Wednesday 3 August 2005

Naked people, passionate places

Tragically, I had a long-standing engagement in Northamptonshire on 17 July, which prevented me from joining my fellow Geordie exhibitionists for Spencer Tunick’s latest ‘installation’.

Seismographs flickered as art lovers and connoisseurs of the human form across the globe breathed a huge collective sigh of relief.

But I was gutted. I often feel the urge to take a stroll along the Quayside au naturel, and it would have been great to have the police there to shield me from prying eyes, rather than in their more usual role of trying to arrest me for indecent exposure.

In fact I haven’t participated in a good bit of communal nakedness in Newcastle since the grand old days of compulsory nude swimming at the RGS, ten years of which left me unable to swim a stroke and with an enormous complex about my body.

Fortunately the subsequent 35 years of intense psychotherapy have been able to convince me that my fears were entirely justified, since my body is indeed both complex and enormous.

But what of Mr Tunick? Clearly it has been another enormous PR coup for those clever people from south of the river who brought us The Angel, The Baltic and The Sage. Perhaps, for consistency, we should start to think of it as The Buff.

What more could we make of it? Well, for a start we could take a look at using it to replace that awful stuff about ‘Passionate People, Passionate Places’. (How can a place be passionate? Answers on a postcard.)

I was first introduced to this campaign when I was in a conference audience that was treated to a show reel. The eager marketing man who introduced it was so passionate about the North East himself that he didn’t even know that ‘Cheviot’ is pronounced with a long ‘e’.

It struck me as being nothing more than a travelogue – unusual only in apparently being aimed at people who already happen to live here.

If we really want to appeal to outsiders, let’s go with The Buff. Apart from anything else, it should give the lie to those who think it’s too cold up here. So long as we stick to soft focus long shots that don’t show up the goose pimples.

I’ll even throw in a free strapline for the new ads. ‘The North East: It’s Ballsy.’

Keith Hann is a PR consultant and voyeur.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.