Thursday, 11 November 2010

Manchester Blog Awards!

Wednesday, 20th October.

I’m in the ironically-titled Manchester Deaf Institute, a bar on Oxford Road, where trip-hop music pulses from the speakers. An array of fine whiskeys and bourbons lines the back bar. I’m sipping Chairman’s Rum as bodies fill up the room, the two factors telling me it’s time to take off the Patrick-Bateman-style long woollen coat. Tonight it’s the Manchester Blog Awards, a Manchester Literature Festival event.

The bar, which before being so, was the actual institute for deaf people, was probably originally built as a church. The pew seating stretches up, row by row, into a moodily-lit alcove with flowery flock wallpaper where amateur writers are choosing padded seats.

Awards representative John Atkin takes the stage/alter. This year, he says, there have been 298 online nominations for the awards. That’s a 50% increase on 2009. 2010 was the first year that the public could vote, as opposed to a panel of judges. As a result 2000 votes were cast in the 2-week voting period, which I think illuminates extent of the burgeoning blogging scene in Manchester. It also shows that bloggers have got friends and readers, and that they aren’t all sat alone in darkened rooms, writing solely for themselves: there’s a defined writing community out there.

Before the announcement of awards, we’re treated to a few readings. First, official event blogger David Hartley reads out “Unknown Sensor Mast”, his bizarre but captivating story on 330 Words.

Chris Killen performs a reading of his choose-your-own route story.

Think Ian Livingstone-style, but set in the dating world. Nominee blogger Fat Roland volunteers to take the journey, and strangely picks the opposite decisions to what I’d have chosen at every turning point. On the journey, Roland begrudgingly goes to a restaurant, ditches his date and tries to climb out of the toilet window. The tale ends with dating disaster!

“No matter what you did,” Chris explains, “you go on the date. But there’s only one ending.”

Chris, who originally designed the story as an iPhone app, had tested it on a few people. It’s designed to work for either gender, but he explains it didn’t work on a recent practice-read when a twelve-year-old girl volunteered to be the protagonist.

The climax of the night is the award ceremony itself. Award highlights include Love Levenshulme winning Best City and Neighbourhood blog. One contributor says she’s “written largely about kebabs.”

Fat Roland picks up the award for best writing on a blog, and in his acceptance speech he apologised to James Blunt- rhetorically telling him “You don’t look like a vagina.”

Here's his electronica-based journal:

Personally I’d like to congratulate all the winners. It was a successful night, a great atmosphere and a superb venue. I’m looking forward to next year’s event.
Here's the bar- good for live music, and decorated with a range of polished skulls, including bison and antelope:

And here’s the official MLF blog:

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