Stormzy – The Lyrical Translation

A few years ago, when I was working on Annie Mac’s show on BBC Radio 1, I was recruited by sister station 1Xtra to be the voice of MistaJam‘s Lyrical Translation feature.

Every week Jam would be joined by a famous guest – an artist played by 1Xtra – and would translate their own lyrics into the Queen’s English.

I would then read those lyrics back to them, and they’d have to guess which song we were talking about.

I was lucky enough to play this game with loads of really exciting names, including Janet Jackson and Riz Ahmed – whose testimony that I was ‘a confirmed G’ has been on my CV ever since.

But by far the biggest, and most entertaining artist we ran the feature with was Stormzy.

Can Stormzy Recognise His Own Lyrics?

Stormzy was in the office to promote his new album Heavy Is The Head which, as you no doubt remember, somehow only debuted at number 2 in the UK album charts behind Rod Stewart and some sort of philharmonic orchestra.

It also featured the single Vossi Bop, which famously includes the lyric ‘f**k the government f**k Boris’, and there was a febrile atmosphere when the great man came in.

I do say this about a lot of things, but this is genuinely one of the most fun and exciting things I’ve ever done, so I really hope you enjoy watching it.

And obviously, if you ever need someone to read something out in a very factual sort of a way (or any other sort of way, for that matter), please give me a shout.

Google UK: Saved By The Search

At the end of 2020 I took on a short freelance contract with Jellyfish, helping to devise a new approach to social media for Google UK.

One of the things I was tasked with was coming up with a new YouTube format.

Google wanted an idea that would entertain and engage young audiences, while demonstrating just how helpful their products can be.

That’s when Saved By The Search was born.

In each episode, a YouTube personality is faced with a challenge: The sort of thing a lot of people are searching for at the minute, but also something you’d probably need a bit of help to do properly.

To make things more interesting, the participants are given no instructions whatsoever. The first time they see their challenge is the moment the cameras are turned on.

To help them out, and to remind us exactly how brilliant Google is, they’re allowed to use a limited number of searches. But they have to be used carefully, because once they’re gone, they’re gone.

You can take a look at all the episodes of Saved by the Search here.

Creative concept by me, creative development and production by Jellyfish production.

Tom’s Laundry Service

Just leaving this here…

PS – if you’re based abroad, you might need someone in the UK to help you.

Defender Of The French

The other day, I decided to treat myself to a French, pastry-based breakfast.

In the last year or two I’ve been trying to cut down a bit, and live a slightly healthier lifestyle (lost six stone, thanks for asking). However, every now and again it’s nice to be able to treat yourself after a day of particular achievement, or a hard week at work.

So, I popped into Waitrose and headed straight for the pain au chocolat section.

But, when I went to pay I, was horrified to learn that according to the self-service checkout, pains au chocolat are classified as croissants and/or scones.

Taking Direct Action

I immediately contacted a verified French person, who confirmed my suspicions: This classification was wholly incorrect.

And so, as someone who is unafraid to stand up for injustices wherever I see them, I contacted Waitrose and demanded immediate action:

Tweet in which I ask Waitrose to change the classification of the pain au chocolat to 'pastries'

Of course, in reality I had very low expectations.

I’m not 100% sure how the categorisation of items on a self-service checkout works; but I’m fairly certain that if it was my job, and someone came to me with a request of this nature, it would be far more trouble than it’s worth.

However, I was surprised, almost to the point of astonishment, when Waitrose tweeted back:

Tweet on behalf of the French people reads: 'Hi Tom! I will pass this on to the head office team for them to review!'

And then even more surprised and astonished when Waitrose tweeted back again:

Tweet on behalf of the French people reads: 'Hi Tom, I have raised this at Head Office, who have assured me they are aware of the issue and are looking to update it all in the next coming months!'

A Victory for the French

Finally, when I went back to Waitrose for breakfast a few weeks later, the checkouts had been changed.

The pain au chocolat was in its rightful place, amongst other such middle class fancies as the danish lemon sultana, and pastel de nata – whatever one of those is.

My French friends, of course, were enormously grateful. Not since 1066 had they scored such a mighty victory on British soil.

It just goes to show what a little direct action and determination can do.

But more than that, if I had been sticking religiously to my diet, I wouldn’t have been able to stand up against a corporate supermarket on behalf of 68 million people.

So it also goes to show that eating healthy is not always good for you. And I think that’s a lesson we can all get behind.

Fantasy General Election

In hugely exciting news for fans of politics-themed fantasy football games, I am thrilled to be able to confirm that General Fantasy Election Football (or Fantasy General Election, as we’re now calling it) will return in 2024.

(Or if everything falls apart and there’s a vote in 2023, it’ll be then – obviously).

Even more excitingly, this time we’ve been joined by an actual web designer (called Sam) to work on the UI, and she’s done an incredible job!

What’s Actually Going On?

Two of my favourite things are politics (I did a degree in it) and silly games, which I did not do a degree in, but probably would have done were such a qualification available at the time.

Before the last general election, I was trying to think of ways to bring these two passions together, and that’s when FGE was born.

The team selection page for Fantasy Election 2024. On the right is an in-development list of seats and candidates, and on the left is a football pitch which political party-themed football shirts in formation
A sneak preview of what we’re working on for 2024 – or whenever it’s going to be

The idea is really simple: Players pick a team of 11 Westminster parliamentary candidates, and score points based on how they do at the ballot box.

You’ll score points if their majority goes up, lose points if it goes down, and if your candidate manages to unseat an incumbent MP – you’ve hit the jackpot.

Fantasy General Election Football 2019

With just a few weeks to go until the 2019 general election, I brought together a couple of my nerdiest political mates to help plan the site.

It was all a bit last minute, but we managed to put something together and launch it on Twitter – with over 1,300 people signing up to play.

We were pretty pleased with this, considering how little time we had to make it; but we’re determined to go much bigger next time around.

We’ve got time to plan, I’m much better and building websites, we’ve all made friends with a few more journalists and, thanks to our professional web designer, the site looks incredible.

If you’re interested in helping out, or you’d like to find out a bit more about Fantasy General Election 2024, please feel free to get in touch on Twitter.

Beyond The Woods Festival

In 2015, we had a party in our back garden for my brother Joe’s 18th birthday.

It was so successful that we decided to do it again the next year, and the year after, and the year after that.

Eventually JoeFest, which became Beyond The Woods Festival, grew into a 3,000 capacity event, with four stages, overnight camping, and some of the UK’s most exciting new artists coming to our little corner of Lincolnshire.

Holly Humberstone played the festival in 2017, and is now one of the UK’s most highly-rated new artists

Joe, who is now a music promoter, was in charge of putting the bands on; while as the managing director I looked after all the less-glamorous organisational things, like having health and safety meetings with the council.

There were late-night DJs, a secret bar disguised as a garden centre, and we were one of only very few festivals in the UK where you could start your day by feeding some deer from the back of a tractor.

Stourton Woods, where the festival was held, had its own deer park

Sadly, as with a lot of events like our, Beyond The Woods didn’t survive the Covid pandemic.

While the festival kept getting bigger, it was still organised by the same group of mates who were at the original garden gathering.

Although there was a brilliant sense of community behind the twenty or so people who came together to put this big party on every year, there was one thing we were missing: A huge corporate benefactor with fat piles of cash.

And so, after an incredibly memorable run, Beyond The Woods Festival was put on hold indefinitely in 2021.

The original JoeFest in 2015

Joe is still putting on gigs under the banner of BTW Presents; and I’ve still got the event management plan tucked away safely, ready for when we need to dig it out again in the future.

Suzuki: Good Different

I devised the creative for a new set of social media adverts for Suzuki.

Having spent several years working in social media at the BBC, I must have made loads of videos for the internet. This, however, was my first time making an advert, and it was loads of fun to put together.

Suzuki have just launched a new marketing campaign, Good Different, and asked Jellyfish to look after the social creative.

Very often, the video ads you see on social media are shortened version of the television advert. They’re not specifically designed for audiences on the internet.

We were tasked with coming up with something tailored to those social media audiences, while still using the same creative concept as TV.

I lead on the creative for Jellyfish, alongside my good mate Baz Williamson, our senior creative director.

Between us we devised a number of treatments. They appealed specifically to social media users, and would be re-versioned to meet the behaviours of audiences on different platforms.

We then worked with the incredible Chloe Shaw to cast, shoot and deliver the ads over a period of a few weeks.

I’m not sure I’m allowed to put any specific facts and figures here, but the early results have been really impressive. Keep your eyes peeled for some more creative bits and pieces with Suzuki later on in the year.

  • Creative: Me and Baz Williamson
  • Producer: Chloe Shaw
  • Agency: Jellyfish
  • Client: Suzuki Cars UK
  • Cast: Bibi Lucille and Owen Frost

Huws At Ten

In case you didn’t know, The BBC’s News At Ten is basically the UK’s main news programme (sorry to ITV).

It’s presented by a man called Huw Edwards, which makes him basically the UK’s main news person. He’s the guy the BBC parachutes in whenever there’s a major news story. When the Queen died, he was on air for about a million hours.

One day, a few years ago, I noticed something very unusual about Huw Edwards: He always started The New At Ten in exactly the same pose.

Obviously, this had to be turned into a Twitter account. So along with my colleague Matt Hewitt I started @HuwsAtTen.

Every day, we posted a screenshot of Huw doing exactly the same pose at the start of the news, and every day we’d get a handful of followers having a laugh in the comments section.

Then one of those followers sent the account to a journalist, and we ended up on pretty much every news website in the country.

We then made the news again when Huw deliberately changed his pose to send the internet into meltdown, and that Christmas we awarded a money-can’t-buy @HuwsAtTen calendar to the person who could best recreate the iconic Huw Edwards pose.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Earlier this year the BBC changed the layout of their news studio, meaning that Huw now starts the news standing up.

Matt and I made the difficult decision to bring @HuwsAtTen to an end, but we’ve left the account active so we can look back on many happy years of viral screenshotting.

Besides, you never know when The BBC might decide to invest in a new table…

How Old Is Henry?

t’s the question on everyone’s lips: How old would Henry VIII be, were he alive today?

Happily, I was able to provide an answer to this age-old conundrum with one of my very first stupid Twitter accounts, @HowOldIsHenry.

Powered by a bot, How Old Is Henry would tweet automatically once every twenty-four hours to remind followers how old our most infamous monarch would be, were he still with us.

Sadly, a few months ago, the account had to stop tweeting.

The online service I was using to host the bot decided to withdraw its free pricing tier. As much as I loved watching people celebrate Henry’s advancing years, it wasn’t really worth paying £7.99 a month for.

For now, I’m keeping the feed online as a permanent record of the account’s sheer stupidity.

And you never know, there might be a way of bringing Henry back at some point in the future.

The Two Biscuits Permissions Bot

You might remember this viral two biscuits episode from the depths of lockdown.

Sky News editor Deborah Haynes was busy telling us about something currently going on in the world (I don’t think anyone can remember exactly what), when she was suddenly interrupted by her young son, asking for her permission to eat two whole biscuits.

The news, of course, was derailed; and we might never find out what happened in the end of whichever story it was she was talking about in the first place.

She was also cut rather abruptly short by whatever the name of the bloke is who was anchoring the program, which a lot of us felt was a bit uncalled for.

I immediately knew that something like this must never be allowed to happen again.

The people behind the scenes at Sky News cannot be put in a position where they have to choose between giving viewers the news they desperately crave, and allowing a small child to starve to death.

Solution: The Biscuit Permissions Bot

That night, I set to work building a Twitter bot which would entirely automate the process of children asking their parents’ permission for biscuits.

All Britain’s youth have to do now is tweet @two_biscuits with their request. After weighty consideration, the bot will come down on one side or the other.

At the same time, parents everywhere will be liberated: Not only will they have additional time to get on with important items of business in their daily lives, but they can do so safe in the knowledge that their children are not going hungry.

Note: Recently, the platform where the bot that powered @two_biscuits was hosted decided to remove their free pricing tier. As much as I loved this Twitter account, it probably wasn’t worth paying £8 a month for, so it’s currently out of action.

Please don’t tweet asking for biscuits, because your request will be denied. Speak to a grownup instead.