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Spinning Out of Control

Spinning Out of Control

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Spinning Out of Control

Length:
410 pages
6 hours
Released:
Apr 28, 2014
ISBN:
9781310601712
Format:
Book

Description

'Christopher is a sick, sick puppy. I love it.' Yasmin Selena Butt, author of Gunshot Glitter

'A touch of Keith Waterhouse. Spinning Out of Control is a fine comic novel, and a worthy satire of today's media - both local and national... there are even poignant moments of loss.' Jon Bounds, Paradisecircus.com and author of Pier Review

Spinning Out of Control is a satire about the media and what it's done to us.

Tom Wroxham is a hard-nosed, hard-living London PR. This morally bankrupt young publicist has one week to make a nobody from Birmingham famous - and get his old job back. Tom gets intoxicated with a despicable circus of broadsheet journalists, tabloid hacks, bloggers, editors, interns, comedians, models, DJs, showbiz show-offs, artists, TV and radio lever pullers, music industry narcissists, business big shots, eccentric publishers, corrupt politicians, media-manipulating upstarts, and assorted atomised freeloaders. Tom's job is to spin - but he's the one spinning out of control. Can he find redemption in the most unexpected place?

This debut novel by British writer Christopher Beanland is an unsettling comedy of celebrity-obsessed, consumerist times. And it's funnier than that sounds (hopefully). Everyone's selling themselves - even authors, for f***'s sake. Enjoy the book.

Released:
Apr 28, 2014
ISBN:
9781310601712
Format:
Book

About the author

Christopher writes satirical things about the media and serious things about buildings and places. He lives in London.


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Book Preview

Spinning Out of Control - Christopher Beanland

CHAPTER ONE

Victoria Square, Birmingham, England. Morning.

'It's not what you see that's important, it's what that thing looks like.'

These words were shouted into my left ear during a drug-fuelled rant by the man who mentored me – then sacked me. His name was Selwyn. My name is Tom.

I whisper those words again, softly, to myself, 'It's not what you see that's important, it's what that thing looks like.' Oh God, it's so bright. I move the palm of my right hand towards my face until everything goes black. Then I move it away until morning sun floods my watery eyes. I blink helplessly.

I twist and force my body upwards, resting my back against the wall of the building, my palms resting on the cold pavement. A tattered blanket slips off me.

Next to me is a copy of yesterday's Evening Brummie. The wind has whipped it open to page 12.

The Evening Brummie

Saturday Jun 14 2008

KIDS LEARN LESSONS IN MEDIA

By Barry Cataract

St Jasper's Primary School in Kings Heath is teaching its 7 year-old kids about the wonderful world of the media. The Evening Brummie's Barry Cataract popped along to a media studies class to meet tomorrow's Evening Brummie reporters!

I'm sat with a class of 7 year-olds. They're being taught everything they'll need for a future life in the media: how to deal with years of unpaid work experience, what to do once you're inevitably made redundant in your 40s, tips on using sexual bribery to advance your career, how to look in the mirror and judge your own relative attractiveness, how to stab friends in the back to get to where you want to be, and the key skill – handling rejection.

A teacher tells a fluffy-haired lad called Jack that he's useless and won't amount to anything in the media. The boy starts to sob quietly. But it's actually all part of a brilliant and powerful role-play. The boy stifles his tears while the teacher and I exchange a wink. We both know Jack will go on to great things as the breakfast show producer on Heartlands Radio! in the 2030s. And all because of this lesson.

A little girl is sat at a computer. A visiting sub-editor from our very own Evening Brummie is teaching her how to sub the clangers out of some shoddy copy. It's a news report about the storm surrounding a new video game where you put on a suicide bomb belt and kill British troo...

I stop reading and turn my head the other way. The muscles in my neck crease and tense. I see an object on the other side of the Square. It's... a body? I hoist myself up, a shiver shoots down to my feet. I pause, bundle up the blanket and start walking. I feel sicker with each step. I near the body and begin to smell the stench.

Bearded, long haired and shockingly dirty, he looks about 70 but is probably nearer 50. This, I decide, is what I am going to look like by the end of the week. This guy seems to be in some far away world.

'Here you go,' I mutter. I unfold the blanket and lay it on top of this sorry excuse for a human being. His foul odour hits the back of my throat. I take three steps over to a drain and powerfully vomit up everything in my stomach. I suck up a deep breath, wipe my mouth with the back of my hand, and trudge off slowly towards the station, shaking.

The five minute walk takes an eternity today. Negotiating the steps in Victoria Square feels like descending Everest. Orienting myself is like the mental equivalent of some unsolvable quadratic equation.

At no more than a shuffling pace, I inch down Pinfold Street on autopilot, forking left into Stephenson Street. There's a blue wooden box – the type The Evening Brummie is sold from. Yesterday's headline boards read: BRUM BREWERY FACES AXE, KIDS LEARN LESSONS IN MEDIA, and most enticing of all: FREE SAUSAGE ROLL WITH TODAY'S PAPER.

Already the city is starting to fill with shoppers, some clutching plastic mugs of coffee. One or two are on mobiles, giggling.

Birmingham. I was born here. I grew up here. I went away to study, I met a girl, I spent a summer here with her, then I left for London. Forever. People say to me, 'What about your parents? That's awful, you not seeing them.' Well, there's a simple reason for that: they're both dead. It's not a tragedy, it's not something that's screwed me up, it's just something that happened. An accident. When I was at university. And no, I don't have any brothers or sisters.

I didn't want to live and work here. I wanted to go to London. Because that's where the exciting things happen. So I did. That's my story. The end. It's nothing special – what's interesting is everyone else. That's where things really get going. I don't make anything, I haven't got any special talents, save a savvy mind. You could say I'm a parasite really. I take people or objects and I make sure they get the absolute best coverage, the best possible press. Individuals and corporations pay me a lot of money for this work. And they pay a lot of other people like me a lot of money too. We are a secret army.

The point of us, the secret army, is that we remain anonymous. What we do is akin to advertising, but it is more than that. Much more. You read the paper or watch TV or look at a website and you see something – anything. A brand of beer, the new single by a band, a story about a celebrity. It looks real: news, a feature in a magazine, a post that someone's written on a blog, an interview on the radio. It real sounds real. But it's an illusion. I put it there. I set the agenda. I suggested the angle. I got the damn thing written. I took the journalist that wrote it out for lunch over a period of months to build up a 'relationship'. I got that same journalist free tickets to a music festival, or took them on a press trip abroad, or flattered their ego, or whatever it took to make them amenable to my suggestions. I offered them an exclusive about one of my clients in return for some positive coverage about another client. I sat in the boardroom with my colleagues discussing which of those dopey sods – the journalists, that is - would be gullible or greedy enough to fall for the latest load of utter crap we'd been ordered to promote by our superiors.

Birmingham New Street Station.

I drag myself up those horrendous concrete stairs to the shopping centre. At the top I see the entrance to The Walsall Wench pub. It looks familiar. I fear I might have been drinking there last night. I trudge along the marble-floored corridor lined with shops that runs above the station. Then I drop down by escalator into the station concourse. I don't know why I'm here at New Street. Probably because it's the way in and it's the way out. And, crucially, because there's some comfy seats in the waiting room squirrelled away by the booking office. On the down side, it's heaving with people and it's noisy. The station needs to be rebuilt, it's falling apart. There are posters everywhere, advertising: cars, hotels, beer, trainers, Arnryn Music Festival, The Evening Brummie newspaper, a local drivetime radio show presented by some people called Marco & Kaxey, and a new computer game set in Afghanistan.

I feel adrift. I need some reassurance, some small feeling of permanence. I look up at the computerised departure boards and read out the destinations quietly to comfort myself. Like a lullaby, my lips only just moving, 'Redditch, Lichfield Trent Valley, Wolverhampton, London Euston.' The last one calms me the most. I could get back to London. Back to my flat. Everything could be normal.

So many people are streaming towards me now that I feel momentarily overwhelmed – and ashamed that I feel overwhelmed. Thousands of Brummies have started to stream in from the suburbs, heading for the Bull Ring to waste their money on things they don't need.

It's maybe 13 hours since I strode out of the station last night, clutching the last can of Koronkko lager I’d brought up from London, swigging greedily from it, excitedly lighting my first cigarette for two hours, inhaling, confused, high from the nicotine hit.

This was a mess. Assaulting my boss had been a very bad idea. Coming back to Birmingham had been an even worse idea. And going to The Walsall Wench when I arrived here – well that was the most mind-boggling decision of all. I'm surprised I even survived a night in there surrounded by Brum's hardest tracksuited thugs. I sound every inch the middle class Londoner now. There's no point arguing the toss with most of these boys. It was always this way when you got into fights in the city centre.

'Oh y'am a Villa supporter then? Ya posh twat. Where've y'am cum down frrrrum? Sutton Fookin' Coldfield?'

'Actually I don't like football, so I'm neither Blues nor Villa, pal. Which puddle have you dragged yourself out from?'

But as far I can remember, mercifully, that didn't happen last night – a miracle when I was clearly so inebriated following a day's solid drinking. I was in no position to be taking care of myself, let alone fighting anyone else. Not that I could fight – the punch that connected with my boss on Friday night had been pure luck.

I'm exhausted. I pick a seat near the rear corner of the waiting room. Today's copy of The Article on Sunday newspaper lies discarded on a seat nearby. I unfurl it, then I flatten it out over my chest in such a way that it will appear as if I've fallen asleep reading it. It will look like the innocent actions of a hard-working and over-achieving young go-getter who has just taken a brief rest in a train station.

The characteristically less-than-snappy splash on the front of the paper reads:

High tide for climate change: Koronkko beer bottling facility in Central Asia threatens to dry up several of the region's most ecologically sensitive lakes.

Who cares about that?

A boy, about five years old, fixes me straight in the eyes and then looks pleadingly, and with some confusion, at his mum. She briefly clocks me before shepherding her son away, just as my mum would have done 20 years ago. I close those eyes and dose off.

So, while I sleep, I guess an explanation of how I ended up here might not go amiss.

CHAPTER TWO

Saturday morning, Jun 14 2008. The day before Sunday.

London.

My job consists of two letters. 'P' and 'R'. They stand for Public and Relations. Though I sometimes privately joke with myself that it's actually the first two letters from PRopaganda.

I'm dozing on my sofa in Hoxton when the phone wakes me up with a start. I pick up.

'Wroxham!' It's Selwyn. He's shouting.

'Two secs…'

'Don't two secs me. You're fired, you piece of shit. Consider all the 'I's' dotted and the 'T's' crossed. I no longer want you working for this company.'

'Boss..?'

'You’re out, you total and utter waster. Clear your desk on Monday morning.'

'Look, about last night, I…'

'Get out of my sight.'

'I am already. We're on the phone...'

'Don't play games with me, sonny.'

'You can't do this to me. Look at the contract.'

'Don't tell me what I can and can't do. Legal will sort whatever I tell them to sort. You're a disaster area. You haven't brought me any new clients for months... and you... you committed a criminal offence against my person last night. You're out!'

'It was an... accident?' I pause for a split second. He's not buying it.

'Oh, and Wroxham!' yells Selwyn.

'Yes?'

'I want your client list and your contact book by the end of the day. Bike it over from whatever pub you end up in, you total dickhead.'

'It’ll be The Wh…'

'FUCK OFF.'

The line goes dead. Clarissa emerges, scowling, from the bathroom. She's wearing my Cambridge University T shirt and a pair of my shorts.

'You’re a bloody fool, Tom. You knew this would happen.' Clarissa, an account executive, a couple of rungs down the ladder from me. Usually she has a soft way with me – you might almost say we were friends. But today I could tell she was angry.

I sit up, groan, and put my head in my hands.

'Idiot.'

'Okay, okay. I know. I shouldn’t have done it. But Selwyn was coming on to you!'

'Save it.'

'Sorry.'

'It’s going to be rubbish without you. You should’ve known better.'

'Er... by the way, why are you in my house? Did we... you know... last night?'

She tuts. 'In your dreams. You think every woman is after you – well this one isn't. I helped you get home after you had that stupid fight with Selwyn and I thought the least you could do was lend me your bed as I live a very long way away. I smoked some of your weed and ate some of your cashews. I hope that's alright.' Clarissa turns in a huff and goes to the kitchen.

'Coffee?' her voice echoes round the corner slightly.

'Irish.'

Selwyn ran the company and so it was a pretty poor career move to have hit him. His wandering hands had got on Clarissa’s nerves, his flirting was verging on sexual harassment, and - you know - there’d been a lot of free drinks that night. And the rest. His head hit the floor of The Spanked Trouser at about 2.45am. It was my prissy, useless punch that had, incredibly, done it. It was an unusual move for me – I'm not ordinarily given to violence. But sometimes we do things that are out of character. Maybe I had been overdoing everything lately, I hardly remember the course of events. And he was right – I hadn't brought in any new clients for a while. Yet, I am bloody good at my job.

'I'm meeting a friend. We're going for brunch,' Clarissa tells me as she puts on last night's clothes out of my sight. She pecks me on the cheek before she leaves.

'Will you look after my clients 'til I sort all this out?' I ask.

She sighs and says 'Okaaaay' like a teenager. She slams the door behind her without looking at me.

I shower and change and head straight over the road to The White Goat.

Now, despite my extensive use of myriad mind-altering substances, I actually remain extremely level-headed. Most of the time. I have seen colleagues, clients, employees and friends start to overdo it to the point where their jobs and relationships begin to resemble the aftermath of a car crash. Sometimes I feel myself edging towards oblivion and I simply take back control of the wheel. Easy.

I have managed to carve out a successful career, have had several relationships with women, and I enjoy great times with many, many friends. So it is with some surprise then that I now find myself jobless, stood outside The White Goat at 10.55am waiting for it to open, smoking a fag. What happens next is even more surprising.

Let's imagine for a second that the entire rest of the day has been cut down in an edit suite in Central Birmingham into a two minute TV news package for Sunday evening's edition of Midlands Reports. It would look something like this:

(Establishing shot of me going into The White Goat)

Reporter's voice-over: 'Until yesterday, Tom Wroxham was one of London's most powerful young PRs. The 25 year-old was responsible for securing high-profile coverage for youth-oriented brands, celebrities, and musicians.'

(Cut to shot of me at the bar, drinking a pint and staring out of the window)

(Camera pans right to reveal a suited reporter, oddly stood right next to me)

Reporter: 'But like so many other young whippersnappers, Wroxham seems to have fallen foul of the curse of high living. Alcohol, drugs, and sex addiction have led him to the brink. And in a fit of pique, he assaulted his boss in an East London bar last night. The altercation was...'

Me: 'Whoa, hang on! Sex addiction? Does that even exist? And for the record, I was actually standing up for a work colleague who'd been sexually harassed by my 'boss'.'

Reporter, turning to me: 'Mr Wroxham, I shall be asking you for a comment in a moment.'

(Cut to montage of me drinking pint after pint after pint and beginning to look panicky. Cut to shot of me stumbling out of the pub, scratching my head and then walking directly towards camera. Cut to shot of me walking directly away from camera. Camera pans up to sign reading London Euston and then pans down to reporter, who has mysteriously appeared from nowhere)

Reporter: 'The altercation was... a wake up call.'

(Cut to shot of me stumbling aboard a train, can of lager in hand, other three in bag)

Reporter: 'Wroxham had decided to return to Birmingham – which is a much nicer place than London...' (pause, reporter flashes a toothy grin) 'with cheaper house prices and good road access to the entire country.'

(Cut to me sat on the train, looking out of the window)

Reporter: 'Wroxham had said: 'Birmingham, I am sorry for my sins – please take me back!''

Me, slurring drunkenly: 'Look, see this report is a complete crock of s(BLEEP). I'm going to... back to... erm? Birmingham... because, well... actually I don't know why. It's none of your business.'

(Across my chest, as I speak, a caption comes up on the screen: Tom Wroxham)

(Cut to me exiting Birmingham New Street Station in the pitch dark now, clattering into the reporter, sparking up, finishing the cig, then shambling towards The Walsall Wench pub)

Reporter: 'And so Tom Wroxham was welcomed warmly back to Birmingham.'

Two lads in tracksuits, walking past: 'F(BLEEP) OFF!'

Reporter, speaking to me in The Walsall Wench: 'Where do you plan to stay tonight?'

Me: 'Stay? Staying in the pub 'til closing, pal. Staying here. (Pause) Oh, stay? I'm gonna stay with... my ex-girlfriend... Emaline! She's amazing. In... erm... Kings Heath.'

Reporter: 'She won't answer if you go round there. She's on a date tonight.'

Me: 'Yeah, whatever.'

Reporter: 'A date with me, you f(BLEEP)wit. This will prove an important plot point later. You're not listening, are you, Mr Wroxham? Oh I bloody give up. Is that why you came back to Birmingham? To see Emaline?'

Me: 'Stop pointing that f(BLEEP)ing camera at me!'

(Cut to me falling out of the door of the pub)

Reporter: 'After an eleven hour drinking marathon, by now clearly lacking the wherewithal to book into a hotel for the night or locate his ex-girlfriend's house in the suburbs, it looks like...'

(Cut to me beginning to fall asleep on the pavement in Victoria Square a few yards along from a real tramp, and pan up to the reporter crouched beside me, preparing a final sign off to camera)

Reporter: '...battered and bruised – and now back in Brum - Tom Wroxham's night on the tiles, is ending with a night ON the tiles. Sumed Parmar, Midlands Reports, Birmingham.'

Sunday afternoon, Jun 15 2008.

Birmingham New Street Station.

I wake up with a start from a dream, just as the only ex I really miss – Emaline - is taking off her bra. What time is it? Incredibly I’d been allowed to sleep unhindered for several hours in the waiting room at New Street Station. How? Weren’t the authorities bothered that the first thing people coming to Birmingham today would see was me? Maybe it's par for the course. I remember beggars and tramps all over when I used to live here.

My mum was always polite to them, would occasionally take an interest in the pitiful lives of these wasters. But a very English, middle-class interest. She always held my hand tightly whenever we were shopping in the sketchier parts of town – especially the Bull Ring, back when it was basically a hangout for crackheads. My poor mum never realised these oiks were high on drugs. She thought it was just – well, booze I guess; beer or whisky.

I'm gripped by a sudden panic. Where is my phone? I check all my pockets. No sign. I rush over to the pay phones on the other side of the concourse, skidding the final ten feet as my woeful trainers lose all grip on the slick surface of the station floor. I pour in some coins, fumble for the receiver and punch in my number. It rings five times.

'Er… hello?'

I'm out of breath. 'Yes... hi... huh huh... sorry, I'm... huh huh... My name’s Tom Wroxham and... you’re holding my phone.'

'Oh, right.'

'Where are you?'

'Yeah, erm, Birmingham.'

'Great! Can I come and pick it up?'

There's a cheeky tone to the voice at the other end of the phone. 'Yes, you can.' A pause. 'But is it worth a drink?'

'Er, hold on a second! Are you holding my phone hostage?'

Silence.

'Yeah, a drink, okay, okay,' I offer angrily. 'Where are you?'

'I’m on a bench… in Victoria Square, by the fountain.'

'I was there this morning.'

'Yes?'

'I’ll be there in five minutes. What’s your name?'

'Keith.'

I hang up and rush back across the station to the escalators - up, along, down and out into the street and the sunlight. Dodging the people on every side of me with their cases and bags, I can feel myself sweating. I quicken the pace and retrace my steps back along Stephenson Street and up the steps to Victoria Square.

I casually stroll over towards the tramp. But then it clicks. I know this person. He was there this morning. He was the guy I saw in the street just before being sick.

'Hi. Have you got my phone?' I ask him.

'Yeah.'

He holds it out to me. I take it. 'Thanks.'

Friday night, Jun 13 2008. The night before the day before Sunday.

London.

Call it what you like: spin, publicity, press, media management, propaganda.

I'm strolling up Kingsland Road at about 8pm. The air is crisp. Unseasonably so. I pull my coat around me and feel my left breast pocket just to check that I haven’t forgotten the wrap. I’d promised Clarissa I’d bring some coke and we’d do a bit just to take the edge off having to hang around with the corporate tossers from Koronkko. The coloured lights of the downmarket Turkish and Vietnamese restaurants light up the street – yellow, green, red. I cross the road and head for the bar we’d hired out for the night at great expense.

Almost four years at Schriber Howard and now I am a somebody. I run my own accounts and bring in my own clients – but I am only as good as my last pitch, my last feature, my last front page. I have access, I know people, this is what it's all about. I make people and I sell them and I get them so famous they can snort and screw and eat and drink and buy whatever they want. I make bands and brands big too. The works. One of the many kicks I get from the job is knowing just how disposable they all are, and just how precarious things can get. It's precarious for me too. I haven't brought a big new client in for some time. It's all part of the thrill.

Everyone is selling nowadays – be it ideas or (in industry terms) 'product'. Everyone's at it, from the pop star who wants to score a number one single to the multinational company who needs to persuade politicians to stall legislation so they can keep on making money. The public are, perhaps surprisingly, ready to be influenced, ready to listen. The public don't see it that way – but they are. And I can make them hear. That’s why Schriber Howard pays me so handsomely for my time.

The media has mushroomed to the point where it has now become the single defining influence on all our lives. It shocks me whenever someone quantifies just how much media there is right now. For people like me, this is brilliant. It means more and more space to get our clients - my clients - noticed. I live or die by how much exposure – positive exposure – I can screw from media outlets. This is how it works: someone comes to you – the client – and says, 'I am going to give you 'x' amount of money and I want 'y' amount of coverage for it in return.' The moment you take their dirty cash you are their bitch. You sit in boardrooms listening to these arseholes extolling the virtues of whatever it is they're touting – be it beer, hotels, politicians, singers, whole messed-up countries, a policy whereby all first born sons are ritually slain – and you must believe in it, to get journalists to believe in it too.

Do you think what you read about, what you hear about, what you see is based on editorial merit? Think again. Editorial merit is only a tiny part of this preposterous game of hide and seek. A decision on whether my client (or anyone's client – for everyone is a client of somebody) gets coverage in any given media outlet is affected by so many variables: personal relationships between the PR and the person in editorial charge, persuasion, guilt, will coverage result in extra advertising spend, what political considerations are there, does the client reflect the same values as the media outlet, is there an opportunity for me to blackmail or bribe someone, what space needs to be filled, have similar types of client been covered very recently by the outlet, what is the weather like, is the person making the editorial decision in a bad mood because they've been arguing with their husband or wife over breakfast?

You think what I do is easy?

Not only has the media mushroomed – it's the dumbed-down sectors that have flourished like Japanese knotweed. Everything that isn't billed as 'the news' has been spreading, growing, feasting on the corpses of high culture and fact. The features, style, arts pages of your paper, all those Sunday supplements, most of what's on nearly all TV channels, most of what's on most radio stations, much of the internet, all magazines, lots of books. What most people call it is 'entertainment'. It's in these sectors of the media where I get my best pickings. Serious news reporters are precious and diligent. Stories and facts are important to them. They're less prone to being persuaded and pressurised than their colleagues working in these 'softer' departments. Hard news hacks aren't always angels. They can be PR'd – look at the mechanisms of spin set up by politicians and large corporations to try and crowbar their point of view into the serious news bulletins and papers. But anyone working in the media who doesn't call themselves a news reporter is much, much easier to manipulate. Take it from me.

'Tom, glad you could join us at last. Where the hell have you been? I thought you were coming straight down.'

The boss. He's tall, about 17 years older than me, but dressed as if he's just raided the same shop where I get my garb. He's also getting fat - despite his prodigious drug use and love of long runs, he also likes fine food. I predict a heart attack before 2020. Could I bet on that at the bookies? Messed up hair, a pink T-shirt emblazoned with a giant greyhound stretched across his chest. A speech bubble emanates from its arse, the upside-down text reading: PROFOUND? Tight jeans. Confident smile. White teeth. Selwyn.

'Yeah, I had to... pick something up on the way.'

The Spanked Trouser. In fact a seamy little basement bar where style has thoroughly routed substance. Tonight is billed as – wait for it - @Koronkko NITES. The '@' character was specially requested by the marketing department at Koronkko's Chicago head office. There are DJs and free drinks on the cards. Koronkko wants to use it to, as they say, 'build the brand'. That means getting lots of positive press coverage. Coverage that will ultimately, they hope, get more young people necking their particularly gassy and bland brand of beer. Young people spend a lot of cash, especially on drink. They have high disposable incomes, the frequent desire to get intoxicated.

One part of Schriber Howard – one part of me - lobbies and twists arms and briefs and sings about corporate social responsibility and beer and trainers and hotels and famous people – and wannabe famous people. All very FTSE 100.

That's the big money stuff. But we also get maximum exposure for music that is so sodding cool, people don’t even know it is yet. The one feeds the other. The blue chip accounts gave us an air of respectability. While our ‘Coolio quotient’ - as The Article On Sunday’s business section pointed out last month - makes the multinationals want us to make their boring old consumer crap seem 'with it'. They want the 'meh' generation to pay attention.

I spy Clarissa, my beautiful and intelligent ally at the firm.

'You’re looking sexy tonight.'

'Ha! Cheers,' she enthusiastically kisses me on both cheeks and squeezes me tightly. 'You do know how to say the right thing. Seriously, that DJ Quest-ce Que C'est guy…'

'He’s called Mike, he’s from Bracknell and he’s a plumber Monday to Friday.'

'Well, actually, he’s a gas fitter. I read his biog today. But he’s so cute, and he’s a really good DJ! He's playing at the Arnryn Festival with MC Baron Haussmann. Maybe we could go?'

'You’re so predictable. Where's Arnryn? It sounds made-up.'

'I don't know. Does anyone know where festivals happen? You just get in a car and put the satnav on. Tom, did you get the er…?'

'Yep, let’s get a beer then we’ll sort ourselves out.'

'Yippee!'

I gesture at the barmaid, a stunning Central Asian-looking girl who probably models by day. She hands me two bottles of Koronkko. I give one to Clarissa and we clink them. All manner of young try-hards begin to roll through the door, each dressed more ostentatiously than the last. Most of the invited guests are bloggers, journalists, people who work in radio and on music TV channels. The inevitable hangers-on will pitch up purely to get pissed too: the stylists, researchers, students, interns, mates, mates of mates.

Koronkko have money to burn – so much money in fact, that they bought the brewery in my home city. They're trying to close it down now. Already laid off most of the staff. Efficiencies. Not that I care. What matters to me is that they keep paying our agency, and hence, me.

Corporate tie-ins like tonight's soulless bullshitathon have spread like a rash across the PR industry during the noughties. Club nights, gigs and festivals are a favourite target for tired old brands looking to engage with hyperactive young audiences – the consumers of tomorrow. Massive companies have the cash but their image is worth nothing. No-one likes big corporations since the scandals involving unnecessary baby milk powder, exploding chemical factories, spilt oil and spilt blood in the Niger Delta, diseases in our food, Koronkko accidentally leaving tiny shards of glass in their beer bottles - I could go on.

Corporations can buy 'cool' by positioning their brand next to something which is 'cool'. Good God, I hate that word. Koronkko hopes that it will be seen as 'cool' because of all the 'cool' people drinking it tonight, wearing their 'cool' clothes and listening to the 'cool' DJs I booked. But the thing about PR is that appearances matter. Or as a munted Selwyn yelled at me (yet again) at around midnight, 'It's not what you see

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