The Internet and technology in general have completely transformed the way I’m able to work (for example, I get away with doing an awful lot of writing on trains — here’s the view from my office as I went through the Alps last week!). I’m doing a fortnightly column for DisCo (which actually stands for Disruptive Competition, but let’s have a Pulp link anyway) about start-ups, online businesses and technologies shaking things up generally.
This year I was lucky enough to cover the Eurovision Song Contest again! It was the sixtieth anniversary and as well as heading to Vienna, I went to a fascinating conference in London beforehand, with Eurovision winners, academics, TV producers and fans discussing the social, political and artistic impact of everyone’s favorite geopolitical kitsch extravaganza.
You can read my piece about hidden political messages in the songs, a world exclusive about Eurovision and Chile in the 70s, and my coverage of the night itself. Vienna did a fantastic job of hosting — the stage was incredible!
One of the most fun assignments I’ve ever been on was a day making beer with a group of female ale enthusiasts from around the world at Brasserie Huyghe to brew Deliria, a once-a-year special for International Women’s Day. We met the fabulous Sofie Vanrafelghem and ate fancy canapés from L’Esco which we totally deserved after lifting sacks of oats, coriander, hops and rice.
This appeared in Belgian Beer and Food magazine, which I cannot recommend enough if you like that kind of thing — whether you’re into high-concept gastronomy from Flemish kitchen rebels or super-traditional breweries in deepest Flanders, you should get a subscription!
If the PDF doesn’t display properly below, this will open it: Deliria beer
Financial news is the weekly for investment banking, securities, asset management… basically anything that matters in the City of London. They also have a “Letter from…” every week and I managed to file quite a few on my travels! Obviously you should buy a subscription to this fine publication to see them every week, but here are a few I had fun doing — just click on the titles.
Letter from Luxembourg — those with sharp memories may recall that when Jean-Claude Juncker stepped down as Eurogroup head, he said he’d return to Luxembourg and live a calmer existence as Prime Minister. Instead, scandal at the tiny country’s secret service saw him leave the role unceremoniously. Read to the end for a reminder that election polls can, and do, get it wrong.
Letter from Ypres — as Belgium’s First World War commemorations get underway, Flanders, the Federal government, and British diplomats discuss how to strike the right balance on this sensitive anniversary.
Letter From Gibraltar — a reflection on the time my summer holiday literally got interrupted by the Royal Navy. I ended up on a sailing course just when tensions were running high between the U.K. and Spain over The Rock… nothing like a warship citing UN law to interrupt your aperitifs!
Letter from The Orient Express — the super-rich fly in private jets now, but a century ago, this train was simply the last word in glamour. My take on the Orient Express exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.
Letter from Oban — I went to the Scottish coast for seafood and whisky but ended up having a chat in the “Yes” shop a few weeks before the referendum about everything from the bus to Seil Island to nuclear disarmament.
After all the time I spent in Brussels, it’s been a real eye-opener to see how the debate is framed in the UK. One of my first projects has been this six-part series for New Statesman, “Europe for the easily bored.” Scroll down and click through the links below to learn about everything from the secret sauna in the basement of the Berlaymont building to the time Nick Clegg set fire to a cactus collection…
Here are some nice things people said about it on Twitter:
Part One: The institutions — What you actually need to know about the bodies that make up the European Union (clue: it’s nothing to do with the Council of Europe).
Part Two: Where does the UK stand? Explaining governance with an extended cake metaphor. Yum.
Part Three: What has Europe ever done for me? Thanks to the EU, wine is more affordable, flights are cheaper and you can access the internet on your phone abroad without having to get another mortgage.
Part Four: Doom, whisky, and getting lost in mazes: what are the options for the UK flouncing out of the European Union? Sovereignty explained through the concept of being naked in the desert.
Part Five: Migration and money… some facts.
Part Six: A question of influence: how successful could Britain be in a renegotiation of its EU membership? And do we even use the powers we have now?
After four years at the Wall Street Journal in Brussels covering the European Union, Belgium, and technology — as well as the Eurovision Song Contest (seriously – our liveblog got a LOT of page views) — I have decided to move back to the UK and do three things:
— Think, talk and write about the UK-Europe relationship
— Write features — check out some examples of my past work below
— Moderate panels
To give you an idea, here’s a selection of features I wrote while at WSJ. And if you’re wondering what an A-Hed is, here’s an explainer. You can see what people I’ve worked with before think at my LinkedIn page.
An innovative seafood competition — I had to eat a lot of scallops, lobster and oysters in the name of reporting this. Sorry (not sorry) about the puns.
Belgian fries — a crispy, crunchy, twice-fried story about Europe’s cult potato varieties.
Craft versus craft-y: Belgium’s brewers versus beer architects, in the land of gueuze, tripel and kriek
Hotel Berger, a naughty Brussels icon restored to reflect its Art Deco glory.
Rail Baltic project — together with Liis Kängsepp we did a video and interactive map about plans to build a high-speed rail route from Helsinki to Berlin.
A weekend at the truly fantastique art festival in Lille.
Annecy film festival — including lunch with an Oscar-winner, pedalo racing, and general animation geekery.
What’s Your Workout: Alex Stubb (he’s since become Prime Minister of Finland. I’m not claiming cause and effect, though.)
Chap-Hop: an A-Hed about the beef between a steampunk mad professor and a ukelele-clad blazer-wearing cad (in Brighton, where else).
My day out with the US Ambassador, on his tour to visit every town in Belgium. Included a beer-pouring competition at the world’s biggest brewer.
More serious — an exclusive interview with EU tech chief Neelie Kroes (with video).
Google Sends EU Commission kittens in antitrust case (this was a bit cheeky, but a lot of fun to do).
Obama Selfie Blog for Speakeasy — makes a change from seeing Helle Thorning-Schmidt on the Justus Lipsius doorstep…