Saturday 28 August 2010

Preserving the past - cave paintings

Rouffignac cave paintings look like nothing when reproduced in image like this.  Only way to see them is in the caves.  The composition, the way the drawings work together, here with ten mamouths together, but most impressively on the roof of main cave - twenty or more fabulous drawings, all working best when viewed from particular points of the cave, where the animals begin to really gain movement and flow together.  So well thought out and executed.  There are over 200 images in this cave.  Shame couldn't make it to more caves.

An odd feeling to be connected with early homosaps from 12,000 years ago, and to admire the craft of whoever it was who did it.  Also the importance of preserving orginal work.  There is a cave closeby 'Lascaux II' a replica of the orginal cave, with far more and more colour workings recently discovered.  Access to the orginal is not possible so they faithfully recreated.  I wasn't that interested to see it, when could see originals, albeit lesser 'quality'.

Rouffignac had been damaged by visitors with flame torches in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and it had taken a lot of skilled work to remove marks made over the orginal, but it is still 'original'.  There are challenges preserving the past, tough judgements to be made.

Friday 27 August 2010

Normandy and Bayeux

A long drive and light closing in Normandy when we approach our first campsite.  It was called 'Camp Oasis'.  Sadly the 'Camp Oasis' we'd booked was ten miles up the coast.  No matter, we got there in the morning, slightly cleaner, three not two stars, but still no toilet seats.  That must be four star.  So, what to do in Normandy mid summer with three children under 7?

We went for the truly awesome Bayeux tapestry.  There was a bit of a queue - I'd have settled for the tea towel, but Nikki was determined, so three hours later, we were there.  Slightly disappointed not to see Harold Hardrada there, or the giant beserker who held Stanford Bridge, or Harold's mates Magnus and Eric, which had made the bulk of my story to keep kids going in the queue, but that's Normans for you.  Although apparently it was probably made by English nuns.

Anyway, 68 metres of embroidery with English audio did,amazingly, keep all children enthralled for the hour or so we were there.  It's got to be up there with Eiffel Tower for top things to do in France.  One of the oldest works of community art in existence!

Saturday 7 August 2010

Weoley Castle - The Bad and the Good

Weoley Castle has a poor reputation.  In Weoley Castle itself a shopkeeper called it 'the Bronx of Birmingham', and yet there is also an amazing pride in the area too.  We have just completed a project (JOIN US) where we worked with young people interviewing a range of Weoley Castle people.

When we asked people about Weoley Castle, nearly all interviewees started with either, 'there's no place better...', or 'it's a shithole...'.  Summing up the good and the bad is a useful way to open up debate about any issue, and we have used that format - two edited films of theWeoley - one good one bad.  All will be online soon  for all to comment or join the debate.

I think it is all too easy to be carried away by 'the bad' in any community.  It is important to address problems, and yes, it may only be a handful of people who give Weoley Castle it's poor reputation, but those people have made a big impact on the lives of people in Weoley Castle, and leave their mark on the square on a weekend evening.

What I think is more easily forgotten is 'the good' in any commmunity, and those 'community activists' and that sense of trust, respect and responsibility between members of a close community like Weoley Castle - The good in a community has a big impact too.

What hasn't changed in Weoley Caslte over the last 80 years of its existence, is what people from outside Weoley see and report on -  vandalism and loutish behaviour.  And what is the most common thing people complain about in Weoley Castle?  Lack of services for people, particularly the bus. And that hasn't changed either.

Images below thanks to Mike Hunkin form Bham Archives and Heritage, 'Suburban Birmingham' project.

Birmingham Gazette, 3rd February 1938