Accounts of a wasted generation, of lost youth and of innumerable souls falling into an alcohol fuelled hell. This is what I saw, no, not what I saw last weekend but what I saw in one of the UK papers online in December. It turns out Fall over Friday is the start of a binge weekend before Christmas and the paper in question was there to cover it in all its sordid details. Were there millions, hundreds of thousands, or many thousands of young people involved in unseemly behavior in the streets of Britain that day? The paper chose some pretty close-up photos to prove its point. In the end, the numbers were nearer the hundreds than the thousands.
On the other hand, last weekend in Holland I saw 550 young people from six countries spend a day making music, performing repertoire which had been painstakingly prepared and which was warmly received by those who listened in. I watched in admiration as expert judges coached and encouraged the young musicians and I enjoyed a final concert involving a saxophone quartet whose senior member was almost 80 years old.
So what did the paper have to say about this music festival held last weekend? Nothing, of course. Okay, fairdos, it took place across the North Sea, way off the UK press´s radar unless there is European football against Ajax.
Even so, we all know the press would not have covered this story. There is no story. No drunks, no pills, no abuse, so it’s not worth the space.
Why are fine, outstanding events such as this no-go areas for the media? A few years ago I took some students to take part in the final concert of a European project we were partners of. On a snowy February morning in the City children from 6 local primary schools and one local secondary school were joined by a group from Iceland as well as my group from Madrid. The final product was the result of nearly 2 years of work. When I asked one of the organizers if she had notified the press she laughed and said she wouldn’t even waste her time writing an email. There was no story.
A couple of years before that I was part of a group of teachers who arranged for nearly 100 teenagers to travel half way across Spain to rehearse and perform, among other things, Dvorak’s New World Symphony. As in the UK, so in Spain: there was no story.
I wish I could say the Dutch press were different, but you will hunt in vain for any mention of last weekend´s festival there either. No story.
It´s not fair to pick on any particular paper, but when all is said and done, coverage of Fall over Friday gives some clues as to what makes a story. Without going into lurid details, suffice to say that the worse for wear partygoing teenagers paid less attention than they might have done to their hemlines, and wardrobe malfunctions gave photo editors plenty of scope. By contrast, as at all well organized music festivals, concert dress last weekend was dignified and all the young people involved spent the entire day showing and being shown the respect they deserved.
Very sorry that music can’t beat mayhem as a story, but I do look forward to the day when the press will recognize that Fall over Friday is not better news than a music festival.