Winterval – the truth

Mike Chubb got in touch, having seen my responses to falsehoods in the Birmingham Post, about Winterval, to say:

In conversation with Polly Toynbee of The Guardian re the long running Winterval Saga, she suggested that, as the originator of Winterval, I should stand up and put my name to it. So here I am.

I am Mike Chubb, as Head of Events for Birmingham at the time I invented the term Winterval (41 days and nights of festive fun!), fully supported by The Council and the cultural and business community. I am continually fascinated that the term Winterval, ever caused (and still does) such a furore.

Quite simply, as Head of events at that time, we needed a vehicle which could cover the marketing of a whole season of events…Diwali (festival of Lights), Christmas lights switch on, BBC Children in Need, Aston Hall by Candlelight, Chinese New year, New Years eve etc. Also a season that included theatre shows and open air ice rink, Frankfurt open air Christmas market and the Christmas seasonal retail offer. Christmas, called Christmas! and its celebration, lay at the heart of Winterval.

Political correctness was never the reasoning behind Winterval, but yes it was intended to be inclusive (which is no bad thing to my mind) and a brand to which other initiatives could be developed as part of The Winterval offer in order to sell the City at a time when all cities are competing against each other for the seasonal trade.

Each part of Winterval had its own marketing plan… the same as ,for instance the marketing of a brand whose sub brands (ie chocolate)have their own niche marketing.

I do believe that those who took umbrage did it for their own reasons, to sell their own message and of course, everybody got on to their own hobby horses in the process.

I am amazed that no-one could see the simplicity of The Winterval brand, but read into it what they wanted; to further and give voice to their own aspirations/prejudices. It is time for Birmingham to be proud of Winterval and stand up for an innovative initiative that befits an outward looking city.

However on the plus side thank you for keeping the Winterval campaign going and keeping Birmingham in the World’s eye… what fantastic publicity.

As I still have in my posession the original Winterval brochure produced by Birmingham City Council, I can confirm that it does indeed incude the things Mike describes, plus details of a Christmas Carol Concert and pictures of angels. As soon as I can rememer where it is, I’ll post pictures

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About Andy Mabbett

Enjoying my new freelance career, helping organisations to understand on-line communities, open content, and related issues.
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24 Responses to Winterval – the truth

  1. Nick Booth says:

    Well done Andy! Lets trend winterval too.

  2. Jon Walker says:

    So Birmingham created a “brand”, as Mr Chubb puts it, called Winterval, which included Christmas events and a whole load of other stuff. The celebration of Christmas “lay at the heart” of Winterval.

    The article which kicked up this latest fuss claimed “the council controversially rebranded Christmas as Winterval”, which doesn’t seem to be all that different from what Mr Chubb is saying to me.

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  4. pigsonthewing says:

    @Jon Walker On the contrary, that’s very different to Dale’s claims, which include the lies “the council controversially rebranded Christmas as Winterval to avoid offending non-Christians” and that BCC “airbrush[ed] out the word Christmas from its official celebrations“. I wonder when any of your colleagues at The Birmingham Post will publicly acknowledge these falsehoods?

    In any case, Winterval covered a three month period (that’s a quarter of a year). Since when was Christmas that long, or did it include bonfire night and Chinese New Year?

  5. Actually saying it was branded Winterval to be inclusive and saying it was branded Winterval to avoid offending non-Christians is not very different, it’s very similar. One is just expressed in a far more positive manner.

    Winterval may have been intended to encompass more than Christmas but Christmas is the main event at this time of year, as Mike Chubb acknowledges when he says it was at the heart of Winterval.

    I don’t speak for Paul, but when you say you have a brochure advertising the Christmas events which is marketed as a “Winterval” brochure, that seems to me to back up what he said, not undermine it. Nobody’s claimed they tried to abolish Christmas, but they did try to market the city’s Christmas events as part of something called Winterval.

    The whole debate is predicated on the idea that the council should say the festive season (if we can agree on that term todescribe what we are talking about) is *Christmas* (remember a Bishop kicked it off) rather than some made-up thing that includes a number of holidays, of which Christmas is just one.

    The council deliberately tried to downplay the specifically Christian element of the period in their marketing, and one could argue they were right, but they did do it.

  6. pigsonthewing says:

    @Jonathan Walker Your opening paragraph is an assertion without foundation.

    Your third paragraph mis-represents me: the brochure included Christmas, but also bonfire night, Chinese New Year, and other, non-Christian, non-Christmas, events. You say that “Nobody’s claimed they tried to abolish Christmas“; but nobody has claimed that anyone claimed that – however, Dale did say, falsely that BCC “airbrush[ed] out the word Christmas from its official celebrations“, which is not far off that.

    Your closing paragraph is as false as anything said by Dale. Which part of “Christmas Carol Concert” did you not understand? I note that you still don’t acknowledge that the two Dale quotes in my previous reply were false.

    The three month period from mid-October to mid-January is not “the festive season“; let alone “Christmas“; and the events included in Winterval were not all Christian. Not even to a bishop.

  7. I don’t misrepresent you. You’ve confirmed again that the Winterval brochure included Christmas events.

    I understand what a Christmas Carol Concert is. My understanding is that the concert was advertised as part of a season of events branded Winterval. Mike Chubb actually confirms that things like Christmas lights and the Christmas market were included in Winterval.

    When I talk about the festive season, I mean more or less December. The council marketed the Christian events in December as part of Winterval, and actually said Christmas was the heart of Winterval, which you don’t seem to acknowledge.

    You claim if is “false” to say branding these Christmas events Winterval downplays the Christian element. Surely Winterval is not a Christian festival? Trying to portray a carol concert as part of a series of events including Chinese New Year celebrations does downplay the Christian element.

  8. Andy Mabbett says:

    Christmas events were not “branded Winterval“. They were included in a three-month season called Winterval.

  9. Which your correspondent – who should know – calls a brand, with Christmas at the heart of it.

    Thank you for the debate. Sorry if I seem argumentative – I am, even if I probably shouldn’t be.

  10. Richard Morris says:

    I’m the husband of the late Val Morris who used to work for BCC in the Media Office. One of her tasks (which caused her many sleepless nights) was attempting to rebut the falsities spread by those who, in the words of Mike Chubb ‘… took umbrage, did it for their own reasons, to sell their own message and of course, everybody got on to their own hobby horses in the process.’

    I have no doubt that people chose deliberately to misunderstand. Perhaps they still do and as an example let me cite the willingness of a blogger to quote some non-local cleric sounding off recently on Winterval but to ignore the statements on same issued by BCC.

  11. pigsonthewing says:

    Thanks, Richard. I knew Val and she’s sorely missed.

  12. Barry Smith says:

    What those here who still don’t get it seem to be missing is that this is a marketing initiative. It’s purpose is to appeal to anyone with pounds in their pockets which could be spent in Birmingham centre. It’s not a case of trying not to offend non-Christians – it’s a case of not missing out on all the money in the pockets of Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Atheists and whoever else by running a campaign focused solely on Christmas.

    Still, some people will always prefer explanations of PC gone mentally challenged.

  13. mike chubb says:

    after a great deal of thought i shall be undertaking a winterval uk project in the uk in 2009. any interested parties/sponsors should contact me. Let us create another urban myth festival to which all are accommodated and let us see the press/media turn in their ire whilst normal folks get great value for money
    mike chubb

  14. I’ll bite on this. While the anti-Winterval backlash may have thoroughly misrepresented it, it was founded in genuine (albeit not necessarily nice or non-xenophobic) concerns. Until and unless the anti-anti-Winterval protests take precedence in the media and the public imagination, it has to be counted as a marketing failure. Looking to the intentions and the delivery can’t entirely exclude the reality of people’s perceptions, which is after all what marketing seeks to influence. Even good marketing campaigns fail sometimes; just one of those things.

    Personally, I suspect the compound word had a fair bit to do with it – it just sounds too right-on. That and a more generalised unhappiness of some people with the council’s agenda.

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