proof spirit

January 15, 2013

New Premises

Filed under: 1 — Aiden @ 8:28 pm

This blog, fun though it was, has now been superseded by my website proofspirit. I can also be followed on Twitter and ‘liked’ on Facebook


November 25, 2010

Multimedia extravaganza

Filed under: Art, Comics, Events, My Art — Aiden @ 5:47 pm

Instantly forgotten

Thought I’d better blog this while I’m on a roll, and an incendiary one at that. This comic was originally put together in a couple of days (no kidding) for inclusion in the fourth edition of Dawns (provisionally titled ‘Dawns IV’) ready for the British International Comics Show in Birmingham on the weekend of the 16th and 17th of October 2010. Dawns IV never got published, so I was going to convert it into a mini-comic. Ever one to cut corners and later justify it artistically, I came up with the idea of Tweeting the comic panels live from Birmingham, which I did despite appalling network coverage. This seemed rather appropriate and amazingly multimedia. They can probably be unearthed by searching Twitter with the hashtag #tweetcomic. The artistic justification for using Post-It notes and not even bothering to erase the pencil lines is that it’s basically insulting to the reader. The reason for this may become clear on reading the comic. My only disclaimer (lot of disclaimers this week) it that I’m guilty too.

Anyhow – read the comic by clicking the Tweetcomic link on the right, or by clicking here:

November 24, 2010

A manifesto for comics students

Filed under: Art, Comics, General, My Art, Projects — Aiden @ 5:56 pm

Having read John Allison’s recent ‘Manifesto for UK Indie Comics in 2010’ (and agreed with pretty much everything it contains), I decided I should do something similar for students hoping to enter the comics world as a professional upon graduation. If nothing else, it will clarify the sort of things I should be doing between now and my own final show and if it encourages even one other person then I will consider it a success. I expect it’ll just annoy the hell out of everybody else.

The ten points are made in no particular order, other than that’s the way they occurred to me. There are plenty more things that could be included, but your tutors will tell you them. My only disclaimer is that this is aimed at those genuinely hoping to pursue comics as a career and has been distilled as much from the things I haven’t done as the things I have. There’s no fool like an old fool…

1. Seize The Opportunity

You’re at art school and it is costing you a lot of money in loans, tuition fees and studio fees – so make use of the facilities. You can screen print, emboss, make 3D models, learn software for graphics, animation, video and sound editing. There are loads of toys to play with and talented people whose job it is to show you how to use them, all for no extra cost. Make friends with these people and experiment. When you graduate, this will all be gone and you’ll regret it if you haven’t taken advantage.

2. It’s Not About Marks

You can hand in the minimum required to not get kicked off the course if you like, you might even hand in enough unfinished work to get a reasonable grade. But nobody who can offer you a job in comics is going to care – they’ve survived just fine until now without anyone having a degree in graphic novels. What they will be interested in is a professional portfolio. Of course you want a good mark, but just learn as much as you possibly can in three years and if your portfolio is brilliant, your grades will affirm this.

3. Tutors Do Actually Know Stuff

Drop the ‘us and them’ attitude – tutors can actually help you. They are artists, the same as you, but with lots more experience. There are specialists in almost every field, so use them all, whether they take you for classes or not. Don’t wait for them to find you – hunt them down in the corridor and don’t let them leave until you’ve extracted every ounce of advice you need.

4. Finish Projects

Apart from looking better in your portfolio, in order to gain the most from any project you need to see it through to completion. You’ll never know if what seems like a good idea in a sketchbook works until it’s finished. It’s playtime – ask yourself if you can do it, then find out. Make mistakes, it doesn’t matter – it’s all learning. Then take what you can from it, move on to the next thing and do it better.

5. It’s All About Everything

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “I want to draw comics so that’s all I’m interested in doing and everything else is a waste of time”. Let everything inform your work – film, graphic design, painting, modelling, everything. For a start you may turn out to prefer it, but assuming you do want to specialise in comics, see how elements from other disciplines can be incorporated into and improve your own working method. Plus it’s fun and a lot better than working for a living. If you go straight from art school into a lucrative comics career then well done, but it might be wise to have other saleable art skills to fall back on rather than stacking shelves until your genius is spotted by a major publisher.

6. Listen To Professionals

If an external speaker comes to the college, go and listen to them. Maybe even ask them questions. Even if you don’t like their particular work or it isn’t exactly the field you aspire to work in, they are making a living from art and you aren’t. Therefore, they may have something valuable to say that will help you in your future career. You may even be surprised and inspired. Go on trips; go to talks and conferences, even outside your subject area. Speak to publishers, gallery owners and agencies. You’ll have to speak to them one day so get used to it and find out what they are looking for now. It’ll make it easier and avoid the potential bombshell of finding that nobody is interested in you or the work you are so proud of when you are out in the big wide world.

7. Do Things

If you never do anything, you’ll never have anything to say. Don’t just read comics and stare at the television because it’s on. Read books, watch documentaries, visit places, explore. Really look at things. It doesn’t matter what your interests are, but do have interests and be interesting as a result.

8. Go To Conventions

I’ll repeat that: GO TO CONVENTIONS. The college is providing you with a table for nothing. I could write a manifesto on conventions alone. You’ll see three important things at conventions: artists, comics and the public. You will see what the real competition is like and what you have to aspire to. You will also see that you are not the worst artist there and this will give you confidence. People may actually buy your work and this will give you even more confidence. You will network (although I hate the term): you will meet other people who draw and sell comics and you will begin to be recognised, perhaps even make friends and/or valuable business contacts. You may even pick up commissions or offers to sell your work. You will also see what isn’t selling and how few people do this full time. This is the real world and you will have to enter it someday – better to get in there early than face a huge shock on graduation. Conventions are both inspiring and a reality check. GO TO CONVENTIONS.

9. Invest In Yourself

Spend a bit of money on furthering your career. Make something to sell at a convention and you might even cover your train fare but stay in for just one weekend, forego purchasing just one middle-of-the-road console game and the trip is easily affordable. Plus it’s fun. GO TO CONVENTIONS. Use the best materials you can afford. For instance, the mythical Bristol Board seems expensive, but it works out at less than £1 for an A3 sheet – not much for producing a work of final art on. Use a decent pen or brush – whatever your medium of choice, you’ll feel happier and more confident about your work if you like the materials. Times are hard etc. etc. but it doesn’t cost the earth and this is your future.

10. Get Excited

Find the fun, exciting angle in every brief and you’ll produce far better results and enjoy the process. This is art. This is playtime, not work. Lighten up. If you’re not certain, go and work in a mundane repetitive job for a year then come back and decide whether it’s fun. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘things will be great when…’ – things are great now. You draw. It’s what you do. You have no pressure and almost total creative freedom right here, right now. You think drawing is suddenly going to be better one day, when you have more pressure, more constraints and more distractions just because you might be getting paid? Enjoy every second. If drawing is what you love, love drawing itself and don’t crave the fringe benefits. Today is great.

John Allison’s manifesto can (should) be read here: – thank you for the inspiration.

August 26, 2010

Picasso visita el planeta de los simios

Filed under: Art, Diary, Events — Aiden @ 5:33 pm

Pablo Goes To Hollyoaks

The other week, I ventured to the former European Capital of Culture, now just plain old Liverpool, to check out the ‘Picasso: Peace and Freedom’ exhibition at the Tate. For all it did for my temper, I wish I hadn’t bothered. However, there were lessons to be learned (as always) and I did see some other good stuff there.

First off – a word about Liverpool that sums up the physical nature of the city for me in a nutshell. Stand on the waterfront facing inland, just down from the Moptop Museum (or whatever it’s called) and look to your right. The Three Graces: stunning, beautiful, ornate, regal, inspiring… describe them as you will. Now look to your left. Derelict wasteland, multi-storey car park (and a bad example of the genre), hideous cuboid tower… it has a touch of the post-apocalyptic about it. All that’s best and worst in Liverpool’s architecture in one 180 degree turn. Will this city be finished anytime soon? Bad choice of word – I meant ‘completed’ of course…

But what of Picasso? Well, he had a few off-days I reckon and the results are on show in the Tate. When you first enter the exhibition, there’s a small display describing the history of Picasso in occupied France and beyond and his political motivations. So far, so interesting. Then you go up in the lift to see the work of the man himself. It’s all downhill from there and not merely because it’s on the top floor.

What you get are a few scribbles, some parodies of classic paintings and the work that isn’t good enough to warrant permanent wall space somewhere else. I mean, come on, this is the emperor’s new clothes, surely? I get so angry looking at stuff like this and watching everybody else examining every detail in hushed awe. Here’s a test: forget it’s Picasso. Forget it’s the work of one of the most famous artists of the twentieth century. You see the piece, on its own – no history, no back story, no idea who drew it. Is it really any good? No it fucking isn’t, it’s a few lines on a piece of paper or brush strokes on canvas that make no fucking sense whatsoever and do absolutely nothing for you. “But you have to understand what the artist was trying to convey!”. No I fucking don’t – it’s his job to ensure that enough meaning is apparent in the work. Great authors and composers manage it. How come visual artists get away with passing off any old crap as having depth?

Now, I’m not disputing that Picasso was a genius, nor am I suggesting that a piece of art must be a perfect representation of the physical world in order to have merit. I lean towards impressionism, but I’m a cartoonist for heaven’s sake – hardly the most representationally accurate of disciplines. Probably his most famous work, Guernica, conveys huge emotion without being in any way realistic – look at the agony in the contorted faces and poses of the figures and you can almost feel the horror. I also understand that sometimes you have to look a little deeper to fully appreciate a work, know something of the artist, perhaps how they broke new ground and influenced what followed. On the other hand, Mondrian can fuck right off and so can Damien Hirst – I’ve seen their work, kept an open mind, tried not to dismiss it outright and rationally concluded it’s total bollocks. On yet another hand, the ‘International Klein Blue’ canvas, completely devoid of any image whatsoever (also on view in Tate Liverpool) had me hooked and staring at it for ages from all kinds of distances and angles. It’s the blue of ‘space’ apparently and it’s very blue indeed. I loved it.

I think what annoys me most is this: That I’m somehow a Philistine for not appreciating modern or abstract art. That in order to be a fully-rounded, educated, cultured person I must see its value. Dismissing it makes me somehow plebeian and obvious. Well what if I am? Show me a sketch by Leonardo da Vinci, or a painting by Canaletto, or a comic page by Uderzo in preference to this nonsense, any day.

If you do go to the Tate, be sure to see the exhibition curated by Wayne Hemingway and Son while you’re there. You put on headphones, choose the music mix you want to listen to and enter a sculpture gallery illuminated by disco lights and mirror balls. Now that’s modern art. Oh, and check out the kids talking about Picasso – I missed it and it’s the best bit apparently.

Find details of the aforementioned exhibitions here: and stare at International Klein Blue here:

Coming soon: Modern Jazz: You Can Fuck Off An’ All.

You gotta roll with it

Filed under: Art, Comics, Diary, Events, My Art, Projects — Aiden @ 12:56 am

Ted and Dan bravely cope with the crowds in my absence

I went down to London last Sunday with Dan and Ted to man the NWSAD stall at the Comiket Independent Comics event in Battersea Park. I would have loved to complain about having to get up at 6:15am for a 6:30am start, but Dan had already had his sleep interrupted by an invading hen party the previous night and then covered forty miles to pick us up. Hell on earth. Anyhow, we made it down to London in good time, remembered to laugh at all his ‘jokes’ (a course requirement) and laid out our wares ready for the impending arrival of the hordes.

Our ‘wares’ on this occasion consisted of issue three of the now legendary ‘DAWNS’ comic anthology, the remaining copies of issues one and two and various other self-published works by the students. Dan had the stall next to ours for the sale of his own creations, including two brand new comics: ‘Onion Soup’ – a transcription (with added art) of an evening’s Twittered cookery and ‘Silky Wilson’ – a whimsical tale of name theft and falcons. I believe both proved popular (and they are rather entertaining). Check out to peruse and perchance purchase a copy…

I was personally excited about the event because I was launching a new product: Writers’ Blocks. These are a set of six dice, each face depicting a different image. The idea is to roll the dice and make up a story using the upturned faces as inspiration. The pictures were designed to be as open to interpretation as possible, to act as a springboard to creativity rather than be a constraint. After the many hours spent sourcing the materials and the many more hours spent using vector graphics to draw the images, deciding which picture went on which face, sticking them all on and designing and printing the packaging literature, I was rather hoping they’d go down well. They did, thankfully, and as I’ve given them their own site you can read more about them here:

Other than that, DAWNS was well received and we met loads of nice people who wanted to talk about comics and the course and stuff. It was great to see some familiar faces and catch up – Matt Sheret of We Are Words + Pictures ( ) being a prime example. He always has time for a word (and a picture – hahaha) and is on a mission to increase recognition for independent comics. After a year of attending such events, it’s good to begin feeling like a part of the community, rather than hovering on the edge of the party.

All in all a great day, but a long one – I think I snored on the way home, but at least Dan didn’t. Thanks to him for the marathon driving effort and for organising the trip and to Ted for putting me up (putting up with me?) the previous night. See you all at the next one…

August 11, 2010

Out of the pram

Filed under: Animation, Comedy, Diary, Film — Aiden @ 10:04 pm

Pig's 'ere

First off, rest assured that you can read this piece in safety if you’ve not already seen Pixar’s latest release. It contains no spoilers. An explanation later, but for now – on with the show.

I ventured to the cinema earlier this week to see ‘Toy Story 3’. I was a big fan of Toy Story, and nearly cried when Buzz learned… oh, hang on – you may not have seen Toy Story so I’d better not spoil that. I enjoyed Toy Story 2 even more, especially the bit where… No, really – you should see these films. Where have you been? But part two was one of those rare sequels that surpass the first, Highlander II and Blues Brothers 2000 being other prominent examples. The world got bigger and the story developed. The animation improved too, but then it would – that’s almost a given. The Shrek films feature great animation, but make up a puerile, barrel-scraping excuse of a franchise, devoid of any class whatsoever. Pixar make great films that just happen to be computer-generated.

So, Toy Story 3… Well, let’s begin with the obligatory Pixar short that precedes it. ‘Day & Night’ is spectacularly inventive in a manner I fully expect ‘Knight And Day’ to not be. Very clever, unlike the split infinitive in the previous sentence. Go and see it. I knew nothing whatsoever about it and thoroughly enjoyed every moment and that’s the way to watch it.

So, Toy Story 3… Well, all your old friends are back, they get in some scrapes and if you liked the first two, you’ll like this one. That’s about it. I don’t want to spoil it for you and I’ll tell you why: When one of your mates wants to tell you all about a film they’ve just seen, you can hold up your hands, say “Stop, don’t tell me all about that film you’ve just seen!” and generally, he/she won’t. Granted, some of my mates would tell you anyway, but you take my point. When one of your friends on a social networking site has seen a film and writes about it, there’s no holding up of hands – you’ve already read the post and now you know what happens. When several of your friends on a social networking site bang on about how funny that bit is where so-and-so does such-and-such, you wait all film for it, aren’t surprised when it occurs and don’t laugh. Best bit, apparently. Cheers. For a similar reason I even tend to avoid reading early reviews. I appreciate there’s a slight contradiction there as I’m expecting (hoping for) my own review to be read, but it’s optional – you can leave anytime. I prefer to see a film blind (if ‘seeing blind’ makes any sense), form my own opinion, and then compare it to that of others. The same with albums, books, TV series, football matches – I don’t want my take on a piece of work coloured or, worse, spoiled by somebody else blurting out what happens. Tell me you enjoyed it generally by all means, just not why specifically. Discuss the details with someone else who’s also seen it, or doesn’t care.

So what can I tell you? The 3D is nice, but not necessary. The opening set-piece is magical. Hamm is ace (as ever). The animators have clearly studied the posture of teenage boys. All the usual comic and dramatic elements are present and correct. It’s clever and it’s poignant. And yes, even I, cynic that I am, cried. Why did I cry? Go and find out for yourself. Mind you, I blubbed at that bit in The Return Of The King where Fr…

August 10, 2010

One for the record books

Filed under: Diary — Aiden @ 10:59 pm

Essential headgear

Yes folks, unbelievable though it is, the blog that is PROOF SPIRIT celebrates its first birthday today. Not sure how many people will be attending the party as there’s not been much activity here of late, but you’re all invited. There’ll be jelly and ice cream and things on sticks displayed on a hedgehog (and if I can catch the little spiny bastard that routinely scares the shit out of me with his rustling when I’m smoking on the back step, I’ll display him on a stick).

And what a year it’s been, full of laughter, merriment, insight, wisdom, crimes against literacy and procrastination. However, I count forty-nine posts since the heady date of August 10th 2009, so that’s nearly one a week. A bit toploaded, granted, but there you go.

Anyhow, heaps and loads has been happening and there’s even more on the horizon. In the coming days, read how I become enraged at a celebrated Spanish artist, “get something in my eye” watching a Pixar film, leave everything to chance, make things move in France, make a record or two (or fifty), create even more of a buzz and maybe even begin blogging via a newly installed iPhone app if I can figure out how the hell it works.

That should be enough to whet anyone’s appetite. Now give me some presents.

April 23, 2010

Honey, you know where to find me

Filed under: Diary, My Art, Projects — Aiden @ 1:28 pm

Gold Leader standing by...

My latest interesting project, based loosely on this year’s Wrexham in Bloom competition, was completed yesterday. Well, after initial scepticism, it was interesting to me at any rate. If it is of any interest to you, my working process and reflections may be perused by clicking on the Green Fairy Project link to the right or the one below.

I warn you though, it is a lot more serious than my normal light-hearted fare, containing wordy academic speak designed to impress the college faculty. I am also more restrained in my sarcasm and less quick to criticise. Yeah, right…

If you can’t be arsed reading it, there are a lot of nice pictures too. Some are even related to the project. So, enjoy! Or don’t. Like I care – it’s not as if you’re marking it. Unless you are, in which case, enjoy!

April 20, 2010

You know that I’m loud

Filed under: Diary, Events, Music — Aiden @ 6:51 pm

Top bird

Better late than never (which will probably be engraved upon my tombstone), today I am opining on the second album and live performances of the latest best band from Manchester, The Courteeners. Obviously I have not, am not, nor shall be sitting on any fences for the foreseeable future. And why would I? They are pointy and sharp, quite literally a pain in the arse, and comfy chairs have been around for years.

So, The Courteeners – let’s start at the beginning. I first saw them play ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ on some late-night Channel Four show a couple of years back and thought “Right, let’s check this lot out”. Two tracks in and ‘St. Jude’, their debut album, had me hooked with ‘Cavorting’. For me, Not Nineteen Forever is still the standout on that album but all in all, it showed excellent promise.

I first saw them live in one of the tents when Morrissey played Hyde Park in the summer of 2008 and, suspecting it might be my only chance for a close-up before they became huge, managed to get right to the front. I had my wallet stolen during the mayhem that Not Nineteen Forever generated, but it was later returned by post (amazingly) and has thankfully not diminished by opinion of the song. Next, I saw them at V Festival, then I was present both nights at the Manchester Apollo (one downstairs, one upstairs), during which the download only EP ‘Live at Manchester Apollo’ was recorded. Then came the ‘Love Music, Hate Racism’ gig in Rotherham, and the final night at the Liverpool Academy before they left to support Morrissey on a US tour, Miles Kane joining frontman Liam Fray to duet The Smiths’ classic ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ in celebration of this fact. So I’ve seen them a couple of times and they have constantly improved in confidence and sound. Not that Mr Fray has ever been lacking in confidence – there is something about Manchester frontmen (especially if named Liam) that propels them to utter self-belief. It works anyway.

On to December 2009 and their biggest gig to date, a sell-out 10,000 capacity show at Manchester Central (formerly the G-Mex). I was a little unsure what to expect as their rough, simple sing-along tunes seemed more suited to a small venue than an arena. The Courteeners, on the other hand, had made the decision to go epic since our last encounter. Bearing in mind they had been recording their second album ‘Falcon’ in the meantime, they correctly assumed these tunes deserved a grander stage. Of course they do, they were meant for this place. Besides the fact that The Courteeners clearly thought it was about time to take over the world, two other things struck me. Well, one thing struck me and the other thing (a flying plastic bottle) actually struck an unfortunate girl just in front of me, at pace and right between the eyes. To her credit, she pulled out a make-up mirror, checked she looked okay and continued to enjoy the gig – take note Morrissey, you big girl’s blouse. Whilst she was struck literally, the thing that struck me was purely metaphorical. The band stormed through pretty much the whole of St. Jude (plus ‘Acrylic’ and ‘That Kiss’) as the crowd went wild, rendering Liam Fray’s vocals fairly redundant with their own singing. However, being treated to the majority of the forthcoming album didn’t seem to interest most of them, instead allowing them time to indulge in chatter and visit the bar. “You idiots – you’ll be singing and bouncing along to these tunes in six months too”, thought I, in my wisdom. I neither sing, nor bounce, no longer being possessed with the youthful exuberance of yesteryear, unless it’s Oasis (sing) or The Charlatans (sing and bounce), but I do take it all in. Having said that, this lack of enthusiasm for new tunes did afford me the opportunity to actually hear Mr Fray sing, so fine by me. The new stuff sounded good, so good in fact that I ordered the album that night ready for its February release.

Falcon arrived ten days late. I shall present my thoughts and actions regarding that matter at that at the end of this piece, but when it was finally delivered, I was not disappointed. The intervening singles, ‘Cross My Heart And Hope To Fly’ and ‘You Overdid It Doll’ suggested a huge leap in production values from St. Jude and the tunes I’d heard live suggested a similar step forward in songwriting. The opener, ‘The Opener’, is a proper Manc anthem – it sends shivers down your spine and is my favourite track. ‘Take Over The World’ is similarly huge, although the production veers dangerously into Coldplay territory and nobody wants to end up there. I’ll deal with that arse Chris Martin another day. Then come the aforementioned singles, followed by the first slow number, ‘Lullaby’, which seems to evoke images of some past, non-existent, northern ballroom and it makes me nostalgic for a time I never knew. That was a bit ‘poetic’. Sorry. ‘Good Times Are Calling’ is fine, ‘The Rest Of The World Has Gone Home’ is the obligatory acoustic Liam solo. It’d make a great B-side, but talented though he is, he’s not Roddy Frame, nor even Noel Gallagher, so the solo acoustic numbers could happily be left out of the live set and off the albums. ‘Sycophant’ pounds along on one note and is great, ‘Cameo Brooch’ is rather sweet, ‘Scratch Your Name Upon My Lips’ is fairly pointless. ‘Last Of The Ladies’ is a nice piano-only love letter which should swap places with the dramatic ‘Will It Be This Way Forever?’. And there you have it, unless like me you ordered the Special Edition which contains an extra disc of five rather interesting little tunes, both lyrically and musically. One or two could maybe have been promoted to the album proper with appropriate relegations from disc one. On the subject of lyrics, Liam Fray veers from very clever to very clumsy but ten out of ten for effort. But can we drop the Manchester references now if we’re going to take over the world please? Morrissey did it more subtly, less frequently and soon grew out of it. Two albums worth is plenty.

My last encounter with the band was at the Newcastle Academy last month and they were superb. The place was packed and even offered round trays of sandwiches (I mean they offered around trays of sandwiches, the trays were oval I think) – a gig first for me, but entirely irrelevant. The band rocked, the crowd rocked, I couldn’t hear Liam sing again and everyone left happy. I think The Courteeners will fly from here and I am happy to have witnessed their take-off. Go lads.

Check the band out here:

As a footnote, here follows the correspondence between myself and Universal Records over the aforementioned late delivery of my copy of Falcon. I think it speaks for itself…


11th March 2010 Subject: Feedback on Falcon Delivery

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am not normally moved to give feedback to companies, but given the poor standard of service I experienced and the fact that you requested it, I will make an exception in this case. I pre-ordered Falcon, by The Courteeners, after having seen them for about the sixth time on the 12th of December in Manchester because I am a fan.

The album was, I believe, released on the 22nd of February, meaning I had ordered it some two months in advance. I awaited delivery expectantly, but received nothing. By Friday 26th of February, having still not taken delivery, I telephoned to enquire as to the whereabouts of my album. I was informed that there had been “some delay”, “unexpected problems”, that Universal were “very sorry” and that my album had in fact been dispatched the previous day, using a faster delivery service than the standard to compensate for the delay.

By Tuesday March 2nd, having still not taken delivery of the album, I telephoned Universal once more. As this was after 6pm, I was informed that I would have to wait until the following day for information, but that I would certainly be telephoned to let me know where my album was. I received no call. When I returned home that day, Falcon had finally arrived – a full ten days after anyone with a casual interest could have purchased it, downloaded it or copied it, whereas an avid fan such as myself had still not heard it. As the CD had been sent in nothing more than a Jiffy bag, the cover was slightly creased and damaged – in short, had I been browsing in a shop, this is not the copy I would have chosen.

Finally, on Sunday 7th March, I received an email notifying me that my CD had been sent – two weeks after the release date and three days after it had been delivered.

If you genuinely wish to improve your service, here are my suggestions (all services I have been offered regularly by other online retailers):

1) When ordering a special edition as a fan, offer a free mp3 download on the day before release as a bonus and to allow the recipient to hear the album before the general public while awaiting delivery of the physical product.

2) If the product is to be delayed, an apology and explanation by email to inform the customer costs nothing and creates a better impression than a late delivery then an email asking for feedback.

3) When you say you are going to call someone back, call them back. If it was deemed unnecessary as the product was by that stage dispatched, a follow-up call to check customer satisfaction would be polite and good PR.

4) Package your CDs in corrugated card, not flimsy Jiffy bags, to prevent them arriving in less than perfect condition.

All in all, I am very dissatisfied with Universal’s standard of service and am unlikely to order from you ever again, unless the product can only be purchased exclusively from yourselves.

Thank you for taking the time to read this – you did ask.


Aiden Smith


15th March 2010 Subject: Universal Music Issue Resolved: (UMDF-401) Feedback on Falcon Delivery

Hi Aiden

Thanks for your message and feedback alike. We do our best to ensure that all feedback gets taken into account and passed to the correct department for scrutiny and and to see what we can improve on. We can only apologise that we have let you down with the service we lacked to provide you with. We will definitely take these into account for future sales and interactions. 

Many thanks again for your interest in replying to the email.


Universal Music

Universal Music Direct Support Team 

If you reply to this email, please do not change the subject line.


18th March 2010 Subject:  Re: Universal Music Issue Resolved: (UMDF-401) Feedback on Falcon Delivery


Thank you for your reply. However, I do find the choice of subject title interesting. Perhaps you could enlighten me as to how this matter has been “resolved” and to whose satisfaction? Perhaps “lip service” might have been a more appropriate title? 

As somebody who has previously been self-employed, I always understood that a handling a complaint well was an opportunity to demonstrate excellent customer service and create a positive impression of the company, perhaps even exceeding that achieved by delivering goods on time and in a satisfactory condition. You have failed to do either.

Perhaps, as I increasingly find, companies the size of Universal need not adopt this approach to customer service. I mean, why bother? I only spent £13.99 with you. 


Aiden Smith 

As yet, I have received no further correspondence from Universal…

April 8, 2010

A short time ago, in a town near to you…

Filed under: Diary, Events, Film, Music — Aiden @ 5:28 pm

Not like dusting crops

What better way to spend Easter than in a galaxy far, far away? With my good friends Rhett, Slip and Steve, I made the jump to hyperspace… OK, enough. I went to the O2 Arena (formerly the Millennium White Elephant), which although looking like a half-buried Death Star is definitely in London, to see Star Wars In Concert. This is a selection of the original score played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, not the London Symphony Orchestra as incorrectly Tweeted by myself and Rhett, who was surprised to receive a response from the LSO informing him of his mistake (a single response that is, not one from each individual member). Clips from all six films were shown on a giant screen to accompany the music and Anthony Daniels acted as narrator for the whole adventure, minus the gold suit. I’d have preferred R2-D2, but some people might not have understood what he was banging on about.

 Sounds good? Well it was. From the moment we arrived the O2 staff were incredibly helpful (far more so than those in my local branch, who have still failed after nearly six months of false promises to sort out my monthly text allowance). As one of their customers and his mates, we were ushered into the VIP bar before the concert and then discovered our tickets had been upgraded to far better seats than the ones we paid for. All this is just icing though.

 As soon as the orchestra kicked off with the 20th Century Fox fanfare and the giant yellow letters appeared on the screen I felt like a kid again. Any right-thinking person will know what I’m on about, even if I was speaking to you in R2. The main theme maintained the goose-bumps, the Imperial March, the TIE fighter battle tune, the 50-strong choir for Duel of the Fates… Hahahahaha – just brilliant! Orchestras sound impressive, the screen was huge, the lasers and side screens added to the atmosphere and it’s STAR WARS!

 Back in 1977 I never guessed I’d still be getting excited about this stuff over thirty years later. Maybe more so – along with Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars has formed one of the twin pillars of narrative culture in my life and that reality is too far embedded in me now to ever change. The fact that both are true stories only accentuates this. I don’t even care that they ripped me off twenty quid for the programme – these usually cost a tenner at gigs and it is larger and beautifully produced. When I went to the 30th Anniversary Exhibition there was a paltry selection of merchandise (odd when you have a captive audience of geeks) and nothing at all to say “I’ve been here”.

 So nice one and thank you to everyone responsible for putting on a great show. What next George?..

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