One little booth, one giant leap for sustainability

There are some ideas which when viewed retrospectively sound obvious. For example, when Percy Shaw invented cats eyes in 1934 to help people drive in foggy conditions, nobody seemed much interested, till future Prime Minister Jim Callaghan took them up for British roads in 1947 – and they became ubiquitous.

What On Track and Southern Railways are doing seems simple. In fact it’s a forehead slapping no-brainer. It’s the idea of linking the way you get to a place – the railway – with what you are going to do there, i.e visit The Brighton Festival. This, after all, is a festival with a growing reputation internationally and a flagship event for Brighton. And the modest booth pictured at Brighton Station is the first step in making this link explicit. It the beginning of an attempt to join the dots between travel, sustainability and your destination.

On Track are trying to promote the fact that simply by choosing to board a train rather than drive, you are actually doing something good for the planet. You can zoom down from London to Brighton knowing that you’ve a mouse’s carbon footprint. Crucially, you are already making a difference.

This is important. There is nothing more paralysing than guilt and hopelessness. Show people the everyday things they can do to make a difference, and pow! you have begun to nudge people towards a tipping point in their behavior.

And Brighton, of course, is one of the most sustainably minded cities in the UK, (don’t take my word for it, have a look at this interview I did with Thurstan Crockett Brighton’s sustainability guru). The Festival is part of the Brighton sustainability mix.

Watch this space.

the vanity of hacks

A text from my friend Spooner: Are you a journo-whore now? alerted me to the fact that Southern On Track mag was now out. So on my way to work picked up a copy. I’ve got three photos (although nowhere near my best ones) in it too. It’s also online, and here are my interviews with Andrew Comben and Thurstan Crockett (as well as the bit on the wood slick).

Something lurks in the heart of most writers: the familiar little glow, and the vain pleasure of seeing your name in print. It’s happened many times over the years, and each time it feels good. I like it best when it’s by a printed poem or story. One thing about working for an agency is that, despite my stuff being seen by literally millions of people, you almost never get your name printed.

As I write, I have one more week to go helping out at my old agency – and after groundhog day feelings abated, and I find I’ve enjoyed being invited back to familiar surroundings. But I am champing at the bit to get on with lots of new projects as soon as the week’s up.

back On Track

Another interview this morning, for On Track. This time on the phone. Fortunately my interviewee Thurstan Crockett, Brighton’s Head of Sustainability Environmental Policy,was a former journalist and interviewed very well.

When people are masters of their own brief, it is much easier just to step back and let them download. They, after all, know far more about the subject than you do. I learned lots, such as that Brighton was recognised last year by Forum for the Future as the most sustainable city in the UK, or that there is an ambition for Brighton to be the first city to eliminate plastic bags.

My main focus was to make sure the interviewee appeared as a fully rounded person. Nobody wants to hear the thoughts of job title – they wan’t to hear what a real person thinks.

While I prefer face to face, the best thing about a phone interview is that of course the moment you put the phone down you can start typing, and the conversation is still fresh in your mind.

The rest of the day I spent sending off a manuscript for a giftbook idea I have, and writing its proposal, covering letter etc. Tiresome, but absolutely key. Now it is up to the Gods.