More Canals Than Venice was created by the mysterious PixieSixer (AKA Annabel Clarke), ‘highlighting under the radar arts in Birmingham’ and drawing much-needed attention to all the great arts and culture going on in the city:
Birmingham rarely boasts its achievements and should be more proud of itself. Some Brummies are sick of the city being berated.
More Canals Than Venice celebrated its first birthday in June 2010. Since it began it has drawn in contributions from people involved in the local arts scene as well as content created by Annabel herself. When she is not busy being a ‘Midlands arts champion and muso’ Annabel likes to tend to her vegetable plot at More Trees Than Paris.
Annabel is the sixth hyperlocal website manager to answer Ten Questions. Also check out Paul Bradshaw’s ‘Hyperlocal Voices’ at Online Journalism ‐ a series of interviews with leading local bloggers which has recently featured our very own Will Perrin talking about Kings Cross Environments.
What made you start More Canals Than Venice?
I come from an Arts background and have been involved in marketing art and cultural events in Birmingham for a few years. I work in a very creative environment and have many creative friends. I was frustrated that wonderful underground events that I attend were not getting the recognition or the attendance they deserved. At the time local papers were being axed or centralised, and there was also a lull in events in Birmingham being promoted online. I felt it was time to do something about it!
What do you feel the key local issues are for your community and how have you used your website to address these?
At the moment the Arts are in a dire situation with looming funding cuts. There is a lot of concern about jobs, whether any projects will be funded and if some organisations will even survive. I have continued and will continue to write about the wealth of wonderful events happening in the city. In particular Eastside Projects, an artist-run space and gallery have recently commissioned artist Mark Titchner to come up with posters, flyers and a billboard as part of the Save the Arts campaign. I will support any event or organisation that campaigns for the Arts. Cut us but don’t kill us.
What has been your favourite post or feature on your website and why?
Over the last year I have done a few interviews with small independent creative organisations and collectives. It has been fascinating to talk to the up-and-coming talent in Birmingham.
What do you feel has been the most challenging story on your website?
More Canals than Venice is primarily an events website. I want to promote upcoming events so don’t write reviews. However, I did give myself that challenge when asked to review Graham Coxon (a hero of mine) at the Town Hall as part of their English Originals weekend earlier this year. As Coxon was playing at the beginning of the festival I felt I could justify reviewing the gig to promote the rest of the weekend. I’m not a natural writer and I’ve heard it been said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. It was a challenge. Incidentally, I met Graham Coxon the next day at work. I was very star-struck!
What obstacles have you faced with your website, and how have you overcome these?
Finding events that I think my audience will be interested in takes a lot of time. I don’t get press releases about everything I write about, and I don’t and often can’t feature everything I get sent. I have to dig around for the right kind of events. Blogging also takes a long time. I have had a number of posts written by contributors but have yet to find regular writers. I am always interested to hear from anyone who wishes to contribute.
What do you think it is that attracts readers to your website?
More Canals than Venice aims to promote under the radar events in the city. I hope people visit the site for something a little different. I also give my posts a personal voice. I try not to re-hash press releases as some other blogs do; but this can be difficult due to time constraints.
What’s the most absurd thing that has happened on your site?
I blog under the pseudonym PixieSixer. In the first few months there was a lot of speculation as to who I was which was rather amusing! I enjoyed the epithet ‘the mysterious PixieSixer’!
What changes would you like to make to your website over the next few months?
I would like to have a number of regular contributors so that I can cover the breadth of events happening in Birmingham. I am only scratching the surface!
Where do you see your website in a year’s time?
There is such a strong online community in Birmingham but I sometimes feel I am preaching to the converted. Ideally I would like to have a physical publication of some kind. I have been greatly inspired by the work of Nottingham Visual Arts. They have started a free magazine about the vibrant visual art scene in the city. I want More Canals than Venice to be a platform that creatives and those interested in what’s happening in Birmingham come to first and feel they can contribute to.
What one thing would make managing your website even more rewarding than it already is?
Time! It would also be great to have more writers but also more people sending information on events.