Detroit – The story of lows to highs…

Detroit – some of you may not know the anguish that Detroit went through in the last 10 years. First a recession like no other caused heartbreak, job losses and in 2008 the Obama Adminstration stepped in to provide financial assistance to Chrysler and GM who were filing for bankruptcy. This was the beginning…

On the 18th of July 2013 the city – which was the largest municipal and only city in the history of US to file for bankruptcy. After bad management and a car manufacturing industry that was diminishing from the area known as Motor City…the town crumbled. The city literally had building after building empty. Person after person – unemployed. Home after home – spray painted on the front with an X for “demolition…”

40C3C5AB-69D0-4621-8EC3-15C67EDDD135

Those from Detroit were packing up bags and moving away – a lot to Cleveland and Chicago. But now in 2019 home by home is starting to be refurbished and residents moving back – to create a thriving community (in some areas that is). The checkouts in Whole Foods (supermarket) are queued. A hustle and bustle can be felt in the area. But this was not an easy process to get here. It took time. It took hard work and a refocus. But to give you an idea of the disaster – in 2014 15,000 homes had water cut off to their homes due to unpaid bills. This resulted in immediate problems with really the city having no investment and employment opportunities.

In 2018 the city (very cleverly) created a press day 5 years after was reported to be “the city no one ever knew could bounce back…” And so now in 2019 it’s a city that’s feet are standing solid. Slowly the devastation is disappearing. The houses are reappearing. As I walk around the most amazing thing is the venues that are appearing – and busy. Fox Theatre, Comerica Park, Ford Field and Little Caesers Arena all within a 2km radius of each other. I see culture, sport and music coming back and allowing people to have options for socializing. People have reasons now to be in this city and love it. I met with people from the events industry and I loved it. They gave me more than just “information” it was passion for Detroit and there industry.

B89A739A-54D1-4459-BFFF-8345CA95FAB0

In Detroit I was given a chance with friends I had made in LA to see a different side city. I get to see where basketball used to be played in courts where the fences lie abandoned on the side of the walkway. Former plots of homes sit – alone. Land overgrown. Grass growing similar to opportunities of city. But sometimes at night the boarded up homes would light up. I would see people coming through boarding at the back. Locals were still living in conditions that major cities should never really – be suggested or exist.

Preparing this blog I thought about – what is it I am trying to say. Well, for me now after experiencing 62 locations this is a city that has went as low as it can go and it has the determination to be successful again. The message is clear to walk through the darkness does not mean you are not alone. This city is not alone. Light is coming. I feel and can hear the buzz. The buzz is all over. Detroit need to keep the momentum – its not about the current investment its about the future impact and creative thinking.

Thanks Detroit – I will be back…

#comeonthejourney

Event 74: Detroit Redwings VS Chicago Blackhawks…to give the city hope, jobs and joy…

Ice hockey – another staple American sport that for many that is a social and cultural package that’s part of life. Ice hockey is a global sport but there is nothing like 20,000 fans in an ice hockey arena. Welcome to a story that was a pre-season match but still a great insight and experience to the game of ice hockey.

AB1308C1-02F5-4406-A221-CA32844C2D362EC44182-EF4D-4FE5-A5E1-8D7CF107B6BE

What was the event?

What: Detroit Redwings VS Chicago Blackhawks 

When: 19:30pm – Tuesday 17th September

Where: Little Caesers Arena, Detroit 

Let the story commence…

BANG…the player smashes into the glass. A fist is thrown. The gloves are off. The helmet scatters all over the place and then two players are sin binned. “Love this…boxing and ice hockey – perfect”. I thought.

F10FFCD4-45DB-4845-99CE-40CC9B8412C5

I have been to Ice Hockey before but today I was not watching (apart from when there was some excitement) on the ice. I wanted to watch the fans, the arena and, in this blog, talk about my (outstanding) experience with Olympia Entertainment.

I was honoured to have a tour and a great meeting with Kevin who is the Director of Events on the Monday. The next night I was able to attend and see first hand this building in action. Detroit is in the midst of picking itself up and dusting itself off after a catrosophic 10 years for the local economy. Now Olympia Entertainment have invested in Detroit (they are a Detroit based company) and bring jobs, opportunities, social consumption and importantly events back to the city – oh and hope.

FD049B39-9553-426D-97F7-C6A0CE876534B64BF13A-0E3B-4B0E-9DEB-17D54EB53ED4

I stand in the middle of the Detroit Redwings Arena and wow…(not literally the middle that would be the ice). The screens are bright, the music playing and then fans trickling in. Is It going to be a sell out tonight – nope because it’s a pre-season. The ticket cost me $15 and the seat gives me quite literally a birds eye view of this spectacular arena. I can still, if I try really hard, smell the fresh plastic off the seats as the arena was only open 18 months ago so its still building the brand and reputation but I watch people working on jobs that 18 months ago didn’t exist. Fans are psychologically being brought in to this venue by the different fan engagement items, moments of hello from the lovely staff and opportunities to buy merchandise.

Its 30 minutes to go. So I stand just observing. People are coming from work as its 7pm and there kids being fed quickly shoveling the tender chicken bits before rushing to buy a new top or something in the sale. Screens are everywhere so wherever anyone goes they can see the countdown to the beginning of the match. As I watch its well packaged because from the moment the security take the ticket and walk through the doors its “Redwings…” everything – apart from a few items that are the basketball teams items (but they still get used) because they share the arena. What does mean? Well for the duration of a consumer in the arena all they need in their life is there. Whether it’s the renewal of there season ticket. Whether it’s food and drink. A new top to show there friends or even a first time certificate – very excited because I got one.

The arena is not about facilitating a sport – it is about making those that are not there jealous. It is about ensuring each person has an experience that when they talk to there friends the next day in work at the coffee machine they tell them they were on the ice playing bubble ball at half time OR post on instagram a picture of them with the players…like below…

160F0E28-B4B7-4F99-A4A7-20249BED6011

Sport is just – happening. As I walk about I kind of forget that I am going to ice hockey and get to busy seeing the food places, the photo opportunities and everything else. Well done – because I am there trapped in a well constructed environment.

One thing to take away…

I loved seeing the fans turning up in their colours and I think that is one of the key points…what is the opportunities that other “events” create to ensure people buy in to show there colours. Detroit Redwings thanks for being event 74 and thanks for having me as part of the family for those days…

 

#comeonthejourney

 

Event 73: Riot Fest…it was Rock and Roll/ Mental/ Pop…

Blink 182– the band who soaked up positions in the charts in the 90s and the naughties were headlining a festival totally not part of my genre. I seem to have forgotten to wear my favourite bands t-shirt – Bee Gees that is – but I don’t think there grooving would have went down well with the bands such as Slayer, Pennywise and so on…maybe Rihanna…

5BC5E3C2-A354-4E78-8177-A33024C6865B

What was the event?

 What: Riot Fest 

Where: Douglas Park, Chicago

When: Friday 13th September 2019

And the story begin…

I strolled through the gates with all the rockers of Chicago. I was completely out of place but in absolute heaven. Its exactly what I needed and wanted to experience. I need to appreciate the various genres and now I was in the middle of a giant mosh pit. The line up was impressive and had attracted a lot of positivity for the future of Riot Fest (at the time). 

6FE7EC6C-00A2-4D3C-A448-89CAA0B20A71BD935A2B-6EC6-4E4A-89E2-1B716DDCE705

Riot Fest was in its 15th year and ok…it’s a rock festival and has the audience but I think there’s a lot that can be changed to make it the best rock festival. For the people of Chicago this is the festival they go to – but many people would travel to engage with a genre they love. 

I can categorically and confidently say that in the space of 8 hours of being on site the audience demographic was mainly white. I would probably say 80%. The reason I say this the area we are in the middle of an area predominantly black and very run down. Douglas Park was noted in 2015 to be the new venue for the festival – BUT – the area  was well known – due to police statistics – as a haven for white heroin and gun crime. It was an area to not go to. Events are usually used to boost areas but in discussion with a few people I met at the event they told me – there is nothing that this event does for the local area. And walking through the area I couldn’t see what impact the festival could have or did for myself. Yes, they might dispute, but in reality it’s a rolling circus – rolls in rolls out the festival and that’s it. 

08ACB78A-3D0C-4F70-8CA7-DA3EE3E78A7A

Music events are moments of bringing community to socialise in a environment that meets the needs of that audience. With my index and pinkie finger raised in the classic rock and roll symbol I watched people do exactly this – I felt as one. Phones were in pockets and people were launching themselves at each other with crowd surfing more prominent that posing for perfect Instagram photos. The festival had five stages which are all different and had there own “diehard” supporters who sat at the barriers waiting for here favourite musicians. 

I watched Pennywise from a distance and I watched Blink 182 from near the front. The Blink 182 crowd were “music fans” the Pennywise fans were proper ROCK ROLL…proper head beating I was like wow – I’m ok thanks. I watched everyone’s hair whip back and forth.

I met loads of people that day. One guy in a kilt – who literally just wore a kilt for wearing it. Loved it – we had a great chat! I met the lockers team – Vince – who really had an amazing product. Rock festivals are known to be the best type of festivals for merchandise incomes. Eventbrite wrote in 2017 that on average a rock festival consumer in USA will spend $50 – at this event it was of the higher end – simply because they could put there new souvenirs in lockers and not need to worry about them. Perfect – you put in the tools and everything will fit into place (more people will spend). 

960A59DF-8A09-4566-8447-E64D5D7C703BEC3D997A-C016-417C-8AFC-C59D4052E142

Around the event it was very much like a usual festival with the old rickety Ferris wheel, bright lights and lollies and overpriced candy on sale (MASSIVE QUEUES). Hotdogs being turned on the grill but then past one of the very busy stages was an area that was a hidden a food village. I laughed as I strolled through to buy some over priced chicken and a pre-heated crepe. I mean that’s what I expect and it was all on overdrive. But the people here have disposable incomes – so in reality they can afford and spend at a festival.

The festival was everything I expected. Nothing was a surprise. The welcome – well didn’t exist. The music was epic. A local newspaper post the event discussed the “issues” that fans had with the event but nothings really going to change. It’s a rock and roll no thrills – although there is an attempt for VIP…that’s further away from the stage than majority of the crowd.

One thing to take away…

Rock is rock. But I feel the spectators probably deserve a better customer experience. It’s got the potential and hopefully those organising it will listen…especially is they can hear them since the speakers certainly were not working during Blink 182.

#comeonthejourney

Event 72: Scottish and Irish Highland Festival…exactly what a Scottish person thinks what Americans think of Scottish person

Welcome to Scotland. I graze in the middle of Estes Park, Colorado which is over 8000 feet in the air, with the beauty of the Rocky Mountains in the shadows behind the area holding the competition for the pipes and drums. This is a story of me feeling home sick while I enjoy music, culture, food and meeting people who got extremely excited at hearing the most authentic Scottish accent I could acquire for that day…

B7FC1206-86DE-4AE9-9892-12C33CF3F612

What was the event?

What: Scottish and Irish Highland Festival

Where: Estes Park (2 hours from Denver) Colorado

When: 7th of September

Let the story begin…

“OH MY DAYS…YOUR ACTUALLY SCOTTISH…” Well, funnily enough – yes I am. I am Scottish, lived in Scotland, born Scottish and speak English in a Scottish accent. The more people I spoke to I realized I was the only person from Scotland at the event but let me explain what this beautiful event was.

43 years ago Dr James Durward had a vision with other business leaders to create something that would bring some economic impact to the extremely small town. I sit holding on to a buggy will James shows me around like I’m a celeb. He was a dentist in Estes Park. Estes Park has a population of just short of 7,000 and now 43 years from starting James has brought at established event that over 75,000 descending on the town in the space of 3 days – that’s a 1000% increase. Everything is increased in preparation. The aim was to allow people the opportunity to share there Scottish heritage and celebrate the culture of there grandparents, great grandparents and so on. This became something that over the years has grown into people coming from all over America to “find there clan”, enjoy pipe band music and celebrate Scottish culture to name just a few reasons.

James vision was inspirational. He told me some brilliant stories – that I’ll write in the book. I was quite inspired as we spoke about the vision he had all coming from his family roots. He spoke about the 80 clans now attracted to the event, the Scottish weapon displays, the British isle dogs…but one of the main things I got from him – was the commitment he had to the festival. I also met his family. We sat chatting about there father, grandfather and greatfathers commitment and how he is the one who se ideas had created this. Now I get dropped off 1 hour and 30 minutes later – it was brilliant.

The park is now filled with marquees, Highland Games, pipe bands, a flyover, thousands pouring through the gates – and even better everyone is wearing there clans tartan. Everyone had a kilt on except the actual Scottish guy – me. I couldn’t really ask “oh where you from” because I would be there all day. But it was special at what had been created. Just a reminder – I was in the middle of absolutely no where – watching people celebrate my and our culture. I was invited onto the stage by John and there I was now up with the VIPS. Honoured. The MC asked “who are you – if your up here I need to announce you (TO 20,000 PEOPLE)” Ha ha ha…hilarious.

71A222CD-89A2-4A42-B016-D227CD3AA1D938557921-0150-4834-ADDE-AC1CAF434465D07A329A-4129-443F-8BAD-389A1211DE34

I was absolutely in my element seeing Highland Games, watching pipe bands, checking out the clans and food (well American food but pretending to be Scottish). This was home. Walking about I could see one amazing thing. Community. Everyone knew everyone. Everyone was friends and I was welcomed with opening arms. I meet the Hayes and the Camerons. I literally felt like one of them. I was being hugged and thanked for coming. I was driven around the site by an Irish Leprechaun (Yes – you read that right). Hearing the stories of The everyone’s attachment to the festival was really refreshing.

Someone asked me – this doesn’t offend you does it seeing everyone celebrating something they don’t actually know. I said no one the opposite. I mean except for the fact it looked like Outlander and Braveheart have had a baby and it’s created a festival. It’s actually encouraging to see people want to engage with the Scottish culture. Also this is an untapped market of people wanting to learn about Scotland and go to Scotland. This isn’t about culture it’s also about growing tourism from the middle of Colorado. There was a chance to win a trip for 2 to Scotland or Ireland – sadly I didn’t win.

0EF59E32-A702-486E-B32E-75940766A3CE50194B4C-BCD6-4B55-9206-A1186E10D97F

They are proud to be linked to Scotland. They spend money to celebrate and demonstrate their heritage. This is a passion but also of who they are. Without this festival it would have never been possible to understand the impact Scotland has had on so many people. So thank you John and family for allowing this event to grow in a way that celebrates a culture so dear to me and millions more.

A18E4627-56A3-4E90-9201-CFB7F2D4EE8F0EF59E32-A702-486E-B32E-75940766A3CE

One thing to take away…

People who live in Scotland could learn a thing or two from this type of event. It’s about appreciating our culture more and realising the impact our culture has on millions around the globe.

#comeonthejourney

Dreams…to go “left or right”

Go left or right – it’s a question many of us never think about. We are unaware that this question is a question we ask on a daily basis. Should I have lunch now, should I get on this bus or a later one, should I go here or there…by going “left or right” changes the rest of our life without us ever known. So why I am writing about this on my blog…read on and you will find out.

885473C4-3C16-46A9-9BCC-5CB1E7FE72F435EA936F-7CE6-4B92-8CE9-F8DA598D1172019220D3-DEEF-4F58-9B87-B0622B009CD3

I fully believe there is a path written for all of us – but how we get there can depend on the decisions we make and the questions we ask. Should I go left or right? This is a concept I have been thinking about for a while really. But today with the blue skies of Chicago and the sun beating – I sit in a café. To cut a long story short I get talking to a girl who just made an amazing decision that led her to get a job in that café. We got talking because I was watching the whole thing play out on the table next to me. I said to her – life is about “going left or right…” We got talking about that concept. As she left and ran away from the crazy Scotsman she shouted back “remember left or right..” I laughed and realized I had to share the importance of taking risks.

Sometimes we become to comfortable. We are unaware of what taking risks can do for us. They can approve cultural appreciation, understanding of the fragility of life, growth our skills, push our abilities of opportunities; get a new job and so on. When was the last time you came out of your routine/ comfort zone and made a decision that was challenging you? I write this as I sit on a bus to Detroit when really I had nothing planned for Detroit but I wanted to see something different. I swapped these five days instead of going elsewhere and I have started to email people and now I have four meetings with major event personal in Detroit. Crushed on a greyhound bus with seats as solid as Sunday mass pews. But I actually do love the buses. However, there is an example of a “left or right”. Do I get the train or the bus. It was mainly down to cost but on a train you can’t get out for fresh air on the 6 hours journey, where as with a bus I can stand next to a petrol station pump for 5 minutes and breath in those fresh fossil fuels.

But I wanted to write this as a message to give focus that its good to be asking yourself questions when making decisions. They can increase opportunities and enhance possibilities. Or even you take leaps that you are not ready for but happen and create a new lease of life for you. I hope that there may be a possibility that after reading his blog you decide to do something.

Some more examples I have had that have changed my trip have included one night only a week back when I was eating my dinner to go to a comedy night (possibly to sign up to do the open mic) and I saw that a very popular BBC Radio 1 presenter was having a book signing in Chicago – so I looked at how to get there and it was going to take me 1 hour and 45 minutes and there was a high chance I would miss getting there. So, I went. I took the leap. To explain quickly. I missed him at the book store and he messaged me after I put up a story on Instagram to say they had left. So then being an absolute legend he said head to this restaurant where we can say hey! So I am already in the middle of no where and I jump in my only third ever Uber of my life and go in and meet Greg James and author Chris Smith – that was a cracking decision. Or the other one was when I was meant to be going to America’s Got Talent and I found out it was only the results – no performances – but I had tickets for Will and Grace. So I decided to go to Will and Grace and again to cut the story short – I got to meet Debra Messing the actress who plays Grace. Or when it comes to “should I send that message or not…” yes well its led to having meeting in venues in Zurich, press pass in Pamplona, Vancouver Tourism meetings, having a phone call with the Vice President of LA Tourism – it all means something.

Ask questions and take risks. Don’t get caught up in normal routine. Don’t miss out of an opportunity of possibly changing and enhancing your life. Yes, if it doesn’t work out maybe you need to adapt the approach but sometimes if you feel you should be asking the question maybe you should stop asking and just do it. That’s what I have done this whole trip and its worked out pretty nicely – but that’s always more questions and more “lefts and rights” that can be asked…

E84197A4-C0A1-4F05-B18F-0C33FE057515