Tag Archives: marketing

The art of political war compared to a comedy club and Disney studio politics

I usually keep away from overt politics in this blog so, no doubt, I will regret posting this one…

Jonathan Pie’s initial comic success came courtesy of RT

A comedian I know was recently asked about the possibility of appearing in the UK-produced comedy series which Russian TV station RT  is apparently planning to screen next year. He said he would not appear on RT, which is financed by the Russian government. I think he was wrong. All publicity is good publicity and, if he is allowed control over his own material, I see no real problem.

But why RT, the former Russia Today – a current affairs channel akin to the BBC News channel – should be thinking of screening a comedy show is interesting.

I was also told that RT is especially interested in screening Right Wing satirists who find it tough to get on UK TV.

Why would RT be interested in Right Wing not Left Wing comedians?

Well, presumably for the same reason that, allegedly, the Russian state set up hundreds of Facebook accounts promoting Right Wing rallies supporting Donald Trump during the US Presidential elections.

The Daily Beast’s view of who was behind Right Wing posts

They supported the more Right Wing candidate against the (comparative to Trump) more liberal, anti-Right Hillary Clinton.

I was in TV promotions and marketing for 25-ish years and have always been interested in techniques of persuasion and how to sway beliefs and perceptions.

As well as in marketing, that is actually what Art does too: you try to take the audience – whether viewers, listeners or fiction readers – along with you.

Which is also relevant to the art of war in the 21st century.

Sun Tzu says in his influential book The Art of War that “the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” because the object of war should be not to destroy your enemy’s assets and power structure but to take them over intact.

In the modern world, you no longer need to physically take over your rival’s cities, economy and means of production. You do not need to actually take over your enemy’s assets and decision-making processes. What you want is the power to influence your opponent’s economic and political directions and decisions.

Undermining their strength and influence is equivalent to increasing your own.

Lest we forget, the reason Sun Tzu’s The Art of War (written in the 5th century BC) came back to prominence in the mid-1990s was that Disney company president Mike Ovitz recommended it or (in some versions of the story) allegedly gave copies to all his Hollywood executives as a training manual for navigating the corporate world. It was said that the only two books you needed to read to succeed in corporate politics were Machiavelli’s The Prince and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

Sun Tzu’s view in the 5th century BC

Two of Sun Tzu’s oft-quoted and closely-linked insights include:

“You have to believe in yourself”
and
“The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”

In the modern world, corporations are – it could be argued – equivalent to non-geographically specific states.

You do not need to fully take over a company to influence its direction. A large shareholding will give you a voice – or being able to influence the main shareholders may suffice.

In the modern world, it is pointless – it always has been – to primarily seek to influence the thoughts and beliefs of those who agree with your own views. They already agree with and believe what you believe. To change things, you need to influence the thoughts and beliefs of those who support/bolster your opponents.

There is no point only targeting the fans of your product, although you do have to remind them your product exists.

The important thing is the target (Photo: Christian Gidlöf)

Your aim is to sell a ‘belief’ in your product to people who are not yet convinced or who are actually actively resistant and opposed to your product. Or – and this is the point – you can undermine their existing beliefs in the product they currently buy, which will increase the comparative impact of your own product.

If that product is a political system, then you do not even have to convince your opponents that your beliefs are right. By undermining their confidence in their own political system, you can strengthen your own comparative position.

If you were to bizarrely and possibly unwisely transfer this to the situation of a stand-up comedy show featuring only two comics then, if you undermine the audience’s belief and confidence in one comic, you increase their (comparative) belief in the other comic. The MC can do this in his/her introduction of the other comic to the audience. Or one comic can undermine the other’s self-belief and thus performance.

In the case of the US, let us just imagine for a moment that the Russians wanted to install Donald Trump because they believed he would be more receptive to their overtures, reduce or remove economic sanctions related to Ukraine etc etc…

Well, they must be very disappointed because he has proved to be a rogue player.

It is a bit like the Kray Twins springing ‘Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell from Dartmoor Prison in the 1960s and then finding that he actually was uncontrollably mad.

US cartoonist Ben Garrison’s view of the Washington ‘Swamp’

But – swings and roundabouts – Trump’s appeal is to Right Wing voters in the US and his constant harping-on about how the Washington Establishment and the ‘Fake News’ media are corrupt must relentlessly and effectively chip-chip-chip away at his loyal Right Wing voters’ belief in their own system.

That is something that no Left Wing politician could ever do.

If you undermine a building, it will collapse.

As for my comedian chum, I think he was wrong to refuse to appear on RT.

If they give him an unfettered, uncensored voice which he cannot get onto UK TV then, in terms of Art, that is a ‘win’ situation for him.

The fact that the financiers of RT may see comedy on existing British society as a way of undermining belief in the current system and appealing to the always-malleable 18-35 year old age group while appearing to be the voice of individual freedom of expression is a side issue.

Morality was never a necessity in Art.

And, of course, abroad, many took individually-seen videos of fake reporter Jonathan Pie as those of a real reporter whose off-camera personal views had been caught between recordings, thus showing the duplicity of Western reporting.

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Available as a comedy show consultant or director or whatever you fancy, really

5Stars

The number of unknown unknowns is unknown

In the immortal words of Max Bialystock: “Flaunt it, flaunt it!”

I am available as a Director or Creative Consultant (or whatever words you want to use) on live comedy shows in 2016 – mostly, I guess, for people who intend to stage a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, although I am open to anything.

This can include structuring a show, giving feedback and show notes on performance and presentation, advice on publicity and marketing; whatever you want short of totally writing and performing the whole bleedin’ thing.

I won’t read scripts, because you are not reading out written scripts on stage. I will only advise people or see their live performances or run-throughs or try-outs – even if it’s in a living room! Me just reading words on paper or on a screen is a waste of your time and mine.

I have been going to the Edinburgh Fringe since around 1985 and been involved in the production of various live Fringe comedy shows including ones by Charlie Chuck, Janey Godley, Malcolm Hardee, Helen Keen and Lewis Schaffer. Since 2005, I have organised the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards and, since 2006, staged annual variety shows in memory of Malcolm Hardee in London and Edinburgh, running anything from two to five hours. There will be a two-hour Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe.

If I give advice on any show that is later considered for a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award, I will opt out of the decision-making process and will bend over backwards not to show bias. So, ironically, if I advise you on your show, you are much, much LESS likely to win a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.

2008-2010 I was UK creative consultant to New York’s Bleecker Street Theater and Green Room venue.

2010-2015 I was UK creative consultant to New York based Inbrook Entertainment, including the Gene Frankel Theatre.

I worked in British TV for around 25 years – including peaktime entertainment shows and series with performers including Jeremy Beadle, Cilla Black, Jack Dee, Jonathan Ross, Chris Tarrant et al – as well as directing/producing/writing promotion & marketing campaigns and press & sales tapes for TV stations in the UK, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Holland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden.

In print, I wrote comedian Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography, edited comedienne Janey Godley’s autobiography and edited an anthology of stories by 19 stand-up comics. My blog So It Goes – mostly about comedy – was posted daily 2011-2015 and continues sporadically, with over 1 million hits.

I have also written for Chortle, the Huffington Post, the Independent, Screen International, Three WeeksWhat’s On Stage and others. And been a script consultant for TV’s This Morning, Tricia, Turner Movies and ITV News etc as well as a researcher for BBC TV News.

In 2014 and 2015, I chaired live Grouchy Club chat shows about comedy at the Fringe with Scotsman comedy critic Kate Copstick. This will continue at the 2016 Fringe. We also post weekly Grouchy Club podcasts and host monthly live Grouchy Club meetings in London.

Quotes about me include:
“The Boswell of the alternative comedy scene” (Chortle)
“Fleming knows a bit about comedy’s extremities”(Fest magazine)
“One of the most influential figures in British comedy” (The Skinny)

My charges are:

£50 per hour + (if outside the London Travel Zone area) travel costs, including time taken.
or
£350 for up to 10 hours. For this, I have to be paid 50% up-front and 50% at the end of the consultation.

I know comedians!

CONTACT: john@thejohnfleming.com

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Off-stage theatrical marketing and knowing what not to write in a script

Last night. I saw Kyle Riabko‘s stage musical Close to You: Burt Bacharach ReImagined at the Criterion Theatre on Piccadilly Circus in London. (It was previously staged in New York and at Londons Menier Chocolate Factory as What’s It All About: Burt Bacharach ReImagined.) It was very good. But what impressed me as much as the production itself was that, when we came out of the theatre after the show. the cast had already legged-it outside and were performing with a busker by the statue of Eros.

I presume they do this every night and it is a (very successful) attempt to add street cred to the ‘relaxed’ production. It succeeded as a marketing idea because loads of audience members (like me) would see this and talk about it to other people, spreading good word-of-mouth.

In that sense, what was done separate from the production was almost as important as what was in the production itself.

I was saying this to someone on Friday – and also that I thought writing was a bit like the old John West tinned salmon ad on TV years ago. The tagline of that ad was “It’s the salmon that John West rejects that makes John West the best”.

It is easy to write lots of fluent words, but it is what you choose to exclude that has as much or more impact than what you include.

Sicario poster

This afternoon, I saw the movie Sicario, which must surely be in line for multiple Oscar nominations.

I had been slightly worried by things I had read about mutilated bodies and gore et al (it is about the Mexican drug cartels) – but (although these shots are briefly and effectively in there) what impressed me was the restraint of the direction and the extreme restraint of the script – words only bunged in when necessary.

It is what the audience is not told and what is not explained that makes Sicario so effective. For example, it is only about 90 minutes into the 121 minute film that it is fully confirmed what is actually happening… Plus I do not think the title word is ever actually mentioned in the movie and it is only towards the very end that it becomes obvious why the movie has the very specific title Sicario.

So that’s today’s trite message: the effect of a production on an audience can often be more than you see on stage or on screen.

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Cunning Stunt obsessed comic steals all three Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards

Adam Taffler at the Grouchy Club

Adam Taffler – Grouchy Club last year

And so the insanity has begun.

The Edinburgh Fringe has started.

Three-and-a-half weeks when anarchy is the norm.

Yesterday, it turned out that both the Grouchy Club and comedian Paul Kerenza’s show are booked into the same room at the Counting House 3.45-4.45pm on 14th August. So – as it does not affect us as much – and because we are so sweet – Kate Copstick and my Grouchy Club chat shows will now start on the 15th August not the 14th.

Performing at the Fringe is like a needle in a haystack trying to get noticed in the Amazonian Jungle. The haystack may stand out when you see it, but the Amazon is a big place. And, even after you find the haystack, you still have to find the needle.

Paul Ricketts who, in this blog two weeks ago, mentioned he was organising a comedy show in a toilet, tells me he now has several comedians interested but still has no confirmed (or maybe that should be engaged) venue:

Ceci n'est pas une affiche Édimbourg

Women wanted for stand-up urinal comedy

“There’s interest in the show,” he says, “and it’s been nominated on the Sell This Gig Out! Facebook page, even though it’s impossible to sell-out a show when no-one knows what day or in which toilet it will be held. But there is already standing room only. And I would also like to reach out to women comics to get involved and break down this last bastion of male oppression. If any ladies want you to do stand-up comedy in a Gents, they can contact me via the event page on Facebook.“

Paul helpfully sent me a link to the YouTube video of his last toilet exploits.

Twonkey this is a “haunting photo

Twonkey says this “haunting photo” is from a final rehearsal of Twonkey’s Stinking Bishop

Meanwhile the inexplicable Mr Twonkey sent me an inexplicable photo of what he claims was the final rehearsal for his show Twonkey’s Stinking Bishop.

And the unavoidable Lewis Schaffer, appearing in his first play since his schooldays, sent me a message: “I’m super busy trying to remember my lines so I don’t destroy Giant Leap the play I am in AND also I am thinking about the funny stuff I need to say at my own show Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, £5.”

Lewis Schaffer is never knowingly under-sold.

Which brings us to the core of this blog.

Lewis Schaffer (extreme right) in rehearsal for the Giant Leap

Lewis Schaffer (extreme right) in rehearsal for the Giant Leap

As I – perhaps foolishly – decided this year to come up to Edinburgh on an overnight coach rather than by car, I – perhaps foolishly – left the three increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards with performer Juliette Burton. She promised to deliver them to me later today – she is driving up from London to Edinburgh today. At least, that is what she claimed.

Juliette has always shown an obsessive, possibly unhealthy interest in the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

Now, this morning, I have received an e-mail from her with photos attached and a link to an 8-second online video. The photos are of a letter she has written to me. It says:


Dear John

Ransom letter, page 1

Ransom letter, page 1

As you know you gave me your awards. Thankyou for trusting me/falling prey to my masterplan. 

I’ve wanted to get my hands on these awards FOR YEARS! Now I have them I thought about not letting them go. I thought about holding them to ransom (because, let’s face it, that’s the only way anyone performing at EdFringe will make any money, right). 

But I’m keen to challenge mental health stigma and misconceptions about people like me, a known nutcase, so I thought the image of “crazed mad person holding awards for ransom; psycho lunatic threatens Fleming” may not help that cause… 

Ransom letter, page 2

Ransom letter, page 2

So instead I thought I’d permanent-mark my name on all 3. But my own plan was foiled… I awoke today, ready to head to Edinburgh with the awards, with permanent marker in hand… only to find the attached security camera footage. And 3 empty boxes.

Your awards seem to have escaped.

If you want to see your 3 empty boxes again, please send me £1,000,000,000,000 … in Scottish notes. 

Ransom letter, page 3

Ransom letter, page 3

With that, I might break even this festival.

Yours,

Juliette.

PS No, I don’t know why I wrote this and then emailed you the picture of it rather than just type it in an email… Artistic? Old fashioned? Crazy?


This is the 8-second video she linked to.

Juliette is fast catching up with Lewis Schaffer in the self-promotion stakes.

Juliette Burton with Russian Egg Roulette medal

Juliette proudly displays 2014 Russian Egg Roulette medal

She is also appearing in the official Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championship at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on 28th August. At least, she thinks she is. She will learn I am not a man to mess with.

But, even if I ban her from that, she is still up at the Fringe performing her Look At Me show (6 performances only) AND her Happy Hour show (9 performances) AND is appearing in the tenth anniversary Abnormally Funny People shows.

Look At Me - Fringe 2015

Happy Hour - Fringe 2015

Inevitably – this being the Fringe – entirely separate from Juliette, last night I was sent a link to the new Abnormally Funny People video.

And now I have very slight toothache.

Fairly regular – every third year or so – I get toothache in Edinburgh and have to get dental treatment.

Welcome to the Fringe. Share my pain.

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Filed under Comedy, Edinburgh, Festivals, PR

Sex with comedian Giada Garofalo. Miss Behave tries to get money for dogging.

Giada Garofalo - not a woman to mess with

Giada Garofalo – maybe don’t mess with her

’Tis the season for jolly comedy performers to be previewing and thinking of ways to promote their Edinburgh Fringe shows next month.

Last night, I went to Soho in London to see Edinburgh preview shows by Giada Garofalo and Oli Bettesworth.

In his very funny show about depression – Sunshine and Lollipops (and a Creeping Sense of Existential Terror) – the very English Oli is seemingly making a fair bid for the loudest show on the Fringe. I cannot see his voice lasting out beyond the first week.

The very Sicilian Giada – with Live in the Staff Room! (Sex, Fairy Tales, Serial Killers & other Stuff) – is making a strong bid for the most autobiographically sexual show on the Fringe – the sex even permeates the fairy tale section which dumps Disney for Edgar Allan Poe.

Before the two previews, I had tea with Miss Behave, who is promoting her Edinburgh shows with the help of crowdfunding via a Kickstarter appeal.

“How much did you appeal for?” I asked.

“£397 – and I made it in six hours. So, I have decided to take it bigger and better.

Miss Behave’s successful appeal on Kickstarter

Miss Behave’s very successful first appeal on Kickstarter

“I did start off wanting camels, because I thought it would be a great way to launch my show(s) at the Fringe – to actually parade through a pedestrian area, flyering on camels.”

“And…?” I asked.

“Just try and get a fucking camel to Edinburgh,” said Miss Behave. “So then I thought: Donkeys.”

“You bet your ass,” I said.

Miss Behave ignored me.

“Or cows,” she continued. “But apparently cows have a tendency to charge at crowds of people, so that felt too dangerous. So then I was riffing with this person who is an animal wrangler. A Scottish animal wrangler.”

“For films?” I asked.

“Yeah. So I said: What about 50 chihuahuas? She thought about it overnight, called me back the next day and said: Right. I’ve sorted it. I’ve got a guy, who is also an animal wrangler, who has 20 chihuahua Jack Russell puppy mixes, so they’ll get on. If I just got 50 random dogs, there would be a dog fight.”

“These are,” I checked, “an interbreeding of chihuahuas and Jack Russells?”

“Yeah. Pretty cute. Chihuahuas are a bit too scary but, if you throw a bit of Jack Russell into the mix, that’s cute-tastic. It’s got a special name – a Jahuahua or JackChi or Jackhuahua or something.”

Jacksie?” I asked.

“JackChi,” said Miss Behave.

Miss Behave under the weather in Soho yesterday

Miss Behave under the weather in Soho yesterday afternoon

“You know,” I told her, “that there are dogs which are a cross between shih tzus and poodles?’

“What are they called?”

“Not what you’d think,” I said. “Which is a pity.”

“Anyway,” said Miss Behave, “the animal wrangler also found me a Newfoundland dog. The idea was that the Newfoundland would pull a cart with me sitting on it and all the chihuahua Jack Russell puppies would be around it and we would do a parade – again, flyering. Which was fine. But then the dude just went silent. Just dropped off the face of the earth. disappeared. I thought What am I going to do? I am not known for the ‘cute’ area, but I wanted it to be cute and silly.”

“Cute?” I asked. “You started with a herd of camels!”

“Yeah, but then I’d got into puppies. So I thought: Never work with children or animals. Well, alright, how about kids? I could get a lot of kid dancers. I could have six different children’s dance companies, all with the same music, but each doing different routines. Kids are cute. I am not – and I don’t really like children. So that’s funny.

Cute or not? Miss Behave.

Cute or not? Miss Behave.

“I thought: I can co-ordinate it all but, with the cost of actually doing Edinburgh this year, I can’t also afford £300 worth of helium balloons and all the other stuff for the kids. So I costed it all up and I had been wanting to try a Kickstarter for a while. £397 is not a massive amount of money to ask for. Give it a go!

“And it’s been real fun. It took me six hours to raise £397 and now, at the point I’m talking to you,  it’s been just over 24 hours. I have 25 days left and I’ve got £708 already pledged. I thought: If I get more, let’s see how large a production number we can give ‘em. That could potentially mean more helium balloons, confetti cannons.”

“It could,” I suggested, “mean the return of the camels and the chihuahuas.”

“Or a drone camera,” mused Miss Behave. “With £708, I’ve got enough to buy a cheap little remote controlled helicopter, strap a GoPro camera onto it and that could be a drone. I think it’s going to be a laugh and there’s no ‘wrong’ in it. If the worst thing that happens is a bunch of kids show up dressed in cardboard boxes with a load of helium balloons, that’s fine. At the moment, I have four different dance schools and one majorette school.”

“What,” I asked, “are they actually promoting?”

 Miss Behave and her lovely Gameshow assistant Harriet

Miss Behave and her lovely Gameshow assistant Harriet

“I’m taking my gameshow up to the Fringe – the large version I did in a Spiegeltent in London.”

“Are you appearing in any major Edinburgh comedy awards shows?” I asked.

“Well, I’m going to run in late and make a spectacular entrance into the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show, but don’t tell the organiser, because he thinks I’m actually hosting it with Janey Godley.”

“Chaos is always welcome,” I said. “It is good to live in interesting times.”

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How to promote an Edinburgh Fringe show – plus some Cowgatehead irony

Kate Copstick, ploughing through the press releases

Kate Copstick assesses the very worst of Fringe press releases

Yesterday ended surreally with (after his show ended) a member of the audience asking marriage advice from Lewis Schaffer.

This is a bit like Peter Buckley Hill (the PBH of PBH Free Fringe) giving advice to a comedian on how to develop and handle a PR strategy at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Earlier in the day, I had gone round to comedy critic Kate Copstick’s home to record our weekly Grouchy Club podcast. Sometimes we record this not just in audio but on video for YouTube and/or we stream it live on Periscope.

Yesterday… no visuals, because of her face.

“I woke up this morning,” she told me, “a horrible puce. Normally I don’t look in mirrors, ever. They crack, of course. Either that or there’s no reflection to see. But this time it was an horrific sight. Massively puffy. Eyes like currants in a dumpling. But a red dumpling.”

So no pictures of her from yesterday.

But we did, in the course of the 39 minute podcast, get round to discussing her job reviewing comedy shows for The Scotsman newspaper during the Edinburgh Fringe and to PR strategies for Fringe comedy shows…


COPSTICK
There is a kind of firewall – which I think is tragic – of paid PRs who can all get to the editors, who can get to the journalists, who have a budget to take them out to lunch or whatever and who, in some cases, have the tenacity of a moray eel once it bites into your leg: it’s just not going to let go.

JOHN
We’ve all been there.

COPSTICK
And it’s hard… I always give out my personal email because I’m happy for anyone to contact me. A lot of reviewers don’t. But I find myself drifting off if I start reading one of these standard It’s all marvellous! – Whoa! – One of London’s top… No! You’re not. If people up here (in Edinburgh) haven’t really heard of you, you’re not one of London’s top anything.

I much prefer – as I’ve had – a few little emails saying: I’m bricking it, terrified, blah blah blah… That is much more likely to appeal. That shows the right attitude. It shows – No 1 – a respect for the Edinburgh Fringe, which is a monumental entity in the comedy industry now… and an acceptance that life – much less the Fringe – much less the press – owes you nothing at all. It is what you make of it.

So, if you’re an individual, some corny pro-forma press release with all the usual buzz words in it is not going to work. A direct e-mail – for me – is much more likely to work. Not a press release, just an e-mail.

Then, once you get up to Edinburgh, play your little heart out, paper your show, just get people in to see it. If you’re on the free Fringe, just try and get as many people in as possible. Because, if you are any good, every single one of these people is a human flyer and you are sending them out there. They are a talking, walking, smiling, reminiscing, sadly often joke-quoting flyer. And they will do you more good than bits of paper.


Much, much more in the online podcast, including Copstick’s e-mail address and one of 21 things you did not know about pornography.

See? Marketing is all about teasing.

Meanwhile, to round off this blog – which started with a humorous suggestion of Peter Buckley Hill giving advice to a comedian on how to develop a PR strategy at the Edinburgh Fringe…

In the continuing saga of one of the worst examples of Fringe PR in recent years, the Cowgatehead saga trundles on. New readers will have to refer to previous blogs, as I am not going to plough through the whole sorry mess of a background again.

Suffice it to say that I have been contacted by an act performing at the PBH Free Fringe “probably for the last time ever, because of the way the Cowgatehead debacle was handled”.

The latest e-mail received by this act from Peter Buckley Hill apparently ends with:

“Here’s to an excellent Free Fringe 2015. The more co-operation there is between shows, the more excellent it will be.”

The act tells me: “I find that kinda ironic.”

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A spectacular Lions party in Kiev with sword fights and Red Hot Chilli Pipers

(This piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Honestly! I had to have breakfast in Kiev to hear about the current protection rackets of Glasgow gangsters and Glasgow Council officers. Other people’s lives!

Stuart McKenzie - master of spectacular events in the Ukraine

Stuart McKenzie – master of highly spectacular events in the Ukraine

But, really, I was in Kiev to attend the annual Burns Night celebration which, it seems, is never held anywhere near Burns Night in the calendar.

The only thing I can say about it is that Stuart McKenzie (stepson of the late Scots comedian Jimmy Logan) sure knows how to throw a charity party. I was at last year’s celebration, which was wonderful, but this year he has outdone himself.

Iconic Scots TV presenter Dougie Donnelly flew over to present 11 acts, 55 entertainers, multi-lingual addresses to the Haggis and genuine sword-fighting.

The Lions Club in Kiev is the biggest in Eastern Europe and, judging from last night, no wonder they manage to raise around $300,000 every year for charity, with this annual event contributing mightily.

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers playing in Kiev last night

Red Hot Chilli Pipers left Kiev reeling & rocking last night

Classical music, bagpiping, the aforementioned swordfighting by The Clann, Dutch singer Mark Enthoven and the extraordinary Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Plus 38 ‘silent’ auctions in which people bid for everything from a $500 Muhammed Ali autograph to a $3,000 two-day training prize for up to 15 people… plus ten ‘live’ auctions which started with an $11,000 bid and ended with the auction of a $23,000 holiday-for-two in the Seychelles (all money going to charity).

The various holiday auction prizes included two separate Seychelles holidays, two Kenyan holidays and a $7,000 London holiday all put together by Fred Finn, the Guinness Book of Records’ title holder as ‘most travelled person’.

Zap, the magician, mystifying a glamorous guest last night

Zap, the magician, mystifying a glamorous guest last night

Fred had also arranged for the magician Zap to perform table magic during the show. I am ashamed to say I had never seen Zap before but, as a close-up magician, he is flawless. One trick involves taking a low-value note given to him by a punter and changing it into a high-value note ‘before your very eyes’.

Fred told me: “I took Zap to Kenya where he changed low bills into high ones and some of the guys there got a bit rough and took him outside to make him do it for all their money. And then there was the occasion with the UK celebrity where he turned £5 into £50 and the celebrity just walked off with the £50…”

Andrei Trilev got into the Chilli Piping spirit of last night’s event

Profile of publisher Andrei Trilev air guitaring

The six hour long but astonishingly fast-moving Burns Night event yesterday evening was quite something.

I was on an interesting table with, among others, Andrei Trilev, founder of the ultra-glossy Profiles magazine. He is a man unafraid to join in the fun.

And let’s not even mention the Scots croft in the foyer, the Scots castle set on stage or the live sheep.

Not surprisingly, Stuart McKenzie co-owns Ukrainian events company Pulse.

He has been in Kiev since 1994 and his company interests now include entertainment, events, logistics, marketing, property, research and training and his attitude is far from that of the cliché dour Scot.

His view is:

“The best marketers are in the game early and are always on the lookout for the next selling opportunity, the latest trend, the next unmet need. It’s enough to keep you awake at night – but from excitement, rather than from fear.

Some of The Clann members fighting during last night’s show

Some of The Clann members fighting during last night’s show

“My crystal ball has been in the repair shop for a long time. I have absolutely no inkling of what the future holds. Don’t ask me what the trends will be in 2015. I do not have a clue. I can say this, though, with absolute certainty: the future will be glorious for the optimists; the creative marketers who will set the trends and stand to profit from the opportunities that they represent!”

It was announced that, after 18 years of being involved in organising this annual Burns Night celebration in Kiev, it may be Stuart McKenzie’s last. If so, Kiev social life and local charities will be poorer for it.

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