Tuesday 30 November 2010

Don't worry, keep busy

It's been a tough time, and really hard to see organisations and friends grappling with changes.  Personally, I don't know what I'll be doing in seven months.  'The long term' has been something I have spent too much time worrying over, and I feel like I have lost sight of Nike wisdom, just do it!

Storytime with my four year old was coming to an end, but luckily Jago knows exactly how to play his old man.  'Can we have your favourite?' and what's that?  Jago told me it's, 'The Lion who wanted to Love'.  Always brings a tear to my eye when reading the last couple of pages when his Mum speaks in her humblest tone 'I was wrong, now I see love can bring us together...'

OK, very soppy, and Leo is a bit of a role model for loving and all that, following his instinct, which wasn't the same as most lions.  But for this blog, and for me right now, what is more important was that he just got on and did what he thought was best.

When everything seems so bleak, it's easy to fall into trap of  'self-preservation', following what you think will earn money, or please those around you.  Maybe in six months I'll be regretting lack of fore-thought.  Is it more important to do what you think is right?  Or am I just going to drift into poverty?  Who knows.  I deal with that tomorrow.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

CA peer network morning

Enclosed are your thoughts on 'people you'd like to meet' and 'people you think we should meet'.  Brioche bread is included to add context and continuity.  Food for thought.

Please do use your peer groups, or other CAs to suggest ideas, people to invite next time, support each other generally - I'm looking forward to seeing feedback regarding discussion that happened on tables, and will email out as quickly as possible

Thank you to everyone who gave me feedback (all positive so far!) on the way the morning ran.  I'd really appreciate more comments on the format, the debate, the lasagne, captain adorable, peer network groups, anything.  Also for May, ideas on how or what we do, based loosely on inviting some people in and talking to them gratefully appreciated.  If anyone wishes to co-facilitate, or just plain facilitate, please put yourselves forward.

Friday 19 November 2010

Bringing technology to a new generation

It's not often I feel like a youngster in a meeting - that's the way it is if you work mainly in education.  Recently though, I've had two different meetings.  In both I bet people were thinking 'he's gone all techie again'.  So what better to do than come home and blog about it?

First meeting was in an old people's home I worked in a long while back, mainly doing art and craft workshops, possibly most known there for unusual crafty christmas thingies - something I'd enjoy, but really wanted to discuss other possibilities.  I'd like to get to know the residents better, addressing more directly why 'thousands of older people feel isolated', document life stories with them using film, sound recordings, start to tempt some to using a laptop, connecting on the internet.  As we discussed possibilities it became clear the care team, all of which I respect a great deal, were probably, in plain Ewan Mcintosh language, proffesional IT illiterate.  It was one of the homes we documented stories in to become part of Birmingham Lives 2001.   Some stories are still on my website, in dusty corners.

Far more effective than me coming in, making willow stars and xmas wreaths, or bringing a flip camera and recording stories, has to be enabling the dedicated staff, get out the computers to provide training and support to staff to support those they care for?

Onto second meeting which was tonight - Fairtrade Association Birmingham is again an organisation I haven't been doing much with for a little while, but did a fair bit a while back.  Again, the talent of people around the table is incredible, all working very effectively in their areas of specialism.  It's greatest strength should be the broad range of different businesses, skills and experience.  However, communication has always been a problem.  With so many different people who rarely meet, it's a problem which at times is amplified when we have a limited time in which all of us want to say so much (maybe that's just me...)

A famously Tech Illiterate Politician - would this be news in UK?
Effective IT networking solutions and social media stuff ala Podnosh are great. I'm still learning, but can see potential in using these relatively new, simple tools, if only it was that simple.  Thing is, problem is unlikely to just be solved with IT.  Could be:

(a) technophobia
(b) poor communication, listening, speaking, using new stuff
(c) lack of time or interest in sharing
(d) lack of confidence in either what people think of what you do, or in taking on new roles or jobs in which you will not be 'expert'.

Can new tech fix age old problems?  No harm to try.

Monday 8 November 2010

Boys with long hair, girls with short hair, stop messing with our minds!

Last night we spent the evening with fine tooth comb, combing,combing.  Arthur has (or had) nits.  Arthur and Jago both had fashionable long hair, as does most of Arthur's natty (and nitty) friends.  We persuaded both to have hair cut, after much tears, and abortive attempt to comb long hair, both agreed to have me cut their hair - a job I've always done in family.

Today, however, I took Freya for her first haircut - I thought the hairdressers might be a nice treat for both of us.  First thing hairdresser said rubbed me up the wrong way - 'Is Daddy looking after you today?'

Yes, I am.  I share all the childcare and housework (yes, I hoover, change nappies, and can even operate a washing machine), not that I need to tell you.  Is it still that rare that 'Daddy' looking after the kids is noteworthy?  It's something some concerned strangers feel the need to ask my children, as if 'Mummy' must surely be hiding behind a tree, a benign presence nearby.  It's as if they're thinking, 'poor child - you need saving. This man is probably one of those perverts you read about'.  Is it any surprise us male child carers aren't so visible on the High Streets or in the Playgroups?

Boy or Girl?  Who cares? Pass the olives, Dad.
Anyway, back to the hairdressers.  She (yes she was a woman, and with short hair) thought that Freya shouldn't have too much hair cut off, otherwise she'd look like a boy.  I pointed out that Freya uses her hair as a handkerchief, napkin and it gets in her eyes and mouth.  I didn't mention Arthur's nits, and sadly her brothers, formerly with beautiful shoulder-length blonde hair, were not there.

 'Have you tried tying it back?'

Yes.  We have a bag of 100 hair ties we are working way through at rate of three or four a day, to no effect.

 'Are you sure?'

Should I phone a friend?  Was she still waiting for Mummy to come through the door to rescue her?  Yes I was sure.

'I won't do a fringe.'

Please make sure the hair is short enough so it doesn't go in her eyes. That's why she needs a haircut.

After painful few minutes, Freya having hair cut on my knee, she didn't do a bad cut (see picture), but I reckon we'll be back with bowl and scissors in the bathroom next time.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

The (not so) secret life of a creative agent

  • Creative Agent or Captain Adorable?
Adapted from handout from Anna Craft from Exeter Uni, from Heard (1990, p.25)

In the workshop we were asked to read a script and ask  - What evidence is there of possibility thinking?

What did you do at school?

This is a new school for me.  The first thing I did was to listen to the priorities of senior teaching staff.

Yes, but then what did you do?

I found out about the creative work already happening in the school, and what partners they already work with.  We thought about an area of focus for work over the coming year, who should participate and how.  We began thinking about what kind of people could support and develop work in their school.  Also how best to tender for creative practitioners.  We framed an enquiry question that could be understood by all.

Yes, but what else have you done?

We set up initial workshop(s) to explore what the students/pupils thought.  The workshops could include an opportunity for young people to show me priorities in their school and record them in an appropriate way - perhaps some kind of tour, or Voxpop, recorded with Flip camcorders can be good for this.  We introduced the enquiry question.  We invited a short list of creative practitioners, representatives of organisations, or additional teaching staff/community agencies to meet and discuss the enquiry with students.

We set up a series of activities to develop conversations around the enquiry question, consider a framework for the project.

And then did you do anything?

By taking part in activities, or sometimes leading activities to discuss our enquiry, I had some kind of meaningful conversation with all the students/pupils taking part.

But did you do anything today?

I ate lunch in the staff room, or maybe in the main canteen.  By being in the school people are starting to recognise me and I feel more at home here.

And then what did you do?

I made sure I had recorded comments from all the people I had spoken to, and made sure there was time at the end of the day for all to reflect with our team.  I arranged another meeting for creative practitioners we have chosen to work with and teaching staff to timetable the project, budget it, and provide more detail for our project plan, based on previous discussion and the initial workshops.

So did you do anything?

When I got home I made sure I emailed photos/film footage, notes, from the day, trying to keep them brief (and usually failing).  I made sure I thanked everyone and identified key achievements of the day.

So did you do anything today?

By about midnight I had just about managed to sort out the paperwork, sent off a draft copy to school coordinator, 'cos I knew you'd say...