Sunday, January 29, 2006

How to take better clubbing photos

One of our most popular features reprinted here for you to have no excuse when you are out clubbing and taking pictures for us!

Better Clubbing Photos

It's a great time we live in. Digital cameras and phones allow us to take pictures in ways we have never been able to do properly. That includes taking your camera down the club to snap some happy memories. The downside is that clubs and festivals are not the best place for photographs. They might be full of beautiful people wearing very little, but it won't take long before they are mostly gibbering messes in various corners. Plus there is the boring factor. Who wants to look at million of pictures with a slight variation on a theme - girl with mates, boy with rowdy mates, girl on her own, boy with even more rowdy mates. How do you make it interesting? How do you make your memories stand out and look great?

Here are some of the basic guidelines to taking pictures in general. These apply just as much in a club as they do on the beach at Bora Bora (or even taking snaps of your favourite baby cousins birthday). However you look at it, they are going to make your pictures better.

1. Rule of Thirds

Alistair Houston explains:

Imaginary lines are drawn dividing the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically. You place important elements of your composition where these lines intersect. I've even made a little diagram for you.



Good places to put things; third of the way up, third of the way in from the left , you get the idea. Duff places to put things; right in the middle, right at the top, right at the bottom, away in the corner. Using the Rule of Thirds helps produce nicely balanced easy on the eye pictures. Also, as you have to position things relative to the edges of the frame it helps get rid of ' tiny subject surrounded by vast empty space' syndrome.



2. Six Feet Up is Bad

Neil Turner on positioning:



It is very easy to hold the camera to your eye and take a picture. Good photography requires us all to think about where we are taking the picture from as well as what we are taking. The best photographs are made when the photographer chooses a vantage point to suit the subject, and it is surprising how few subjects are suited by the height of a human standing at their full five to six feet. I will lay good money that 90% of pictures are better when taken from below four feet or over seven.

3. Fill the Frame

More ideas from Silverlight:



Sometimes your mind tends to exaggerate what you see through the viewfinder of your camera. You often perceive things a bit bigger than they actually are and you also tend not to notice 'slight' distractions. What you end up with is photographs with huge areas of wasted space around the edge and people with things growing out of their heads. Make sure your subject fills the frame. The best way to do this is to move a bit closer. Before you press that shutter release have a quick look round the edge of the frame and behind your subject. Make sure that you don't have acres of space full of nothing interesting and check for 'stuff' intruding into your masterpiece.



4. Take Vertical Pictures

Where better to go for advice than Kodak themselves. Particualrly when it comes to turning the camera round.



Is your camera vertically challenged? It is if you never turn it sideways to take a vertical picture. All sorts of things look better in a vertical picture. From a lighthouse near a cliff to the Eiffel Tower to your four-year-old niece jumping in a puddle. So next time out, make a conscious effort to turn your camera sideways and take some vertical pictures.




5. Pay Attention to Lines

Finally, a more general tip from Fotofinish but as you can see from our examples, lines are just as important in clubbing.



Curves, straight lines, and diagonals add energy and movement to your compositions. Let roads and rivers draw the viewer into the image or lead the viewer's eye in a specific direction. Watch for natural geometric patterns and place yourself at an interesting angle to them.




So there you have it. Now you have no excuse. Your pics will look great and it's all thanks to Gurn. No need to thank us.

The next step is to let the world see what great photography skills you now have. That bit is easy because we have a gallery just for such an occasion. Just head over to the Work For Us page and sign up. Before you know it, your new found skills will be gracing the the purple and orange pages of the Gallery. Tony Hart would be proud.



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Hifi festival plans, Homelands stories.

The rumour is out. According to efestivals, Homelands has been replaced by a new festival from Godskitchen owners Angel Music Group and it's going to be called HiFi.

There is still a chance that Homelands will go ahead, but doing it at a different time (and place) may not be the same. This got me thinking that it would be a good time to do a feature on Homelands. I want to base it around the experiences of clubbers who were there, both the good and the bad.

With that in mind, I want you to get in touch with your Homelands stories, funny, stupid, exciting or weird so we can build a tribute to an event that will be missed on the clubbing calendar.

If you have a Homelands story drop me a line (david [at] gurn dot net) or leave a comment.





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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Does anyone else in clubbing have a blog?

Blogging is big in the technology world. Every programmer, consultant and big company seems to have a blog. But where are the clubbing industry weblogs?

I guess the trend has not really caught on. Does that make me a trend setter in the industry? Maybe, but only if others take on the idea of blogging as a way of communicating with both the industry and the clubbers themselves. I beleive it can create new, easy ways of creating conversations. It would be great to see blogs and podcasts from people working for places like Ministry of Sound, Cream, Godskitchen, Gatecrasher or Mean Fiddler. Is there anyone else out there doing it?

I know 99th Floor Elevators have a blog which keeps people up to date with their releases. Twist has an interesting idea on their blog of making it a newsletter. What else?

There are a few DJ diaries knocking about which could be classed as a blog with another name. Good as they are, they are limited. Blogs are not just clubbing diaries, they are information points, news sources and places to discuss topics of interest. DJ diaries certainly don’t allow the building blocks of blog conversations – comments and trackbacks. It’s not enough for me.

So I’m sending out a cry to the ‘blogosphere’ as it is painfully called. Do you work in clubbing and have a blog? Do you want to start one but don’t know how? Do you think the whole blogging thing is a pointless exercise?

Let me know.




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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Advertise your club for free

Here is a little preview of a feature I'm writing for our latest marketing campaign. If you are a club promoter feel free to read on and as usual all constructive feedback is appreciated.

Advertise your event on Gurn.net for free

Life as a promoter is hard. We know that. DJs chuck strops (if they turn up), flyering is hard work, everyone wants to either get in free or have a turn on the decks and you have to deal with boozed up nutters causing trouble. That’s if anyone actually bothers to come through the door.

Lucky for you the future is bright with The Great Gurn Backscratch.

Here's the deal. We are giving away £200 worth of advertising on Gurn.net for nothing, nada, not a penny. We are doing it every month and we want to give this month’s booty to you.

Where do I sign?

Heck, you don’t even have to sign anything. Entry is free and you can enter as many times as you like every month. Here is how it works:

  1. Download the totally amazing Gurn.net logo from here
  2. Add the logo to your next flyer
  3. When you get the flyers printed post one to us at Gurn HQ. Make sure you put your contact details in.
  4. On the last Friday of every month we put all the flyers in Meza’s Purple Hat, rummage around and pull out a winner!

We will contact the winner and give them £200 worth of advertising on the Gurn.net website for free. Then the whole thing begins again.

There are a couple of rules, so NO CHEATING and NO HEAVY PETTING. You can enter as many times as you like in a month, and you can enter as many months as you like. However, all flyers must be for a forthcoming event and each entry must be a different flyer. So you can’t send the same flyer in 100 times. Sorry.

All the usual competition terms and conditions apply too. A full copy of these is available on request.




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5 things to do if you are being undercut

Undercutting is one of the worse things that can happen to a small business. It might seem like a good idea to be the cheapest, but it’s a high-risk strategy that can kill a market. Clubbing is no exception.

In the clubbing website business there is currently a real problem with undercutting. In our case it’s because the market is made up of a large number of sites run by enthusiasts who don’t worry too much about the return as long as they have some pocket money.

There is also a site doing major undercuts of current market value, forcing everyone else to drive their prices down to compete. This is suicidal. The database of clubbing emails they are using is becoming saturated with too many adverts. Even hardened clubbers don’t want their inboxes filled with email flyers for every night in the UK. Nobody makes money if mailshots become ineffective.

How do you compete?

To cut prices to match would kill us off, so we need to find ways to add value to our customers rather than reduce price. These are our idea on ways to battle the undercutters.
  1. Know your enemy. Analyse what the undercutter is doing and draw up a direct comparison with your offering. Find the strong areas and the weak areas so when your customers mention prices you have a strong reply.
  2. Don’t try to compete on price. Nobody buys on price. Everyone buys on the results they get. In the clubbing website game people are buying brand awareness and customers through the door, not advertising. Show your customers what you have that nobody else does. If you undercut to undercutter you end up in a price war that kills future profits and everyone is worse off.
  3. Add value to your offering. If you feel you are lagging in the dangerous area between high value and low price then move upmarket. Add extra value and forget about trying to "do an EasyJet" by going no frills and low price. We have started a program to do this. We now show customers a full report on the return on investment that we expect to give them. Nobody else in the clubbing website market comes close to that.
  4. Get creative. Look for new angles on old markets. Start a blog to enable communication between you and your customers. Examine trends and follow them. Never sit still.
  5. Be exceptional. Be so good at what you do that people talk about your service. If your competitors reply to emails then you make sure you ring people. If your competitors ring people then you set up meetings and waw them with power point. Remember your customer’s birthdays, even the ones who don’t spend much. It might be a cliché to say ‘Go the extra mile’ but people really do appreciate the personal touch if it’s genuine. Everyone spends more money if they have an emotional attachment.


It’s a slow process to move into new markets, especially when you have to create them with existing customers who are very price aware and think they know all the value you have to offer. In the long run though it’s worth showing your customers you are not in it for short-term cash, you are in it for a long-term successful partnership because that makes both sides much more money!






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Saturday, January 21, 2006

How to make a press release interesting

This post might be about clubbing and dance music based press, but it works for anyone writing a press release about anything.

We get a lot of club related press releases at Gurn.net and I would say less than 1 in 50 make it onto the site. They tend to be generic and aimed at getting a free advert out of us. The trouble is that they are not of interest to clubbers so they get chucked out.

It’s not that we don’t want to publish press releases. It’s more that we want to engage our readers with unique content. We want to make our news and features interesting for our clubbing audience (It’s one of my pet projects)

So in the interest of openness here is my guide to making a press release interesting enough to be published.

  1. Make it interesting. You have to have something to say that engages us and hooks us in. We have a responsibility to deliver content that informs and entertains. A list of DJs and the size of the sound system is important but everyone tells us that. Find an angle that would make people look at the release as a piece of news and not an advert.
  2. Give something away. Everyone likes a free lunch, and some websites thrive on giving away tonnes of free tickets to events. We work a bit differently so when you decide to give something away you need to give it away to everyone. See Bleep's free mp3 downloads or EMI’s links to dance music videos.
  3. Get personal. Sankeys Soap in Manchester are getting a lot of coverage from us at the moment. This is mainly because of Damo their PR guy. He stays in constant touch with us, answering our every whim and setting up all kinds of content of very high quality. He has a brilliant personal touch that smacks the usual faceless press release in the gob with a wet fish.
  4. Be controversial. We love a good debate and a press release that attacks an issue head on is going to get in the news. We want to be interactive, and nothing sparks interaction like a debatable issue.
  5. Make it readable. DON’T TYPE IN RED CAPITALS! Use spell check. Think about grammar and punctuation. Dnt type lke itz a tx msg LOLZ! It might be basic, but there are so many that get binned because we just don’t know what the author is banging on about.


Follow those 5 points and your chances of getting attention and getting published will rocket. You still won’t be a guarantee though. To get that you need to engage your brain even more and be prepared to work with us to come up with some really creative stuff. Things like coming up with content ideas, letting us stream mixes, giving us information we can pass on and becoming a regular contributor. Good PR isn’t just about sending a good press release, it’s about working together to create something better for both sides.








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Friday, January 20, 2006

Promoting to club promoters

I have been pondering over original ways to grab the attention of our club promoter customers. Most promoters only bother with free listings which is great for us because we get traffic looking at our adverts. But, as you might expect, promoters don't get much for nothing.

There is a lot better service available if promoters spend some money. I want our customers to be successful because if their events are jammed with clubbers then we get more clubbing people using the site and bigger amounts spent on advertising, so I send out an email every week with an offer or feature I think might be interesting. I really try to avoid it being spam. I want to add value and build relationships, not annoy.

This week it's an offer that should cost promoters nothing and get the Gurn.net name spread a bit wider and into clubbers minds who would not traditionally think to visit us. A sort of clubbing version of viral marketing in the way that is talked about in The Tipping Point. I have called it the Gurn Back Scratch.

I also put a link to this blog at the bottom of the email, so I'm interested in feedback if you are looking at this via that email. Is the offer what you want or should I be barking up another tree?

Oh yes, and if you came here from the email and you want to unsubscribe then my contact info is on the right as well as on the email. The last thing I want to do is wind people up with information they are not interested in.





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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

New staff, guestlists and account management

We are expanding the workforce here again. Very shortly we will have someone to upload new club content to the site on a daily basis. This will free me up to do the actual content creation and look after our team of contributors a bit more closely.

We are always looking for contributors and there are certain benefits (even if pay is not one of them). I got this job by working my way up from an unpaid photographer. Plus more directly, you can get onto club guest lists and get in free with ease. Everyone wins; we get pictures, clubbers go clubbing for free and nights get free publicity.

It will also allow me to concentrate more on sales and account management. We have good relationships with big events like Cream and Godskitchen and I want to expand that into other promoters and other areas that might like exposure to our readers (like record labels). To do this we need to play to our big advantages:
  • We have a well established and strong brand
  • We are experienced in big offline stuff like the Gurn Bus
  • Our content is original, respected and strongly written
  • We have a sales manager (me) who wants to creatively manage accounts and develop brands.
I’m interested in what promoters might think about this. I know there is loads of clubbing websites about, and not much difference between them. Do these advantages get promoters excited?

We are planning in the near future to talk to our bigger customers about this directly. That said, I want as much input as possible. Do you promote a night or work in the industry? What do you think about using websites in this way? How does Gurn.net fit in to your opinions?
I know it goes against the general grain, but I actually want to hear your constructive criticisms.






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Monday, January 16, 2006

Do clubbers want clubbing news?

Our news section is showing a great improvement since I lasted noted that we need to do something. That said, It has been a mixed bag. There is relevant clubbing news articles going up at the rate of three or four a week which is good. It could be better though. I was hoping to be able to do a couple a day and always be first with the breaking news.

At the moment it's more of an interesting aside than a fully researched section. The stories are short and don't have pictures. The rate is slower than I hoped because it takes about half an hour to re-write the content from it's orginal source. Also, I have compared the section to both online and offline clubbing news (like Trustthedj, DJ Magazine and Resident Advisor) and while we do well, there is room in the clubbing news arena to break stuff first, get instant reactions and do more in-depth analysis (perhaps in our features section).

Of course, this is all based on the assumption that clubbers want to read and comment on clubbing news. Is it seen as important or is it just a sneaky way for clubs and labels to get press releases read? Your thoughts, as always, are welcomed. Do clubbers want clubbing news?





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5 steps to planning your next 12 months

I’m on the train heading back from the new offices in Northampton. We have spent the last two days putting together our plan for the next year (maybe longer). It’s very exciting to put our lists of things we want to do down on paper and work out how we are going to attack the fifty or so projects we identified.

It’s brilliant catharsis.

Amazingly, due to the lengthy discussions on most things, this took over 17 hours to complete, but now it’s done we have a direction and a plan down on paper and it feels great. Who would have thought a clubbing website needs so much attention?

I highly recommend that you buy Getting Things Done by David Allen if you ever want to go through a similar process. But if you are a cheapskate (like I was for a few months before Meza bought it for me), here are my tips to a successful planning session:
  1. Have a braindump. This is similar to brainstorming in that you get every idea you can out of your brain and down on paper. Write each idea on a separate bit of paper (we used 3x5” cards because they are easy to move around).
  2. Sort the cards into rough areas. We knew this wasn’t true GTD but it helped us feel better. We moved the cards around into urgent and non-urgent.
  3. Get amongst it. We started on the urgent pile, picked up each card, and worked out whether we wanted to do it or it on our wish list (Allen calls the Someday/Maybe list) to look at another time.
  4. Defer it. If we wanted to do it we would discuss ideas then come up with a few actions that need to be taken. Allen calls these “next actions” and some projects had several actions because of their size, some just had one, some had no next action (because they were either done or not worth doing) and so were binned. Now we had a “to do” list in the traditional sense.
  5. Put it into a system. We entered all the relevant urgent projects into Outlook and used the task system as next actions. If you want to use Outlook in the GTD system then see Managing GTD Projects in Outlook for advice on how to set it up in the right way. There are loads of other systems from all singing software to pen and paper.
As a side note, because of the large nature of this planning session we decided to stick to the 14 most urgent projects and put the rest away for a few weeks to give us a chance to get some urgent things done. If your planning is smaller, then you would not need to stagger it like we have.





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Thursday, January 12, 2006

How to run a festival stage

We are lucky enough to have good ties with all the big dance music festivals. Clubbers at Creamfields, Godskitchen, Gatcrasher and Escape have all had the Gurn experience at their events. It’s great profile for the site and people love our concept. Here are a few things we stick to when organising our stage:


  1. Have a really good Events Manager. We are lucky to have Nobby, a guy bubbling with ideas and enthusiasm but not prepared to put up with crap. Without a strong leader chaos soon descends.
  2. Location, Location, Location. Phil and Kirsty were right about it. It can make a huge difference to the number of clubbers stopping to listen and getting their groove on. Get there early and find the person who makes the decisions before the various hot dog sellers and ice cream vans pinch the best spots.
  3. Play the right music. We play dance classics which is the perfect sound for an outdoor stage. Find your niché and claim it.
  4. Work very, very, very hard. Making a stage work is not for liggers and hangers on. DJs need drinks, mixers need to be moved around between sets, you need to stop blaggers trying to get backstage, the list goes on. I walked/jogged miles carrying stuff about and stood about for ages handing out cards and taking pictures. There may be time to catch a set or two, but probably not. Who says we are in it for the fun?
  5. Don’t expect to make any money. We do it as part of our marketing plan. The costs are high and nobody is prepared to pay huge sums to have us on-site. It’s done for love of dance music and it’s done to get new members. You won’t get rich putting on a stage.




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Monday, January 09, 2006

Pete Tong's mobile number

Not that I actually spoke to him, but I got Pete Tong's mobile number for an interview we are doing with him on podcasting. Meza did the interview and he also is talking to Yousef today. Stay tuned for both.

Oh the glamour! It sure beats standing in the drizzle at 6am making sure nobody nicks the Gurn Bus from Godskitchen Global Gathering.





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Sunday, January 08, 2006

How to rebuild a clubbing community

Gurn used to have far and way the biggest clubbing forum in the world. These days it's quieter than it was, although we are still pretty busy compared to others.

At it's most popular, the community was built on a unique combination of relentless mickey-taking, large cliqués and being freindly to newbies who 'got' the sense of humour. It went through a time where the friendliness vanished and was replaced by scandals that revealed personal secrets of the members and plain nastiness to everyone by everyone.

That lead to a drop in postings and left only the most hardcore/thick skinned of users. It's much better now because we brought in some firm new rules that most people seem to follow and opened a forum called "The Shallow End" for newbies. My next aim is to try and get the main forums back to their former glory.

The always excellent Creating Passionate Users set me thinking:
if you're trying to inspire passionate users, I believe that enforcing a "Be Friendly" rule can be one of the best moves for long-term growth and retention of the community.
That was pretty much what we tried to do with the new rules, but it's so simple it's very appealing. What else can we do to develop things further?

  • Encorage greater contributions through the other interactive parts of the site
  • Use the personal touch and get more people to sign up at the events we do. We can turn up with a laptop, take their details and their picture. When they get home they are already signed up and their mug is in the gallery.
  • Have a forum cull. Our main competitor has literally hundreds of forums. If we want to be distinct we should go the other way and start killing outdated forums that are making us look silly.

As always, I'm open to other suggestions. Hit me with your comments, am I going the right way?





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5 steps to getting dance music for free (legally)

Now I know the world loves free stuff (who would have guessed?) I have decided to start an occassional series outlining the ways that clubbers and promoters alike can blag themselves things using the power of Gurn. Part one is how to get free dance music legally.
  1. Listen to some of your CDs/vinyl (doesn't matter how old) and make a few notes on what you think about them. More specifically, think of ways to describe the sound and how the music fits into the scene in a more general way.
  2. Fill in the Tune Review section on Gurn.net
  3. Add a Top 10 to show the world what you are digging at the moment.
  4. Contribute to the community via the comments section and Tunespotters forum.
  5. Get in touch with me via any method you prefer - email is david [at] gurn dot net, Private Message, Call the office or even carrier pidgeon. If you have taken the first 4 steps I will make sure free music starts arriving by making the labels know you are a trusted music reviewer.
Yes, I admit it's a bit of work, but it's hardly a great effort considering all the free music you will get as a result. You know all your clubbing mates will be well jealous. We do need you. We only have one reviewer (who is doing a sterling job) but we don't have nearly enough reviews for my liking. This way everyone wins. Labels get publicity, we get content, you get the music upfront.

Stay tuned for my next part - getting into clubs for free.




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Friday, January 06, 2006

The art of giving stuff away

I learned this week that you can give something away to get even more back.

Every week I send out a short email to our list of club promoters. It usually advertises something like our banner services, or the fact we host back rooms like this Sundissential one at Gatecrasher One (where I played one of my 4 ever DJ gigs). This time I mentioned in passing that we are looking for galleries, and uploading them is free.

Usually I get one or maybe two replies, but this time I was flooded with offers of content. As my job has the dual aim of making sales and getting extra content I realised that this is a great way of doing both.
  • The club night gets to put up their gallery for free so we get loads of quality content
  • I have a regular contact with the clubbing promoters.
  • Regular contact will lead to a certain percentage of extra sales.
Lucky for me I had prepared a guide to uploading galleries to email out to people. So I would like to extend the offer to promoters and clubbers again. You can put your pictures up on Gurn. If you drop me a line I can send you the instructions.

Eventually I'll put the guide online as part of my forthcoming "blag your way into clubs" series. Which also reminds me that I have set up a Squidoo Lens that fills the gap between this blog and Gurn itself.




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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Lessons from a sales campaign

Our Christmas sales campaign is over and it was a mixed bag. We did get some good responses so we could all enjoy are festive puddings and NYE clubbing. On the downside we still seem cuaght between two markets. Not quite high quality enough for the big stuff and not mass market enough for the small events.

I have mentioned before that the middle ground is the most dangerous. So what did we learn from the campaign to take into the next one?
  • It's time to start improving both the quality and frequency of content. It's good for SEO, good for our members and positions us as a quality product to our advertisers.
  • We need to build more long term relationships with customers. Simple sales/service techniques like staying in touch with potential and current clients are priceless. Especially in a market as crowded as clubbing websites
  • Take our eggs out of one basket. We have started to offer downloads which is a great start, but we need to look at areas where we can get more revenue such as memberships, business to business services, streaming content, products and even Adsense.
Sales is the hardest part of this job, but I think we are starting to get a handle on it at last. Of course, all tips are gratefully accepted in the comments box or via email.




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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hifi Festival

You have reached the landing page for unoffical Hifi Festival information. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.

I work for Gurn.net. We have been working closely with AMG who run Hifi North and South. We are organising a few things for them, both online and offline. If you need to know something just ask. Email me or get me on MSN (listed in my profile).

To be the first with the Hi:Fi news - subscribe here

Links

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Contact

I'm happy to talk to anyone with a question, sales query, feature idea or discussion point. To get hold of me:



You can contact me via the form on Gurn.net

Phone

Office Phone: +44 (0) 8701 208375

Snail Mail

Gurn Ltd
10 Cheyne Walk
Northampton
NN1 5PT
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