Thursday, August 9, 2012

Awards scheme

Interview by Sarah-Clare Conlon.

Nominations are now open for the annual Blog Awards, which have expanded in their seventh year to become the Blog North Awards, organisers Openstories having joined forces with arts websites Creative Tourist and Culture Vultures. Previously the Manchester Blog Awards, the celebration of blogging and independent writing will take place during Manchester Literature Festival on Wednesday 17 October at the Deaf Institute on Grosvenor Street, starting at 7.30pm. The evening will include readings from shortlisted bloggers and the author of “truly original debut” (The Guardian) Empire State Adam Christopher, the launch by Comma Press of a new experiment in literary social networking, The Turing Text, and, of course, the glittering prize-giving ceremony itself. Tickets are available through the Manchester Literature Festival website.

This year, there are seven categories in which you can nominate your favourite blogs from the North of England: Best Arts and Culture Blog, Best City or Neighbourhood Blog, Best Food and Drink Blog, Best Personal Blog, Best Specialist Blog, Best Writing on a Blog and Young Blogger of the Year. Nominations close on 7 September, and a shortlist will be published in mid September. You can see the full criteria and vote via the Blog North Awards website.

Manchester Literature Festival has supported the Blog Awards since it started, and past winners have gone on to publish books, write national newspaper columns and start successful business endeavours based on their blogs. 

Kate Feld, Manchester Blog Awards founder and director of Openstories, says: “There’s so much wonderful blogging happening across the region, and we’re delighted to be able to share our passion for the best independent online publishing with a new audience of bloggers and readers.”

We had a chat with Kate to find out a little bit more about the new-look Blog Awards... 




MLF: You've just launched the seventh annual Blog Awards, and for the first time they cover more ground and extend beyond Manchester. What spurred this on?
KF: I’ve felt for a long time that it was slightly unfair that Manchester bloggers should have this great platform for recognition while their counterparts in Liverpool or Newcastle didn’t. Our partnership with the new Blog North network seemed like a natural next step.

MLF: Have there been any other changes this year we should look out for? 
KF: Apart from the name and area change, we’ve added a few new categories: a young bloggers' category, as we want to specifically highlight the great work young people are doing in blogging. A food and drink category didn’t make sense for Manchester, but it works for the whole of the North. And a specialist blog category seemed like a good way to recognise the passion and devotion so many knowledgeable people pour into subject-oriented blogs.

MLF: Could you explain the connection with Manchester Literature Festival and how literature and blogging fit together?
KF: Blogging is simply writing; albeit writing that is published on a blogging platform. It is a form of literature, one with real breadth and substance, so it makes sense to celebrate it as part of a literature festival. I’ve occasionally encountered snobbery about blogging in the writing world, but I think this is on the wane. There are lots of badly written blogs, but by the same token there are also lots of badly written books, essays and articles. Fortunately there is plenty of good writing to get excited about. Blogging is where a lot of independent new writing is happening, and that is what MLF has really understood from the beginning.

MLF: Obviously we have a Festival blog so we still think blogging is the new black, but why do you think it's remained so popular?
KF: I don’t really think we can rightly say it’s popular any more, for that word implies that it’s some kind of ephemeral craze, like scoubidou or the Charleston. Blogging just is, now. It’s part of the mainstream, it has slotted in alongside newspapers and magazines (and more recently, online communities and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter), and it isn’t going anywhere. 

It’s not hard to understand why blogging stuck around. It’s a self-powered publishing tool, a free personal printing press that comes with free, infinite distribution built in. And the fact that the blog format has been co-opted by established news organisations shows that its appeal is about more than the publishing platform. It’s an exciting time; there is a lot of cross-pollination happening right now in the media (blogazines, anyone?) and people are using blogs in increasingly novel and imaginative ways.

MLF: Is the North a particular hotspot for blogging? Could you describe the region's scene and how people can get involved?
KF: I think the North is a great place for blogging, with an incredible variety of writing, and a number of different scenes in different areas. But it’s a big place and, thinking about it as a region, in terms of blogging, is a new thing. I’d definitely say the Blog North network is a great starting point (see Facebook and follow @blognorth on Twitter for more). It organises events several times a year at cultural venues, with workshops and sessions tailored for bloggers. I know there are blogmeets happening in several cities (the next one in Manchester is later this month: click here for more) and that’s a more informal way to chat with other bloggers. I’ve been along to blogging events around the world and have always found the blogging community incredibly friendly and welcoming, so people shouldn’t be shy about getting involved. It’s great fun!

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