Friday 30 July 2010

Weighting for an opportunity

Birmingham has so many fantastic small museums, little known about, surely in danger of disappearing?  Avery Historical Museum is up there with the pen museum, transport museum, Avonscroft buildings museum and the jewellery quarter museum, as a real jem, and also as an opportunity for some serious creative work with schools.

Maths, science, history of industrial revolution, got it all.  Amazing Soho Foundry history - see original wood roof supports incredible cellars, home of experiments, research and trade secrets that changed the world.

Saturday 24 July 2010

Schools, Libraries, theatres, Birmingham

Birmingham will soon have a New Library!  Fantastic news, and something to look forward to, also to look back and reflect on the purpose of Library, its history and how best to utilise this opportunity, particularly for our young people.

Joseph Priestley (yes, the very same lunar man, and discoverer of oxygen) had his hand in the original 'Birmingham Library', founded in 1779, run on a 'subscription' basis, but very much to address issues of equality and access to information and social improvement:

The next birmingham library was built on Union Street, and was very much tied to the 'Free Libraries' movement in Birmingham, then the BMI library, now the Priestley Library, then Edmund street, where the 'Shakespeare library' comes (soon to be top floor of new Library).  Throughout the last 150 years there has also been the growth of community libraries, all based on the principles of the 'Free Library' movement, and Joseph Priestley's library 250 years ago.

One distinct difference between our new library plans and the older libraries is the partnership with the Rep.  For young people in Birmingham, both these institutions - Libraries and Theatres, there are very different perceptions:

For Theatres, the age old of perception of young people is that theatres are elitist.  To get young people into theatres is a significant achievement for our Rep.  For our libraries, the perception is almost the exact opposite - Young people may not take full advantage of the range of services in libraries, but they are certainly present in them.  So much so, they are often seen as a problem in our libraries - For many Libraries in Birmingham, to keep (large numbers of 'troublesome') young people out of the library is sometimes seen as an achievement.

Take Small Heath, a library built as part of a school, leisure and community centre complex.  The original 70s design included a doorway directly between the school and library.  Photo opposite is that doorway between school and library bricked up precisely because of the problems some young people were causing in the library.  The librarians struggle to cater for the huge numbers of people, young and old, using libraries.

So potentially Libraries and Theatres - a match made in heaven?  The picture is far more complicated, and a great challenge long after the new library is built, particularly as the cost of the library has huge implications for the library service as a whole.  We must keep sacred to the valuable principles of 'free libraries' so well represented across all of Birmingham, providing free access to information to all, embracing new means of access to information, while maintaining old.

The discussion continues on how the library space inside is used and maintained, service and access provided, we need to open up to everyone in Birmingham, particularly our young people, a discussion on the value of Free Libraries and their place in our communities.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Connected Histories - Contribution of Muslim Communities to WWII

17th July to 4th October BMAG Community Gallery

Young People explore contribution of Muslim communities to WWII.  Muslim and non-Muslim groups look at key events and themes through history workshops, debates and discussions, then creatively explore these through video, sound, artwork, working with Vanley Burke, Sima Gonsai reflecting on aspects of their own lives, experiences and perceptions.

Opened by Rita and Brian, 'The past casting a light on the present', then Neelam (third from left, Vanley is first on left) a participant, blew everyone away with her speech:  'I am British, I wear a Hijab, and I am as much a  part of our union jack, our time I will wear a poppy with pride.'
It is vital this message is heard, across all our society, all the more poignant coming from a young, hijab wearing muslim woman.  Listening to young people animated, focused, eloquent and determined can be quite moving,  maybe because across our media, in our society, young people rarely do have the opportunity to be heard, and even less often taken seriously.

Definiitely worth a visit.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Operation Black Vote - one to follow

Came across this through Linkedin, when made contact with the fabulous Rebecca Hemmings, founder of Soliloquy.
We worked on A shared History, A Shared future slavery project in 2007 on behalf of library services - she is a fantastic drama practitioner, and respect her work.  Web pages may fade, but archives linger on.

Bishop Joe Aldred also took part in our 2007 'A Shared History, A shared Future' slavery project is a part of OPV

Operation Black Vote, according to Rebecca:

"OBV's work is outstanding in my books, they are really reaching where others haven't managed to. "

Rebecca is shadowing Simon Hughes, deputy leader Lib Dems, and she blogs her progress.  Four other MPs are being shadowed.  I think it's great - check it out for yourself, keep up with blogs, do all you can to support them.

Image thanks Rebecca, story on Ben Radio

Friday 9 July 2010

People power - Kings Heath Primary

Friends from Stan's Cafe tweeted about last blog on Jenni Bee, in praise of Jenni Bee who also did dance at school fair, which reminded me how fantastic the parents are at Kings Heath, for organising an event like our school fete, but also my children's first real taste of protest and people power:

When KHP was identified as a school to go from three to four form entry, I didn't actually think we, as parents could do much - Colmore up the road had already accepted a move from three to four form entry as inevitable.  Luckily there were some parents who decided (independent of staff at school, although many were probably sympathetic) that we should stand up to our council and stop the planned expansion.

The campaign involved collecting signatures, an open letter to our council, a number of meetings , setting up a website, organising interviews with press and a playground protest.  Shortly after the protest, a slightly ambiguous statement was issued from Councillor Laurence to say they were  never seriously considering expansion at Kings Heath(?) - BBC Midlands covered the story and so did the Birmingham Post (which I now follow on Twitter - starting to get the hang of tweeting now!)

We had gone as a family to the protest, made our own banners, practiced the songs that had been made specially for the protest (Bob the builder - Can you build it, no you can't, and Tears for Fears classic Shout shout, let's kick it out!)  sang them along with guitar and megaphone someone had brought along, and showed our 'red cards' to the BBC people, and the builders.  Later on we heard some of the children had sung the songs for 'Show and Tell', one of which was our boy, Arthur.

It was strangely quite emotional seeing everyone out there protesting and obviously had an effect on our children.  What we'd all learned is we can make a difference and protest really can work.  Must make sure to get children out to a decent protest soon to keep enthusiasm going!

Shame from a later blog on 18th June Councillor Martin Mullaney (although titled expansion plans 'stopped') the council don't 'rule out expansion at Kings Heath at a later date'.

Thursday 8 July 2010


Just found the 'labels' widget - have a backlog of labels to do, but will get there.  Wish I'd known before.  Now created 5 blogs for different projects and parts of life.  Starting to look organised.  Hmm...  Also twitter links in well with blogs, and if only I can keep spending time reading others as well as writing own, all will be hunkydory.

Monday 5 July 2010

World Cup 2010: Learning through failure

Newsflash: England have failed to win the world cup. Perhaps England squad, and nation, can take some comfort from wise words regarding failure:

We only learn through failure.

There is no such thing as failure, only a failure to reflect.

The only real failure is the failure to try.

There are no failures - just experiences and your reactions to them.

Failure reveals character.

You may fail many times, but you are only a failure when you say somebody pushed you.

More here

And what did I learn our failure in the World Cup?
 It's only football, and cheats do sometimes prosper...

Freya sporting the new range of goaly gloves

Anyone remember Drugstore - Offside?

Friday 2 July 2010

Digitise my life

The other day I was challenged about my 100 hour challenge - Isn't my challenge just doing my job? Which...erm... it is, kind of. Can't get round that really. And another thing - what exactly is my challenge?

Well first of all, what is it I do for my job? I'd like to think as Community Art worker, what I do is value people's lives and support people to express themselves the way they want to.
It's about making connections between different jobs, people, places, home, interests in a meaningful way - its' beginning to sound more and more like connectivism, a theory I knew nothing about until recently, or 'social constructivism', which sounds a lot nicer.

And that's where using digital stuff starts getting exciting (hold back your enthusiasm). Like all good systems, they kind of reflect, or fit, what your view of reality already is. For Community Art Workers, like teachers and other community-minded types, we have a natural affinity for connectivism. The potential for connecting in digital is phenomenal - I am very excited about what Podnosh are doing in our area at the moment in Balsall Heath and other Bham areas exactly because of this.

So, coming back to 100 hour challenge, in roundabout kind of way, it is just doing my job. My 100hrs is about long periods of reflection, longer periods of experimenting with digital stuff out there, and even more networking, real and digital, which should be 'just doing my job'. It's really ring fencing a period of time for me to develop. Something I should be doing anyway, but I guess like lots of people, I end up getting caught up in work. It is an opportunity for me to digitise my life. I have also started to digitise my wife (she now blogs and has started Facebook, after years of resistance!), and looking forward to supporting others to digitise, getting back to community art worker definition, to connect and support people to express themselves the way they want to.