Thursday 27 January 2011

27th January

Last week we discussed taking pompom activity further.  We decided to make horse puppets for races at the community centre in a couple of weeks.  Also discussed songs they sang as children, and wondered if we could record and share/swap with the children in future.

20th January at KHCCSP

Shared pompoms and had a play.  Great response from children and parents.  I shared photos with Evergreen residents in afternoon - residents pleased with results and enjoyed playing with Freya again.

13th January Workshop Pompoms

In December I brought in some archive film clips of children playing in the 1940s and began discussion about what residents used to do as children.  I also brought along books of stories, artwork and photos of other intergenerational project work I had been involved in, and start to gauge interest in our project.

Today I brought in wool too, and started to see what crafts residents were already familiar with.  Everyone seemed to have heard of corking and had made pompoms, so this seemed to be a good place to start.  We made eight pompoms between us (photos below) and discussed sharing with Freya's friends at Kings Heath Community Centre Stay and Play.

Freya also had fun playing with wool and residents.

Monday 24 January 2011

Teachmeet Brum!

Please join TeachMeet Brum!  - THIS IS A FREE EVENT

TeachMeet Brum will be taking place on 14th March at Paganel Primary School, B29 5TG 
Time: 4:30pm - 7:00pm

Learn something new, be amazed, amused and enthused. This is an informal gathering of those curious about teaching and technology. Anyone can share great ideas they've trialled in their classrooms, ask important questions or simply sign up to take part in learning conversations.

Everyone is welcome to join in: teachers from all types of schools, teaching all subjects and age groups. The main part of TeachMeet is hearing stories about learning from teachers.  It is a chance for teachers to hear ideas from each other  and be inspired by colleagues, along with a whole bucket load of networking to boot!

Please contact to anyone working in schools who may be interested in attending.  Any queries contact Steve Philp directly at Paganel Primary School -

Public Transport:

Train to Birmingham New Street, then either:
  • Bus (numbers 22, 23 or 29) getting off at Stonehouse Hill; or
  • Local Train to Birmingham University then Number 21 Bus, getting off at Castle Road
Here's a Google Map to add more detail.


  • Junction 3 of M5, then head along the A456 into Birmingham, turn right at the A4123, continue on to the B4121, then right at California Way. Then right onto Stonehouse Hill, following the map. Left onto Swinford Road and right into the main gates.
  • Junction 4 of M5, Junctions 1 or 2 of M42, head for A38 into Birmingham. Turn left at Northfield along the B4121, then right at Barnes Hill along California Way. Then go right onto Stonehouse Hill, following the map. Left onto Swinford Road and right into the main gates.
  • Junction 6 of M6 (Spaghetti Junction), then head into Birmingham on the A38M Aston expressway. Continue through all the tunnels on the A38. Turn right at Selly Oak along the A4040. Turn left along Reservoir Road. Continue along Reservoir Road until it becomes Swinford Road, then turn left into the main gates.


  • Land on the field at 52.44492,-1.969686. Avoid the trees.
  • Land on the playground at 52.444737,-1.968999. Avoid the trees. And the netball posts. 

Friday 21 January 2011

Connecting Young and Old - Art Swap

This project is a bit of an experiment, and not sure where, or how far it will go, but I'm quite excited about the possibilities.  A care home I have worked in on off for fifteen years contacted me again, after a break of some three years, interested in xmas craft activities.

I have met a couple of times since then, both times with my daughter Freya (2 years old), who seemed to cheer up the old people more than I can.  I was pushed to commit time to start a new project, but keen to keep connection.  The only time I have is on a Thursday afternoon, when I care for Freya, so we arranged to start workshops, but instead of having Freya along as an extra, we've planned the project to include her, and all her friends, in Kings Heath Community centre stay and play group on Thursday mornings.

Part inspired by Kate Brookes's sock puppet project, we've started making pompoms (a craft they had all done previously) and I have taken photos of them making them, to give the pompoms to the stay and play group.  I photoed (with consent) the children playing, and me and Freya came back to the home with photos this Thursday.  All good feedback from children, parents and the old people.  Next week we will start on making sock horses at the old people's home for a race at the stay and play.  I'm also planning to do art and craft activities in the stay and play to give to the old people.

We could continue in this vein, but I'd also like to develop a social media element - photo collation, film clips, audio could be made available to old people, their family, parents and children at the stay and play.  This would be something new for many of the partners, and I'm aware the technology may prove too much, or simply that the artwork and connection is more valueable through the artefacts and people themselves.  Also issues of consent to sort out.  More photos when I've cracked that one.

Sunday 16 January 2011

So shines a good deed in a cruel word

A misquote from Shakespeare (thanks Bridget), these are the words of Willy Wonka at the pivotal  moment of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the Gene Wilder version (1971), I was watching with my children the other day.  Grandad has just castigated Willy as an 'inhuman monster!' and Charlie and his Grandad are leaving the factory with nothing.  At this point Charlie Bucket turns around and gives Willy his last sweet.

A couple of days before my father died, we were visiting him.  None of us knew what to do or say, as we saw him conscious but weak in his hospital bed.  Jago, then aged 2, knew exactly what to do, stepping forward and giving his grandad his new (and treasured) toy car.  Perhaps a child's kindness should not be so surprising - On Thursday night I watched the second of Michael Mosley's 'The Brain: A Secret History'.  He shows footage of a key experiment in the 1950s, where an orphan monkey is given the choice of 'mothers'.  One is made of wire mesh with a milk bottle attached.  The other is wrapped in a cuddly towel.  While the monkey would feed from the mesh 'mummy', nearly all of his time was spent with the cuddly one, and the monkey clearly became attached to it.  At the time it was used as proof that love was in some way innate. Later experiments also showed that feelings like love and fear can also be induced or reduced through life experience.

I have been shamed by my children.  In December we passed a beggar with no arms.  Arthur (aged 7) was shocked we were walking past - 'We must give him some money!'  But last Friday, 2:00 in Small Heath, I didn't need my children to experience guilt.  I was stuck in traffic and I caught the eye of an old lady with a stick in one hand and a polystyrene cup in the other.  She began hobbling over to my car.  The lights changed, and I was slightly relieved to move off.  Minutes later I saw another old lady begging on the streets.  I could have stopped, but I didn't.

I understand that my actions may have little actual influence on events around me, but from a selfish point of view, there is something to be gained by showing small kindnesses, and something lost by walking on the other side.  I can wallow in my powerlessness to change the world, my inability to make the world a fairer place.  Or I can 'revel' in those feelings of guilt and failure, be frustrated, but know that I am responding to them.  My last year's resolution was to be nice to people.  This year I think I'll try and do more kind things too.

Sunday 2 January 2011

Hong Kong under the lens

Waiting for the Peak tram we were recommended to visit Hong Kong Park, down the road.  The park is quite small for a big city park, neatly partitioned into distinct sections.  It can be packed but you can still find a feng shuied corner to yourself - 'anything but natural', as our Hong Kong encounters book describes it.

The treetop giant aviary walk through is impressive, as is the size of lenses and number of cameras (see photo).  This isn't restricted to the Aviary, or the boys with toys.  If Freya stands still for too long cameras come out and young and old, men and women start clicking (photo)

The government is at it too.  Family photo left, shows the large CCTV fitted throughout the park, four alone in the children's play area, fitted with wind screen wipers for those wet and humid days.

CCTV isn't the only monitoring of activity.  In next photo the staff - cleaning and security - outnumber the users.  Even on a quiet morning there are parts of the park which must always be busy, however the staffing and volunteer help is huge.

They need high staffing to enforce long list of misdemeanours, but also some great events and activities.  Apart from tai chi in the designated tai chi area, there is the 'Community arts network' providing an 'arts programme to be conceived according to the need of the promote the growth of different communities through art'

There is also 'stories in the park' with Uncle Hung, 'sounds in the park' and 'Games in the Park' programmes.

The park is clean and safe - I'm not sure it would be possible to be anti-social here, and the comfort everyone has with both taking photos and being photographed is refreshing.  It doesn't fit with the child abduction and other street crime we have been warned about.

On the way back we are accosted by a Buddhist monk selling charms.  He laughs at our measly donation.  Later we are told we probably had a close shave with the legendary Triad, as monks are part of the organised crime racket!