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Archive for June, 2011

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a huge fan of this weekend’s Santa Blues festival in Santa Cruz which, for me, is the highlight of a summer packed with music.

It’s not just the artists who make this festival so special, although I have seen some truly memorable performances at this gig – Robert Cray in 2008, The Deans in 2009 and Kenny Neal in 2010 – it’s the venue too. Standing beneath the flowering branches of the flamboyance trees at the foot of the clock tower of Iglesia de Concepción has to rank as one of the most atmospheric venues in the Blues calendar. Throw a sultry night into the mix and you’ve got the perfect Louisiana setting for artists to exploit.

Well, with midsummer’s Eve almost upon us and calima in full flow keeping the Tenerife thermostat stuck on ‘hot’, the stage is set for another great year of live Blues. The festival opens on Thursday 23rd with local boys Lightnin’ Blues kicking off proceedings and bringing a welcome local flavour to the event. They’ll be followed by the Andy J. Forest Band all the way from New Orleans.

The organizer’s haven’t done this charismatic little festival any favours by holding the opening night on Noche de San Juan when much of the local population will be decamping to their nearest sand for the biggest beach party of the year, so opening night is going to need all the help it can muster to ensure the continuation of this very special annual festival.

On Friday night Emerging Sound take to the stage followed by Red House Blues and Saturday rounds off with the Spanish Three Bones and Mississippi’s Zac Harmen.
Be there – or miss one of the best music events of the year. Your call.

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Cast your mind back to the days when you sat with a pile of blank postcards in front of you and a head filled with sea breezes, the whiff of Ambre Solaire and diddly squat in terms of what to write, and you’ll have just the vaguest inkling of what it’s like to be a travel writer.

It’s funny how so many people who don’t write seem to think that writing is the easiest job in the world, and if you throw travelling into the equation you’re just taking the piss if you even use the words work and travel writing in the same sentence.

There can be no doubt that writing comes more easily to some people than to others, in the same way that drawing, or carpentry or accounts are second nature to some and a miracle of human achievement to others. But I wouldn’t expect an artist or a carpenter or an accountant to churn out the same drawing, cabinet or spreadsheet time after time, and neither should a travel writer. Travel writing has to be as fit for purpose as anything else we seek to create and whenever I put fingers to keyboard, I have to think very carefully about who it is I’m writing for.

There is absolutely no point in a travel writer or blogger writing a feature about staying in five star hotels and eating at the best restaurants in the destination if their audience is primarily backpackers and gap year students travelling the globe. Equally, to expound the virtues of trekking to off the beaten track locations and staying with a local family in their one room stilt house is going to be as appealing as a dose of the noro virus to professionals who have limited holidays and unlimited budgets.

If I am going to write about a trip for a tour company that markets itself to low cost, mass tourism destinations, they won’t be too happy if I wax lyrically for 300 words about the wines, the culture and the gastronomy of a region when their market really wants to know about the theme parks, the beaches and the best place to get a proper English breakfast.

But here’s an interesting thought. If I produce a feature for a mass market that uses simple language and short sentences, is it written to a lower standard than one that uses complex imagery and dictionary required adjectives? Surely, if my writing is fit for purpose, then it’s good writing isn’t it? And if I fail to meet the specific needs of my commissioning editor because I like to write a certain way regardless of who the audience is, doesn’t that make me a bad writer  – or just an unsuccessful one?

Whatever else a travel writer or blogger may or may not be, unless they’re at the top of their profession one thing’s for sure, they won’t be getting paid vast sums of money for the articles they write. As a professional travel writer, there’s only one way to make a living and that’s to keep outputs as high as possible by producing work for as many different commissioning editors as you can muster. And that means being able to adapt your style and content to suit each customer you’re writing for.
Isn’t that what a good travel writer is?

Opinions on a postcard please – or you could just use the comments space.

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