CAKE TAPE: What cake and mixtapes can offer local government

'Mmmmmm, cake.'

Birthdays are natures way of telling you to eat more cake.

Marvellous, but what exactly does a slice of carrot cake have to say about local government?

Actually, quite a lot. So do mixtapes as a session heard at the excellent Localgovcamp Yorkshire and Humberside revealed.

Why? Two things. First, because it’s all about messing about on a project in your own time so you can learn by your mistakes.

Second, it’s about doing something in a fun, interesting, creative way.

Why Cake? As a wheeze I built a cake blog based on a rash of pictures of cake tweeted by friends from Twitter. It taught me how to crowdsource, how to use WordPress and where a decent piece of carrot cake can be found in the charming Shropshire village of Ludlow (At the Green Cafe since you were wondering. The review is here.) Stuart Harrison (@pezholio on Twitter) then raised the bar with a beer blog.

The excellent Sarah Lay picked up the baton and created a cake map. She got to know about Googlemaps as a result.

Mixtapes? Same principle. A tweet by Sarah sparked a series of blogs, a Flickr group and a Tumblr site. Why? Because mixtapes even in a digital world spark happy memories of taping the top 40 and crafting a tape to say ‘thank you!’ or even ‘actually, I quite fancy you.’

There was even a mixtape built by song contributions at the barcamp built with the help of Janet Davis (@janetedavis).

So what do cakes and tapes teach? In short, go away and experiment in your own time. You can learn. You can do fun things. Then you can transfer some of those ideas to your day job.

Amongst web developers, there is a useful saying: ‘fail forward.’ If you are going to fail, make sure you learn something about it so you can take things just that bit further next time. Messing about on a scheme allows you to do just that, risk free.

Links: Nice ideas that have emerged by messing around…

MY C90: Mixtapes are the original social media

Once upon a time there was something more powerful than Twitter, MySpace and Facebook combined.

It was a platform that brought people together and allowed a you a chance to paint on a blank canvas with music.

This, ladies and gentleman was the mixtape.

This was a cassette filled with tracks you’d selected. It wasn’t just art. It was an art.

For over 25s the mixtape was the status update of the day. They could be a love letter, a  sign of friendship or the grandstanding of musical knowledge. All recorded across two sides of a C90 cassette with 45 minutes on each side (or if you were a real oddball, a C60).

From the 1970s to the mid-1990s the cassette was a standard medium for music. With my bedroom too small for all but a ghetto blaster cassettes were the way I listened to music. I wasn’t alone. As a teenager, music was massively important. It help shape who I was. Through it all, mixtapes were how I circulated my thoughts.

Brian Eno used to make mixtapes for his mates. He’d record slow classical music movements back-to-back. They were a prototype to the ambient music he pioneered.

“Composers hadn’t caught up,” he recalled on BBC Radio Four’s Frontrow .

“People didn’t buy records and sit at home between two speakers listening to an LP.

“They bought music and they were cooking or washing up with music in the background.

“New technology means new music. Always.”

In 1990, more than 400 million cassettes were sold in the US. Many for home taping and unlike the slogan no, it didn’t kill music. But what did die was the cassette as a popular platform. By 2007 barely 200,000 cassettes were sold in the US. Those figures are likely to be reflected in the UK.



When making mixtapes I’d arrived at a series of golden rules. Always start with two fast paced corkers one after the other. Make the third slower. Surprise with a build between fast and slow. Be unexpected. And never, ever let the tape run out before the track finished. Ever.

In High Fidelity, Nick Hornby’s story of a music obsessive the mixtape is a way repressed men could communicate. He impressed his girlfriend with a mixtape.

In the late 1990s powered with red wine I  compiled a cassette for a girl.  With Stereolab, The Stone Roses, The La’s and The Beatles it was a combination of care and bravado. Just enough sensitivity with a layer of cool disregard just in case.

The girl who I made that tape for 12-years ago, dear reader, is now my wife. The tape? Somewhere in the loft.


A rather marvellous conversation on Twitter sparked the idea of Mixtape night classes. Like woodwork or macrame these skills could be kept alive at Stafford College. What would those sessions look like? Check @janetedavis’ quite excellent Mixtape night school syllabus. There is input there from @sarahlay and @jvictor7 too.

Feel free to contribute your own…

Creative commons credits

Cassettes Erica Marshall

Mixtape links

Philip John’s excellent blog on how Spotify risks failure by not tapping into the social side of compiling play lists is here.

Jim Anning’s Twitpic of his mixtape. I could have had a borrow of that back in the day. The shot is here.

A mixtape USB stick. The dream present for geek music lovers over 25. Amazing. Thanks to @cahrlottetwitts it’s here. 

You can rely on Flickr for having a mixtape group. They’re here.

Steph has written a fantastic post about the mix CD that her chap James game to her in the mid-1990s. It shows brilliantly the stories behind the homemade selections. Read it here.

Epic visionary Sarah Lay has written a  great piece on what the mixtape means to her. It’s a great read and it’s here.

Jamie Summerfield blogged about how a mixtape helped provide the answer after his father died. You can read it here. 

This is genius. An idea by Andrew Dubber for a mixtape making service was picked up by a Canadian web developer who created this wonderful, amazing, brilliant thing here.