Cultural markers in the East of England

Month: September 2014

The Power to Create!

Matthew Taylor has produced a new RSA Short to accompany the current drive to embrace creativity across society. See it below…

Matthew draws from his recent RSA Chief Executive’s lecture.

The message, that we should all embrace our creativity, is a telling one. Rigid thinking can bring with it the warm comfort of supposed ‘certainty’. However, to the creative mind ‘…every individual has the freedom and opportunity to develop their unique capabilities to the full’.

Oliver Reichardt, the RSA Director of Fellowship states that ‘…this concept will be central to our work(The RSA) in the future’. We warm to the sentiment at conversationsEast.

See what you think.


Live streaming neuroscientist Susan Greenfield!

Thursday 2 October 6.15 – 7.45 Cambridge Community Foundation,The Quorum, Barnwell Road, Cambridge CB5 8RE

Cambridge Fellows will be streaming the day’s RSA lunchtime talk. (Find the CCF building in Cambridge here)

Mind Change
Leading neuroscientist Susan Greenfield considers the implications of the vast range of technologies that are creating a new environment around us all. How can we ensure these powerful forces bring out the best in us, and allow us to lead more meaningful, more creative lives?

Followed by an informal discussion.

(Baroness Greenfield is Senior Research Fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford University. From 2005 to 2012, she was Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. From 1998 to 2010, she was director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. In September 2013, she co-founded the biotech company Neuro-bio Ltd, where she is Chief Scientific Officer….Ed).

All Fellows and guests welcome.

For more details and directions  emailIcon4


The automatic librarian…

Our small journal produces a lot of data. We generate twitter feeds, meta-tags and article categories…on and on. Does it have a use?

One thing we do at conversationsEAST every month is to run our Twitter generated content through a Knight Lab application called BookRX. (Part of the conversationsEAST team day job is to be booksellers and publishers, so the findings can be used to plan thematic content for our literacy projects, for example…Ed).

For our journal it can serve the same function, offering insights into subjects that can be useful as leaders to content ideas, or to see if the profile of our readers is on the trend we believe we are following.

BookRX works like this…

it analyzes your tweets (the words, Twitter usernames, and hashtags you use) and compares them to terms that are correlated with book categories.

… it is a book recommendation app at heart. The results can be interesting. We publish below this months analysis of our journal Twitter feed. We have featured the lead book in three categories; Science and Technology, Politics and Social Sciences and Business.

The Mobile Wave - are we immersed already?

The Mobile Wave – are we immersed already?

‘In the tradition of international best-sellers, Future Shock and Megatrends, Michael J. Saylor, CEO of MicroStrategy, brings The Mobile Wave, a ground-breaking analysis of the impact of mobile intelligence-the fifth wave of computer technology.

The Mobile Wave argues that the changes brought by mobile computing are so big and widespread that it’s impossible for us to see it all, even though we are all immersed in it’.

The Mobile Wave by Michael Saylor  You can buy this book from here



Panarchy cover imageThe book examines theories (models) of how systems (those of humans, nature, and combined human natural systems) function, and attempts to understand those theories and how they can help researchers develop effective institutions and policies for environmental management.

The fundamental question this book asks is whether or not it is possible to get beyond seeing environment as a sub-component of social systems, and society as a sub-component of ecological systems, that is, to understand human-environment interactions as their own unique system

Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems by Lance H. Gunderson (Editor), C. S. Holling (Editor)  Buy this book from here

Just Listen cover image‘The first make-or-break step in persuading anyone to do any thing is getting them to hear you out. Whether the person is a harried colleague, a stressed-out client, or an insecure spouse, things will go from bad to worse if you can’t break through emotional barricades.

Drawing on his experience as a psychiatrist, business consultant, and coach, and backed by the latest scientific research, author Mark Goulston shares simple but power ful techniques readers can use to really get through to people—whether they’re coworkers, friends, strangers, or enemies’.

Getting through is a fine art but a critical one.

Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston M.D. (Author), Keith Ferrazzi (Foreword). Buy this book from

Did BookRX get the feel of our readership right? The acid test for us is does the machine generated selection have an appropriate ‘RSA feel’ to it? We think it does, providing sources that are appropriately defined through the prism of our journal content.

The app also generates selections for sports and fitness, as well as a fiction list. These are a little more difficult to empathise with, although we may publish future lists as book recommendations of regular interest for Fellows, particularly as the volume of our Twitter traffic grows.

One charitable application for the technology, we can think of, is to use the Knight Lab service to generate book lists for on-line sale as a fund-raising initiative. Taking the guess work out of list building for your audience?

Editors Note:

BookRx was created by Shawn O’Banion and Larry Birnbaum and designed by Jeremy Gilbert and Sarah Adler at Northwestern University’s Knight Lab, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the National Science Foundation

Northwestern University Knight Lab advances news media innovation and education. Developing ideas from experimentation through adoption, the Lab makes technology that aims to help make information meaningful and promotes quality storytelling on the Internet.



Chelmsford remembers!

Essex at War

We wrote recently about how glorious was the summer of 1914 and how those balmy days before the Great War seemed to reach on into the Autumn. (Revisit the article here…). We were lucky enough to be at the 1st World War commemoration event at Hylands House, sponsored by Essex County Council, on the weekend of the 14th September 2014.

The machinery of war in Hylands Park...

The machinery of war in Hylands Park…

The fields of the estate provided a glorious backdrop for families and groups to enjoy the late sunshine, to listen to martial music from a band on the terrace and to enjoy the military re-enactments and be-uniformed attendants, at a variety of regimental stalls scattered like a canvas billet around the great house.

The inside of Hylands House  afforded visitors the chance to meet and greet a variety of historically textured projects from the Essex area. Enjoying views of the landscaped gardens and lawns from the restored windows, of the horse-drawn charabanc and the 574 acre landscape designed by Humphry Repton. Read more about the history of this lovely house here, on the web pages of Chelmsford City Council.

Drawn through the grounds in some style...

Drawn through the grounds in some style…

On the first floor of Hylands House that sunny morning were members of  project called Chelmsford Remembers.

The Heritage Lottery Fund project, led by Fellows of the RSA, is a history project designed to capture ‘…the history and of Chelmsford and its people during The First World War’.

Below you can see what we discovered, at conversationsEAST, about this great project…

Chelmsford Remembers

The project will have a major exhibition in place, generously supported by High Chelmer Shopping Centre, that will feature the work of project volunteers and to enable residents to see the findings of the research…as well as contribute information about their own family members, we hope.

Empire Plaquette image...

With kind thanks to Freddy Slater of the project…

It is intended to to transform the central square of the Centre into a replica trench, with artefacts and displays of Great War material relevant to the area.

The display at the High Chelmer Shopping Centre has a particularly poignant centrepiece. A large Memorial Plaquette, or ‘Dead Man’s Penny’, which was issued to the families of all those service personnel killed as a result of the war.

Tragically, some 1,355,000 placquettes were distributed, consuming some 450 tonnes of bronze in their manufacture. We were lucky to meet with members of the project who gave us permission to use an image of their precious artefact. We thank them.

Would you like to get involved in the Chelmsford Remembers Project? You can.

Buy this book on

Buy this book on

All successful applicants to the project will get a free copy of Dr. Paul Rusiecki’s The Impact of Catastrophe, a book detailing his research into the people of Essex and the impact of war from 1914 to 1920.

You can join the team by making contact with Chelmsford Remembers.


The project is looking for ten volunteer researchers who are passionate about uncovering the past of Chelmsford. The project provides free training and support and will also be involved in the forthcoming Ideas Festival.

Talks were given…

In the Pavilion, adjacent to the main house, the day was spent in listening and watching a variety of talks from researchers and authors on the theme of the war in Essex. The event was sponsored by the Essex Records Office and was chaired and the business of the day guided by Malcolm Noble FRSA. (Malcolm is the Chair of the Eastern Region RSA Fellowship).

Malcolm Noble FRSA making a point during the opening talk...

Malcolm Noble FRSA making a point during the opening talk…

We illustrate below two quick samples of the talks, which were well received by the respective audiences. Providing attendees in the Pavilion with access to new information and insights into the The Great War in Essex.

Stylistically different, the programme afforded the interested listener with a wealth of data, images and reflection on this momentous time in the County.

The Lights Go Out in Essex: August 1914

Dr. Paul Rusiecki delivered a short paper to the morning audience around the emergence of war into the summer sunshine of summer 1914.

Paul’s principal thesis was that ‘…war crept up by stealth on the people of Essex’. He cited Dedham Church Choir, so oblivious to the impending storm, that on the day preceding the announcement of hostilities, ‘…the singers took an overnight visit to Cambridge’.

As further evidence of civil society behaving as normal, there was reflection given during the paper to a strike in the County by agricultural harvest workers. There was significant unrest during August of 1914, with police marshalled and shots fired to suppress the protest. This dispute rapidly came to an end as wages were able to rise as a result of war measures to secure food production, we were informed. Ferment was also current in August 1914 with regard to the Irish Home Rule Bill, with all the consequent fears of uprising.

Dr. Rusiecki informs his audience...

Dr. Rusiecki informs his audience…

The local Essex press made no mention of the assassination in Sarajevo, but by the end of August 1914 ‘…the cold hand of realism had fallen on Essex’. The air of unreality had dissipated, we were told. The early battles at Mons had led to an increase in the call for conscription in England.

By May 1915, Dr.Rusiecki enlightened us, attitudes to German and Austrians resident in the County had hardened. A shift in mindset driven by the sinking of the Lusitania, air raids over Southend and the publication of the Bryce Report, which detailed atrocities committed in Belgium during the early stages of the war.

phoneIcon(You can discover an animated film from 1918, about the sinking of the liner Lusitania here…)

A wonderfully lucid and well paced delivery, we thought.

Mobilisation and Land Defences in Essex

Clive Potter, a local county based historian, gave his audience a delightful visual and data festooned presentation. We were offered a variety of county maps, which showed us both the disposition of troops before hostilities and the numerous training grounds across the Essex landscape.

Strong visual presentation from Clive Potter, local historian...

Strong visual presentation from Clive Potter, local historian…

Similarly, Clive was able to reveal the likely landing places for small detachments of ‘enemy’ troops on the Essex coast. These visual elements were supported by notes and the detail from the 1914 UK battle plan, ‘The Land Defense of the United Kingdom (Eastern Region), which gave us detailed exposition on how our defense would be undertaken in the event of invasion.

Detailed maps were offered of inland defenses in the county, including a significant amount of trench works for troops to block advancing enemy forces. This was very enlightening, as we had always, as a ‘lay ‘audience, assumed that trench warfare was the sole remit of mainland European combatants.

Clive completed his image selection with a very interesting range of contemporary images from 1914 of troops in their billets. A strong section was presented on quartering troops under way in Witham and the various early training exercises undertaken in the hinterland of the town.

A refreshing story was told, that made the war in Europe a very local affair. We enjoyed it immensely.

In summary:


The band played on…a perfect backdrop to the activities…

This was a well planned and executed commemorative event for the people of Chelmsford and the county as a whole.

For the projects presented in Hylands House, the talks organised in the Pavilion, as well as the activities in the Park – all created some interest for every visitor.

We understand that nearly a thousand people entered Hylands House to engage with projects and that sixty visitors stayed on for the final talk of the day from Ivor Dallinger on the Stowe Maries Great War Aerodrome.

A great day in the last, lingering days of summer. Thank you.

Images by conversationsEAST, alternative sources as shown




Idly drifting betwixt Stanford and Harvard…


Imagining the world without the web as an intellectual resource is almost impossible now. All those decades ago, applying for your research and travel grants to gain a foothold aboard ship or achieve landfall in another country, to see and hear academics speak, or to consult texts, is now long a thing of the past.

With the advent of on-line resources comes the inevitable change in publication policy and the context of publication review and update. The two resources below represent some of the best examples of access to classic historical thought and an easy flow into current thinking and research.

This journal is published under a Creative Commons license, our team are strong supporters of Open Source software and other Open Publishing initiatives.  Dive into these resources regularly, they repay repeat visits…

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

An invaluable on-line publication which delivers insightful and contemporary research into philosophical thought and related disciplines. The works included in the encyclopedia are drawn from and embedded with the best practices of rigorous academic review, from…

those persons with accredited Ph.D.s in Philosophy (or a related discipline) who have published refereed works on the topic of the proposed entry. By refereed works we mean either articles in respected, peer-reviewed journals or books which have been published by respected publishing houses and which have undergone the usual peer review process prior to publication.

However, what is interesting, is the editorial board’s commitment to review and updating of texts, which affords the invited authors of the works published the opportunity to amend , annotate or add to their original work as their research or trends in their chosen discipline demand change.

It is the a way of using the web to refresh and renew the encyclopedia in front of your eyes, with an immediacy and currency that is generally impossible in traditional paper and binding formats. It doesn’t replace the book, it supplements it.

You can read more about the Stanford Open Access publication model here.

Some recently changed and updated texts in the encyclopedia include the following.

There’s a great temptation to make it, for the enquiring mind, the only site worth bookmarking in your browser. See if you agree.

The 51 volume work:  The Harvard Classics

Originally published in the early 1900’s by Harvard President, Charles W. Eliot, the works are freely available on-line from Project Gutenberg.

The author of this short piece had a well respected friend who, in the early days of the internet (…the 1990’s now seem such a long time ago) was well read, but who decried the ‘web’ as irrelevant. Pages full of ‘blue links’ was how he described it. Whilst then perhaps an accurate description, it is is a terrible disparagement of the hyperlink.

My response today would be to get him to click through to the Harvard Classics. Whether your interests are in Plato, Milton or Robert Burns there is much to enjoy here.

They who set themselves to give precepts must of course regard themselves as possessed of greater skill than those to whom they prescribe; and if they err in the slightest particular, they subject themselves to censure…

The quotation above is drawn from Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking the Truth in Sciences by Rene Descartes, found on the Gutenberg bookshelf. A piercing insight into politics and management, as much as to science we think.

You can also enjoy the fruits of the novelist too. Fiction from Walter Scott, Tolstoy and Balzac are freely available. Being tempted to read online offers choice in terms of format. All the works in the Gutenberg Harvard Classics canon are available in your web browser, ePub versions and for your Kindle or downloadable as plain text files.

Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.

G.M. Trevelyan in English Social History (1942), quoted above, perhaps rather cruelly prefigured the future critique in Richard Hoggart’s work The Uses of Literacy (1957).  Hoggart’s thesis was that the ‘massification’ of culture has detached communities and individuals from their traditional ‘urban culture’.

That popular culture had de-classed society and debased, to some extent, the feeling for history or cultural connection across communities. Whilst it is inescapably evident that the internet and access to technology has irrevocably changed society, there is still a demand for classic literature and the wrangling with challenging thought.

We think the modern, Western autodidact doesn’t necessarily spend long days in the community library anymore alas, rather he or she inhabits the web world to educate and inform the mind.

We offer the hyperlinks above as evidence of our argument!


Essex at War – the weekend




We recently published details of the work of Fellows in Essex and their appearance at the Essex at War event at Hylands House. Their project, Chelmsford Remembers, will be part of this exciting day on Sunday, 14th September. (Revisit it here…)

Below are programme details for the event in full. Displays, re-enactments and research help will be delivered during the day. There will be an impressive range of talks across the day taking place in The Pavilion from 10.30am. (Our RSA Regional Chair, Malcolm Noble, will be officiating we understand…Ed).

Importantly, don’t forget to visit the Chelmsford Remembers RSA team, who will be available all day in the Hanbury Suite of Hylands House.

conversationsEAST will be there on the day, camera and notepad at the ready, so look out for a future, feature length article about the event and Fellow involvement in it.

Full event details below…        (interneticon locate Hylands House here).

Chelmsford Remembers Banner2 image
























We do hope you will come along and support the Fellow led project at Hylands House. This is a glorious setting for such a wide-ranging event. There’s a lot of history in Essex, some of it researched and supported by Fellows of The RSA.

pdfIcon4  Download the full event programme as a pdf file here


Where are the Fellows?

Where we are...

Where we are…

Joanna Massie of The RSA recently created a location ‘heat map’, helping visualise the locations of Fellows in the East of England. Some interesting patterns, some densely populated areas and a few empty landscapes emerged.

(Joanna is our Regional Manager in the East of England, and we offer our thanks for her permission to publish the images here on conversationsEAST).

phoneIcon You can view, print or download a larger image of the map here…(jpeg file)

The visual display shows some interesting, even expected distributions. The Norwich Fellows Group gives the region a bold standing in central Norfolk.

There is a strong A12 ‘corridor’ of Fellows from North East London up to, and including Ipswich. Cambridge offers the region a high density of Fellows in residence, as to be expected.

Hertfordshire and the North West corner of London offer up a surprising density of Fellows too. With, we suspect, the ‘London effect’ coming into play.

Despite the region’s strong showing in Norwich, the west of the county, and the centre, offer a paucity of Fellows. Likewise, the North Norfolk coast has little ‘heat’ on the map.

When thinking about the blank spots, is it that potential Fellowship members exist in these cooler areas? Are they prime areas for some gentle Fellowship activity to stir up interest in membership of the Society?

Joanna used, we believe, discrete and secure postcode analysis to generate the map. It would be interesting to do the exercise again and overlay the original source data with specialisation of interest, for example. Where do the philosophers live, where are the concentrations of technologists and coders, and whither the historians, for example?

Creating heat maps from data?

There are a variety of free on-line tools to help you create ‘heat’ for your project or membership database. Try, for example…

OpenHeatMap – see   Not the most sophisticated web site, but useful as a tool and advice source.

Target Map – see  A more complex set of tools, from the free to subscription model.

FusionTables – see  An experiment from Google Labs. Sophisticated and powerful, as you might expect.

An interesting and illuminating piece of work about the Fellowship from The RSA.

Thank you.


Crafting the exceptional person…

Breaking the Mould, an RSA Report, pdf version...

The RSA have just published a report, Breaking The Mould, which examines the contribution to the SME sector that on-line market places, like Etsy, make to this economic sector.

If you haven’t already…discover Etsy on-line here – shop from independent crafts people from around the world.


pdfIcon4 You can download a copy of the new RSA report here…

The report, authored by the RSA’s Benedict Dellot, emerges from the support that Etsy gave to the recent project The Power of Small. The report defines and conditions the role of e-commerce for the small, entrepreneurial business and assesses how changes in support and on-line infrastructure could further advance the sector.

The UK’s micro-business community is expanding rapidly. Since the turn of the century there has been a 40 percent increase in the number of firms with fewer than 10 employees, and a growth of over 600,000 since the economic downturn began in 2008.

Yet one of the most interesting trends lies behind the headline figures ­ namely the growth in part-time self-employment. The number of people working for themselves for less than 30 hours a week has grown by almost 65 percent since 2000…

The report offers insights, garnered from research respondents, into the sectoral structure of the on-line craft entrepreneur. The data reveals a strong commitment by women business creators to on-line trading and a remarkably large percentage of respondents who had not sought capital investment for their business.

These findings, to us at conversationsEAST, are a clear indication of a strong, yet perhaps under-recognised, female driven entrepreneurial sector and a perhaps less than clamouring call for finance, which government and mainstream lenders would currently have us believe.

The vast majority (91 percent) of sellers are female.  20 percent of sellers report their Etsy business to be full-time, compared with 65 percent who are part-time. 22 percent are employed in a full-time job on top of their Etsy business and 15 percent are in a part-time job. 15 percent are at home looking after dependents, whilst 40 percent of sellers required no funding to get their business started…

The report, Breaking The Mould, also offers the reader some innovative recommendations as to how this sector focus, of on-line craft entrepreneurs, can be supported. (The report, in general terms of marketing, finance and enterprise, is a model of energetic advance for the SME sector as a whole, we would argue…Ed).

The new pathways to enterprise support  include…

  • Recognise ventures in official measurements 
  • This is a vital turn for ONS and government departments who monitor and support trade and industry. Often the core resources to a web business, hosting, network infrastructure, even for the small trader, can lie outside the UK. But the revenue generated and associated supplies and ancillary equipment sales occur always where the entrepreneur is based…and the additional new jobs too.
  • Make business support part of the BBC’s public purpose
  • A great idea. Making the national broadcaster, any broadcaster, sensitive to and supportive of small business is a powerful tool in raising the bar for young people and those who are gender discriminated against. (The emergence of the social sector entrepreneur fits the bill here too. using technology to  promote goods and services on-line, where social outcome, ethics and green credentials are just as important as profit, all would fit well with a ‘public purpose’ remit too…Ed.)
  • Promote the importance of having a personal `brand’ from an early age
  • Managing your on-line presence early is a great way to master new skills, coding, presentation, clarity of thought and is, if done in a structured way, empowering and self resolving for the ambitious entrepreneur. The on-line business is not a ‘second choice’, any more than the on-line personality is any less powerful now, with the ubiquity of computing and mobile devices.
  • Tweak search engine algorithms to highlight smaller businesses
  • Simple. Make the G###le’s of this world prime referees for the SME in any location. The big corporations already have teams of marketers using traditional and non-traditional marketing methods to make their brands permeate the commerce-sphere. Give the little guy and girl a break too!
  • Deepen our knowledge of the therapeutic effects of selling
  • Have you pitched for anything? Have you structured an offer, simple or complex, and won the day. You enter the room as a philosophical five foot tall person, you leave it six feet four! Never under-estimate the power of small, incremental successes in early stage entrepreneurship. We agree. (This is as much about promoting confidence and personal skills as it is in fostering or extending the consumer society. We all ‘sell’ everyday, one way or another, if we are successful…Ed).

This is an intelligent, thoughtful analysis of an entrepreneurial sector undergoing growth and change. Read and help break the mould.

phoneIconYou can download a copy of the new RSA report here…


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