I find it fascinating how much our attitudes to subjects change over time. In this case the topic is the British Library’s collection of pornography. In the past a few individuals have become somewhat obsessed by the various holdings in our Private Case collection. This seems strange to me, in an era permeated by sexual content, from television shows like Big Brother, to teenagers sexting each other, and virtually unrestricted access to pornography through the internet.
Since first joining The British Library back in 2006, I have heard many myths and legends about the collection of pornographic material. It was, I was confidently assured, the second largest in the world, behind the rather surprising winner, the Vatican Library, and slightly ahead of the Library of Congress in Washington, home of the First Amendment.
As a ‘newbie’ in the library I received this information in good faith, and in the knowledge that the collection was safely locked-away our basements, where I was unlikely ever to stumble across them.
Naturally my first instinct was to look up this controversial publication on Explore The British Library, and within minutes I had located and ordered it.
I can’t claim to be an expert on Erotic Fiction , but I was surprised by just how dull and turgid these 160 short pages turned out to be. The contents mostly consists of excessively detailed reports of the author’s struggles to unearth the library’s ‘hidden gems’, his numerous letters to those in charge at that time, and many lists of the controversial titles and their provenance.
Perhaps any serious attempt to catalogue the more ‘exciting’ content of The British Library stacks was bound to end up being something of a snooze, but I have to say I was disappointed. However here are some of the highlights I thought worth noting:
Early on Fryer reports that;
“The BM collection of erotica is without doubt the most comprehensive in the world. The Kinsey Collection does not hold a candle to it. The celebrated Enfer Of the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris probably runs it a close second; but the alleged riches, in this field, possessed by the Vatican, the Library of Congress, and the Bodleian in Oxford, turn out to be small fry indeed compared with Bloomsbury’s well-stocked private case.”
It seems that the confusion stems from their “courage and honesty” in listing publicly their collections, whereas, up until the 1960’s The British Library had not.
Later on, Fryer recounts an episode relating to a request for a ‘naughty’ book by Iwan Bloch. He is asked to meet with the Superintendent of books who explains that he has to satisfy himself, that Fryer’s purpose was serious, and that he was unlikely to steal, mark, or mutilate the book.
It was subsequently explained to Fryer, that the intention of this kind of interview is to protect the library’s books from the readers, “which experience has shown to be a necessary part of a librarian’s duty, rather than to protect readers from books, which is not thought to be a librarian’s business in this country.”
Fryer divides up the library’s collection of erotica into several categories including what he terms ‘sexological works’, which include books on “contraception, guides to erotic technique and coital positions, sociological surveys of teenage copulation in Cockfosters and homosexuality in Rutland.” I’m guessing this last part was Fryers attempt at humour.
A section of the book covers the history of the Private Case at the British Library and includes mention of Anthony Panizzi, of one of the key figures in its development. Rather surprisingly Panizzi was not British, but an Italian lawyer and revolutionary democrat, who had been sentenced to death by the government of Modena. He escaped to England in 1823 and joined the British Museum staff, working his way up to Keeper of printed books by 1837. During his tenure Panizzi grew the book collection from 200,000, to over a million by the time of his retirement in 1866. Many of these were catalogued by Panizzi himself., The creation of the famous round reading room was also his idea.
In keeping with his democratic principles Panizzi wanted the library to be open to all students of knowledge.
“He wanted the student to have the same means of indulging his curiosity on any topic, consulting all authorities, and ‘fathoming the most intricate enquiry’, as the richest man in the kingdom. ‘And I contend’, he added, ‘that Government is bound to give him the most liberal and unlimited assistance in this respect.’”
This was quite a change from the views of his predecessor Henry Ellis, who opposed the idea of opening on public holidays because, “I think that the most mischievous part of the population is abroad and about at such a time.” Ellis claimed that if the library was not closed for the Easter holiday period, “the place… would really be unwholesome.”
Fryer managed to track down an article published in the English Review from December 1913, complaining about hidden books in the British Museum. In The Taboos of the British Museum Library, the authors claimed there were three general classes of books liable to be secreted by the library at that time:
1. Subversive of the throne
2. Subversive of religion
3. Of an improper or obscene character
In response to an author who’s latest book had been ‘dissapeared’, the Keeper of books wrote this rather unhelpful reply;
“Dear Sir, – In your letter of the 12th July, referring to books which are not entered in the catalogue, you ask me whether there are any printed instructions issued, and available for public use, by which the public may know of the existence of such books, and to the conditions under which they may be consulted. My reply to your question is that there are no printed instructions relating to such books.”
Fryer makes his views on these restrictions clear on the final page of the book;
“It is high time the museum authorities realized that the un-catalogued books in their care are not their private property, and that their refusal to let people know exactly what they have and have not got is unworthy of a great national library and totally inimical to scholarship.”
Since those repressive days of the 1960’s the library has indeed opened up the catalogue, and these curiosities can be found. But only ordered up from the basement by those who have a serious academic interest.
I’ve talked quite a bit over the years about geek related topics, but have never considered myself a proper geek. However in June this year, on my way to the SLA annual conference in San Diego, I chanced across a copy of Geek Magazine in an airport newsagent. Maybe it was the catchy headline ‘Star Wars – yes it’s cool again’, or perhaps the iconic cover image of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, which took me back to my teenage years. However, once beyond the cover I was soon hooked on the combination of interview and reviews of a wide range of topics ranging from technology, music, video-games, movies and of course comics (not forgetting comic book heroes). The writing combined nerdy enthusiasm for the wide range of topics covered, along with a surprisingly intelligent style and dry sense of humour. Even more impressive was their knowledge of and appreciation of the British contribution to Geekness. In the current issue, six whole pages are devoted to the record breaking, classic science fiction television series Dr Who. As you can probably tell by now, I was so impressed I decided to subscribe, and after filling in the appropriate form back in July I awaited eagerly awaited its arrival. After three months I was beginning to think the subscriptions department might have mislaid my request. But then one morning, just when I had given up hope, a rectangular package popped through my door. I recognise there is something of an irony, in this day of electronic publishing that I had to wait over three months for the issue to arrive. But since having read it from cover to cover I’ve decided it was definitely worth the wait.
I had a quick look on the Intellectual Property Office trademark database and saw that Hippo has been used 333 times in trademarks. Hippobag is registered by two different owners; one by Waste Management Systems Limited for the following classes:
Class 22 – Non-metallic bags and sacks for the transport, transfer, handling and storage of materials in bulk.
Class 39 – Removal and transport of waste to transfer, disposal, recycling and treatment sites.
Class 40 – Recycling and treatment of waste.
But it has also been registered by The Old Tannery Shop, Cambridge under Class 18 – Bags, pouches, holsters, belts, wallets; all for carrying or holding tools, fittings and instruments; but not including any such goods made from hippopotamus skin.
No, this isn’t about a tabloid newspaper controversy involving the rather racy Barbadian pop star. Instead it is about a recent High Court case where Rihanna took on the high street fashion chain Topshop over the use of unauthorised photos of her on their T-shirts.
The dispute centred on the issue of ‘passing off’, a fascinating aspect of Intellectual Property law due to the way it depends, not on some arcane legal technicality, but on what an ordinary person would think.
During my seven years working in the Business & IP Centre I have learnt that Intellectual Property can be immensely technical and complex, but also has aspects that rely on good old-fashioned common sense.
The test for passing off is quite simple, would an ordinary person think the item they are buying was either produced or authorised by someone other than who they thought it was. Wikipedia defines it as; The law of passing off prevents one person from misrepresenting his/her goods or services as being the goods and services of the claimant, and also prevents one person from holding out his or her goods or services as having some association or connection with the plaintiff when this is not true.
Not surprisingly the most frequent cases of passing off tend to involve household brands. In April Which? magazine conducted a survey that found ‘a fifth of Which? members have bought an own-label product by mistake because it looked so much like a big brand. They found more than 150 own-label products they thought borrowed elements of their packaging from branded competitors. Own-label ‘copycat’ products: can you spot the difference?
One of the most well-known involves the best-selling dandruff shampoo brand Head & Shoulders. They have taken numerous supermarket chains to court for producing own label shampoos which are too similar to the their brand. The supermarkets tend to mimic the shape of the Head & Shoulders bottle, their colours and font styles. Each time the supermarkets lose the case, they go back to their designers and make slight changes to their bottles, leading to another round of court action.
Next time you are in a supermarket, have a look along the shelves and see if you can see any ‘look alike’ packaging from own label brands. In my experience cereal boxes make for rich pickings. Put yourself in the shoes of the busy shopper (or in my case reluctant shopper) rushing along the aisles with only time to glance at the packages as they zoom past. It is all too easy to grab the ‘wrong’ one and drop it into your basket.
In the case of the T-shirt with Rihanna’s photo, the judge Mr Justice Birss said the “mere sale” of a T-shirt with an image of a celebrity did not automatically amount to passing off. But in this instance he thought that a “substantial number” of buyers were likely to have been deceived into buying it because of a “false belief” Rihanna had authorised it.
He said it was damaging to her “goodwill” and represented a loss of control over her reputation in the “fashion sphere”. It was for Rihanna not Topshop to choose what clothes the public thought were endorsed by her.
After my ‘once in a lifetime’ trip to the top of Kilimanjaro with my son, friends asked what my next adventure would be. My reply was ‘I have no plans’.
However, the annual SLA conference in San Diego at the beginning of June provided an opportunity to revisit an adventure from my youth. Aged 18, during my gap year between school and university, I flew to the Philadelphia, bought a Suzuki GS750 motorbike and rode over ten thousand miles around the United States and Canada. Although it was certainly a big journey, the confidence that youth brings, meant I was not in awe of the scale of the undertaking. Each morning I just got on the bike and headed on towards the next suitable camp-site for the night with my ‘one-man’ tent. It was all about the journey and encounters made on the way, rather than any particular destination.
Suzuki GS750 circa 1976
Thirty five years on I decided to make sure I had the ‘right’ bike for the trip. Which meant hiring a Harley Davidson Road King for the two long days of riding from San Diego to Las Vegas and back. In my younger biker days, Harleys or Hogs as they are affectionately known to their fans, were something of a joke in the UK. They were infamous for their unreliable low power ‘agricultural’ engines, their inability to lean around even the mildest of bend without something hitting the road, or even more worrying, the ability to stop when required.
But driving through Death Valley in the heat of the day, on the Suzuki 750 all those years ago, gave me a new appreciation of the benefits of a solid slow cruiser that would run all day at 60mph with the engine ticking over a lazy pace.
I snuck away from the final session of the excellent 2013 SLA conference, and headed up to the offices of Eagle Rider located in Old Town San Diego. It was at this point the scale of the undertaking began to dawn on me. On first sight the bike was even bigger than I was expecting. Sparkling in the bright sun from its many chromed surfaces, it was simply enormous. Weighing in at 385kg and packing a 1700cc V-twin air-cooled engine it looked too heavy to hold upright, let alone ride the 450 miles to Vegas. Before the trip I had joked to friends how different this bike would be compared to my pocket rocket Kawasaki KR-1S safely tucked away in my garden shed at home.
The Road King was literally three times heavier, and seven times bigger in the engine department.
… and large
And the harsh reality of this monster Harley was unnerving to say the least. This wasn’t helped by finding out that the local riders’ idea of a crash helmet barely covered the top of my head. After a somewhat cursory introduction by Andy from Eagle Rider, who does this many times a day, I was ready to hit the road.
Literally hitting the road and ending up in hospital was precisely what I sat there worrying about for a few minutes. Until Andy popped his head out of the office and asked if I was ok. My response was a falsely confident wave and a reluctant prod with my thumb on the starter button. The engine cranked into life and settled into a chug-chug burble. I stomped it into first gear and wobbled out of the parking lot into the San Diego evening rush hour.
Half an hour later I was back at my hotel dripping with sweat and cursing this unrideable dinosaur of a bike. As I struggled to park without dropping it in the street, Laura (my conference mentee) appeared from nowhere and said hello. I spent the next five minutes lambasting the bike’s failings as well as my inability to ride it properly. Her considered response was that it ‘looked cool’.
After an unsettled night and a ‘last’ breakfast with my fellow conference attending Brits, it was time to set off. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the look of trepidation in my eyes.
The first major challenge was filling up the tank with ‘gas’. The option to pay with cash didn’t work so I tried using my credit card. That didn’t work either, as I didn’t have the required US zip code. I popped into the kiosk to ask for help and learned that you have to pay cash in advance. After filing up, the cashier pointed the way to Interstate 8 East to take me out of town to begin my trip.
The first half-hour of riding was spent working out in my head how I would explain to my friends why I had taken the bike the straight back to Eagle Rider. The next half-hour had me contemplating a half-day riding round the beautiful windy roads of the exotically named Volcan Mountains Wilderness Preserve. Certainly the sights of birds of prey circulating above, plus what I think was a Coyote with a fresh kill in its mouth, distracted me from the challenge of getting the bike round the next tight bend in the road.
By the next half-hour I was starting to consider the possibility a slightly longer journey. And after a break for a desperately needed drink at the Miner’s Diner in tiny Julian CA, I finally decided to keep going and see how far I could get before dark. The unexpected gift of a large piece of scrumptious home-made apple pie (shades of Twin Peaks) certainly helped cheer my mood.
Fortunately, thanks to a suggestion at the conference by fellow librarian biker Jill Strand, I was now in possession of a Butler Motorcycle map of Southern California. This showed all the best (windiest and traffic free) roads in the area, and I used it to plot a scenic route towards Las Vegas. Early on I learned two important things about Californian roads. One, they are very poorly signposted, with an assumption you have satellite navigation, or are a local and know where you are going. I lost count of the number of times I had to stop and ask for directions. Two, when the warning sign on the approach to a corner says 10mph it means 10mph (for me on the Road King anyway). The first couple of times I used my UK tactic of adding 10mph going into the corner, and nearly didn’t make it around the bend at all. After a couple more heart-stopping moments I followed the signs advice religiously.
The scenery on the way up through Warner Springs and on to Hemet was stunningly beautiful. Alternating from wild scrubland to horse ranch prairies with exotic names such as Sycamore Canyon Stables and Paradise Valley Ranch. The next challenge was finding my way through Hemet and on to the San Bernardino National Forest. After many miles of almost deserted highways, the road gradually became urbanised and busy with traffic. Once again there were no signs other than for the individual streets I was crossing. At a set of traffic lights I asked a likely looking pick-up truck driver for help. He said ‘just keep going straight forward’, so I did. Five miles later the buildings and traffic began to lessen, and then I was back out on my own again in the wild country.
This time the road climbed up into the quaint Cherry Valley and back down into Yucaipa. It was time for more fuel before heading up into the mountains again in search of Big Bear Lake. Despite being a city of over 50,000 people, it took me ages to find a working gas station. Finally I found a shiny new one with the owner on-hand inspecting his pride and joy. Unfortunately for me I was a week too early, and I left the forecourt with his repeated refrain ringing in my ears, ‘come back next week, when we are open’.
After locating what seemed to be the only functioning gas station in town, I asked for directions again with my trusty map to hand. Sadly the woman on the till only knew the way to the nearest interstate and nothing more. I could see where the mountains were beyond the edge of town, so headed in that direction. After a confident start the dual carriageway turned into a single highway, and then rather abruptly it ended somewhat like the photo below.
I struggled to turn the bike around and once again I searched for a likely looking local to ask for directions. This time I struck gold and was given clear instructions which worked. However, I experienced the same slightly odd phenomenon of the road gradually becoming less urban, and then quite suddenly I was out on my own again.
This time the road wound its way steeply up towards Onyx Peak at nearly 9,000 feet high. The air cooled noticeably and there was a delicious scent of mountain pine. The regular signs warning of rock-falls helped me concentrate on the road ahead though. It was around this time I became aware of the particular style of acknowledgement from other Harley riders. Back the UK about half the bike coming the other way will give a nod or a cursory wave. But in the US it is more a stretched out arm with a couple of fingers pointed. All done in the most casual style to ensure ‘coolness’ is maintained. Needless to say there is a video explaining it all in detail on YouTube.
As I wound my way down the mountain to Big Bear Lake, I wondered if the name was still pertinent. I it probably was, so decided not to stop and investigate the size of the furry inhabitants.
Next stop was the gas station in Big Bear, which had no gas, (I could see a pattern starting to emerge). But it did have ‘rest rooms’ and desperately needed water to combat the dehydrating heat. Another tip of ‘just keep on this road’ took me out of town and up into spectacular views east towards the desert and somewhere over the horizon Las Vegas itself.
Some more 10mph corners led down to dusty scrubland plains dotted with occasional houses. Cars were now down to less than one a mile, so I hoped the bike wouldn’t leave me stranded here, or that I would veer onto the sandy edge of the road and crash. With the sun setting in the west I cranked up the big lumpy engine and headed north towards Barstow and Interstate 15.
I reasoned I would be able to cope riding in the dark on the brightly lit motorway. This turned out to be a bit optimistic as the road wasn’t lit. But the sheer volume of traffic including great big Peterbilt and Kenworth eighteen-wheelers showed the way ahead. Once I hit the interstate I managed to work out how to get the cruise control working, and at last was able to give my right-hand some much needed rest. As by this time my fingers were starting to go numb from the engine vibrations. Much like at home in the UK, the 70mph speed limit meant 80mph in practice. And although the bike would definitely have gone faster with a quoted top speed of 110mph, I didn’t feel safe over 75 or so. This meant I was battered by a constant flow of big rigs cruising past with blasts of turbulence in their wake. If that wasn’t enough to worry about, powerful gusts of wind coming across from the desert were buffeting me. So I was in constant fear of getting blown off the bike. The bike itself remained unruffled and brushed off every eddy and gust with barely a reaction. Finally the great weight and plodding engine started to make sense.
I needed one more fill-up to make it to Vegas, so stopped in Baker just short of the Nevada border. Even in the dark I could see there wasn’t much to the town apart from gas stations and fast food joints. A recommendation from the petrol pump attendant sent me down to the Mad Greek which was much like the ubiquitous American burger joint, but with a Greek twist. I ordered a large coffee and ate a self-destructing burger while admiring their odd list of famous Greeks (plus honorary Greeks such as Winston Churchill), whilst contemplating my remaining 100 miles.
Powered by the coffee and with cruise control set to 70mph, I made it on to Primm, a very poor substitute for Las Vegas (smaller and tackier) just over the state border. As I piled on the miles I began to detect a glow in the distant sky, which I hoped would be the lights of my destination. Soon I could see a beam of light pointing skyward from what turned out to be the Luxor hotel. Gradually the familiar sights of Las Vegas came into view and I turned off the interstate for a cruise up and down the famous Vegas strip.
Having been down to the Stratosphere Tower and back I decided to chance my arm on getting a cheap room at the source of the beam of light which had guided me in to town. It was midnight by now, but the streets were still busy with traffic and drunken pedestrians, with a surprising number of them UK Northerners. A little gentle negotiating with the friendly receptionist from Chicago resulted in a $40 room (plus taxes of course), plus the $20 drinks voucher for spending in the hotel bars. A desperately needed shower and change had me back out on the streets by 1am, once I had used up my drinks voucher on a Mai Tai cocktail. Things were a bit quieter now with families with really quite young children in tow making their way back to their rooms.
Some of these children looked as young as eight and needless to say looked as tired as I felt. I manage to make it half-way along the strip, gawping at the bold architectural statements lining the road, each one more outrageous than the next. Despite the bright neon lights and in some cases pyrotechnics competing for my attention, it was the balletic splendour of the Bellagio Fountains that made the biggest impression. Sadly the Harley Davidson café was closed so I wasn’t able to ask about the incongruous Harley hedges growing outside. I couldn’t resist stopping to chat to a group of friendly Vegas bikers lined up next the road. We briefly compared notes on the various Harley models now that I was an ‘expert’ on the Road King after one day of riding.
Just a few yards from home I bumped into a man holding a sign (a common sight in America) offering ten minutes of reflexology for ten dollars. As a fan of its restorative qualities I couldn’t resist, and was led to a dark and sweaty room populated by a pack of drunken northerner Brits spending their last dollars on this treat. I resisted my therapists attempts to extend my treatment in exchange for another $10, and headed back to the Luxor for some desperately needed sleep.
I was now starting to worry about meeting my 5pm deadline for returning the bike the following day, so left the curtains open to let the sun help wake me up. I neglected to check what time the sun rises Nevada in June so was woken at 6am by the bright morning light. I couldn’t get back to sleep properly so packed away and prepared to set off back to San Diego. First stop was the gas station across from the hotel, where I noticed a group of Volvo cars all with laptops on the front seat. As a Volvo owner myself I quizzed one of the drivers and discovered they were company men from Sweden testing out secret new features on the cars. I wondered what they thought of life on the desert roads around Las Vegas.
I decided the only safe way to get back in time was to stick to interstate 15 all the way across towards Los Angeles and then down to San Diego. A stop for fuel back in Baker in the heat of the early morning had me tempted by the Alien Beef Jerky store, but I had no additional room on board the bike.
Next stop was Victorville where I refuelled my body with a large coffee and small burger from local favourite fast food chain the In-N-Out Burger. A California based alternative take on the ubiquitous burger restaurant where the burgers are cooked to order, and the staff are paid more than the state minimum.
I was starting to get fed up of the persistent heat, humidity and increasing volumes of traffic on the interstate, and decided to head for what I hoped would be a cooler route along the Pacific coast. The bikers map showed a gold standard road winding over the Santa Anna Mountains to the ocean and Interstate 5 the Pacific Highway. I managed to find the turn-off despite a severe lack of signage, but soon got lost in the back streets of Perris. Once again I asked a likely looking local in a pick-up truck ‘which way to the Pacific?’ His response was (cue the hillbilly accent), ‘the Pacific? … I don’t know!’ Considering it was just twenty or thirty miles away through the hills, I was not impressed. I tried again with a younger version, and this time was pointed in the right direction with the warning that it was ‘dangerous up there in the hills’. Apart from the risk of not making it around one of the tight bends, I couldn’t see what he was worried about. But it seems many of the locals never stray far from the main highways.
However, it was slow going on this beautifully scenic and windy route up through Caspers Regional Park, and I began to worry again about missing my deadline. After more minimalist road signage, I managed to find the Pacific Highway and headed south in heavy traffic. Fortunately I was right about the temperate and revelled in the cool ocean breeze. It took thirty miles before I encountered a sign telling me how far I had left to San Diego. It was 53 miles and I had an hour and half to make it. I began to relax and allowed myself a quick stop at Aliso Creek viewpoint, which also happened to be a naval helicopter training site. So I spent five minutes being buzzed by Huey helicopters and having my photo taken.
With just ten miles to go, I rode into the worst traffic jam I had encountered on the entire trip. The cars were trickling along at five miles an hour, and soon my stress levels were up, as I wondered if the staff would stay on and wait for me after 5pm. Just as I was starting to panic, the sign for San Diego Old Town appeared and I left the motorway jam behind me. Luckily I recognised the tram depot from my taxi ride out the previous day, so was able to quickly home in on the Eagle Rider depot where Andy was waiting for me. I looked at the clock and discovered I had arrived back with just ten minutes to spare. I think Andy was almost as surprised as me that the bike had come through unscathed. Sadly I I couldn’t say the same about my numb wrist and badly aching bum.
The blog will cover the essentials of starting and growing your business with stories from people who have already been there and can share their experiences. We will be talking about their successes and learning from mistakes made along the way.
This year I have been asked to turn it into a regular workshop by extending the coverage to social media.
Using the tried and trusted ‘Ronseal’ approach we came up with ‘Introducing Social Media for Small Business’ as the title.
So far I have the run the workshop twice, with more to follow on 15 and 29 May. It has proved popular, but I am struggling to fit everything in to the two hours available. Social Media is such a big topic and the platforms continue to grow, with Pinterest being the latest hot topic.
Here are my top twelve tips for Social Media success:
Try to limit to 30 minutes a day
Keep it professional – you might go viral in a bad way
Keep an eye out for new services
Try to measure results
Cull any activities that don’t help your business
Try to stay focussed – keep away from the Lolcats
Be a person online – but not too personal
Always try to add value
Don’t just lurk – contribute
Try to be ‘marketing lite’ – avoid spamming
Have a consistent brand / name across your social media platforms
As last Friday was a lovely warm day I decided to pop over to Eat Street (now KERB) for lunch.
Unfortunately I had left it a bit late and by the time I got there everything had gone.
However, I did have a a nice chat to the staff on the Bell and Brisket stand about their non-Kosher hot salt beef bagels, and how they had to struggle through the miserable winter months until the rewards of the late spring weather brought out the customers.
Next week I will make sure I get out nice and early before they run out of supplies.
I have blogged in the past about the importance of using a ‘made-up’ name for your trademark, but there are other ways to establish a distinctive but protected presence in the market place.
I was recently helping a couple of customers in the Centre find some useful market research reports on home wares. In conversation I discovered they were the founders of Anorak, a company who make and sell ‘functional products inspired by the great outdoors’. I also learned that we had helped them along their journey to success over the last four years, so they qualify as one of our Success Stories.
For me, the story here is the ingenuity of taking a widely used slang term with negative connotations, and subverted it into something cool and trendy.
According to Wikipedia the term anorak came from the Observer newspaper’s description of UK trainspotters, based on their preferred form of clothing. Allegedly members of this group often wore, the by then very unfashionable anorak jackets, when standing for hours on chilly railway station platforms noting down details of passing trains.
However according to the Guardian Newspaper’s Notes and Queries column, the term was was originally created by Radio Caroline Disk Jockey Andy Archer in the early 70′. He used the word anoraks on air, to describe the boatloads of fans who came out to visit the pirate radio ships anchored off the Dutch coast.
During the 1980′s it became a general derogatory term for a someone with an obsessive interest in unfashionable and largely solitary interests. 1980’s UK rock group Marillion called one of their albums Anoraknophobia, referring to the long running in-joke that Marillion fans were sometimes called freaks or anoraks.
In the United States the term geek or nerd is often used instead, but is not associated with a particular item of clothing as far as I am aware. The exception might be the wearing of large unfashionable glasses. The US based company GeekSquad have also attempted to exploit the label to their own advantage.
The word anorak is derived from Greenland Eskimo ‘anoraq’, used to describe a waterproof jacket, typically with a hood, of a kind originally used in polar regions.
I am aware that this post may be in danger of straying into anorak territory itself with this level of obsessive detail, so I will stop here.
Introducing Anorak. A British brand with its heart planted firmly in the great outdoors. Inspired by childhood camping adventures (in a bright orange campervan), Anorak’s founder and Creative Director Laurie Robertson uses striking silhouettes to bring a touch of fun and whimsy to homewares and outdoor lifestyle accessories.
From Kissing Rabbits to Proud Foxes, Anorak’s animal designs are bold, bright and a good deal less timid than their real life relatives. But looks aren’t everything, so the entire Anorak product range has function at its heart. The wash bags are wipe clean, the sleeping bags have leg room a plenty, the picnic blankets are light enough to carry on the longest of country strolls. So if you’re a fan of the great outdoors (even when you’re indoors) and think fun should follow function, remember to pack your Anorak.
Following on from my post on Cara Delevingne the brand, I had a look at Victoria and David Beckham and their brands, as they have been in the news a lot recently after their return to the UK from California.
Victoria Beckham has always been clever in business, and sensibly attempted to trademark the term Posh (her nickname in the Spice Girls) early on.
However, her application was contested by Peterborough Football club who were able to prove they had been known as The POSH since the 1920′s.
Naturally after winning the court case, the club went into action and registered The POSH at the IPO (Intellectual Property Office). However, they seem to have got a rather carried away, and instead of choosing one or two relevant business classes from the 45 Nice scheme like normal, they paid for an amazing 28 classes (see below for details).
So although they are making good use of class 25 for their t-shirts and scarves. I’m wondering how they are planning to exploit class 13 Firearms; ammunition and projectiles or class 34 Tobacco; smokers’ articles; matches. Perhaps they will surprise their fans and branch out into cigarettes.
Victoria bounced back from this initial set-back and has successfully established her Victoria Beckham brand in the key luxury product categories of sunglasses, scent and houte couture. According to TheRichest.org her business is currently worth £30 million.
List of goods or services
Detergents; bleaching preparations and other substances for laundry use; cleaning, polishing, scouring and abrasive preparations; dentifrices; antiperspirants; deodorants for personal use.
Hand tools; hand operated implements; razors.
Apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; optical or magnetic data carriers; recording discs; video recordings; automatic vending machines; calculators; data processing equipment; computers, computer programs; computer games; prerecorded discs and tapes; protective clothing; and parts and fittings, all included in Class 9 for any of the aforesaid goods.
Apparatus for ventilating, water supply and sanitary purposes; and parts and fittings, all included in Class 11, for any of the aforesaid goods.
Vehicles; apparatus for locomotion by land, air or water; and parts and fittings, all included in Class 12, for any of the aforesaid goods.
Firearms; ammunition and projectiles; explosives; fireworks.
Cufflinks; watches and clocks.
Musical instruments; electronic musical instruments; and parts and fittings, all included in Class 15, for any of the aforesaid goods.
Publications; pens, pencils, writing instruments; playing cards.
Rubber, gutta-purcha, gum, mica; goods made of any of the aforesaid materials; plastics in extruded form for use in manufacture; packing, stopping, insulating and packaging materials; flexible hoses and pipes, not of metal.
Bags, sports bags.
Household or kitchen utensils and containers (not of precious metal or coated therewith); combs; sponges; brushes other than paintbrushes; articles for cleaning purposes; steel wool; glassware, porcelain and earthenware, all included in Class 21; mugs, tankards, ashtrays.
Textiles and textile articles; bed and table covers; bedding.
Clothing; articles of outer clothing for men, women and for children; headgear; ties.
Cloth badges; badges not of precious metal.
Carpets, rugs, mats and matting; linoleum and other materials for covering existing floors; floor and wall tiles; wall hangings not of textile; wallpaper.
Toys, games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles; articles for use in playing football.
Meat, fish, poultry and game; meat extracts; preserved, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables; jellies, jams, fruit sauces; eggs, milk and milk products; edible oils and fats; prepared meals, goods of Class 29 predominating.
Coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, rice, tapioca, sago, artificial coffee; flour and preparations made from cereals, bread, pastry and confectionery, ices; honey, treacle; salt, mustard; vinegar, sauces (condiments); spices; ice; prepared meals, goods of Class 30 predominating.
Agricultural, horticultural and forestry products and grains included in Class 31; live animals; fresh fruits and vegetables; seeds, natural plants and flowers; foodstuffs for animals, malt.
Beer, mineral and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic drinks; soft drinks; fruit drinks and fruit juices; syrups and other preparations for making beverages.