Sunday, December 23, 2007

Clyde Valley Angel


Season's greetings to all our viewers!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Christmas commodity fetishism

A few web shopping places that have caught my eye in the search for interesting gifts this year:

Rare Device, Brooklyn and San Francisco

Dosh Wallets in Sydney

Swiss Miss, from New York

The ever-exciting and totally comprehensive Vinçon, in Barcelona...



Design 3000, based in Berlin

See Jane Work, Thousand Oaks, CA

Design Within Reach, USA - not merely shops but 'design studios'

etc etc

Enough, enough!...or I will produce a bucket of designer vomit in disgust at my own greedy hypocrisy.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Trading posts and border crossings

Graham is doing a seminar at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, at 4.30pm on 23rd January 2008. The summary of what he is talking about, based on the TAPP and Eastfeast research with David Jenkins and many others, is here:

To characterise creative partnership between artists and teachers as beset by latent conflict may appear to be unfair, but recent research undertaken within two professional development programmes, TAPP (Teacher Artist Partnership) and Eastfeast illuminates just how complicated the dialogue between arts educators attempting to collaborate can become. In this seminar I will share some emergent findings and thoughts from this study, funded by Creative Partnerships, and entitled Mediated Conversations at a Cultural Trading Post. Surface narratives of collaboration, risk-taking and creativity might appear to be driven by consensual and convergent sets of values. However, behind the public face of partnership there is often a private process of conflict resolution and diplomacy. Putting partnership into practice often involves pragmatic compromises, misunderstandings, and the need for (self)critical reflection. Within the broad field of ‘creative partnership’, there are sharp differences and distinctions between different traditions and pedagogies. And when such partnerships attempt to intervene within the heavily regulated working environments of schools and colleges, some of these divisions and difficulties can become even more pronounced. Exploring how arts educators negotiate, combine, and account for their own trajectories and territories helps to illuminate some of the more shadowy and controversial corners of this very crowded arena of educational policy and practice.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Quick update on Graham's current projects and areas of work...

Finishing up the editing of the films and online content for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra artist residency/dialogue which took place in June in Smoo Cave, Durness

Doing some work as part of a team advising DCSF on creativity and education policy with colleagues at CapeUK

Completing the final report for "mediated conversations at a cultural trading post" - the research which examines partnership working in TAPP and Eastfeast

Ongoing work on an AHRC-funded study on performing arts and social inclusion in youth arts organisations based at UEL

Working with colleagues in Barcelona and elsewhere in Europe and the USA exploring ways of establishing an annual summer school for teachers and artists to reflect on processes of collaboration; also considering how to extend meaningful and useful networks of professional practice for people working across institutional boundaries in the field of arts education and creative learning

Completing work on the publications and resource materials from TAPP

Trying to wrap things up properly in order to have a proper break in the forthcoming festive season....

And a few other, quite exciting, horizon scanning and speculative projects. More later...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

the school run - in reverse

Gloomy mornings in the Clyde Valley banlieue...










Sunday, November 11, 2007

making it visible

Here's an interesting conference coming up, on November 22nd, in Glasgow which Jackie has been heavily involved in organising:

Artfull, the Scottish Arts Council and Glasgow Arts and Health Learning Network present making it visible: exploring the role of creativity and imagination in health and wellbeing.

The event will be chaired by Gregor Henderson, Director, National Programme for Improving Mental Health and Wellbeing, Scottish Government.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Today has been cancelled

This is an interesting stunt by the Tories, who, whilst secretly breathing a sigh of relief that they aren't facing a fourth meltdown (and, even if not meltdown, at least mild disinterest/apathy) in the polls today, are making as much political capital as they can from Gordon Brown's discomfort over the unneccessary hyping of a possible autumn poll.

Now it's a clever ad, but I just wonder if it's something of a miscalculation? The graphics have clear echoes of wartime/postwar austerity; the poster reads like a quasi-situationist detournement of goverment public information propagada from the mid-20th century ; the lack of anything other than text just underpins the authoritarianism of the message. The whole tone of the poster conjures up a grim view of the state of the country which is at odds, to me at least, with the contradiction and complexity of the current social and economic situation. Yes there are considerable economic uncertainties at the moment; yes, globalisation is fuelling increased (im)migration; but to suggest that the remedy can be provided by a Big Brother type of government and that we are faced with a kind of 'wartime crisis' seems entirely misguided to me.

And as for the list of policy one-liners at the bottom of the poster, is this what Britain's electorate (other than the rabid Daily Mail-reading tendency who'll vote Tory anyway) really wants?

- Stopping NHS cuts and the closure of District General Hospitals*
[*deconstruct that as a phrase - completely conjours up images of the 1940s NHS]
- Teaching by ability and more discipline in schools
- National Citizen Service for every school-leaver
- Proper immigration controls and a new Border Police Force
- A vote on the EU constitution
- Ending the early release of prisoners

It all adds up to a pretty bleak view of the challenges facing the country - which certainly play on the sense of anxiety and moral panic about the country's place in the world in uncertain times - indeed, it plays on the whole notion of "Britishness", where the so-called "Blitz spirit" - embodied in that great propaganda poster keep calm and carry on still, perhaps, defines something of the country's national identity...

It strikes me that 'Border Control' - in the sense of trying to capture and define the terms of political discourse - is a good metaphor for what is happening between Labour and the Tories here. Both are falling back far too readily on authoritarian 'solutions' which will actually just stoke the contradictions in such rhetoric even more. Authoritarianism and fundamentalism resolve their internal tensions through an appeal to naturalized 'truths' and 'common sense' approaches. I don't detect a political language here from the Tories (or Labour) that can really reconcile: individual liberty/freedom and centralised state planning; a strong sense of 'nationhood' and the complexity of social identities in a globalised world; enforced 'standards' from the centre and the desire to enable 'personalisation' and local autonomy/flexibility in public services. None of these tensions can be resolved through authoritarianism. But both Labour and the Tories seem to be competing for the same narrow ideological territory (a shift to the right?)...

I went to the Cold War exhibition at RAF Cosford the other week, which is scary in its own way too. Perhaps it's an attempt by liberal thinkers in the military/industrial complex to demystify and make accessible some of the military thinking of the 1948 - 1989 years. It is most notable for having actual ('decommissioned') nuclear missiles and bombs on display and borrows heavily from postwar media material, attempting to put all the military machines - and the mad doctrines that fuelled them - into more of a social, cultural and ideological context than is customary in displays of military hardware. At one level it's impressive in its transparency; at another there are a whole set of assumptions about the morality of putting such terrifying stuff on display that need to be unpicked; but it's certainly provocative, for a former CND activist such as myself, to face some of the demons of the nuclear state head on.

There was something rather chilling and terrifying about watching small kids running around in the cavernous hangar, in amongst the relics of Britain's nuclear present, whilst mothers with pushchairs looked on in a slightly bored fashion at earnest looking clean cut men with short haircuts avidly tossing around their opinions about the power of the thrust accellerators and megaton ratings of the missiles, all of which have names like "Blue Steel" and "Thor".

So is this part of a return to a discourse of austerity and authoritarianism? The return of the 1940s and 1950s? Nuclear family values? There are some parallels, but as I've tracked elsewhere, I think the 1970s are a more useful source of zeitgeist fuel for the current situation, especially as the metaphor of ecological crisis is so potent right now.

Endnote:

Blimey, the plot/intertextuality thickens. Here's a home-made YouTube video of Helen Shapiro's 1969 recording of the song 'Today has been cancelled."
More retro-nostalgia for a more 'innocent'/vanilla popular culture of cold war Britain...?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A convivial culture for health

Here's a link to Jackie's dissertation, written back in 2000 as part of her MA Art in Architecture programme at the University of East London. It's called
A convivial culture for health: case studies in holistic practice
and it gives an account of five key sites for arts and health development in the second half of the 20th Century - the Peckham Pioneer Health Centre, Charlton Lane Acute Mental Health Unit in Gloucestershire, the Bromley By Bow Centre, Vital Arts at the Barts and The London NHS Trust, and Dr Malcolm Rigler's work with artists at Withymoor Surgery in the West Midlands. It could be a helpful reference point for people that want to find out more about the origins and development of the arts in health movement in the UK.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Constructive tensions/impossible contradictions

For those of you that can stomach the download (it's a 25MB file, so apologies!) here is the presentation I gave in Exeter on 9th October. It's called: teaching in the arts through partnerships and collaboration: constructive tensions or impossible contradictions? As always, comments very welcome.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fifteen observations about 'innovation' and the standards agenda

A bit of a rant, but I'm really worked up about this at the moment. Comments very welcome!

There are lots of articles and activity over at NESTA about the need to encourage risk-taking in the public sector, particularly education, if we’re going to have an education system that produces the kinds of ‘creative citizens’ that are needed in the 21st century knowledge economy. Leaving aside some of the problems with the idea that we really are in a knowledge society (or at least, whether anyone other than ‘knowledge and policy entrepreneurs’ and the bloggers really are) here are some thoughts in relation to this:

1. Schools, colleges and universities (particularly schools and colleges) are under tremendous pressure to continually improve their 'results' - i.e. the quantity and quality (measured in grades) of the qualifications that their learners obtain. Education Minister Ed Balls’ recent speech just underlines this further.

2. In a climate in which educational outcomes are measured by league tables, institutions have to repeatedly demonstrate through internal planning and external reporting and inspection how they are performing. Those that appear to be doing well are rewarded with ‘status marks’, brands, logos etc. Those that do badly are ‘named and shamed’ as failing schools, targeted for intervention and pilloried in the popular press. There’s an understandable concern at the heart of this that no child should be in a school that doesn’t give them an entitlement to high quality learning; it’s not the concern to give equal opportunity that I object to, more the preferred method of achieving it. Michael Fullan, in a recent Newsnight Scotland interview pointed out that the evidence is that collaborative approaches, in which professionals share and collaborate across schools according to particular strengths, and get involved in learning together, is more likely to lead to ‘raising standards’.

3. In my book I also pointed out that there is a central contradiction in exhorting schools to ‘collaborate’ when in a performative system they are pitted against each other, particularly in their competition to attract and retain the best kinds of students (i.e. the least risky in terms of their likelihood of failing qualifications). This prejudices the entire system against young people who, for reasons outside of their own control, are particularly challenged in the performance stakes.

4. So what is ‘performativity’? The phrase originates with Jean-Francois Lyotard’s 1979 report The Postmodern Condition: a report on knowledge. He argued that, with the breakdown of traditional forms of authority, the collapse of 19th century ‘grand narratives’, and the ending of a consensus that a cadre of elite, expert professionals could determine what counts as valid knowledge, (in part driven by the challenge to ‘normative’ knowledge mounted by the new social movements and by radical politics), instead the value placed upon knowledge is how it performs a function: “in postindustrial societies the normativity of laws is replaced by the performativity of procedures.” (1979, p. 46). In other words, knowledge, rather than being based on abstracted laws is validated – legitimated – insofar as it fits the stated aims and purposes for which it is being used.

5. In education performativity leads to an obsessive focus on 'attainment’, as measured in test scores and grades. Anything that is not seen as directly impacting on attainment measures is regarded as less important in the life of the school and harder to justify spending any time or money on. It also sends a message to children that the most significant part of their education is the grades and scores that they get at the end of the process. As Ken Robinson says:

"School reforms always emphasize standards and standardized testing, as if it's akin to a McDonald's franchise. But standardized testing demoralizes teachers, demoralizes students, and incents people to teach to the test. Standardized testing is based on the idea that we have to make education teacher-proof and I think we have to do the reverse".

6. We need to consider the psychological and health effects on learners and teachers of their exposure to this intensive audit culture. It could be regarded as a form of psychological warfare. The government talks about ‘partnership’ with the teaching profession but there is a lot of fear, anxiety and stress in the system which is inimical to fostering effective learning communities. We should be asking the question – what kinds of ‘ideal’ subjects – learners and teachers, young people and adults – do these kind of performativity discourses construct? And how do these performative identities play out in the social and pedagogic relations within schools and colleges?

7. Part of this is to do with how qualifications and forms of assessment which boil outcomes down to grades work. This is especially acute when 'outcomes' are measured by pen and paper tests or multiple choice examinations. Such forms of assessment, unless handled carefully, are blunt instruments that don't really measure anything other than students' drilled ability to pass such kinds of tests. They’re also often based on a pseudo-scientific paradigm that there are clearly right answers and wrong answers, correct and incorrect ways of doing things. That’s a much more difficult thing to show in the arts and humanities than it is in maths and the sciences. This is partly how maths and sciences get their reputation for ‘objectivity’ and ‘rigour’, whilst so called ‘expressive outcomes’ of the arts, other than when students are being asked to recall facts or perform analysis, get labelled as fuzzy and blurry and imprecise. It goes back to a mechanistic model of education in which ‘delivery’ is built on the notion that there are best practice models of efficient transmission of knowledge which can be effectively measured by outside authorities; paradoxically, a very 19th century way of thinking about knowledge and learning, which doesn’t really acknowledge just how complicated it has become to really prove any knowledge is likely to have longevity or legitimacy. In fact, enabling learners to apply and use a piece of knowledge (or a skill) is the key issue, not simply testing their ability to recall or reproduce it.

8. There’s some evidence that what has happened in the last ten years is that schools have become more adept at getting 'borderline' students to pass tests, which hasn’t necessarily impacted on the wider quality of educational outcomes. What is needed is a much more high quality approach to assessment which draws together a whole range of skills and abilities – the vocational curriculum is one attempt at this, the use of longer assessments which involve students using a whole range of skills another, the RSA's "Opening Minds" curriculum a third.

9. The biggest ‘risk’ that schools face is that they might try a new approach or change their curriculum and that this will somehow negatively affect their ‘bottom line’ – i.e. students’ test or exam scores. So performativity makes schools risk averse. Partly this is because schools are exhorted to guarantee an ‘entitlement’ for young people so that they all reach the required standard – ‘No Child Left Behind’, as the slogan from the US goes – but the flip side of this agenda is that focussing on children’s performance on a really narrow set of measures in literacy and numeracy runs the risk of leaving everything else that school could be about in the shade. There may be some grounds for optimism: the agendas around creativity, innovation and inclusion at least ‘mediate’ the standards agenda, as Dyson et al (2003) put it, “schools can and do open up spaces in the standards agenda”. There is plenty of evidence that a rich learning environment where attention is paid to relationships and informal learning is much more likely to lead to improved outcomes even in formal assessments. But if the central purpose of education is always expressed as if it were about narrow outcomes, or as Lyotard says elsewhere, based on demonstrating ‘skills’ rather than ‘ideals’, there’s always a risk that the debate gets polarised into which ‘teaching method’ leads to the ‘most effective outcome’, as if those terms haven’t always been the subject of centuries of debate, scholarship and contestation.

10. The pseudo-market created by a performative ‘standards’ agenda also has all sorts of other distorting effects – as Frank Coffield (2007) has pointed out it means that schools put huge attention onto the so-called ‘borderline’ learners – those who are likely with coaching to reach the 5 A – C standard, which may well negatively impact those young people who are either very ‘high achievers’ or very low achievers. Coffield points out that every year in the UK there are 300.000 school leavers who fail to gain places in any further education or training, who simply fall out of the system.

11. So long as the ‘standards’ agenda continues to be the dominant way of thinking about education and learning, we are in trouble. Innovation in schools is locked down by the obsession with measuring attainment, so that the power in terms of defining what constitutes ‘effective learning’ for young people, even if they have powerful experiences of social learning along the way, is reduced to very crude measures of attainment. When everything that a school does has to be justified in terms of its impact on attainment, the first question that springs to my mind at least is, what sort of attainment are we talking about anyway? I am not arguing that we shouldn’t have a qualifications system or a defined curriculum, but we need to teach and assess a much broader range of skills and expose young people to a much wider range of contexts than simply classroom based learning with a single teacher at the front of the room. If QCA’s proposals for a new approach to the secondary curriculum or the new 14- 19 diplomas are to succeed, they need a real focus on pedagogy and thinking about teaching and learning beyond preparation for performance in examinations.

12. In fact, there is tons of evidence that students become more confident learners and more highly skilled when they are nourished in a rich, varied and stimulating learning environment, in which they feel cared for, listened to and valued; in which students and staff are given opportunities to participate and lead, and when the whole school is configured as a learning organisation – a form of social architecture - in which enquiry and creativity are valued. But it is very hard to do this when there is such pressure to cover massive amounts of pre-determined learning content which is assessed in pre-determined ways under intensively timed and controlled conditions. These social textures are the stuff of learning, and failure to address this leads to a failure of imagination.

13. Is technology is an issue here? Probably, but too often it’s about being a ‘learning aid’ – i.e. about endorsing predetermined outcomes without really considering what the creative potential of ICT might be. Without really engaging with how culture and society are changing and shifting we will end up in a mess. Communications technologies are enabling new organisational and institutional forms and patterns to emerge. Ironically the debate about curriculum and assessment seems to be locked into a 19th century model of subjects and standards. If the government is serious about innovation then it needs to send a message to practitioners that it values experimentation and professional learning. Schools would be very different kinds of spaces and places if we really explored what a 21st century learning environment could look like. It certainly doesn’t have to be about the idea of a a single teacher in single classroom with a single group of students all of one age, rather it could take a much more networked and distributed form, just like learning does in the rest of the world...

14. More optimistically, schools and colleges are sites of contestation and in spite of the neat grids of central policies classrooms are messy and pragmatic places – so there’s always space for exploration and possibility. After all, isn’t that what learning is for? So the current situation could be perceived as a major opportunity for innovators, if they could just grab the agenda, wherever they are. To be fair, programmes like Creative Partnerships, some of the work formerly done under the banner of the NESTA Learning Programme, some of the SSAT's efforts to get schools to do peer-to-peer learning, some of NCSL's work and the Innovation Unit have all provided pointers, help and support for schools seeking to innovate. Not to mention the role of local authorities. But even that partial roll-call of overlapping agencies (and that's just for schools, never mind FE or HE) shows how unbelievably tangled, confusing and complex the English education system is.

15. Nothing less than a total rethink of how we measure attainment and approach teaching and learning will deliver a high quality education system. At a time of significant curriculum change in Scotland and England, there’s a real need to focus on teaching and learning, not just standards and outcomes. There are lots of curriculum prototypes and great projects from round the world that are attempting to broaden the agenda and open up learning to more imaginative approaches, but we need a more sophisticated way of articulating this rather than the very tired rhetoric of 'standards'. I'm not suggesting for a minute that we should disregard indicators of educational quality, or not ensure that qualifications provide learners with meaningful certification of what they can do, or make sure teachers learn from expert practitioners, or strive constantly to improve what we do, but we need a much more intelligent debate about how to do this than we are currently getting...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Screenings roundup

Kerry McLeod's For all the tea in England, with snatches of music by Graham, is screening at

Marbella Film Festival 5-7 Oct 2007

Cinema Verite Documentary Festival, Tehran, Iran 15-19 Oct 2007

Roxy Bar and Screen, London, 9pm, 16th Oct 2007


And four short films from The Seafront are being shown at English Heritage's Seaside Heritage conference in Hastings on 16th and 17th October.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

on channels...Fame 2.0?

Staring at the computer screen with my eyes sagging and my neck aching, mid-afternoon, with the sun shining brightly outside, made me reflect on how many personal channels of communication we have to manage and maintain...and working simultaneously on multiple projects and with multiple teams of people just intensifies this sense of being informationally and emotionally challenged....

for example, in the general praxis world, just for one individual (graham), the list includes:

all the daily face to face interactions, meetings and conversations..

which are facilitated by and supplemented by

3 email accounts
1 land line
1 mobile phone
text messages
1 skype account
1 phone at work
this blog
social bookmarks
Myspace
Facebook
Websites in which work I am doing features...
Post at home
Post at work
Publications
occasional work on film,TV, the radio or in recorded media

Plus all the travel and mobility, a weekly 400 mile commute, tickets and keeping track of timetables...

As a freelancer, I don't have the luxury of any administrative support for the core business of managing my work, rather, as well as doing the work I have to do all the admin myself...

But is the 'new work paradigm' that we are all now disembodied, nomadic, multiskilled multitaskers? Perhaps it's the case that the higher up the economic ladder one is, the less one has to be like that, as you get more admin support and can, if you choose, 'outsource' more of the mundane tasks involved in everyday life...and for those largely excluded from the networked world, all of this communicative decadence is a distraction from the business of economic survival... for those of us in the 'lumpen intelligentsia' it's a delicate tightrope between a 'play ethic' and a tyranny of information overload in which sorting the wheat from the chaff, the core focus from the distractions, is a daily struggle. As Gil Scott Heron said, the revolution will not be televised, and all this social media helps people construct identities in which they can easily become "a legend in their own minds..." Our identities (or at least the bits that we choose to share) are increasingly on 24-hour public display, networked globally through electronlc media...

is it any wonder that it all gets a bit overwhelming and stressful sometimes? I remember an edition of Newsnight when Jeremy Paxman referred in an offhand way to blogs as a form of obsessive compulsive disorder and perhaps he got it right...Certainly there's a need to prioritise which channels of communication to use for which purpose, and to have days when everything is just left switched off...perhaps we need a national Switch It Off day? I quite like the idea that social media enables us to become our own broadcasters and publicists, etc, but is anyone actually paying any attention? We still need high quality face to face communication. The networked and collaborative social and digital environments that we inhabit are very double-edged and may be as close to panopticons of spectacle and surveillance as they are liberating.

Monday, September 03, 2007

distracted by the politics and urban geography of parking

Here's a great little film from the USA about the politics of parking lots. Chatting with my friend David Pinder in NYC earlier this year, we agreed that how the cultural geography of parking (and the way in which accommodating the car in general) affects the spatial dynamics of the city needs some serious analysis and investigation. Increasingly through software sorted geographies' (eg the congestion charge) all of this is creating radically splintered urbanism (one of my favourite books of this decade so far).

"Parking Public is an investigation into the realities of utopian thought as materialized in the mundane and pragmatic spaces of parking lots. Parking lots, one of the most visible, yet overlooked, artifacts of American mobility reveal the concrete space required to store the supposed tools of utopian ideals. Parking Public is a mapping of these literally concrete spaces in an attempt to locate the utopia they serve. Underneath both the empty spaces of parking and the empty promises of utopia are real economies and structures of power."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Creative contradictions, constructive tensions...?

Graham is giving an (academic-ish) talk at the University of Exeter school of education on the 9th of October. Summary below:

Teaching (in) the arts through partnerships and collaboration: constructive tensions or impossible contradictions?

Arts education is currently bearing the burden of a frenetic policy rhetoric which emphasises ‘creative skills’ and collaborative work, even as other tentacles of policy squeeze educational institutions to sustain their positions in league tables, enable all students to succeed, and manage relationships with an ever-increasing number of stakeholders. There are numerous unresolved contradictions and tensions: between rhetorics of creativity and student ‘empowerment’ and a highly stratified, competitive assessment and accountability regime; between traditions of liberal arts education which may be at variance with more (post)modern discourses of creativity; and between a meritocratic, popularised vision of ‘talent’ and the socio-economic realities of learners’ lifecourses.

Professional artists and teachers of the arts (many of whom have professional histories as skilled practitioners of the arts in their own right), are being exhorted to collaborate, and in pragmatic and messy ways are attempting to navigate through this landscape. Such collaborations often start at the level of individual curriculum initiatives, but they are also being scaled up into complex, longer-term institutional partnerships between the formal education sector and professional and voluntary arts organisations, enabling students’ learning to spill over from the orderly containers of qualification systems into a broader ecology - of the creative industries, the cultural economy and arts institutions.

There are many opportunities for innovation and professional learning here. Equally, there are many pitfalls and risks: are professionals in schools, colleges and universities equipped to manage the contradictory demands made by performative audit cultures and networked learning communities? What sorts of professional learning experiences are needed if the idea of equitable creative collaboration is to become more rooted in the ‘knowledge pool’ of the education system? Is progress towards the adoption of ‘creativity’ as one of the touchstone concepts of educational and economic policy in England in danger of collapsing under the weight of its internal contradictions?

Drawing on my experience in leading and managing complex institutional partnerships at the University of East London and Newham Sixth Form College, together with more recent work in enabling professional reflection and development for teachers and artists through the TAPP (Teacher-Artist Partnership Programme) in London, I will tell three stories which might help illuminate some ways through the mass of contradictions and difficulties in this turbulent landscape of policy and practice.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pacific Quay

Just back from spending an afternoon at the very impressive BBC Scotland building at Pacific Quay. An attempt to fashion a 21st century workplace; part technohub, part five star hotel/business park, part performance space. It's designed so that the place can buzz with activity on the 'street' that rises in steps through the cavernous atrium, but the acoustic design dampens down the sound so that it doesn't sound like a shopping mall....Anyone designing a school or college could learn a lot from the place - I've yet to see anything as radical be attempted within schools or universities, unfortunately. More generally, that whole part of Glasgow is being re-branded as a media quarter, alongside Glasgow Science Centre; it would be good to see some of Glasgow's institutions of further and higher education get in on the act, so that ways in for communities and students can be found and the zone doesn't become totally dominated by the monied and the affluent...Glasgow has a spectacular 'riverside' masterplan heavily dependent on increasing revenues from tourism, retail and media/creative industries, but the amount of capital needed to develop the spaces will probably mean that the highest bidders will get the last word... A set of spaces to be watched carefully!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Film news

A few bits of news about some of the films with music composed by Graham:



The Seafront: Mark and Effraim just won second prize in Current TV's UK launch competition, in the section on 'people'. Good. The film deserves a wider audience - it's a sensitive and rather beautifully shot set of portraits of people who make use of the seafront at Portsmouth.

Kerry Mcleod's "For all the Tea in England" was screened as part of the Rushes Soho Shorts festival at the end of July. You can also watch the film online on ITV's London local life channel.

The Documentary Filmakers Group held a London screening of "For all the Tea in England" and "The Seafront" in June.

Azan: a call to prayer is still doing the rounds: most recently screened in the 'solar cinema' as part of the Camden Film Festival in June, and also at the Young European Film Forum in France in April.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Summer reading

A quick run-down of the books being read this summer in the generalpraxis household:

Fantasy Island, by Larry Elliot and Dan Atkinson: pretty raw explosion of some of the economic mythologies around the New Labour bubble. You don't have to agree with all of it to be pretty concerned about some of the underlying economic trends we're facing at the moment.

The Postmodern Condition: a report on knowledge, by Jean-Francois Lyotard; even nearly thirty years after it was first published, it's still really fresh and relevant: particularly the sections on the 'knowledge economy' and performativity.

Marie Stopes: a biography by Ruth Hall. Fascinating portrait of one of the iconic pathbreaking, British women of the early 20th century.

From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism by Fred Turner; forensic and detailed history of the formative ideologies which converged in the creation of the so-called 'new economy'. Particularly good on how 'new communalism' of the late 1960s and early 1970s morphed and blended with the individualism and libertarianism of the new right, and also, just below the surface, you can see just how (unconsciously) elitist and white the high priests of the knowledge revolution were (and are?).

The Kindness of Women by JG Ballard; part elegaic memoir, part male fantasy, part futuristic romp through the hinterland of the late 20th century.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Parliamentary investigation into creative partnerships in education

The House of Commons Education Select Committee has launched an enquiry into Creative Partnerships, creativity and the curriculum. It might be interesting to see what comes out of this. If anyone would like to submit evidence, the deadline is 16th July.

Update 11th July: The establishment of the DSCF has "led to the Education and Skills Select Committee also ending its work and scrutiny. The Committee will therefore be unable to undertake the inquiry into Creative Partnerships and the Curriculum."
See here.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Lift New Parliament = The Lift!

Nice film from the Lift website about what the Lift (formerly the 'new parliament') is to be about.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Olympic logos

Following today's launch of the new £400K Olympic logo following an extensive 'visioning' process by Wolff Olins,
I just had to laugh when I saw this alternative London 2012 logo sent in by someone to the BBC News website.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A prospectus for arts and health

A new publication from Arts Council England and the Department of Health, with a foreword by both the minister for health and the minister for culture:

"This prospectus produced jointly by the Department of Health and Arts Council England celebrates and promotes the benefits of the arts in improving everyone’s wellbeing, health and healthcare, and its role in supporting those who work in and with the National Health Service. The prospectus shows that the arts can, and do, make a major contribution to key health and wider community issues.

This publication stems from the recommendations of the Review of Arts and Health Working Group, commissioned by the Department of Health. A copy of the review can be downloaded from http://www.dh.gov.uk."

Taken together with pronouncements from the Scottish Executive on the arts and mental health and also the requirement for all NHS Boards in Scotland to have design champions for new healthcare buildings, there is the potential for quite a head of steam to build up behind these initiatives...although it's not yet clear what the new SNP administration thinks about arts in health, if anything. So the discussions around "Creative Scotland" will be interesting to follow.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Completed and upcoming projects

Just completed but not yet published:

a study, with CapeUK on the role of the arts in the community radio sector in the UK

Projects in the pipeline:

some music for a film about the London Development Agency's work supporting projects through the European Social Fund made by Anton Califano

mediated conversations at a cultural trading post: a study of the possibilities and problems of teacher-artist partnerships (with the TAPP programme)

Scoping for Creative Partnerships on their possible engagement with the further education sector (with CapeUK)

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra professional development residency at Smoo Cave, Durness

Projects ongoing:

AHRC-funded study on young people, performing arts and social exclusion, with Alice Sampson at UEL - examining four youth arts settings in the UK

mentoring a nesta-funded project at Lister Community School in digital media for year 8 students

Projects just beginning:

Work with Burns Owens Partnership on a meta-evaluation of 'partnership' in Creative Partnerships' schemes

Work with the British Council in Spain and Gao Lettres, Barcelona examining ways of connecting education and cultural policy agendas to support teacher-artist partnerships and creativity in schools (with CapeUK and the Tapp programme)

Projects under consideration:

a wider international project examining the connections between curriculum design, situated learning and community regeneration, based on international case studies of successful innovation and engagement, particularly through cultural partnerships

an irregular general praxis podcast? Could be fun.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Girl Chewing Gum


This superb little documentary from 1976 not only depicts a fascinating slice of London east end life but also raises some important questions about truth, fiction and representation in documentary film-making. Godardian in its ambitions, it uses the representation of a street corner in a Dalston neighbourhood to produce a hilarious montage of effects and questions. To begin with you might think that the narrator is adopting a Tati-esque micro-choreography but the perspective soon shifts...

Watch it for yourself and then you will see...

For a more thorough analysis of John Smith's work, see here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Health of a City


This is a great documentary from 1965, commissioned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the post of public health officer for Glasgow. It gives some context to the innovations in public healthcare pioneered in this city from the mid-19th century onwards. It's a nicely shot and edited piece of work which conjures up some of the extraordinary richness of Glasgow's culture and the resilience of its people. It also demonstrates the absolute necessity of continual innovation and improvement in public services if we are to solve the challenges of the 21st century...as well as the pride in the creation of a National Health Service. I wonder what sort of a documentary could be commissioned now, 52 years on? In some ways this film feels that it could have been made much more recently than 1965. What is so smart about it is that it makes the policy and planning links between culture, economics, health and social policy, and community, down to details of food safety and the social conditions in which people are living...and shows the aspirations which underpinned the foundation of the Welfare State, and how they were taken up by the Corporation of Glasgow. A great piece of social documentary, but you can see all too clearly how the welfare state was transformed into the nanny state in the popular imagination of the 1970s and 1980s, as it ran into a tidal wave of consumer capitalism and individualism...you can also see how the socialist utopias of the 20th century contained within themselves the seeds of their own destruction...

darkmatter

This is a smart new online journal/blog set up by my UEL colleague Ash Sharma - an independent post-colonial writing-machine - a mix of intelligent cultural commentary and links to useful sources and snippets of discourse which challenge a situation where "the blinding whiteness of network culture continues to make most of the planet's population invisible."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Creativity, risk and the audit culture

On Radio 4's Learning Curve last week the most interesting point made was one that none of us managed to address properly. Loosely paraphrasing, Libby Purves said "in a world in which everything must be assessed and graded in order to keep everyone safe, the less safe everyone feels." A succinct summary of a major problem. Likewise, a number of recent reports are questioning what is the point of all the assessment to which young people are subjected. Is it for their benefit ("assessment is for learning", as they like to say in Scotland), or to keep track of how the school is performing in comparison to others and in comparison to national 'norms'? So who is being assessed? The learner or the institution? The answer, surely, is 'both' - but there is very limited evidence that all this assessment, and even worse, testing, is having much effect on anyone's ability to learn, or on teachers' ability to teach effectively.

So, at worst, does the obsession with measuring student attainment in order to compare institutions (the apparatus of institutional comparison) actually divert teachers' attention from meeting the needs of individual learners? Who is all the assessment and audit for? OK, so there's a need to know whether public money is well spent, hence the intense scrutiny of public services. But the audit industry around education (and other public services) creates a culture of performativity which certainly feels something like a straight-jacket to those people who are working in it. Someone recently said "the English spend millions trying to prove that the system provides value for money". Creativity in this context is heavily circumscribed by regulation, bureaucracy and hierarchy. This is a tension that creative practitioners have to address all the time.

The literature on public sector innovation doesn't really address the profound tension between the conditions needed for innovation and the conditions imposed by a normative audit culture. But in the business world, some companies do seem to manage to innovate products and services - and balance regulation and accountability. The difference, broadly, seems to me to be that the public sector isn't generally very good at learning and that it's not just a business - it's not ruled by relatively straightforward goals and objectives, i.e. to sell things or services and make profits from doing so. The 'products' and 'services' of education are complex and contested. The public sector is also very distracted from learning, by the huge burden imposed by reporting, audit and inspection. Can reporting and inspection be used to promote reflection and learning, rather than appearing to be non-negotiable judgements handed down from higher authorities?

And is the obsession with 'raising attainment' just creating a culture of conformity? Essentially does it encourage schools to 'select out' the learners that represent the most risky proposition? It certainly forces institutions to compete for the students that they think will improve their position in the output and attainment tables. Why would schools or universities want to admit students who might adversely affect their performance in the educational 'bottom line'? Who might be costly to support and difficult to teach, or might challenge normative versions of what education is about or what it is for? As I said in my book "a climate of performativity is likely to create a risk-averse management culture in which teachers retreat into standardised and normative versions of teaching and learning."

Surely the issue is more to do with how risk is managed (and who is doing the managing), rather than the idea that risk can be eliminated completely. And narratives of risk are not without their own racialised, culturalised, ethnic, class dimensions. As Stanley Aronowitz says, we should be asking "What is at risk here? Who put these students at risk?" When 'experts' say that it might be 'too risky' to adopt a new or experimental approach to teaching and learning, perhaps the first step is to question the status and perspective of the expert. Too risky for whom? The students or the underlying cultural values/norms of the institution? Postcolonial theory has something to say about this.

Supporting creativity necessarily involves a leap into the unknown. Equally, just talking about encouraging 'risk taking' in an understandably risk-averse public sector culture without differentiating between acceptable and unacceptable risk isn't too smart either. Institutions need values and 'missions', and quality assurance and planning systems, although mechanical and normative, have a place. There has to be a clear ethical framework for work with learners. And curriculum planning is the cultural architecture of learning. However, these cultures need to be open to question, debate, reformation and reinvention. Isn't that why we suggest that public servants should be professionals and employ professional judgement? Isn't that why we maintain the idea of a teaching profession so that there are appropriate values and ethics to underpin these kinds of professional choices?

For what it's worth, this somewhat lengthy abstract gives a sense of where my thinking on the notion of creative partnership, as an emergent form of new, collaborative, networked 'curriculum architecture', is at the moment. Interestingly, conversations with my partner Jackie about the constraints on innovation within the health sector throw up similar issues. There's an article to be written, when we manage to get round to it...

On the other hand, perhaps the issue is as much to do with the ways in which individual managers and practitioners internalise the audit culture, and use its techniques to constrain innovation and disempower others, as it is to do with trying to change structures and systems. When you're trying to manage a situation on the ground, there's inevitably a sense of some tension between the idea of providing a public entitlement, maintaining quality and standards in services, and the need to experiment and take (managed) risks in order to innovate. What is needed is imaginative and intelligent funding and management regimes that don't treat the people 'delivering' public services as technicians to do the bidding of the centre but rather partners - experts - in improving and developing the quality of what is 'delivered.' So professional learning, research and development and professional dialogue becomes critical. Interestingly, even the National Audit Office says in a recent report:"Government departments should build stronger partnerships with local bodies and come to a better understanding of the challenges they face."

The introduction to Bob Jeffrey's recent book summarises some of the issues pretty intelligently: performativity as "a principle of governance that enables strictly functional relationships to develop between a state and its inside and outside environments over and against the older policy technologies of professionalism and bureaucracy, through the institutionalisation of new management techniques and the development of 'mutual instrumentalism' (Ball, 2003). Performativity is a technology, a culture and mode of regulation that employs judgements, comparisons and displays as a means of incentive, control and change."

So my anxiety is that creativity discourse, harnessed to an uncritical performativity culture, constructs learners - and even teachers - as if all they are is individual 'creative entrepreneurs'. It maintains the idea that schooling is fundamentally about the needs of the economy - everyone is then a competitor - and downgrades the social, cultural, civic, interpersonal aspect of learning. What about the education of persons? We need to get beyond the idea that school is just the education of workers and is only about improving economic productivity (for whom?). Entrepreneurship should be one component in a balanced educational diet, but not the only ingredient. The rationale for education is as much social as it is economic. And even with all the rhetoric about personalised learning, the dominant discourse is still one of the learner (and parents) as consumers of educational services rather than participants...and teachers as 'deliverers' rather than 'designers.'

So where is this debate going? Thoughts, anyone?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Seafront on FourDocs

Short three minute segments from 'The Seafront', with music by Graham, are now up on Channel Four's 'FourDocs' website.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Learning Curve

Graham is on the Learning Curve on Monday 14th May (repeated at 11pm on Sunday 20th May) on BBC Radio 4, talking about some of the issues involved in the new-found enthusiasm for creativity within education policy. Also featured will be some projects from Creative Partnerships and some interviews with participants in the recent Teacher-Artist Partnership(TAPP) international seminar in London. The TAPP website has just been updated with some further information, including the presentation that we put together to set the context for the international event.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Waltham Forest: the Clyde Loakes Trail


This very entertaining (yet serious) paragraph arrived in my inbox this afternoon. It may be satire but it makes a serious point about the decline and mismanagement of cultural services in Waltham Forest, the other home of generalpraxis. And the campaign to save the William Morris Gallery and the Vestry House Museum from further downgrading continues. Both places were one of the few weekday retreats from the generally dismal atmosphere when we were raising a young family in the London Borough of Waltham Forest between 1997 and 2005. They were places of learning that were child-friendly and allowed residents to get a sense of perspective on the place. It's terrible that a borough with such restricted cultural amenities is considering cutting back its services further.

The Clyde Loakes Trail


Public services in Waltham Forest are being cut due to the inability of the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition to persuade the Labour government that services need funding. One of the few remaining cultural attractions is the Beckham Trail, celebrating the formative years of the former England football captain. It has been suggested that there should also be a Clyde Loakes Trail to celebrate the achievements of the Leader of Waltham Forest Council. There could be a flyer and map leading people from the closed library at St. James Street to the closed WCs, via the cut-price Citizens Advice Bureau, the restricted-hours William Morris Gallery, the gallery at Vestry House Museum that has incurred the wrath of the Heritage Lottery Fund because of the misuse of Lottery money, the sold-off Louisa Oakes Centre, the doomed theatre at Lloyd Park, the bombed-out arcade site and the derelict cinema in Hoe Street. Each site could carry little red plaques.

Monday, April 23, 2007

'The Seafront' on YouTube



You can watch edited segments of 'The Seafront' on YouTube now, if you're so inclined. Doesn't really have the impact of the big screen, but gives you a flavour of the documentary, directed by Anton Califano, for which Graham composed the music.

Azan in Dresden

Azan: a call to prayer is programmed in the Dresden International Short Film Festival this week. And, if you can bear their clunky site design (it seems to be rubbish if you have a Mac!) you can also watch it online at London's new ITV Local channel.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Weather report







Hot from the very, very wet general praxis weather service, here are some pictures of this afternoon's torrential downpour (continuing as I type) in New York. The streets were almost deserted down in SoHo...

Taste the Creativity


Briefly in Chicago for the American Educational Research Association conference and sundry other meetings. As a distraction from the interminable and ponderous conference I snapped a few signs. Here they are, including the indescribable 'taste the creativity' sandwich from the Corner Bakery Cafe.












You can't quite make it out, but G.R.E.A.T. on the side of that cop's car stands for "Gang Resistance Education and Training". How subtle to use a gun as a logo for such a programme.





Springtime has come to Scotland but it hasn't quite yet made it to Chicago.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

On caves, cities (and cava)

Another slightly frantic couple of weeks in general praxis land - travelling up and down the country, via London, Glasgow and Dundee, from Smoo Cave in Durness to another sort of cave entirely - the lecture theatre in the basement of La Pedrera in Barcelona. I spent three days in the far north of Scotland preparing for the summer residency with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, visiting the site and talking with visual artists who live and work in and around the Balnakiel Craft Village. Then, with Jackie and other colleagues from London and Chicago, I travelled to Barcelona for the much-anticipated "present as future" event.

Interestingly a philosophical thread emerged that connects the work in the almost primordial - and relatively untouched and underinscribed - environment of the remote Scottish cave with the conference (Present as Future: education, heritage and the arts) in Barcelona - technopole, hub of modernism and urban innovation. "La Pedrera" translates from Catalan as 'the quarry' - it's a slightly derogatory nickname coined by the folk of Barcelona because the building looks almost as if it is carved from the landcape. Gaudi's building is a landmark site which is a rich source of metaphor, visual jokes and a totally groundbreaking form of building design inspired by organic forms.

The opening lecture of the symposium, the whole of which was superbly curated (one could even say 'orchestrated') by our friend Eulalia Bosch of Gao Lettres, came from Juan Navarro Baldeweg, the distinguished architect who designed the building and museum that houses the replica of the Altamira caves in Cantabria, northern Spain. He spoke about the metaphor of the cave as the most primordial form of human shelter and used this as a point of departure for a meditation on the relationship between painting and architecture (the altamira caves house some of the earliest examples of painting), between geologic sedimentation (the gradual build-up of vertical structures by way of the horizontal layering and compression of fragments) and the ways in which horizontal forces disrupt, excavate and enlarge the internal spaces of cave (usually it's water working its way into the faultlines and cavities of the rocks, and its so easy to see how this has happened at Smoo).

As humans we have a strong urge to make marks on the landscape, to construct buildings, to act out our presence in the world, partly in response to our basic needs, and partly because we have culture - we want to decorate our caves; we want to communicate our world-views; we want to express our values and beliefs; we live in brief timespans and we make monuments to our own mortality. And successive generations of humans leave their own sediment on the landscape, reminding me of another small fragment of my life, the Current 93 song Earth covers Earth.

In the simplest sense we can see construction as the interplay between lines, horizontals and verticals, straight lines and organic curved lines, as a play between design on paper in 2D, and how mark-making, plans, and designs translate into 3 dimensional forms. Building is a form of inscription on, and interaction with, the landscape. It is a performance - a play between materials, physics, geography, economics and - as Navarro pointed out - the forces of gravity, the elements and the social purposes of making buildings. So architecture itself is always a kind of gestamstkunstwerk, and a metaphor for processes of creation in general. Juan Navarro talked about how the human hand acts on the landscape, how the body occupies and interacts with geological, geographical and architectural space, and how architecture is a form of 'artificial geology'. As we construct the world - literally through the manipulation of materials, and metaphorically through language and symbols - we make and remake ourselves in relationship to the spaces and territories that we occupy.

The Altamira caves, Smoo and even La Pedrera could be seen almost as a kind of geological memory, as markers of generations of human interactions with the natural environment laid out and carved out from very different kinds of landscapes. They are rich reference points for thinking about the relationships between nature, culture and society, not only in very particular localities but also in a universal sense. Navarro's was one of several absolutely astonishing presentations - a kind of virtuoso interplay between speech, text, image, story, memory and identity - and has set off some interesting lines of thought for the project in the summer.

The metaphor of sedimentation came through very strongly - layer upon layer of memory, history, objects and narrative, settling one upon the other, with occasional sudden lines of disruption and fissure cutting in. Geology works on million-year timescales. As humans we exist in the blink of an eye in 'long now' time. Our conversations in the quiet, northerly, eternally changeable Smoo also touched on the notion of the cave as the primordial 'interior' space - a kind of dark interior place of the mind, and as a place which might trigger self-reflection and exploration of those dark recesses of the mind that fuel creativity and doubt. Jung, in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, refers to the story of the young men who slept in the cave in the 18th Sura of the Koran: "the cave is a place of rebirth, that secret cavity in which one is shut up in order to be incubated and renewed...Anyone who gets into...the cave which everyone has in himself, or into the darkness that lies behind consciousness, will find himself involved in an - at first - unconscious process of transformation..." The mind is like a cave too, that we carry around with us - as Jean-Claude Carriere pointed out in another bravura speech, wherever we go, we carry our imaginarium with us.

Another strong metaphor which came as we emerged from the dimly-lit, basement lecture theatre into the sunlit streets of Barcelona was that of light and dark in learning - my main reflection was that for educators there is often a tendency to want to shine light into those dark recesses in a kind of 'will to reveal', when sometimes it's more important to think about light and shade, perhaps leaving some dark spaces of the unknown, opening up some spaces for exploration, questioning and doubt, rather than seeking to circumscribe and specify and know everything.

The other major ingredient in the Smoo collaboration will be music - and that, as a form of sonic architecture, will be very interesting to add to the cast of players in the theatre of the cave.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

See high definition


Stratford, 10.30pm, 11 December 2006.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The growth of higher education programmes in community and participatory arts

A quick web trawl reveals that there has been a proliferation of higher education programmes dealing with community and participatory arts practice in the UK. When we set up the Performing Arts: community development programme at UEL and NewVIc in 1999, there were hardly any available, apart from longstanding work at Strathclyde, to some extent at LIPA, and through artform-specific work such as the work in community music at York University and Goldsmiths, community dance at Middlesex and community and applied theatre at Winchester, Bristol, Manchester or Central School of Speech and Drama. There's also been a major growth in postgraduate courses. And a lot of mainstream undergraduate arts programmes now include modules and units in community or participatory arts.

However, to my knowledge most of these courses are not very well networked together. Perhaps there's a need for some sort of research/academic practice/professional practice network/association? I'm not volunteering to set this up, but it would be good to find a way of building momentum around this important field of knowledge. Step forward PALATINE or Mailout to sort this out? Some mapping/directory-building/networking needed, I think. One of the complications is that the fences built by departments, RAE and general academic jockeying doesn't lead to sufficient interdisciplinary dialogue amongst arts practitioners and researchers around participatory, open, democratic and generally progressive arts practice (acknowledging of course that all such labels are not without their problems). As I've argued elsewhere, the theory and practice of participatory arts is emergent, contingent and contested - so coherence isn't likely to be a strong feature of the field right now.

A few interesting ones listed below, and I'm open to suggestions for expanding the list:

All the work we are doing at UEL's Institute for Performing Arts Development, of course

MA Applied Theatre, University of Manchester
MA Applied Drama, University of Exeter
MA in Applied Drama: Theatre in Educational Community and Social Contexts, Goldsmiths College, University of London
MA Community and Participatory Arts, faculty of art and design, University of Staffordshire
MA Community Arts, Cumbria Insitute of the Arts
MA Community Music, York University
MA Cross-Sectorial and Community Arts, Goldsmiths College, University of London
BA Drama, Applied Theatre and Education, Central School of Speech and Drama
MA Social Sculpture, Oxford Bookes University
MA Theatre and Media for Development, University of Winchester
MMus Leadership, Guildhall School of Music and Drama
MA Cultural Performance, University of Bristol
MSc in Music in the Community, University of Edinburgh
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts for Development and Social Justice, Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh

Communityarts.net, that excellent portal for knowledge and understanding in the US, keeps a directory of training programmes in community arts, but it relies on contributors to keep it up to date, and right now its coverage of UK opportunities is pretty patchy. The British Council has a useful portal on arts for youth and community development here.

What's so fascinating to me is that the growth of these programmes, not to mention all the infomal training and professional development happening outside universities, means that there must be thousands and thousands of people in the British Isles now training, researching, reflecting on and even earning a reasonable living from socially engaged, participatory and critical arts practice.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

FORTE final report

The final report from the EU-funded FORTE (Fostering Participation through Education and Cultural Exchange) project is now available.

Here's the information from the project website:

"FORTE was a project funded under the Joint Actions strand of the European Commission’s Socrates, Leonardo and Youth programmes between January 2005 and October 2006. It focused on the common ground among youth, education, and culture, as a basis for youth participation and development.

This website wants to inform you on FORTE, its activities, partners and results, as well as providing you with wide-ranging information on the youth arts and education sector. These include links to networks, EU programmes and research papers, an extensive searchable database of relevant organisations and good practice case studies, and other useful material for all those active or interested in the youth, arts and education sector. The portal will remain online until at least December 2007.

Coordinated by the Interarts Foundation in Barcelona, FORTE brought together four pioneering partner organisations from Germany, Lithuania, Spain and the UK, which work with cultural tradition, experimentation and exchange to make learning attractive for young people and allow them to develop new skills and participate actively in society."

The report can be downloaded here.

Smoo


This summer Graham is going to be working with musicians from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and artists who live and work in the locality, as part of an experimental residency in and around Smoo Caves, Durness, right at the top of Scotland. It's going to be an exciting project and the generalpraxis blog will keep track of what happens.

More screenings in March and April



Azan: a call to prayer is screening at the following festivals in March and April:

New York Arab & South Asian Film Festival
March 2nd

Videotivoli Festival, Tampere, Finland, March 6th

British Creative Exchange: Cesar Charlone retrospective, Cineworld, Haymarket, London, March 18th

Tongues on Fire 9th Asian Womans Film Festival, London, ICA, March 20th

Jana International Film Festival for Children & Youth, Beirut, Lebanon, April 16th - 21st

And the British Council has included the film in its Britfilms.com catalogue.


Journeys across my City, Buenos Aires is also screening at the Tampere Videotivoli festival. And it's back in Birmingham, this week, on the BBC Big Screen by the Town Hall in Chamberlain Square.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Current projects

Current projects occupying Graham's mind, wearing out his body and generally keeping him awake at night:

- the music for a new short film funded by Film London and the Newham Film Fund, directed by Kerry McLeod called
"For all the tea in England"

Continuing work on the Teacher-Artist Partnership Programme and associated research on the dynamics of artist-teacher partnerships called "Mediated Conversations at a Cultural Trading Post..."

Ongoing work on an AHRC-funded study on young people, performing arts and social inclusion based at the University of East London

Work with the School of Arts, City University on new foundation degrees in creative industries at the Roundhouse

Evaluation for the Theatre Royal, Stratford East of a project working with young people called "Hear My Voice"

Work with CAPE UK on a study for the Community Media Association, Arts Council England and the DCMS on the arts in community radio

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year Tricks

In One Year and Out the Other

On New Year's Eve, make a telephone call from one time zone to
another to conduct a conversation between people located in two
years. After midnight, call the other way.

Ken Friedman

1975

I was also delighted to notice that some imaginative activists in France staged a demo against the new year - calling on the French government and the UN to call off 2007: time is moving too quickly, 2006 is fine as it is, let's have a 'moratorium on the future' etc. Perhaps this will spread into a global movement for Slow Time? The clock of the long now, in another guise?