Shambala 2013 Going Back to My Roots!

Shambala festival photo by Louise Roberts
Shambala festival photo by Louise Roberts

Landed back home safely from planet Shambala and reviewing another weekend of top-notch ‘Ecotainment’, art, activism and community led shenanigans. This was our 3rd appearance in as many years and in the past words have failed how best to describe this sublime festival. This time I have had a few ideas and feel qualified to explain a bit better so let’s begin BUT firstly a BIG shout-out to my family, crew, the disco dancers and all at Sham HQ without whom none of this would be possible. So without further ado let’s Keep it Wheel…

The first thing that strikes you is the sheer diversity of acts, arts, workshops, venues, areas, facilities and fancy dress. Let’s summarise and call this magic ingredient Participation or You! Sham is fiercely independent and it shows through the line-up by booking alternative acts and less big names but equally talented musicians & DJs from around the globe. It is the place to see those artists breaking boundaries, up-and-coming acts alongside more established critically acclaimed performances. This attitude fosters creativity, nurtures new talent and creates a very fertile playground for your imagination. This ethos reminded me of Boscombe Community Fair back in 2001 when I was that ‘arts guy’ who also wrote press-releases and went to endless meetings hence the title ‘back to my roots’.

Shambala is billed as ‘Adventures in Utopia’ and it pretty much delivers. It’s more than just a music festival, it’s not mainstream but soul food and it sustains me along with many other Shambalans throughout the year. Each year is full of surprises and there seems to be more and more to discover. Daytime shenanigans are upbeat, tongue-in-cheek and family friendly e.g. the fancy dress roller disco or table tennis tournament hosted in the dance tent. Crazy golf on the lawn and Pirates versus Gangsters flash-mob on the pirate ship. If this doesn’t grab your attention consider the new Play House a 400 all-seater big-top which was playing to full houses most if not the entire weekend. Complete with foyer, bar and ushers this multi-purpose venue was packed with plays, comedy, puppetry and circus throughout the festival.

The Play House foyer was a decent enough size to double up as a dance club to rival the numerous other late night party venues. If you want to rave the night away there are many many secret themed bars and venues for you to explore. So let’s mention a few of those hidden venues too there was the dancefloor that was accessed through the tardis style police box! Another that looked like a Chinese laundry, the Swingamagig a speakeasy style joint playing late into the night and the waiting room a 1940’s style live lounge.

Leading nicely into… another area where Shambala seem to excel is that it’s full of surprises and appeals to the child in all of us. You can expect the unexpected as it is full of hidden gems tucked-away and not in the programme nor timetabled – just like Tip of the Pops! Now let’s introduce the costumes and fancy dress as I have never been anywhere where people have put so much thought and effort into their costumes you cannot tell if they are an act or not. The costumes are outrageous, hilarious, make-up glamorous and glittery visit the Jazzification Station if you don’t know what look you want and if you need a haircut or beard trim try the Shambarber!

This article was originally written in 2013 but has not been published until now.To see whether or not we are returning to Shambala 2014 visit the Events page. Thanx x x

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Search Engine Optimisation the Science and Sales of Search Results

Recently Google has been encrypting it’s search terms meaning that it’s harder to see what interests people that visit your website. One of the reasons behind this move is to make it harder for SEO’s who want to corrupt search results by putting their clients ‘top of the list’. For a blogger like me this is a bit annoying as my site statistics used to be understandable seeing words like ‘disco’ or ‘festivals’ tells me what people were looking for before clicking on my website. Since the change my stats now say ‘Unknown search terms’ or words to that effect.

Quite how all this jiggery-pokery works is beyond me but I do know that for less than £100 a year gives a satisfactory website that’s simple and easy to use, decent search rankings, blog, email and statistics even without the recently omitted search terms. It just works and works well enough not to go looking elsewhere. In fact if you use wordpress and millions do you will quite often recognise their sites or blogs around the web on a daily basis.

Also Google has shifted it’s attention away from providing Search Results to providing Answers. Next time you do a Google search you may notice you have to scroll down beneath the Answers and Adverts to find your Search Results. Could this signify the end of SEO’s altogether? Obviously not because today after advertising for FREE on the website Gumtree an SEO company rang me up. The conversation went a bit like this:

Him “Hi is that You?”
Me “Yes”
Him “The guy who’s advertising the SPMD?”
Me “Yes that’s me”
Him “ What would you say if I said we could put your site on the front page of Google for your business?”
Me “Well, I use and they already do a very good job thank you”
Him “We can do this, that and the other for you…. blah blah”
Me (guessing) “I already am the top page of Google if you search SPMD that’s me”
Him “Hmm, yeah I see what you mean. OK thanks bye”

Of course once he hung-up I had to check Google it to see if I was right, thankfully I was. In fact I owned the front page of search results thanks to my presence on Social Media, Gumtree and WordPress. After feeling rather smug with myself I was not prepared to rest on my laurels so I also checked, and (USA, Spain and Netherlands). Guess what I was also top of them too. So now I am feeling rather proud maybe it’s because I have been going since 2007 that Google gives me credit as there must be others like me?

I guess the purpose of this article is to give you some background to SEOs and prepare you for responding to that phone call or email. One things for sure they are an unscrupulous lot and are only going to sell their services to your competitors whether you’ve placed an order or not. In my rather unscientific and ill-informed opinion if you want to drive traffic to your website or blog it’s not going to cost you a lot of money. You have to use social media and provide some original ideas or insight, such as this article, that’ll make your product and know-how stand-out.

That’s why I am going to be blogging a bit more in 2014 because I was not happy with my WordPress annual report last year and think I can do better 🙂

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