Stabbing adds to BlackBerry woes
(Since this article was written, the victim has died). The woes for BlackBerry never seem to get any better. Last night, I was invited alongside other journalists, ‘celebs’ (well people from reality TV programmes and bands I’d never heard of) and ordinary BlackBerry users who won competitions to an event supposed to showcase the great things you can still do with a BlackBerry, as the company tries to fight back after years in the tech doldrums.
Unfortunately the night turned to chaos and tragedy after a member of the public was stabbed with a bottle in the neck by another man right next to a BlackBerry branded bar. The police did arrest someone on site and the victim was rushed by ambulance to an East London hospital where he underwent surgery in the early hours of the morning.
I have to say on a personal level, it was an incredibly odd event to have found myself at. On any night of the week, there’s at least one tech industry event that I could go to, should I be so inclined and in reality I tend to only go to events organised by the big names and BlackBerry is still a big name. I have to say that adding a big name musician to an event, tends to get more interest from the likes of me, in part because it can be a fun night out with a friend while sort of still doing a little bit of work. Normally though, you’d expect to maybe see other journalists, company executives, politicians, PR people and occasionally the odd celebrity who in some way has a link to the product or the type of technology.
But this was an incredibly odd night that in a sense encapsulated the troubles the company that makes BlackBerry (Research in Motion) is facing. As soon as we arrived at the venue, my friend Vivienne (who happens to manage the media and public relations including events for a charity) and I felt slightly uncomfortable. There were a lot of very young people trying to get into the venue, the ‘guest list’ checks were cursory (if at all) and when we did got through the door, despite me asking around ten PR people for BlackBerry or its PR agency, I still had not the faintest idea what the event was really about.
The closest I got was ‘a celebration of BBM’, the company’s instant message system, which was accused of having been used by rioters to organise last year’s disturbances and to outwit the police. There were BBM symbols around the venue and you could, if you wanted to, order a drink using a BlackBerry from a phone clamped to tables. However, this proved tricky as a lot of the phones had apparently been stolen before we arrived.
We dutifully stayed at the event, mainly because Vivienne is a big fan of Wretch 32 and of Jessie J, I have to say I’ve never heard of the former and will probably never listen to his music again. But during Jessie J’s set, we decided that we should try and leave because the place was very crowded and frankly very rowdy. As Vivienne said to me “normally at these events, people are handing you out a glass of bubbly and every one is well behaved. The kids here are each just continually leaving the bar with multiple drinks in their hands. This isn’t normal.” As it goes, clearly a lot of people had the same thought as us and were trying to retrieve their coats and bags from the cloakroom and a huge queue had begun.
But when the singer finally finished, the entire area became flooded with people and a queue turned into a scrum. Knowing that my medication was in the cloakroom and that we’d clearly be taking a long time to get out, Vivienne got into her best PR mode and sweet talked a bouncer to get our stuff for us. Unfortunately he couldn’t find our bag, but luckily it meant we were quite a way from the location of the stabbing. Had she not have done that, our place in the scrum was literally a metre or so away from where the stabbing happened.
Minutes after the stabbing, all of the doors to the venue were locked and we were trapped inside with all the other people. Obviously being an avid social media user, I did tweet information and images from the scene and was then contacted by the Telegraph and the Press Association who I recounted what I had seen happen and what I had learnt from speaking to witnesses.
All in all this was a terrible night for the victim but also for BlackBerry. It was clearly intended to be an event to get BlackBerry in the papers, associated with a very contemporary popstar who happens to be a BlackBerry user. The company has got in the papers, but for all the wrong reasons. In the end, I’m afraid to say, it has simply associated BlackBerry and its BBM service once again with mindless violence, exactly what it was trying to get away from.
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