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Page last updated at 09:51 GMT, Monday, 8 June 2009 10:51 UK
Me and my blog

St Marylebone Church
View of St Marylebone Church in the winter

By Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore

My first attempt at creating my own blog was a disaster.

In January 2009 I set up "Religion Matters", a review of religion in the news.

It was too broad and too ambitious. The site is now in its cyber-grave and I have turned to blogging about what I know best.

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore

Marylebone Blog is a mix of reviews, photos and musings about the area where I've lived since I was 18.

Aimed specifically at residents or visitors to the area, it is both a personal scrapbook and, I hope, a source of trusted information from a local.

I picked Marylebone because recording the everyday and the extraordinary that goes on in this tiny pocket of London is a constant joy. I am the third generation of my family to have lived here.

My grandfather had a doctor's practice near Harley Street, famous for its medical surgeries, while my uncle, who is a writer, worked in the same flat I live in now.

My blog is simply a 21st century version of the journals and scrapbooks they kept before me. Marylebone Blog is more than a public diary, though.

It focuses on giving out useful information about local restaurants, shops, cafes, markets and news. As such it always includes telephone numbers and addresses for venues reviewed.

Inspiration came from social media expert Robin Hamman who runs the local site St Alban's Blog

His blog features everything from train times to recommendations of good local builders. "It seemed like a good way for me to reward businesses providing good products or services," says Hamman.

A street in Marylebone Village
A street in Marylebone Village

Reviews, he adds, help the small, local businesses who "need support", which is particularly crucial in the current economic climate.

Hyper-local bloggers - who blog about one street, borough or town - have served to replace aspects of the dying local paper, nourishing community life and reporting on anything from council meetings to new restaurant openings.

Examples such as Preston Blog , Camden Kiwi and Street Hawker show, when done well, how effective they can be.

Street Hawker, with its witty, lyrical postings on Hackney from the "wide-eyes" of a new resident, has had 978,505 hits to date. While newspapers have to bear in mind a wide audience, blogs can cater to a very specific community.

Although varying in tone and content, each of these local blogs have one thing in common. Authors blog about something that, as a local, they are an expert on.

Graham Holliday, who set up the cult Vietnamese street-food blog Noodlepie , says this is key.

Holliday originally felt obliged to first attempt a news blog: "I read it back and thought who is going to read this?" he admits. "I realised that I had to firstly blog about something I was really interested in. I only wrote about what I knew, and then other people would add to it along the way."

As for Marylebone Blog , it appeals to someone who might find themselves ambling down the Marylebone High Street and wants to learn more, or who goes there every day but needs a new angle.

Has it achieved what it set out to? It is in its early stages, but I like to compare it to a life-support machine.

Two months ago its heartbeat was flat, with little or no visitors. But as it continues to take shape and grow, so do the number of hits. Slowly the heartbeat is getting stronger.

My top five blogs:

Frozen Pieces of Life

Glorious photographs of cityscapes in Chicago by amateur photographer Patrick Byrne. The city is portrayed with tenderness and awe in equal measure.

delicious:days

"All things delicious" are sumptuously explored in this award-winning food blog from Munich. Recipes on offer include braided Easter bread with chorizo, white asparagus soup with vanilla and pomegranate and pistachio yoghurt.

Post Secret

Anonymous confessions from ordinary people stuck on postcards and posted online. Wonderful, terrifying, beautiful - humanity laid bare.

Street Hawker

Lyrical and often dreamy musings on the streets of Hackney from the "wide-eyes" of a new resident. A refreshing take on London.

Spotted by Locals

Reviews and tips on eating, shopping and going out in cities around Europe written by residents. Designed for travellers who want to experience a city "the local way".

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, 25, is currently completing postgraduate studies in journalism at City University London. She lives in Marylebone and writes about the arts, current affairs and religion




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