Aubeterre, not really knowing what to expect. The village is high on a hill and is considered to be one of the most beautiful in France. It was gorgeous. Due once again to our poor timing, we failed to get something to eat however so we were back on our own stocks and cooker which did the job nicely.

Our voyage got ever warmer and ever more spectacular as we headed the next day towards the Pyranees. We were extremely excited to see snow capped mountains in the distance and as we pulled into a stunning Municipal campsite in lovely Saint Lary, we were blessed with views of the snowy mountains. This was the first night that we’d had to pay for camping, but at about 10 Euros, it was an absolute bargain. We finally managed to find somewhere to dine out in the shape of the local pizza restaurant, which took an age, but was very nice. We bid au revoir to France in the morning as we weaved up and up into the mountains heading toward the tunnel that would conclude the French leg of our trip. We ascended in low gears up to almost 6000ft and some of the most spectacular scenery we’ve seen to date. Waiting for the tunnel, we got a chance to make snowmen in our flip-flops and take in the breathtaking Everest style snowy peaks.

We headed through the tunnel and into Spain. The kids were very excited that we had to open the slider at the border to hand over our passports to a rather grumpy, machine gun wielding bearded Spaniard. We were more keen however to get through the border and start spotting vultures, eagles and maybe even a bear? The scenery on the drive topped even the spectacular Antrim coast drive (our previous favourite). The journey is characterised by breath taking views, fast flowing rivers, snow capped peaks and stunning blue skies. We thought we spotted a bear also at the side of the road, which made it all the more thrilling!

We had been a tad spoilt taking the toll roads through France as heading into Spain, we almost got run off the road by a truck driver. The roads and buildings changed and we were truly in a new, drier location. We couldn’t find much in the way of free or cheap camping in Spain, so we went to a campsite with facilities for 25 Euros in the mountainous area of La Noguera. I must admit, it was very nice to sit down in the campsite bar at the end of the day with an Estrella and the kids playing on the playground. Our expenditure went up greatly at this point in campsites, ice-cream and beer, but it was very pleasant.

The next morning, we made the short journey to our hotel in Mollerusa. On the first night we discovered an exceptional Italian restaurant. The décor, service and cuisine were absolutely first rate. It was a good start to our time in Catalonia. The wedding the next day was incredible. It was on a vineyard and the grounds had been kitted out with marquees, hog roasts, bouncy castles and several dozen different aperitif dishes to enjoy along with the wine. The meal and evening party were equally exceptional. The following day we headed into our friends home village and said our goodbyes and headed to another Catalonian campsite in Àger. This was a similar affair with all the facilities, but with a beautiful Catalonian village to walk into nearby.

Our plan now was to head North towards our ferry in Bilbao. Our first stop was in the beautiful city of Zaragoza. We hadn’t planned this part of our trip much, but this was a real gem of a find. This brand new campsite on the outskirts of the city was expensive at 30 Euros but had every kind of facility you could ask for including pools, football, tennis, kids stuff and site wide Wifi. We decided to stay on an extra night so that we could explore the city the next morning. We got the bus into the city early to avoid the heat and the city did not disappoint. We wandered round ancient Roman ruins and visited the stunning Cathedral before seeking out some fine tapas. It was worth waiting for. It was some of the best we’d eaten but the icing on the cake was the ‘Cidra man’ who was basically a large plastic figure with the ability to fill our cider glasses!

The next morning, we set forth for the coast of Northern Spain. Our first stop was Sopalena, a rather expensive campsite in walking distance of the beach. Sopalena is a lovely and friendly place near Bilbao. That evening was the European cup final featuring Bilbao and there was a great party atmosphere in this seaside town. We walked down to the roaring sea for a paddle and then had a beer overlooking the sea. We got seated ready for the football with some great tapas bar dishes. Bilbao lost sadly, but we felt very welcomed and at home here. The next day, it was starting to creep up to 35 degrees, which was unseasonally hot for the region in May. We moved on to Mundaka, which famously used to hold the world surfing championships. This day was too hot to do anything, the campsite was expensive but very lovely with plenty of shade. The following day we had a walk into Mundaka, which isn’t too impressive but we enjoyed talking to the guy in the surf shop and having a beer in the port. The lovely town of Gernika is also a short bus ride away and is worth a look for its museums, shops and great food.

We made the short drive to the Bilbao ferry port in the morning. We hadn’t realised that we would have to get a long taxi to the nearest village in order to get the train to Bilbao! It was a mission, but well worth it as we had a flying visit to the stunning Guggenheim museum and then had a lovely meal in a nearby restaurant. We got back for tea time and set sail on the overnight ferry. We’d heard a lot about how rough the crossing can be, but luckily for us it was akin to a mill pond and we had an enjoyable journey back to Blighty.

After over 2000 miles and some incredible experiences, we bid goodbye to the Basque region. As much as we had enjoyed Spain and Catalonia, we felt that next time out we would explore more of France where it seemed to be more kitted out for VW touring with France passion, The Aires and municipal campsites. We couldn’t have asked for a better holiday however and we and the kids have some great memories. The voyage has now opened up a world of new VW possibilities for us and our friends.

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Jun 08, 2012 : atic Says:

Alex.....whilst you will never convince me that a holiday in anything with wheels is a good idea, it sounds like you all had a ball! One thing we do agree on is the value of travel for our children.....I'm sure they'll all grow up to appreciate it! Angela

Jun 14, 2012 : alexfenton Says:

Cheers Angela, thankfully they're just about old enough to appreciate it all. There were a couple of moments were the wee man was pretty fed up of sitting in a car seat, but we all had a blast!

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Pop Art Factory MCUK

Pop Art Factory MCUK

Posted: Apr 11, 2012

Pop Art Factory is a creative web application originally written by Alex Fenton as an MA Creative Technology project, but was set up at the Beatherder music and performance festival in 2009. The website allows people to log on, add their own pictures or photos and then choose various settings to create Pop Art images in the style of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein etc. Pop art is a visual art movement that emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain and is often characterized by themes drawn from popular culture. Anyone using Pop Art factory can instantly add their own pictures to create art work drawn from their own experiences of popular culture or to highlight topical issues.

Pop Art Factory MCUK will be set up at Creative Hive Live on 29 May 2012 but this time with a cross disciplinary team of creative people as follows:

Amy York – Photographer and Photoshopper from Salford Uni
Cindy Siukonen – Photographer and graphic designer from London
Danielle Smith – Creative writer Masters student at mcuk
Lauren Dunn – University graphic designer (available 2pm – 5pm)
Manny Vass – Contemporary and classical pianist and graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music

On the day, Amy and Cindy will capture photographs of the event including portraits, groups, architecture, installations etc.

These images will be passed to Danielle, Lauren and/or Cindy who will pop art these images in different styles (Warhol, Lichtenstein etc.) Using the pop art website and /or the pop art studio software set up on their laptops.

Danielle will write some flash fiction connected to the stories within the images and will pass this text to Lauren and/or Cindy.

Cindy and Lauren will assemble the flash fiction text and pop art images together using Illustrator and/or Photoshop and will collate these images into Powerpoint or similar.

At the end of the afternoon and evening, these images will be displayed on a high quality Christie Tile wall at the exhibition. Manny will weave some of his musical magic to accompany the revolving story images on the Christie tiles.

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Kendal Calling 2012 Festival Line-up announced

Kendal Calling 2012 Festival Line-up announced

Posted: Feb 22, 2012

DIZZY RASCAL, Maximo Park, James and Andy C are set to headline Kendal Calling 2012 (27 - 29 July), writes Alex Fenton.

Rascal clearly loves Kendal Calling. In 2008, he flew in from Ibiza to perform at the festival before flying back again, 'cos that's how he rolls.

Meanwhile, drum and bass legend Andy C may be new to Kendal, but like Dizzy he is a true master of his trade and will dazzle the crowd at this year’s event.

Kendal Calling truly has something for everyone. Once again the festival organisers have mastered the art of the eclectic and diverse line-up with James and Maximo Park to inject some powerhouse, headlining guitar-based energy. 

Tim Burgess of the Charlatans returns to Kendal Calling to host 'Tim's Diner' after last year's excellent acoustic set while festival stalwarts Dreadzone and Utah Saints will raise the tempo. Lancashire’s finest party regulars, The Blowjangles carnival band and The Lancashire Hotpots join the fun for some “by ‘eck” zany fun and are not to be missed.

Vintage Trouble blew the roof off the festival last year with their high octane grooves. They return again and will be a massive crowd pleaser. Some old indie favourites join the 2012 line-up in the shape of Inspiral Carpets, Dodgy and Shed 7. This first wave of acts is impressive, but with over 100 artists still to be announced, it will be another good year.

The festival is scheduled as always at the end of July in the stunning setting of Lowther Deer Park in the Lake District.

Setting up shop in 2006, Kendal Calling hit the ground running with some amazing acts playing to less than 1000 people in the first year.Since then, Kendal Calling has collected bucket-fuls of nominations and awards including Best Small Festival Live UK award 2011 & UK Festival Award 2010.

The number of tickets and quality levels are raised each year meaning it sells out very quickly. 2012 will be no exception with yet another crowd-pleasing line up to add to the festival's growing reputation.

For a small festival, Kendal Calling impresses each year with its bands. The true mark of such a popular festival, however, is the ‘other stuff’. Real Ale tents, inspired fancy dress, circus acts, Professors in residence, comedy and some really quirky and beautiful décor combine to make this an innovative, witty festival not to be missed.


Lowther Deer Park, Hackthorpe, The Lake District


Tickets available from 9am, Thurs 23rd Feb at

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The Big Apple in a T5

The Big Apple in a T5

Posted: Oct 18, 2011

You just can't beat a good end of season camping weekend. When the opportunity arose to take our T5 down to Herefordshire to make our own cider at the Big Apple festival, we jumped at the chance.

We moved house a few years ago mainly to gain space to park our camper. We also wanted a decent garden for the kids to play out in and to while away those hot summer days with a glass of cider or two. The previous owners had planted several fruit trees and plants in the garden, but the jewel in the crown is a battered, but prosperous apple tree. It looks precarious, but in the last two years, it has exploded with an abundance of Bramley apples. The tree extends its branches out into two adjoining gardens, sharing its apples in droves with the neighbours. Each year, we struggle to use or distribute our trees offerings. This year was a particularly generous crop, and not wanting to waste them all, we wondered what would be involved in making some cider.

After the mandatory hours worth of Googling, we discovered a website for ‘The Little Cider Press’ which offers a mobile fruit pressing / juicing service. I was intrigued, so I dropped them an email asking about it. Deborah from the Little Cider press responded and she told us about a festival called The Big Apple running at the start of October. This sounded too good an opportunity to pass up. We could get our apples pressed into cider whilst checking out the beautiful Herefordshire countryside with a few glasses of the local nectar! We duly packed up our van with several boxes of our freshly picked apples and headed South for the festival. Deborah had suggested the Trumpet Inn campsite, which is located in Ledbury. It’s a lovely old pub with the campsite next to the beer garden. After some serious jams on the M6, we pulled into the pub car park just before dark on the Friday, much to our relief. The campsite is next to a fairly busy road, but it is nicely fenced off and has everything we needed including mains hook-up. It is family friendly and a bargainous £12 a night. The pub has great food and beer, so we were in our element.

In the morning, we were up bright and early ready for the Big Apple harvest time experience. The festival runs twice a year in the seven parishes of the Marcle Ridge in Herefordshire and it celebrates their rich heritage and abundance of all things apple pear, cider and perry. Deborah had suggested that it would be wise for us to pick some cider apples to compliment our Bramley cooking apples to make our cider. There are no shortage of places to pick apples. We booked into the nearby Dragon orchard in Putley and picked half a sack of Dabonette cider apples for a tenner. These are quite tiny apples and they taste extremely bizarre and dry, but it was fun picking them in some gorgeous countryside as part of the experience. There’s a really lovely smell of apples that emanates from the gardens and orchards of the county setting the scene for the day. Fruit production forms the backbone of the local Herefordshire economy and weaves into the very fabric of this wonderful landscape and culture of the county.

Next stop for us was the Little Cider Press, which had set up at the Walwyn Arms in Much Marcle. We didn’t expect it, but we were able to get involved with the cider making process, which was an added bonus. First of all, we tipped all of our apples into a huge container of water. We then tipped bucket after bucket into the shredder. The resulting chopped apple pulp is then loaded onto cloths and layers of "cheeses" which are stacked 5 high before the press is applied. We had to turn the press handle to squeeze out 25 litres of cider from our 50kg (two sacks) of apples. The juice is collected into tubs and decanted into a large container. Deborah and Nigel are real masters of their trade. They brew an award winning cider themselves and they made us feel really welcome. Their enthusiasm and advice really inspired us to think more about cider making. I particularly liked the way they provide a complete end to end service to simplify and teach us how to make our own cider. There was a bit of juice left that wouldn’t fit in the container, so I got a couple of cups out of the van to test it. Surprise surprise, it was absolutely beautiful. It will take 7 months to brew our cider in this way and it will be 6.5%, we have everything crossed that we look after it properly. This method using freshly picked apples and no chemicals or yeast allows the cider to brew naturally.

We carefully placed the cider in our van and then took a walk up the road to where many of the Big Apple events were happening. Our first stop was a real cracker. Gregg’s Pit orchard is a beautiful walk up the lane and through picturesque fields into a delightful cider pressing English orchard garden. We were greeted with cider and perry tasting and some unbelievably tempting lunches, cakes and chutneys. We tried a ploughman’s lunch with award winning cheeses and wedge of pork pie. This was complimented by fresh slices of apple and chutney from the orchard. We sipped cider and watched some Morris dancing among the apple and pear trees. It’s hard to imagine a more pleasant English scene. Just thinking back to that perfect moment now brings a smile to my face. It would have been tempting to stay there all day, but we knew there was so much more to see. Our next stop was the Lyne Down cider company. We sampled some amazing ciders, mulled and whisky ciders here and bought a bottle for later. It costs around 5 or 6 pounds for a 75cl wine bottle of this high quality natural cider, which we thought made our own cider great value.

Our next destination was completely different again. Many cider fans will have sampled Weston’s cider at some stage. We visited the brewery and shop. It’s always a good sign when you see every single person returning to their cars holding as much cider as they can carry. After some very generous samples, we stocked up for later. This type of cider is more mass produced and therefore cheaper, but excellent. Our final stop before it closed was to complete the circle and head back to the Dragon Orchard in Putley. The fruit farm here has been run by the Stanier family for over 80 years. They started the ‘Once Upon a Tree’ cider production in 2008. In this short space of time, they have already won an unprecedented amount of international awards for their juice, cider and perry. We were told that the makers come from a wine making background and it was interesting to note this in their fine bottles of cider. One bottle for example was recommended to eat with fish and chips!

We purchased some of these award winning bottles from the little shop and were invited to take a look around the orchard. This is a real treat. It’s a lovely walk around the many varieties of fruit trees and you also get to meet some big laughing pigs and some very tranquil spots to contemplate and relax. The van was well stocked now, so we headed back to the campsite for our own cider tasting session. They were all good of course. We tried some cider made with some of the same apples we had picked from Dragon orchard. It was exceptional; we can only hope that ours is half as good!

The Big Apple comes highly recommended. It’s one of those really different kind of places to take your van. It’s a really friendly place, picturesque and there’s so much to see. We could visit again next year and have a completely difference experience. We’ll certainly be back. I think bikes might be beneficial next time to get back to the campsite whilst having the odd pint of what must be some of the world’s finest cider and perry. It’s really pleasing that the English apple and quality cider are making a comeback and it is places such as the Marcle Ridge that embody this, delivering something that is a million miles from the super mass produced apple and cider.

More info: The Little Cider pressThe Big apple festival

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Oct 30, 2011 : angelatait Says:

Alex. Whilst we'll never agree about the virtues of camping, I am extremely jealous! We have two apple trees in our gharden, one eating and one bramley. They're also abundant now I've got on top of the pruning in the autumn. Problem is, I'm not really keen on apple pie/crumble/chutney but have to admit to a fondness for cider year.....?

Oct 30, 2011 : alexfenton Says:

Nice! Lets make some Hive cider :) im very tempted to plant a cider apple tree but I bet between our crop we could make some good stuff, will let you know how this batch turns out.

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ECE 2011 - Slides

Posted: Jun 29, 2011

I'm presenting my paper on Creative Hive at the Education in a Changing Environment Conference (ECE 2011) July 6th.
Here are the slides from my presentation including a YouTube video of the Second Life space.

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On your doorstep - the life and times of a VW camper family

On your doorstep - the life and times of a VW camper family

Posted: Mar 03, 2011

From time to time, I write articles for a VW mag - here's the latest one I'm working on...

In 2005, we bought our first VW camper – a clapped out 1988 White T-25. It was a bit of an experiment to say the least. We hadn’t really talked seriously about buying one before, but within a week, we were driving ‘Bertie’ up to the Lake District and discussing what we could do to pimp our ride. It broke down of course on the way home after filling up the tank. It needed a lot of work to keep it on the road including two new gear boxes, a new engine, new brakes, exhaust etc. It wasn’t long before we realised that, despite the time, money and effort to keep it on the road, this was a life changing thing all round. Many of our friends and family followed suit buying mainly T-25’s, so we quickly had a convoy of people to go camping with in addition to the VW festivals. We loved the van so much, we got a Poseidon blue re-spray, an LPG conversion, a brand new bespoke interior and pretty much all spare cash went into some enhancement or other.

Our first child Summer was born in May 2006. We had to make some alterations to the van to accommodate her. Summer got her first VW camping experience at two weeks old, and her first festival (Solfest) aged three months. At that point, there was a definite shift away from the travelling holidays abroad, to British holidays and festivals in the van with friends and family. When Summer was two, we embarked on our greatest VW voyage so far travelling around England, Wales, R.Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Our little boy Zeke was born two years later and further modifications were needed to the van to accommodate two adults and two children. The old bed contraptions and hammocks were brought out of the attic to accommodate our new addition. As anyone with children knows, life can become rather hectic. In 2010, we started to get some van fail situations. We had to get the AA out six times for breakdowns, and it became increasingly difficult to find the time and resilience needed to accommodate breaking down on the motorway – again. The insurance quote came through on our old car and we realised it may be time to bite the bullet. We got our t-25 fixed and then took one of the hardest family decisions we’ve ever had to make – to sell our van and look for something more reliable. Our T25 sold within days and the car soon after, so we realised we had to act quickly. We researched T5’s for sale and had a good look and chat with T5 owners at CamperJam 2010.

We managed to find a supplier of Ex-AA and lease panel vans in Welshpool to find a 2006 white T5 panel van. Realising that we were at least one seat short, we swiftly took our van into Acorn Interiors in Accrington. As a quick win, the guys there swiftly installed a full width rock and roll bed and a window, so we could at least go camping in a minimal sense. We managed to get several great camping trips and festivals in over the Summer and then took the van back in to Acorn for a Reimo high top, floor, lining, a cupboard and the remaining windows.

The new van was completely different to the old one in that it had a full width bed and none of the cupboards and storage we had in our old van with its permanent high top. The bonus was that we had six seats and a flexible layout with the additional space of the long wheel base. We also had that increased reliability and could go back to being a one vehicle family. We are planning to resume our world travels in the next couple of years and this van should help us re-trace some of steps around Europe that we’d traversed by foot and train over the past decade. 2010 became all about what’s on your doorstep. This proved to be a fruitful strategy as we discovered some excellent places to go camping in and around where we live in Lancashire. One of our new favourite places to go camping is Chipping, which is within an area of outstanding natural beauty in the Forest of Bowland. Chipping is a 1000 year old picturesque little village with some cracking pubs, beer, and a beautiful little campsite. It’s also an excellent base to discover the delights of the Forest and the nearby Wild Boar Park.

Not too far down the road, the town of Clitheroe in the Ribble Valley in Lancashire is another highly recommended spot to take your camper. There are several campsites a relatively short walk away from the centre of Clitheroe. The more regimented, but beautiful spot of the Camping and Caravanning Club site is one of these options. This is toward the Edisford Bridge end of town, which with the wide river and miniature railway and playground is a day out in itself. Clitheroe itself is one of our firm favourites for a day out. Clitheroe Castle is a dominant feature of the town and is said to be the smallest Norman keep in England. The keep stands at the top of a limestone hill and is one of the oldest buildings in Lancashire. There are some interesting features inside and outside the keep and the views from the top over Lancashire are simply amazing. Add to this, one of the finest sausage and wine shops we have come across and you are talking about a sublime barbeque experience after your day out. The third recommendation is a little more obscure, but has become a prime spot for an evening out. There are two basic campsites in Clayton-le-Dale on the countryside of the outskirts of Blackburn. These sites are both a two minute walk from one of the finest Indian Restaurants we have had the pleasure to visit, the Shejan. The bonus of taking the camper to visit the restaurant is that, it is far cheaper than two way taxi’s and we also get the added bonus of going camping for a night.

These are just some examples of the places that we like to go on our doorstep, but if you would like to share your own ideas, we’re always happy to have a chat. You can drop us a line on or submit your idea at: You can also find more information about the campsites mentioned in this article under the Links section.

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Mar 05, 2011 : Angela Tait Says:

Alex know how much I like/respect/admire (delete as appropriate) you. However no-one on earth could ever convince me that a holiday in a vehicle with two small children could be classified under the category of 'fun'. My philosophy for holidays is simple. Don't go anywhere less comfortable than home. Lovely article though. best Angela

Mar 05, 2011 : alexf Says:

Haha! I paint a rosy pic there don't I,but when you have a teething 1 yr old and it's pouring down and howling outside your van, you do kinda wish you were sat beside a pool in Italy somewhere. Thankfully though, its usually all smiles, kids sleep better in the van good old fashioned craic. It also means we can get away most weekends and fully experience this stunning island.

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Beatherder 2010

Beatherder 2010

Posted: Oct 27, 2010

From time to time, I write and take pictures for VW Camper and Commercial Mag. Here's a short one I wrote for the latest issue (50).

The Beatherder festival is advertised as ‘three days of beats and barminess in lovely Lancashire’. Based in the stunning settings of the Ribble valley someway between Clitheroe and Gisburn, Beatherder started in 2006 and has grown in scale and popularity every year. This year’s festival sold out of its 7500 tickets in record time. The festival has an impressive main stage framed with the beautiful shades of green trees and hills. There is something interesting to see, hear, drink or eat at every turn. One of the most intriguing parts of the festival is the Toil Trees stage which is essentially a clearing protected by a canopy of tall pine trees. Various DJ’s play at all hours in this area and there are several cunning features such as a huge wooden round table and chairs and an outdoor cinema with logs for seats. There is a half submerged café, tunnels in the ground and quirky features hidden in the undergrowth.

We first discovered Beatherder in 2007 in its second year. Our daughter had just turned one and we were really happy to see how family friendly the festival and the people were. Of all the festivals we’ve been to, this had to be one of the most interesting and beautiful festivals we’d seen so far. Beatherder isn’t about big name bands, it’s all about the festival experience, but the organisers certainly know how to pick some quality and eye-catching acts to fill the many stages and tents. The stalls are filled with great stuff, tasty food and beer and it’s all reasonable priced. You can pick up cold beer for about £3 for two cans, which by normal standards is a total bargain. The festival is also very environmentally sound, providing recycling bags and a whole host of right on features which add to the experience rather than detract.

At this year’s festival, we were joined by several of our fellow VW camper owners and we convoyed in from the nearby services for lunchtime on the Friday so we could make a circle of vans for our campsite. This year there were three babies in our number and one four year old. There was no specified family part to the campervan field and we did end up with some very noisy neighbours this time but generally, Beatherder is a great place for families. One of the bonuses for me is that you are never too far away from your campsite if you need to bob back. Beatherder has been compared to a mini-Glastonbury, but minus the two hour hike between your van and the arena. For next year, the organisers are considering creating a family part of the camper van field.

The highlights at this years festival for me were the Recovery room and it’s excellent sounds and veggie fayre, a Portuguese theatrical electro rock band called Blasted Mechanism, Zion Train and the winner of ‘Beatherder’s got talent’ an amazing human beat boxer. For people operating on a different time zone to us, DJ Andy C and the Utah Saints were also highly rated.

We’ll definitely be back next year with another gang of us. For us, it’s the best festival to take a VW camper, your mates and young kids. It’s enjoyed by all kinds of people and it has to be one of the most interesting and friendly festivals we’ve had the pleasure to attend. For three days each July, the festival site transforms into a village were dreams meet reality.

Beatherder is in the first weekend of July each year – more information can be found at:


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Crescent Police station 2015

Crescent Police station 2015

Posted: Jul 20, 2010

This project involved creating a current and future model of the former Salford Crescent Police station. The building currently lies derelict, so research was undertaken to look at innovative ways to use the building for a future, sustainable vision.

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Bradley Chimney Lights

Bradley Chimney Lights

Posted: Jul 20, 2010

The area of Bradley in Lancashire has become disconnected psychologically from Nelson centre. The old chimney in Bradley provides an excellent opportunity for a beacon to help re-establish this connection and help to put Bradley back on the map.

By introducing animated LED lights to the exterior of the chimney, both of these goals can be achieved. Fibre optic and LED’s are used both in the transfer of data and can also be used in lighting applications. Data transfer via the internet, fibre optic cables and LED’s are crucial to the fabric of the digital age.

The project involves turning the chimney into a tower of sparkling LED lights, creating a beacon sculpture for the area. The lights will be capable of displaying basic graphics and will interact with SMS messages. In addition, the installation will be powered by Solar panels.

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Pop Art Factory

Pop Art Factory

Posted: Jul 20, 2010

Pop Art Factory is a web application that allows people to upload their own pictures and turn them into 21st century Pop Art in different styles. It also allows people to share that artwork with everyone else and discuss it in a forum.

Pop Art images can be created in classic Pop Art hero styles such as:

  • Andy Warhol
  • Roy Lichtenstein
  • Richard Hamilton

Pop Art Factory was received very well by all that used it.

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Fizz Buzz - Game based learning

Fizz Buzz - Game based learning

Posted: Jul 20, 2010

• A web based, game learning system for key stage 1 & 2 children (primarily 4-7 year olds).
• Will use basic games and allow the teacher or parent to customise the content of the game (content managed).
• Records scores and pupil login info.
• Can be played on an interactive whiteboard (central PC), on a
stand alone or handheld computer.
• Will support a wide variety of technical equipment.
• Will be easy to use for both children and adults.
• Will harness the advantages of the internet to allow cross institutional communications and collaboration.
• The project will not be reliant on expensive equipment or software plug-ins. 

Fizz Buzz website is live at:

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Nov 05, 2010 : ChloeOternaud Says:

thanks for your comment. Your project seems really interesting ! Could you send me login details so that I can have a look to the web site ?

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70 Windows in Second Life

70 Windows in Second Life

Posted: Jul 20, 2010

This project builds on the earlier Virtual Worlds module to create a 3D representation of the old Salford Crescent police station in Second Life. As part of the 70 Windows project a website was set up as a central hub, harnessing Social Networking and web 2.0 technologies to explore Salford and its history.

Images depicting Salford, it's history and it's discourse through time will be displayed over the many windows that are currently boarded up. The virtual version will be followed by a phase 2, Real Life version, working with a local school in Salford to produce more images which will ultimately be brought into the Second Life model. The interior of the Second Life space will then form an installation space based on interactivity, community and sanctuary.

  Second Life, Salford in Pictures installation - Front Real Life, Police station at Salford Crescent - Uos Maxwell building view Second Life, Salford in Pictures installation - Inside showing video screen intro Second Life, Salford in Pictures - Virtual launch party in Nov 09

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