Erdington-based artists invited to help shape future of local arts forum

CAFÉ (Constituency Arts Forum Erdington) is holding a New Year open meeting at Highcroft Community Centre Highcroft Sports, Social Club & Community Centre, Slade Rd, Birmingham B23 6AX on Wednesday 23 January 2013 from 6.30pm – 8.00pm, with time for networking afterwards, and is calling for as many artists and artistic organisations in the area as possible to have their say and to help shape the future of the forum.

This is an opportunity for individuals and organisations (amateur and professional) from across Erdington to explore the benefits of working together as part of a creative community in developing and promoting local arts.   Facilitated by Big Brum and Birmingham City Council’s Arts Champions Town Hall & Symphony Hall, the session is open to anyone with an interest in the arts within the Erdington District; that is, Erdington, Kingstanding, Perry Common, New Oscott, Stockland Green, Castle Vale, Gravelly Hill, Birches Green and Tyburn.

The session will be led by Birmingham-based creative producer Amy Martin, and will look at positive ways of supporting and promoting projects, overcoming some of the obstacles that artists and organisations face, and considering professional advice, training needs and networking.

Amy Martin said, “There is so much potential for individuals and organisations, who are often isolated in their day-to-day practice, to help one another by sharing knowledge, ideas and experience and the Forum is the perfect place to do just that.  We’ll be led by those who attend but, with the support of Big Brum and Town Hall and Symphony Hall, future plans could include creating tailored professional development plans for artists, sign-posting people to existing networks or leading sessions on planning, fundraising, and project management.”

Extract from THSH Press Release.

More information about Arts Champion scheme in Erdington can be found here.

More information about my facilitation work can be found here.


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Ideas Vendor R&D Project

Design by Claire Hartley

I am very pleased to announce that I have received funding from Arts Council England for a research & development project called Ideas Vendor.

Ideas Vendor will investigate and research into how cultural organisations can improve their use of digital technology and the Internet in engaging young people with arts and culture. Encouraging the development of future audiences, future artists and utilising the skills, expertise and talents of a digital generation.

The project encompasses a creative project called Birmingham 2022, which will generate visions for the future of arts and culture in Birmingham for the year 2022, created, written and produced by young people.

To follow the progress of Ideas Vendor or to contribute to the research you can connect via Twitter @ideasvendor on Facebook or via email.

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Becoming an RSA Fellow

The RSA Fellowship aims to fulfil the RSA’s mission to find innovative solutions to today’s social challenges. Over 27,000 people in 80 countries make up the Fellowship and I am pleased to say that from today, I am one of them.

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce): an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong Fellowship it seeks to understand and enhance human capability so we can close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hopes for a better world.

This is a great video from the RSA Animate series about the importance of empathy. Introspection is out, and outrospection is in. Philosopher and author Roman Krznaric explains how we can help drive social change by stepping outside ourselves. RSA Animate – The Power of Outrospection from The RSA on Vimeo.

I am very much looking forward to contributing my skills to this diverse and influential community.

The RSA combines thought leadership with social innovation to further human progress. Building on our 250 year history as a beacon for enlightenment values, we undertake influential and varied research projects and host the UK’s most ambitious free lecture series. Our work is supported by 27,000 Fellows, an international network of influencers and innovators from every field and background.

For information about becoming an RSA Fellow check here.


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2012 the year I went to Mars.

A round-up of 2012. 

2011’s shared joy ended in shared tears and emptiness at 2 o’clock in the morning after just 3 months. Bright Space was closing in September 2011 and now instead of facing motherhood I was facing redundancy. Bright Space encouraged children and young people to build their resilience by developing their creative skills, equipping them with the skills to think around corners and to borrow the characteristics of great artists; such as their ability to reflect and cope with change. I was now the self-served recipient of this advice. The approach of a Clore leadership course and sense of humour from close friends and family helped me through and I decided to leave Bright Space, before the inevitable death rattle and became Head of Education and Community at Town Hall Symphony Hall for a 6-month stint maternity cover. I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful team of people who helped me to re-connect with my work’s purpose and 2012 started with good news – funding for Future Poets’ Festival with Writing West Midlands and 2 projects with Fierce Festival.

The rest of the year has been punctuated with highs and lows; Helping out a friend who was being treated with colon cancer, drinking Pinot Grigio with that same friend after she had beaten colon cancer.  Getting engaged to my beloved in New York, and having the trip of a lifetime. World events in 2012 have included; Obama getting a second term, hurricane Sandy destroying homes and livelihoods in the Caribbean and testing New Yorker’s survival skills. The Conservatives destroying homes and livelihoods of working class people in the UK and testing their survival skills.

I continue to be inspired by the people around me and the opportunities that are created. Writing this post has reminded me of some notable creative inspiration of 2012,  watching the amazing film –  Beasts of the Southern Wild, which tells the story of a little girl’s resilience. Seeing and feeling the love for Jodi Ann Bickley at ‘The Fundraiser for Jodi’s Brain’. Pondering on difficult relationships watching Mark Thomas’s solo show; Bravo Figaro. Feeling empowered listening to Tonya Bolton’s moving talk at TEDxBrum. Enrolling on Tom Sach’s Space Programme to Mars at the Armory in New York. Taking in borrowed memories of Jamaica and Birmingham with family, at the Vanley Burke’s By the Rivers of Birminam exhibition. Crying with pride watching Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention on YouTube. Sharing a special moment with a joyful Janice Connolly of Women and Theatre as she facilitated a discussion about love with looked after children for the ‘Loving Me’ project with Birmingham Hippodrome.

I have had moments of personal and shared achievement too, such as; welcoming an audience of over 3000 to Symphony Hall on Easter Saturday for Curious Sounds in Curious Spaces with Fierce Festival. Being part of the team delivering the 1st ever TEDxBrum. Seeing my best mate Lu on telly. Eating lots of organic veg from my weekly veg box delivered by Abel and Cole. Feeling in awe of my friend Alex who has taken a leap of faith and excited about our plans to work together. Having folks read my ‘Job of the Week’ article on Ideas Tap and leave nice comments. Working with the most awesome Kim Trusty and our Future Poets and developing a new relationship with poetry. Having exciting conversations with a Polarbear about a project that could really change how young people learn online.

I have felt my comfort zone being stretched by the recent acquisition of a Border Terrier puppy called Miss Frankie and by learning to drive at the ripe old age of 31, both of these will continue in 2013, hopefully getting easier with practise.

The thing that I have cherished the most this year has been working independently and being able to collaborate with really amazing people.  Working as a freelancer agrees with me, I like the hustle, the variety and most of all the opportunity to continuously develop.

Next year is already feeling brilliant, frightening and huge in equal measure.


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Hussein Chalayan at the School of Life

On 10th February 2013 at Conway Hall Hussein Chalayan will be giving a sermon for the School of Life about not fitting in. Hussein Chalayan has twice won British Designer of the Year for an extraordinary body of experimental projects. He has made living room furniture that turns into clothes, dresses that transform by remote control, and a coat with a hidden invitation. His influences range from airport architecture to Samurai rituals to Turkish classical music to Marc Auge and Roland Barthes. His collections have included an experimental film with Tilda Swinton and a performance with Alison Lapper and Michael Clark.

This lecture is only £15  – Book here

I think the experience of feeling isolated, of not fitting in, creates the urge to explore.
—Hussein Chalayan

Here is an extract about the sermon from the School of Life website.

We’re social animals: we need to belong. And if we want to belong, we’d better fit in. Or at least that’s what we learn from the classroom and the office. But Hussein Chalayan wants to show us how not fitting in, despite common sense, is a creative virtue that may even expand our sense of belonging.

By his own account, Chalayan has never quite fitted in. He spent a childhood bouncing between war-torn Cyprus and the UK. Today he is known as a world-leading fashion designer. But his catwalk shows are intricate performances, and his collections extend to experimental films and gallery installations, troubling those who like to keep fashion away from philosophy and art, or prefer designers to settle into a ‘style’.

In this sermon Chalayan will share the projects that he calls his “life studies”, made to help him understand the world. One investigates how national events transform our personal identities, another changes disgust to an appreciation of beauty, and another probes the magical, inexpressible and hidden. His work is a category-defying series of provocations to question and transform what we take for reality.

So where does this exuberant curiosity and constant shape-shifting come from? Chalayan explains that the once-painful experience of not fitting in has liberated him as an adult. “My strategy for creative self-renewal,” he says, “is to be a migrant – dislocated, never settled.” He will show how this life philosophy lets us stay curious and questioning, and be much more than a fixed self. It allows us to be multiple, to be more than one thing, to transform and grow. And it frees us to belong to more than one culture, place and people at once.

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Breast Cancer Super-heroines

This Breast Cancer Awareness advertising campaign, featuring Wonder Woman, Catwoman, She-Hulk and Storm of the X-Men, was recently launched by Mozambique’s Associação da Luta Contra o Cancer (ALCC) and underlines the harsh truth that nobody is immune to breast cancer.


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A Teacher You’ve Never Heard Of Is Changing The World Faster Than Hundreds Of Politicians

Shelter from the Storm from John X. Carey on Vimeo.

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Save the future of creativity in schools #baccforthefuture

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) threatens the very future of creative subjects – like Music, Art, Design & Technology, Drama and Dance.

By missing them off its list of core areas children must study, the Government is undermining their place at the heart of learning.

Your voice is vital to help change this

Without them, our children will be denied the balanced education they need to grow and thrive. Without them, the skills that drive our creative economy will be lost.

The facts about the English Baccalaureate

  • A consultation on a new qualification, the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), was launched on 17 September 2012. In its current formulation, the EBacc has been widely criticised.
  • The Chair of the Education Select Committee, Conservative MP Graham Stuart, criticised the move, saying to the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference: ‘Now if there’s a coherent thinking going on in the department [sic] [for Education] then so far it’s passed by the chairman of the Education Select Committee.’
  • The consultation on the EBacc is open until 10 December 2012 and can be found here.
  • The proposed EBacc is not fit for purpose. It will deny children a fully rounded education.
  • Subjects are being withdrawn from the curriculum. The IPSOS Mori survey (2012) reported that at key stage 4, drama and performing arts had been dropped in nearly a quarter of schools, 17 per cent had withdrawn art courses and 14 per cent design technology.
  • It will harm the economy – our creative industries are world-beaters – they contribute 6% of GDP, employ two million people and export over £16 billion annually.
  • We have already seen the adverse impact of the EBacc league table introduced in 2010 with falling numbers of students taking music at GCSE.
  • So far, the CBI, the Creative Industries Council and Darren Henley – who led the Review of Music Education – have all raised serious concerns about the EBacc.
  • The new English Baccalaureate requires pupils to have achieved a certificate in the five subject areas, maths, English, sciences, languages (ancient and modern) and humanities (defined as only history or geography).
  • If the new EBacc comes into force, then pathways from school to the creative industries will be at risk.
  • There is a solution – if the EBacc reforms go ahead, it must include a sixth pillar of creative subjects.
  • Darren Henley, in his Cultural Education Review, argued for ‘the creation of a sixth grouping of subjects [to be] included in the English Baccalaureate … to create a generation of fully rounded individuals.’
  • So please sign the petition calling for the Education Select Committee to investigate the English Baccalaureate and send a letter to your MP. Time is of the essence. Consultation ends on 10 December 2012 and we must get the Education Select Committee to listen to us before then.
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6 Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono

The notion of six thinking hats comes from Edward De Bono, it is a simple and effective system that increases productivity. There are six metaphorical hats and each defines a certain type of thinking. You can put on or take off one of these hats to indicate the type of thinking you are using. This putting on and taking off is essential, because it allows you to switch from one type of thinking to another. When done in a group, everybody should wear the same hat at the same time. The principle behind the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ is parallel thinking which ensures that all the people in a meeting are focused on and thinking about the same subject at the same time. In this system, thinking is divided into six categories with each category identified with its own coloured metaphorical ‘thinking hat’.

I plan to use the 6 Thinking Hats method with the Cannon Hill Collective later.

The Cannon Hill Collective is designed to offer young people aged between 16-24 the chance to engage and connect with mac birmingham’s programme. From initiating, producing and delivering their own projects to advising on mac’s wider young people’s programme, the collective will have the opportunity to help shape mac’s provision for young and emerging artists as producers, ambassadors and creative consumers, with a strong emphasis upon cross art form activities, social media, individual progression, diversity and access.

The collective have been tasked to develop ideas for one-off events at mac for young people, they have to pitch these at next week’s session. They have been given a number of programming considerations such as time, budget and audience targets and tonight they have to look at the why, where, how, when and what for-s in preparation for their pitches.

The group is big with 21 young people on a good day, I am hoping that by using the 6 Thinking Hats method they will use the session time in the most productive way and consider their project ideas using a 360 degree perspective.  page1image12344

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Lemn Sissay: A child of the state

Literature has long been fascinated with fostered, adopted and orphaned children, from Moses to Cinderella to Oliver Twist to Harry Potter. So why do many parentless children feel compelled to hide their pasts? Poet and playwright Lemn Sissay tells his own moving story. (Filmed at TEDxHousesofParliament.)

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